San Ramon: City Council OKs Faria Preserve housing project

September 11, 2014 7:00 am

By Joyce Tsai, Contra Costa Times

SAN RAMON — After weathering several years of intense opposition, developers of the Faria Preserve project won final approval from the city council Tuesday night to build 740 homes.

The unanimous vote came after the council asked city staff in July to work with the developer Lafferty Communities to downsize the project. But after the developer said it could not do that without dropping the number of affordable housing units it could offer, the council voted ultimately to keep the project at the same size. The council, however, asked Lafferty to donate $1 million to the city to support its open space fund, said council member Phil O’Loane.

“The bottom line is that the developers had the right to build something there, and we were not starting from scratch,” O’Loane said. “It’s a legally binding agreement between the city and developer for 796 units, and he already gave up some units.”

The mix of single-family houses, townhouses, apartments, senior housing and parcels for a church and sports field is planned for 450 acres near Interstate 680 north of Crow Canyon Road and east of Bollinger Canyon Road. The council voted 4-1 in July to continue its public hearing on Faria to review the proposed project’s traffic, creek and environmental impacts, after the Planning Commission approved it in May, which would have been the last stop in city approvals for the project.

Lafferty had offered to drop the number of houses to 686 units, but only if it didn’t have to offer low- to very-low-income affordable housing in Faria. And that put the council in “a conundrum” because the city would have to make up for that by finding somewhere else to put 280 such units – now state-required – somewhere in the city, said O’Loane, who added that trade-off didn’t seem worth it.

For that reason, O’Loane said he proposed that Lafferty donate $1 million to support open space initiatives in the city.

“I don’t know if he’s going to make a lot of profit on this,” O’Loane said of the smaller project. “It’s not my obligation that he makes money, but is my obligation that we honor the contact that he entered into.”

Robert Klingner with the Coalition of Northwest Neighborhoods, which spearheaded opposition to Faria, was disappointed with Tuesday’s vote.

“There are a lot of angry and disappointed people, who are not happy with the council or the mayor,” Klingner said, adding that many people had already vowed to register their disapproval, come 2016, when council members come up for election.

He called Tuesday’s decision “a slap in the face” to voters, but he understood it also was “not personal thing.”

Councilman Harry Sachs voted Tuesday for the Faria project; afterward, he said he felt he had little choice, considering the council’s options. After more thought, he said Wednesday he intends to vote “no” on Sept. 23, when Faria Preserve comes before the council again for a final vote.

In an e-mail Wednesday, he said, “I still believe that the number of housing units could have and should have been reduced.”

“I intend to pull the item from the consent calendar and call for a separate vote,” Sachs continued. “I will vote ‘no.’ I think we could have achieved a better outcome.”

Groups including the Mount Diablo Sierra Club, have discussed suing over Tuesday’s vote.

See the original article at the Contra Costa Times.