Letter from Ralph Hoffmann on CoCo Board of
Sups. & the SRVFPD Board
dated May 18, 2007
Looking back through Commentaries (which date back to August,
2002) there are oddly zero comments about the two subject
governmental bodies. That's obviously not your fault, but your
readers. They in turn may not be commenting simply because
they lack information. While the jurisdictions of both
are larger than the City of San Ramon, San Ramon is contained in
District 3, currently represented by Board Chair Mary Piepho, whose
large district geographically has about 200,000 population, just as
the other 4 Districts. Voting is by District, with
Supervisor Piepho's District as well as Districts 2 and 5 up for
re-election in 2008. The SRV Fire Protection District Board also has
5 members, but all are elected at-large, and which also has three
seats open in 2008.
With a majority of their seats up for election in 2008, that
election could significantly change faces, and philosophy,
of both. San Ramon's population is sizable enough to
significantly influence both races.
Having introduced these two subjects, I'll stop for now, to see
if any other residents have comments.
Editor's note: Hoffmann ran for the Fire District Board
Letter supporting Congressman Richard Pombo, dated
Pombo has been taken to task by various interests that have no idea
as to how important our land rights are. While we agonize of trivial
rights, the most basic right we have or had is our land rights.
People talk about the 1st and 2nd amendment, but them mean nothing
if you don't have land to build a house on and to enjoy. The Supreme
Court has already ruled to take away our home rights to big
interests. Congressman Pombo is one of the few brave
enough to represent the right to own and control the use of one's
land.. I plan on doing everything I can to support this unique and
honest man. There are too few of them in Congress.
Towanda, Pa 18848
Followup letter from Pat Tuohy, dated 10/10/06
Crow Canyon Specific
Thanks for finally
allowing me to engage in a dialog over this area and its use. This
has been missing for years.
Let me say first that
I am a firm believer in the wisdom of the marketplace. Real people
using their own real money will more likely make good business
decisions than will government. So, the owners of property who want
to get a better return on their investment will redevelop, provided
the city gives them sufficient incentive to do so. The incentive is
the allowable uses. However, it may have to be sweetened further
with parking exemptions and set-back exceptions so owners can put
more building on their lots than they have already.
Rather than focus the
housing on Beta Ct. or north of Perdue, I would opt for housing
anywhere, wherever it makes economic sense. Remember, it was never
intended as a big part of the plan. As long as all the
housing is above street level; over retail or over something else at
street level, it doesn’t matter to me where it goes. The location
becomes the owner’s problem or the landlord’s problem. The less
desirable it is the more affordable it becomes.
The city’s interest
here is increased tax income, pure and simple. Any redevelopment
will increase property value and, consequently, property tax. But an
increase in sales tax will prove the redevelopment plan is
successful in the long run. The area needs more than the small shops
that populate the Village Square. A big time hardware store like
Restoration Hardware would be nice on the corner of SRV Bl. &
Maybe someday this
area might look and feel like a suburban version of North Beach,
with quaint shops and outdoor cafes and beautiful people strolling
arm in arm along the wide sidewalks. But, in the foreseeable future,
we should look for retail that is more compatible with what is there
already. That is why I have suggested a “home improvement” theme and
focus. It is there already and it can generate real tax revenue. The
stores need to have access and they need to be made aware that we
The whole point of the
specific plan process is to have a set of visions and guidelines in
place so that when a property owner comes in with an idea to do
something with his property, he can immediately see that his idea is
or is not in sync with the plan. He should be able to tell very
clearly what he can do and cannot do. Do you think we have that
clarity with the plan that the Council has in front of them?
Letter from Pat
Tuohy, dated 10/5/2006
CROW CANYON SPECIFIC
The Crow Canyon
Specific Plan (CCSP) process has been taken hostage by the housing
issue and the service commercial automotive business community has
served as the militia, distracting attention from the main issues.
Virtually all the public hearing time in the several public hearings
before the Planning commission (PC) was spent listening to a parade
of body shop and auto repair shop owners tell us time and again how
important their services are to our quality of life and that they
should be left alone to do business as usual.
What was not heard
was the voice of the scores of other retailers telling us how
difficult it is to run a restaurant or a music store or a beauty
salon or a children’s clothing store in the rough and tumble
atmosphere that is San Ramon Valley Bl. Some might say they are
every bit as important to our quality of life as service commercial.
And yet they are made to suffer so others can enjoy lower rents and
few rules of neighborly conduct.
Let’s remember why
the CCSP was undertaken in the first place. It was to clean up the
area and increase tax revenue from the area. The area
contains more than a million square feet of commercial space and yet
it produces little tax revenue. And the majority of that comes from
Morgan’s Masonry. The CCSP is intended to provide incentives to
property owners to re-invest in their lands and, by doing so, create
more commercial opportunities and increase property value and tax
revenue; both property tax and sales tax. True, the City needs the
service commercial business community for the services they provide.
But we need tax revenue as well.
The rest of the CCSP
commercial discussion still needs to take place. For one thing, the
Plan steers development in the direction of large developments on
larger land parcels. There is no evidence that such a developer is
interested or that property owners are interested in selling out.
More discussion should take place on a “Plan B scenario” where
current owners want to develop on property they already own. I, for
one, remain unconvinced that we have provided enough incentives for
owners to do anything at all.
It is time for the
service commercial lobby to rest its case and sit down and be quiet.
There is much more that needs to be discussed.
Crow Canyon Specific
Letter from Maureen Behrend, dated September 27,
Ms. Behrend is a
member of the Housing Advisory Committee
Roz - I had been so
pleased by your support of the new housing going in in San
Ramon. I work for a non-profit that tries to assist folks in
finding housing that they can afford, and also has successfully
advocated for 258 low and very low income units that have
families living in them this year in all five tri-valley
In August, I cam home
after a week's vacation to find nine messages on my answering
machine, all families in need of housing. It seems with the
start of school, folks needed to find a permanent
place. Almost all of them had jobs. Two were
students as Las Positas. Some just needed help with food, some
with move in costs, some just needed to know where the openings
One woman was helped
by a local church I referred her to and sent a lovely thank you note
for the help she received. All expressed their gratitude when
I spoke with them earlier this week.
I would suggest to the
woman that was so misguided in her assumptions of who would be
moving into the affordable units in San Ramon, that she discover a
sense of gratefulness for all that she has been given, and for her
own abilities that have gotten her to the place she is now in her
That, and just taking
a few moments to breathe in the air, look out at our hills, get to
know her neighbors, go for a walk.
San Ramon is truly a
great place to live and to be all that it takes to be a good
Letter from Ralph Hoffmann, dated
Hoffmann is a candidate for the SRV Fire
Protection District Board of Directors
I agree with every
word you said about Housing Snobs. Another name for them are
NIMBYs, an acronym which I know needs no expansion for
On a separate subject
I'd like to bring up, is the fact that our San Ramon Valley Fire
Protection District (SRVFPD) Board of Directors functions in near
secrecy. Board meetings are never announced in advanced, nor
are the results of the meetings reported in our SRV print
Instead, a slick,
glossy newsletter is published twice per year, with the Fall issue
timed to reach voters of our 130,000+ population valley, just before
the November election.
It's not that there
aren't any issues about which voters shouldn't be concerned.
For an eye-opener, take a look at my Smart Voter Web
on your home, or local
Board meetings are
normally held on the fourth Wednesday of each month, beginning at
7:00 pm. At the August Board meeting, the Board voted to move
the September meeting to the third Wednesday of the month, however
this was not mentioned by any print media. Intentional?
This action was taken by the Board after the Closed Session, at the
end of the meeting, when the few members of the public had
left. Technically, no laws were broken, as the meeting agenda
was posted outside the Administration Building, 72 hours in advance,
where few see it.
1011 Hartz Way, Apt.
Letter from Alice Ladd, Boulder, CO, dated
am appalled at the way leagues for children are handled in San Ramon
and probably in many areas. This should not be about
experience - it should be about sportsmanship, learning, even having
a wonderful time. Is the trophy more important than the
experience?? Apparently so.
accept children and they practice with the team, even attend the
jamboree and then they CUT players. We are talking about 8
year old children. The lame excuse of lacking
experience seems a totally inappropriate excuse - what a
load!! Isn"t that why they are playing - for experience and to
learn how to play?
the game - give him the experience. Isn't that what it
is all about. When you are 18 and you get cut it is a
learning experience - when you are 8 it says you are not good enough
and that is heartbreaking! You should be ashamed to let
coaches or fathers conduct leagues in this manner. SHAME ON
Ladd, Boulder, CO
I asked Ms. Ladd what teams and leagues she was
talking about. Here's her follow-up letter.
comments were mainly regarding little boys football leagues in San
Ramon. Accepting players for practice and then cutting them
teaches them a poor lesson. ( 3 boys cut this week after
practicing and participating in the jamboree) They are a
little young to feel they are not good enough!! However, the
competitive soccer teams in San Ramon do their choosing by drafting
players. I have seen unbelievable influence by parents who get
their children on a team while others are passed over. Even
girls that have played for several seasons and then are not drafted
and cannot play. Just seems the system is totally out of
perspective. The adults and
communities that put up with this are disgraceful.
Letters on Rezoning
Letter from Rena Waterson, dated May 18,
Thanks for your
commentary regarding Mr. Perkins' suggestion to place no
restrictions on City parks and the building of future
heliports. While I may disagree with your line of thought
regarding the safety of helicopters, I agree with everything
Just today, a horrible
car accident occurred at the intersection of Alcosta and
Bollinger. A number of people were critically injured and
required air transport to Trauma centers. We had two
helicopters circling our neighborhood for 15-20 minutes. This
initially did not bother me because I knew there was a medical
As the time they
circled increased, it became bothersome. I can't imagine this
occurring on a daily basis near our neighborhood and Central Park in
order to accommodate executives at Bishop Ranch. They were very
loud and the jet fuel smell was offensive.
What I have the most
trouble with is how Mr. Perkins can differentiate between
children at a school and children in a park. Children are
children. We currently have twice the number of parks as
schools in San Ramon. These parks should be granted the same
protection as the schools.
There are areas within
the Bishop Ranch complex that can accommodate a heliport if it is
deemed necessary. It will just take a little more homework and
planning to get this done. Why not satisfy everyone and put
the heliport away from our kids...I hope we can communicate this to
the Council next week.
Letter from Harry Sachs, dated April 27, 2006
Your coverage of
recent events is better than the papers, that's not a kiss-up,
that's a fact! Keep up the good work and feel free to put this
commentary out, you know, fair and balanced!
Roz- It is with
constant amazement that I listen to those residents lamenting that
San Ramon will become Concord-like or that developers will swoop in
and buy our golf courses should the City Council approve the
Planning Commissions proposed zoning ordinance changes and General
Those who question
the golf course zoning reclassification are simply and blatantly
misrepresenting this proposal to scare residents. Golf courses
are not parks and recreation centers. They are
businesses. You show up and pay to use the facility. You
can even hold a banquet or wedding at a golf course. You can
hold civic fund-raisers and charity events there. You cannot
reserve the 18th fairway of any golf course for your 3 year old's
birthday party. You cannot bring your toddlers to the golf
course and let them fly kites or blow bubbles on the fairways.
You can do these things at a park, of which San Ramon has many; I
take my 3 year old daughter Catherine to Boone Acres and do these
So changing the
zoning from parks recreation to commercial recreation is appropriate
and adding the Planning Commission's limitations for expansion to
the golf courses simply makes this proposed change a
non-issue. Period. Maybe the dissenters should dust off
their golf clubs and just go play some golf, or are they the type of
people who buy homes next to golf courses and then get ticked off
when others actually go golfing on THEIR golf course.
As for the "No more
growth, no more traffic " crowd, ok, let's assume their
desire. San Ramon does not build another housing unit, they
would have to suspend the city housing element and disregard the
voter approved general plan but assume it for their sake.
(Fantasy is kind of fun sometimes, right?) San Ramon does not add
another new retail entity or construct any new office space. So what
happens? Several things.
Along with these
assumptions come certain realities. No new revenue if there is
no new growth. Yet, the cost of providing services goes up
yearly. You know the people who pave the roads, mow and keep
the aforementioned parks nice, and the various landscaping around
town neat and trim. In the no growth world they would never
get a pay increase. The city staff who manage the city, from
planning to passport services to building permits, they never get a
pay increase. Don't think about replacing playground equipment
or updating city infrastructure. Parks and recreation services
cannot expand. Why? Because if you leave your annual
revenue static and do not grow your revenue, you cannot expand
services provided and given the fact that there is this little thing
called inflation which affects not only goods and services, but
labor unit costs, you will start to see city services cut
back. Or not. YOU CAN ALWAYS RAISE TAXES AND FEES TO
MAINTAIN YOUR SERVICE LEVELS!
Not just the minimal
increases in fees that happen every couple of years, like the
lighting and assessment fee increase we will be voting on soon, $59
to $79 per annum. No, much larger and more often than
that. Add the Dougherty Valley growth and unfunded mandates
from the county on top of what I've mentioned and you have a
worrisome financial outlook for San Ramon if we go "no-growth"
The fact is, San
Ramon has two futures, the no-growth higher taxes and fees future or
the managed growth sustained quality of services future we currently
enjoy. Adding new retail provides new sales tax revenue.
Adding housing units provides new property tax revenue.
Realizing municipalities do not keep every penny of new revenues,
San Ramon must grow to sustain. The proposed zoning changes
allow for some growth. The growth is not exactly sprawl
either. It's infill development a.k.a. "smart growth" .
The kind of growth respected and responsible environmental advocates
such as Jim Blickenstaff have been advocating for years.
So let's think about
the future of our city in real terms before we start demanding a
change to a fantasy world that's not sustainable.
Letter from Robert Smith dated March 26,
2006 (my answers or comments are in
Thank you for your
well written article. I totally agree with your viewpoint on
the 4th Amendment and the redevelopment of the Crow Canyon specific
strongly oppose the proposal of the rezoning of our City's two golf
courses. We still do not have documentation of how or
when this proposed commercial recreation zoning came to
Originally, the Planning Commission said it was recommended
by a Committee comprised of an appointed group of citizens.
After talking with various people who served on that
committee, we were advised that they never
discussed rezoning the golf courses. (see
the letter from Joe Miller below)
The City Planning
Commission then told us that the rezone of the golf course was
passed by the City Council in 1995. After reviewing the
Planning Commission and City Council minutes of the 1995
meeting where they said the golf course rezone was passed,
there is no mention of the golf courses that I can find in
those minutes. I would think that 250 ACRES being approved for
rezoning should be mentioned in the document that supposedly
approves its rezoning. I don't recall the
Planning Commission ever saying that. I didn't move here until 1997
so maybe something was discussed in 1995, but the zoning couldn't
have been changed then because state law requires a public hearing
for zoning changes, and that would have to be in the minutes of the
meeting. Also the
new zoning was introduced in the
General Plan in 2002. The changes to the Zoning Ordinance
now are to comply with the zoning designations in the General
Plan. If the golf course zoining had been changed in 1995, it
wouldn't have to be changed now.
Commission's proposed golf course overlay solution within this
Commercial Recreation .35 FAR zone, does not change the fact
that overall, our two golf courses will be zoned
Commercial Recreation .35 FAR. If a .10 FAR OVERLAY within a .35
Commercial Recreation zone is needed to protect our golf
course, why rezone it
to .35 FAR Commercial Recreation in the first place? Why
submit a mistake to our City Council to approve? Again the only reason this is being done now is to
make the Zoning Ordinance comply with the General Plan. The FAR
(Floor Area Ratio, or how much building area is allowed per acre of
land) does seem high for a golf course. The need now is to get
the Zoning Ordinance updated. Then if there are some changes to be
made to individual zoning, these can be done through a General Plan
There are many
different types of Recreational zoning: specialized recreation, open
recreation, day recreation, night recreation, outdoor
recreation, indoor recreation, recreation, park, open
Recreation is a commercial designation that encompasses
too broad of a spectrum of land uses. Golf courses are
normally zoned within a .10 Floor Area Ratio to protect the open
space. Our City was right the first time around in having it
zoned as such. I agree with you that the FAR
should be reduced for the golf courses. Since staff came up with a
Golf Course Overlay, it seems that could become a Zoning designation
in itself. I understand the reasons why the City does not want golf
courses zoned Parks. Perhaps after the Zoning
Ordinance is approved, the golf courses can be rezoned
separately with a Golf Course zoning.
Roz, I would
appreciate if you could post any documentation that you may
have authorizing the change in our golf course zoning. More
importantly, we need a
better understanding of the logic and reasoning of why it was
necessary to increase the building intensity of our golf course
zoning from a .10 FAR to a .35 FAR. Thank you.
My reply: I wrote a Commentary on the
history of the General Plan and Joe Miller, who was on the Land Use
Committee sent a reply. Joe's letter answers a lot of these
questions about how the golf courses were rezoned.
Letter from Joe Miller,
dated February 9, 2006
I was also on the Land
Use subcommittee of the General Plan Review Commission and I can
assure you the "change" of designation (and associated FAR limits) of
the golf courses wasn't a concerted effort by Jerry Cambra to expand
total parks acreage. The actual change on the zoning maps was done
by the consultant, Michael Dyett, at the direction of City Staff managing his
contract as the overall "expert" coordinator of the process. The
actual land-use classification (Commercial Recreation) was one of ten
classifications (see page 4-11 and 12 of the GP) and it's where the golf
There were many,
many sites around the
City that the subcommittee visited and discussed in detail in its
meetings, but the golf courses weren't among them. The Commercial Recreation
classification is not unique for a city San Ramon's size. We relied on
the consultant for many fine grained details that were required to create a
proper and fully sufficient document to meet the legal requirements
associated with the Plan draft presented for voter approval.
We're approaching the
fourth anniversary of the public vote on the General Plan. Why has
it taken so long to bring City ordinances and zoning regs in line with
it? If you take a look at page 1-11, the Plan itself
stipulated that this zoning alignment work should be completed within 18 months of Plan
adoption. At this rate, we'll be working on a new 20 year plan before our
ordinances are brought in line...
Also, I believe you're
wrong that any change to the General Plan would require a petition
to place the item on the ballot. As evidenced by the change to the Housing
element (for State approval) and the Davidon proposal, only a 4/5th
majority vote is required of both the Planning Commission and
Council to effect a change. A public vote on an amendment is not
Measure G (sect. 6)
stipulates that the only way to amend the Plan after its
adoption is through the multiple public hearing and super-majority
voting process on both the Planning Commission and Council. It
doesn't mention subsequent modification by voter approval. So, maybe
I'm splitting hairs here, but if someone were to propose that the
City amend the Plan to return the golf course designation to parks,
that would be a waste of time, energy, and funds in my opinion.
And last, you say the
Planning Commission and City staff is only "doing their best with what they
have" -- what they have is a damn fine General Plan, representing
the hard work of 33 resident citizens over a two year period and affirmed
by 77% of San Ramon's voters on March 2, 2002.
Letters on San Ramon Speaks
Letter from Bob Patrino
(dated March 14,
I, like Mary Lou and
most other's who serve our City, have received my share of
threatening and abusive emails and phone calls. We also endure
public harassment in many forms. In most cases, its our own private
burden to bear, and we only talk about it in private between
ourselves. We consider our service to our community a privilege, and
these rare abuses are the cost of being able to serve.
While I will read
everything sent to me, anonymous or not, I don't take these
"nameless" submittals very seriously. Obviously the author doesn't
think it important enough to own the thoughts. As to the internet
"privacy" issue, I think that's a bunch of hooey. Maybe the next
step is to come to public meetings with a bag over your head, to
avoid being identified for fear of losing your privacy?