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San Ramon: Council to consider moving VR arcade forward after resident's appeal

Update on Iron Horse Trail-Bollinger Canyon overcrossing, affordable housing trust fund policy also on tap

San Ramon's City Center Bishop Ranch could be one step closer to housing a new virtual reality gaming center, depending on the outcome of a city appeal hearing on Tuesday night.

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In a special meeting, the San Ramon City Council will consider a resident's appeal challenging the Planning Commission's previous approval of the use permit for Sandbox VR in City Center. Denying the appeal would mean the project's applicants could proceed to get the other necessary permits required to advance with the project.

City staff recommend the council deny the appeal filed by a resident identified in public documents only as "Helen of Dougherty Valley."

The staff report contains responses to the six specific points raised in appeal, which include concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in the facility, digital privacy, the lack of a time limit for children at the arcade, and worries that the facility would have the potential to increase crime in the area.

Staff are emphasizing that many of these concerns fall outside of what the council can regulate, and the applicant has provided additional information seeking to address the points raised in the appeal.

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The report notes that the facility would be subject to the same health requirements, and penalties for noncompliance, as any other business in Contra Costa County. When it comes to digital privacy and concerns over lack of regulation for children, they note that neither are under the council's purview.

However, they highlight additional information from the applicant meant at quelling concerns over children at the facility, which includes having a legal guardian present to chaperone and sign a waiver.

In terms of worries about the facility drawing crime to the area, the report points out that the San Ramon Police Department has said its response time to the area would be the same as for other businesses in City Center, and that city police have the resources to deter any additional crime that may arise.

The Planning Commission previously approved the use permit for the project on Aug. 17. The appeal was filed on Aug. 27.

City staff urge the council to deny the appeal and allow the project to move forward. They also recommend denying the appellant's request to waive the $2,500 appeal fee for processing and staff time to review and present the appeal at a public hearing.

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If the project advances, Sandbox VR would operate out of the second floor of City Center. Its tentative hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.

The City Council is set to meet via Zoom at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday (Oct. 12). The agenda is available here.

The council's regular meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, following the special meeting. The agenda is available here.

In other business

* The council will continue to hear from staff, and provide comments, on the lighting and design elements of the Bollinger Canyon Road overcrossing project. The project is aimed at providing pedestrians and bicyclists on the Iron Horse Regional Trail with a safe way of traveling over Bollinger Canyon Road.

Council members will comment on proposed renderings of the project, aimed at giving a sense of what the lighting, landscape and design might look like. The design is currently 65% complete, and expected to be finished by the end of the year.

Rendering of proposed design and lighting elements of the pedestrian overcrossing set for Bollinger Canyon Road. (Image courtesy of the City of San Ramon)

Comments or requests for modifications from the council will be incorporated into the final design. If the design is finished in the timeline anticipated, construction of the project is expected to kick off in early 2022.

* The council will consider adopting an affordable housing trust fund policy. The draft policy is intended to provide guidance on how to use funds from fees collected for the purposes of increasing affordable housing. Currently, the city has just over $4.3 million in available funds that were collected from in-lieu and commercial linkage fees.

Funds are expected to increase in the near future, due to the anticipated fees that will be collected from several proposed projects. These fees are collected by the city with the purposes of using them for increased affordable housing. They are meant to offset the effects of commercial projects, and projects that don't have enough affordable housing units, by funding additional affordable housing units.

If adopted, the policy would provide direction on how to use the presently available funds, as well as those anticipated to be collected in the future.

* San Ramon Mayor Dave Hudson will issue a proclamation that officially recognizes October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the city.

* Becky Adams, director of the Parks and Community Services Department, will introduce and discuss the city's new social services resources webpage and draft brochure.

* The council will provide direction to staff on how to fill a vacancy on the Parks and Community Services Commission.

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San Ramon: Council to consider moving VR arcade forward after resident's appeal

Update on Iron Horse Trail-Bollinger Canyon overcrossing, affordable housing trust fund policy also on tap

by / Danville San Ramon

Uploaded: Mon, Oct 11, 2021, 4:41 pm

San Ramon's City Center Bishop Ranch could be one step closer to housing a new virtual reality gaming center, depending on the outcome of a city appeal hearing on Tuesday night.

In a special meeting, the San Ramon City Council will consider a resident's appeal challenging the Planning Commission's previous approval of the use permit for Sandbox VR in City Center. Denying the appeal would mean the project's applicants could proceed to get the other necessary permits required to advance with the project.

City staff recommend the council deny the appeal filed by a resident identified in public documents only as "Helen of Dougherty Valley."

The staff report contains responses to the six specific points raised in appeal, which include concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in the facility, digital privacy, the lack of a time limit for children at the arcade, and worries that the facility would have the potential to increase crime in the area.

Staff are emphasizing that many of these concerns fall outside of what the council can regulate, and the applicant has provided additional information seeking to address the points raised in the appeal.

The report notes that the facility would be subject to the same health requirements, and penalties for noncompliance, as any other business in Contra Costa County. When it comes to digital privacy and concerns over lack of regulation for children, they note that neither are under the council's purview.

However, they highlight additional information from the applicant meant at quelling concerns over children at the facility, which includes having a legal guardian present to chaperone and sign a waiver.

In terms of worries about the facility drawing crime to the area, the report points out that the San Ramon Police Department has said its response time to the area would be the same as for other businesses in City Center, and that city police have the resources to deter any additional crime that may arise.

The Planning Commission previously approved the use permit for the project on Aug. 17. The appeal was filed on Aug. 27.

City staff urge the council to deny the appeal and allow the project to move forward. They also recommend denying the appellant's request to waive the $2,500 appeal fee for processing and staff time to review and present the appeal at a public hearing.

If the project advances, Sandbox VR would operate out of the second floor of City Center. Its tentative hours of operation are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sundays.

The City Council is set to meet via Zoom at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday (Oct. 12). The agenda is available here.

The council's regular meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, following the special meeting. The agenda is available here.

In other business

* The council will continue to hear from staff, and provide comments, on the lighting and design elements of the Bollinger Canyon Road overcrossing project. The project is aimed at providing pedestrians and bicyclists on the Iron Horse Regional Trail with a safe way of traveling over Bollinger Canyon Road.

Council members will comment on proposed renderings of the project, aimed at giving a sense of what the lighting, landscape and design might look like. The design is currently 65% complete, and expected to be finished by the end of the year.

Comments or requests for modifications from the council will be incorporated into the final design. If the design is finished in the timeline anticipated, construction of the project is expected to kick off in early 2022.

* The council will consider adopting an affordable housing trust fund policy. The draft policy is intended to provide guidance on how to use funds from fees collected for the purposes of increasing affordable housing. Currently, the city has just over $4.3 million in available funds that were collected from in-lieu and commercial linkage fees.

Funds are expected to increase in the near future, due to the anticipated fees that will be collected from several proposed projects. These fees are collected by the city with the purposes of using them for increased affordable housing. They are meant to offset the effects of commercial projects, and projects that don't have enough affordable housing units, by funding additional affordable housing units.

If adopted, the policy would provide direction on how to use the presently available funds, as well as those anticipated to be collected in the future.

* San Ramon Mayor Dave Hudson will issue a proclamation that officially recognizes October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the city.

* Becky Adams, director of the Parks and Community Services Department, will introduce and discuss the city's new social services resources webpage and draft brochure.

* The council will provide direction to staff on how to fill a vacancy on the Parks and Community Services Commission.

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