SAN RAMON -- The city of San Ramon is a step closer to building its long-awaited new City Hall.
The city's planning commission last week unanimously approved a land-use plan, which will enable the city to build a new City Hall in the southeast corner of Central Park.
"We decided that City Hall was an appropriate use for the part of the city park where it's designed to sit on," commission Chairman Eric Wallis said. "And all the commissioners were favorably disposed toward the design of the building."
With the approval, groundbreaking could take place as early as September for the nearly $14 million, 44,600-square-foot building that is planned near Bollinger Canyon Road and Marketplace, where the basketball courts are now located. From there, it would take some 14 to 18 months to build, Wallis said.
The new building will be bordered by Iron Horse Trail and an existing skate park and baseball field. It will feature a glass rotunda entrance, attached to two floors of staff offices, including those of the city manager, city clerk, city attorney, administrative support, human resources, parks and community offices and numerous public meeting rooms, including new council chambers that would fit some 125 to 150 people.
The design plan by San Francisco-based Korth Sunseri Hagey Architects was approved by commissioners in March. A number of minor revisions to that plan were also adopted by the commission, based on the city's Architectural Review Board's recommendations. They include extending the height of the glass rotunda with windows up above the roof line, adding limestone to the front entryway wall which brandishes the city's logo (which was reduced in size), and preserving trees next to the baseball field north of the building.
The color of the building will also remain white, as was originally proposed, since it essentially matches the nearby community center, said senior planner Lauren Barr.
The city is considering a separate design proposal to build an overpass walkway for the nearby Iron Horse Regional Trail where it crosses Bollinger Canyon and Crow Canyon roads, so that trailgoers won't have to stop for street traffic. The first of two meetings was held last week to discuss the concept, and another meeting is planned from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. June 9 in the San Ramon Community Center at 12501 Alcosta Blvd.
About 31 parking spaces are planned for the new City Hall, but the neighboring community center parking lots would bring the total amount in the area up to about 290 parking spots, city staff said. Also, resulting traffic at the planned center's main entrance on Bollinger Canyon Road would be alleviated by the fact that there are already three existing entrances to the site.
Only two residents spoke up at the public hearing on the project. Jim Blickenstaff said that he worried that the building's white and glass exterior was too reminiscent of Bishop Ranch's business park. He, as well as Jim Warholic, expressed concerns that the 4,400-square-foot glass rotunda might not be the best use of the space. Warholic, in particular, said he wondered if a second floor of offices might be a better use of that space.
But Commissioner Dennis Viers was among those who said they believed a glass rotunda would help to distinguish the building from business buildings, by providing a "welcoming and inviting" space to draw in the public.
In addition, Chris Trubridge, of Sunset Development, said that "policymakers expressed a strong desire to have a common gathering space" in the building. And the rotunda, which was intended to distinguish it from a business building, can be used for public gatherings, accommodating about 150 seated people and about 280 standing
"We thought that a two-story glass rotunda was very elegant," Trubridge said. "And we promise not to repeat this design at Bishop Ranch."
Although no residents spoke at the public hearing about the impending relocation of the park's basketball courts, a couple of people have voiced concerns to her department about where they might be moved, said Karen McNamara, interim director of parks and community services.
And the Parks and Community Services Commission is in the process of conducting site visits and evaluating some four to six places within Central Park -- and other city parks -- that could work as options for the popular basketball courts.
After the evaluation process, the parks commission is expected to hear formal proposals on the city's best relocation options in September or October, according to a city staff report, and to hold public hearings on the issue in November or December.
Contact Joyce Tsai at 925-847-2123. Follow her at Twitter.com/joycetsainews.