SAN RAMON -- On Nov. 5, San Ramon's 33,900 registered voters will get to cast their vote for two of the four City Council candidates, all of whom want the best for the growing city but have very different approaches to getting there.
Vice Mayor Dave Hudson is hoping his experience and a track record of city progress will help him defend the seat he has held for 16 years. Newcomers Rene Matsumoto, Harry Sachs and Thomas von Thury all say they would bring a fresh perspective to the city, and in most instances, want to limit or slow big development to varying degrees.
Candidate opinions about the downtown City Center project, Interstate 680 Caltrans carpool ramps at Norris Canyon Road and the 740-home Faria Preserve Project vary widely, revealing disparate views on the direction the city is headed.
Hudson, a former real estate agent first elected to the council in 1997, supports both the carpool ramps and the Faria project. He said both are the will of the people since they were approved in the city's 2002 voter-approved General Plan 2020 and the county's 2004 voter-approved Measure J initiative.
Talking about Faria, Hudson said, "You go out and tell somebody (who's entitled) that we are going to take away 100 homes after they paid millions for it? No." The incumbent, who also serves on the boards of the Contra Costa Transportation Authority, the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, among others, said that after 20 years in local government, he knows the lingo and has worked to gain the trust of people in the county to improve the region.
"You don't get that if I go. It's gone and you're not going to have that for another 10 years, minimum."
Hudson said the city has room for improvement and could use more police officers and he wants to bring back the $25,000 Fourth of July fireworks.
Hudson continues to lead the money race with $20,567 received by his campaign through Oct. 21, and he has spent 81 percent of it, according to the latest campaign filings.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is von Thury, a business litigation attorney opposed to all high-density residential and commercial development and any I-680 carpool ramps. Von Thury, who does not plan to raise or spend more than $1,000 and has no filings, also believes the City Center civic, retail, entertainment and housing project should be scaled back further, and that a new City Hall should be removed from plans altogether.
The "ongoing urbanization of San Ramon" compelled von Thury to run, and he wants to put a "pause button on development until we figure that out," he said. "Just because we have open land doesn't mean we have to build on it. ... I am not a stranger to representing the minority view and getting good results. ... It's what I do."
"There's a lot of people, and unfortunately they can't all live in San Ramon," von Thury said.
Sachs, a middle school U.S. history teacher in Fremont and seven-year San Ramon planning commissioner, said he brings a pragmatic approach to decision making and recognizes the need for compromise. Sachs supports the revised and re-energized City Center project, a project that in earlier iterations concerned him and got him interested in local government. However, he ardently opposes the carpool ramps at any location, saying they would only benefit 8 percent of drivers and cause too much spillback onto local roadways. He also takes issue with portions of the Faria project, such as the lighted athletic field and the number of housing units, saying, "We can do better."
Sachs said his platform is centered on growth management: "Grow less (housing-wise), conserve more, provide for public safety and support economic development."
Sachs had raised $12,515 from donors to date and spent more than 60 percent of it, according to the latest campaign filings.
Matsumoto, a former Street Smarts safety program leader who has worked on school bond and parcel tax campaigns, has raised more than any other newcomer, bringing in more than $12,600.
If asked to decide this week about the carpool ramps, Matsumoto said, she would oppose both the ones planned and the alternate location being studied at Executive Parkway.
"If it is detrimental to the neighborhoods, I would be opposed to it," but I "would need to know pros and cons before making a final decision," she said. She opposes the current "ambitious" Faria project, citing the impact on traffic, schools and hills, but is eager to see City Center move forward and also supports spending more to get more police officers.
"New energy and alternative points of view are crucial as the city changes," said Matsumoto. She said she is keen on partnerships and is committed to learning the issues and breaking them down for the public to understand.
"I wanted to bring a broader, diverse perspective to the council that is currently missing."
The top two vote-getters among the four council candidates will win the election and could serve a five-year term, instead of four, if measures D and E on the ballot pass, changing city election years from odd to even. Unlike the mayor's post, City Council seats have no term limits.
Ashly McGlone covers San Ramon. Contact her at 510-293-2463. Follow her at Twitter.com/ashlyreports.