Faria Preserve initiative petition heads to City Council

Signature backers want to decrease housing project by 122 units, remove chunk of affordable apartments in favor of city funding

The San Ramon City Council is set to debate Tuesday night what to do with a new initiative petition that aims to reduce the overall housing count in the previously approved 740-home Faria Preserve project by almost one-sixth, largely by eliminating apartments designated as affordable homes.

The petition, which received support signatures from the required 10% of city voters, seeks in part to decrease the number of residences in the Faria Preserve Neighborhood 5 from a maximum of 302 units to 180, with all of those units being sold at market rate.

That would mean none of the council-endorsed 185 affordable for-rent apartments in Neighborhood 5 -- 86 of which were senior apartments -- would be built, and the developer would instead contribute up to $9 million to a city affordable housing fund and nearly $2 million more to a city open space fund.

The council must now decide whether to adopt the initiative ordinance as presented in the petition or send the issue to city voters as a ballot measure in November.

The Faria Preserve project, proposed for about 450 acres east of Bollinger Canyon Road and north of Deerwood Drive, was approved by the council nearly two years ago in a 4-1 vote, following four lively public debates with speakers for and against the housing development.

That version of the project, which has yet to be constructed, called for a total of 740 units divided among single-family homes, town houses, condominiums, apartments and senior housing.

But the new citizen petition, dubbed the "Faria Preserve Development Reduction, Open Space Protection and Workforce Housing Endowment Initiative," circulated last month seeks to change how current Faria Preserve developer CalAtlantic Homes can develop the property.

The petition

The initiative petition was organized by former San Ramon City Councilwoman Carol Rowley, who served for eight years until 2011, and Mike Conklin, CEO of the military veteran support nonprofit Sentinels of Freedom who also worked in real estate.

A legal representative for Rowley and Conklin had not responded to requests for comment as of Monday afternoon.

It was not immediately clear what position CalAtlantic has taken with regard to the initiative petition. A CalAtlantic spokesman for the Faria Preserve project had not responded to a request for comment.

In their notice of intent to circulate a petition, Conklin and Rowley said their goals included "minimizing the impact of the Faria Preserve on traffic, schools, the environment and public utilities via a substantial reduction in allowable development" and "creating a dynamic long-term affordable housing fund which will help more families for a greater period of time than the previous approach."

The completed petition was submitted to the city June 27 with 5,121 signatures, and it was forwarded the next day to the Contra Costa County Registrar of Voters' Office for verification. The petition needed valid signatures from at least 10% of the city's 35,569 registered voters.

County election officials reviewed a sample of 500 signatures and determined 4,350 signatures were statistically valid, well above the 10% threshold, according to its verification report dated July 14.

The petition proposes to allow for a reduction of the overall Faria Preserve housing count by 122 units, all of which would come from the 12.6-acre Neighborhood 5.

Instead of 302 apartments, of which 185 would be affordable housing, Neighborhood 5 would feature 180 market-rate, for-sale units targeted somewhat toward the senior population.

"Age-targeted units are generally meant to mean units that have senior friendly design elements to allow aging in place and/or multi-generational living, which does not restrict the age of those living there but has design features to allow people to continue to live there as they age," the petition states.

For each of those market-rate units in Neighborhood 5, the developer would pay a $50,000 affordable housing fee and $11,111 open space fee to the city. If all 180 units are built as planned, the city would receive $9 million for its affordable housing fund and just under $2 million for the open space fund.

"Revenue received from the housing fee must be used for programs which support and facilitate affordable housing. The type of programs to be developed is within the sole discretion of city," interim city attorney Bob Saxe wrote in his staff report to the council.

Reducing the number of actual affordable homes in Faria Preserve would push the city farther away from meeting the mark of 1,417 affordable units that the city is required to have by 2023 under the state's current regional housing needs allocation.

The city has been credited with the 868 affordable units to date -- which includes the 185 approved Faria Preserve units -- so removing those affordable units would raise the city's unmet balance to 734 units.

The petition contends there are enough sites available in the city that could be developed to help San Ramon meet its affordable housing requirements.

In their notice of intent, the petition backers said they think creating the affordable housing funding, rather than the proposed apartments, would be "providing the city unprecedented funding to particularly help police, firefighters, teachers, veterans, etc. with the challenge of affording to live in the same community which they have provided essential services."

Their other stated goals were "changing the previously approved project so that it is more compatible with the existing neighboring areas," "protecting the beauty and livability of San Ramon by providing funding for open space acquisition" and "accomplishing all of the above at no cost to the taxpayers."

The petition also proposes to reduce the space allotted for the Neighborhood 5 house of worship from 6.1 acres to approximately 2 acres.

The council has three options Tuesday, according to Saxe: adopt the initiative ordinance as presented by a simple majority within 10 days, submit the initiative ordinance to city voters or ask for a full report on the matter to be prepared and brought back within 30 days.

If the council members chose the latter option, they would have to either adopt the 47-page initiative ordinance or send it to the voters after they hear the full report.

The council is scheduled to weigh its options on the initiative petition during its regular meeting Tuesday, which starts at 7 p.m. inside San Ramon City Hall.

The Faria Preserve project -- not the new petition -- is also set to be the topic of a City Council public workshop Wednesday evening.

That special meeting will focus on a presentation and a status update about the project featuring city staff and developer representatives, beginning at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the San Ramon Community Center at 12501 Alcosta Blvd.

The project site, as well as all development approvals granted by the city, are currently owned by CalAtlantic.

Original developer Lafferty Communities, through its partner Tricon Capital Group, Inc., sold the land to Standard Pacific Homes -- now known as CalAtlantic Homes -- in a deal that closed escrow in April, with full financial terms not disclosed.

In other business Tuesday

* The council will consider the town of Danville's request for two San Ramon council members to participate in liaison meetings with Contra Costa County and town officials regarding a memorandum of understanding (MOU) related to development in the Tassajara Valley.

The county proposes an MOU between itself, San Ramon, Danville and the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) to contractually preserve and protect up to 17,718 acres in the Tassajara Valley subject to the county general plan and zoning standards.

The deal is related to the 125-home Tassajara Parks development proposed by private developer FT Land, LLC, whose application is being considered by county officials. It is currently in the environmental review stage.

The project involves two areas of land in unincorporated Tassajara Valley -- 771 acres in all, currently designated and zoned as agricultural -- east of the Danville town limits and San Ramon city limits along parts of Camino Tassajara.

For the northern 155-acre site east of Blackhawk, the developer proposes to add 125 single-family homes on a 30-acre portion of the site, plus an adjacent detention basin. The remaining acreage on the northern site, containing two staging areas and a public trail, would be dedicated to the EBRPD for parks or open space and agricultural use.

The county Board of Supervisors, by a four-fifths vote, would have to approve an exception to the voter-approved urban limit line to allow the housing project to proceed.

The southern site, totaling 616 acres, is located roughly between Camino Tassajara and the developing Dougherty Valley and Alamo Creek communities. The developer would dedicate 600-plus acres there to EBRPD, give seven acres to the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District and contribute $4 million to an agricultural enhancement fund established by the county.

* Council members will consider approving a grant deed and other documents necessary to transfer title of the Bishop Ranch 3A site at 6200 Bollinger Canyon Road from the city to BR3A, LP, -- an affiliate of Sunset Development Co. -- as the final payment to Sunset for building the new San Ramon City Hall, which opened in late April at 7000 Bollinger Canyon Road.

Sunset constructed City Hall for about $15.3 million to repay a $7.28 million it owed for purchasing a 7.6-acre parcel from the city in 2008 and to reacquire the 6200 Bollinger Canyon Road parcel from the city.

* The council will discuss naming a new city poet laureate and appointing members to the city's Housing, Library, Senior and Arts advisory committees.

* John Mills will receive a proclamation recognizing his years of service on the Parks and Community Services Commission.

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