By Harry Sachs, San Ramon Planning Commissioner
I believe the San Ramon City Council should pause on deciding the fate of the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan (NCRSP). As the dissenting voice on the Planning Commission, I had several concerns that caused me to be very hesitant to advocate for a long term land use plan for San Ramon that has very legitimate issues.
This specific plan calls for a maximum build out of 1500 housing units. The General Plan 2030 allows for only 1124 in this plan area. At a minimum we should respect all voter approved numbers. However, new information only heightens my concerns about housing and its impact on parking and traffic.
First, the recently released 2014-2022 ABAG RHNA methodology shows San Ramon needing to account for roughly 1200 affordable housing units, of which 75 percent must be contained within PDA's (priority development areas) and, that 75 percent of units in said PDA's need to be affordable housing. For the NCRSP that would mean of the 1500 max build, 1125 would need to be affordable. We should at least wait until ABAG releases its final numbers, scheduled for July, to evaluate the impact on the NCRSP. We may very well find that a reduction in housing units would serve the city well.
Whatever housing number the City Council decides on, 1124 should be the maximum and frankly they should shoot lower. Why?
Assembly Bill 904 Skinner- staff spoke of this at our last Planning Commission meeting. They think this will pass; the builders are behind it because it severely reduces the amount of parking that must be provided in "sustainable communities." It would limit one bedroom units to less than a half a parking space and 3-4 bedroom units would get one space. These numbers apply to commercial properties as well. 1000 square feet of space gets one parking spot.
These numbers represent dramatic cutbacks to the specific plan’s parking requirements and would thus create a lack of spaces resulting in a spillover effect onto surface streets. Page 4-11 of the specific plan references the parking requirements for the specific plan: commercial at four parking spaces per 1000 square feet. This bill, which has a strong chance to become land use law, would have a 75 percent reduction in allowable commercial parking spaces. Residential parking shows a potential 50 percent cut in allowable parking according to the NCRSP parking requirements table 4.4.
I already had concerns about the traffic assumptions for this plan which calls for Norris Canyon to have HOV ramps, a transit center, a large scale parking garage, large plate retail and housing units cornering Camino Ramon. The am and pm peak traffic measurements for Norris Canyon and Camino Ramon, which is where most of the housing is projected to be, are severely underrated. Bottom line: At 1500 max build this plan has severe issues regarding parking and housing and traffic.
Regarding the rudimentary financials of this plan, appendix B pages 2, 3 and 4 show an estimated $85 million in projected costs, yet only $64 million in projected revenues of which, is the line item for 30 years of debt at just over $22 million dollars.
There should be at least some discussion of: A) Where does San Ramon plan on acquiring the $20 plus million that remains “unprojected” for? And, B) Is it justified to commit the city to additional bonded indebtedness? If the answer is in part, grants or assistance from the state and county level, I would be wary at best.
Advocates for the North Camino Ramon specific plan tout its potential for economic developmentfor San Ramon and I do not disagree. I have been a longtime proponent of improving San Ramon’s retail opportunities, which in turn increase our city finances. However, we must all keep in mind that economic development is but one facet of a measurement of our quality of life.