With state-mandated housing and its impacts, the redevelopment of Bishop Ranch, economic uncertainty and a retiring city manager, the city of San Ramon is experiencing growth and rapid change. Voters are fortunate to have candidates who are knowledgeable about the city’s priorities and challenges.
There are three candidates for the mayor’s seat -- incumbent Dave Hudson, outgoing councilmember Sabina Zafar and challenger Dinesh Govindarao.
Each candidate brings strengths to the table. We feel the city will be well positioned for the future with a mayor who has council governance experience and knowledge of issues but will also bring a new energy and a fresh perspective to the head chair.
That candidate is Sabina Zafar.
Since being elected to the council in 2018, Zafar has shown an ability to comprehend complex issues, bring forth commonsense solutions and engage residents. At our candidates’ forum, Zafar gave specific ideas such as how the city can help attract and retain small businesses by improving existing shopping centers and how to achieve the state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocation numbers while maintaining open space by building in the city’s core. Zafar is approachable, personable and wants to restart the popular monthly “Mayor’s Breakfast” series former mayor Bill Clarkson launched as she seeks to continue connecting with people who live and work in the city.
Govindarao serves on the city’s Library Advisory Committee and the San Ramon Valley Education Foundation board. Since his run for mayor in 2020, Govindarao has educated himself on the inner workings of the city and the larger San Ramon Valley by completing San Ramon Government 101, Citizens Planning Academy and Leadership San Ramon Valley. However, he has no council experience, which we feel is vital for someone in the mayor’s role.
With 25 years on the City Council and the last two as mayor, and seats on regional committees, Hudson has been an integral part of getting the city of San Ramon where it is now -- which is commendable to say the least. Although Hudson has good experience and institutional knowledge, his lack of specifics at our forum, as well as a lot about the city’s history but few creative ideas to move it into the future, reminded us that new perspectives and pushing back on the status quo are necessary.
Now is the time for new energy, innovative ideas and a desire to engage citizens, coupled with council experience, which we feel Zafar will provide.
City Council District 2
Two strong, qualified candidates are on the ballot in the first district-based election for the city’s southwest District 2. However, we see no need to unseat appointed incumbent Mark Armstrong, who has proven to be an effective leader who takes reasoned positions on complicated, multi-faceted topics and stands up to criticism when the right decision for the city is not popular with some.
Armstrong, who was appointed to council last year to fill vacancy created by Hudson's ascension to mayor, is being challenged by mechanical engineer and Innovation and Technology Advisory Committee member Sara Lashanlo. Lashanlo was a finalist in the appointment process for the District 2 City Council seat that ultimately went to Armstrong.
We were impressed with Lashanlo, who spoke about the need for smaller housing units in the city’s core, a climate plan and increased retail. We hope she gains more general governmental service experience and returns in four years.
We recommend Armstrong for District 2.
City Council District 4
Vying for the city's northeast District 4 in the first election for this district since the conversion to district-based council ballots are Heidi Kenniston-Lee, chair of the San Ramon Parks and Community Services Commission, and Marisol Rubio, current vice president of the Dublin San Ramon Services District Board of Directors.
While both would serve well in the position, Kenniston-Lee has more pertinent local experience and knowledge.
As the chair of the San Ramon Parks and Community Services Commission, Kenniston-Lee has governance experience at the city level and understands public policy and city finances. She knows the importance the community places on parks and open space and has a proven track record of collaborating with elected officials and city staff and engaging residents on projects and events, such as the San Ramon 150 Sesquicentennial Celebration. We also liked her holistic view of District 4-specific concerns, such as the high fire risk areas and geologic hazards.
As director of government relations for the San Francisco Bay Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and her service on the DSRSD board, Rubio brings professional and practical experience and knowledge, but not the amount or depth at the city level as Kenniston-Lee.
In District 4, we recommend a vote for Kenniston-Lee.