San Ramon City Council candidates air views at Chamber of Commerce forum

Contenders field questions on traffic, development

The four candidates vying for two seats on San Ramon's City Council aired their views on traffic congestion, a proposed housing development and other local issues at a public forum held Thursday evening.

The free one-hour event took place at The Roundhouse in San Ramon, where the candidates fielded audience submitted questions as well as ones asked by moderators Gina Channell and Jeb Bing. Channell is the president/publisher and Bing the editor of the Embarcadero Media Group East Bay Division, which includes and the Pleasanton Weekly.

The San Ramon Chamber of Commerce hosted the forum, which was attended by roughly 150 constituents.

The candidates for the pair of four-year terms are incumbents Phil O'Loane and Scott Perkins and challengers Susmita Nayak and Sabina Zafar. Perkins is seeking his fourth consecutive term on the council, while O'Loane is pursuing his second.

Mayor Bill Clarkson's seat was set to be up for grabs this November, but he faced no opposition in his re-election bid.

Candidates faced questions on several city-specific issues, including the proposals to annex Norris Canyon Estates and build houses on a portion of land at San Ramon Golf Course Club; San Ramon's sales tax revenue, and the overgrowing trees in Dougherty Valley neighborhoods.

Asked for their positions on rezoning the golf course to residential, which would allow the owner to have houses built on part of it, challengers Nayak and Zafar said they are against rezoning.

"I would definitely like to see that as open space for our residents, whether it's a golf course or could be turned into a park," said Nayak, an engineer who has lived in San Ramon for over a decade. "We should not encourage developers to take that beautiful piece of land."

The incumbents, meanwhile exercised caution in answering the question since they are seated council members. O'Loane said he could be barred from future voting on the matter if he made a judgment before the public hearing process.

That being said, O'Loane told the audience he likes the zoning the way it is but that this would be a two- to three-year process.

Perkins added that he was on the City Council when it voted for the property's land use designation as a golf course and that he did and still believes that is its correct zoning.

On the proposed annexation of the Norris Canyon Estates gated community, only Zafar gave direct support for the concept. The other candidates expressed interest as well as concerns about the ramifications of such a move.

"There are potential unintended consequences," O'Loane said. "It'd have to be very thoughtful, but it's an intriguing idea that's worth exploring."

The candidates were also queried about how they would improve the city of San Ramon.

Asked how she would increase sales tax revenue with returns from the City Center development still years away, Zafar, a business technology director, said she would encourage revitalization of San Ramon's strip malls and fostering an environment that would attract and retain start-ups.

In his opening and closing remarks, O'Loane pointed out recent city accomplishments and said he doesn't think San Ramon needs to change direction. Asked how he would reduce traffic congestion and make the city more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, O'Loane brought up the improved signal system for the Bollinger Canyon and Crow Canyon corridor and the city's work with Bishop Ranch testing out autonomous vehicles.

Perkins said he wants an improved I-680 on-ramp and pointed out that the city is just starting on a new bike master plan. Nayak, meanwhile called for encouraging residents to use public transit more and Zafar said San Ramon should work toward becoming a "smart growth city" with more people living and working there simultaneously.

Asked about a regional transit matter the $3.5 billion BART bond measure , the candidates emphasized the importance of the service but also expressed a want for more station parking and connections.

To watch a recording of the forum, go to YouTube and search "2016 San Ramon city candidates." The forum will also air on CCTV at a time and date to be determined.

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19 people like this
Posted by The Dude
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 4, 2016 at 8:44 am

Stopping at every single intersection is an improvement? Definitely time for new blood.

10 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 4, 2016 at 4:41 pm

No question about it, new city council members are desperately needed to represent the quality of life concerns of residents. Sunset development/Bishop Ranch has way too much influence over San Ramon, as well as do other developers. Perkins, O'loane, and mayor Clarkson did not oppose Faria & both HOV alternates at Norris Cyn. & Executive Parkway, therefore none of these incumbents deserve our votes.

Like this comment
Posted by Steve
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 4, 2016 at 10:31 pm

The citizens voted FOR the Faria project in 2002. The council had no authority to disapprove it.

The council was unanimous in voting to stop the HOV RAMPS.

2 people like this
Posted by Jim
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 5, 2016 at 8:09 am

I attended the forum and was hoping to find a female candidate that I could support. I does seem that we need "new blood" but after hearing each candidate, I am convinced that both Ms. Zafar and Ms. Nayak are not ready to be effective. Ms. Nayak seemed completely out of her depth and unsure of the issues - e.g., she confused the question about Norris Canyon Estates and discussed the Faria Project. Ms. Zafar was in favor of annexing Norris Canyon Estates, but it was clear that she thought the city could unilaterally annex while the reality is that the residents of Norris Canyon Estates must agree. There were several other examples of lack of understanding and lack of preparation. Unfortunately, this "new blood" (in my opinion) will not be best for San Ramon. Thank you for the opportunity to reply.

12 people like this
Posted by Resident
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 6, 2016 at 5:41 pm

The city council did not vote against the HOV ramps because of the huge opposition from residents, but rather because Sunset Development changed their mind and decided to promote improvements to the Bollinger/680 interchange because of the soon to be built, so called "city center" project on Bollinger. The only San Ramon City council member that was consistently opposed to the HOV ramps was Harry Sachs, & he also was opposed to Faria.

I support the new women candidates for city council. They are intelligent (both being engineers) & can quickly get up to speed. This is not rocket science, & we definitely need people on the council that listen to & are empathetic to the residents. Perkins is going for his fourth term, enough is enough.

6 people like this
Posted by frankly
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 7, 2016 at 7:57 am

Along with grandiose ideas, how about basic common sense.

Such as repairing the very old and falling apart streets like Aptos Way and many others. Some already look like 3rd world roads.

Like this comment
Posted by Dave Hudson
a resident of San Ramon
on Oct 25, 2016 at 10:23 am

The city council did vote against the HOV ramps because of opposition from the residents and the delay in the EIR. I killed the project at the executive board of directors and the executive director of CCTA did accommodate our wishes. We will do our best to try to move funds to Crow Canyon and Bollinger Canyon. The improvements are needed for all of San Ramon not just Sunset. There is no city center and you still can't move. The hours of operation at city center will be more in line with Bishop Ranch Plaza. Measure J has an expenditure plan and measure X has an expenditure plan. Both are voted on by the people and your wishes will be honored.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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