SAN RAMON -- Residents at a recent meeting urged city planning officials to consider the drawbacks of a plan to build a proposed 740-unit residential development, the Faria Preserve, in the northwest part of the city.

They cited concerns about excessive traffic and lack of schools that could result from the project. At a Dec. 17 Planning Commission hearing, eight residents spoke out in opposition to the development plans east of Bollinger Canyon Road and north of Crow Canyon Road.

Part of San Ramon's Northwest Specific Plan, the community would be subdivided into five neighborhoods, with 144 acres as open space. The community would include single-family homes, town homes, apartments and senior housing and parcels for a church, park and education facility.

This revised plan is smaller than the original 786 units that was proposed by Claremont Homes, which was approved by the Planning Commission and City Council in 2006. It was modified in 2008 to resolve lawsuits filed by the East Bay Regional Park District and the Sierra Club.

Lafferty Communities, which has since acquired the land, is applying for a permit for the modified plan. A proposed 12.9-acre park would be for all residents to enjoy, with basketball, bocce and tennis courts, play structures, lighted soccer and baseball fields, pedestrian trails and a rose garden.

Also 30 percent of the development's residential units, about 226 homes would be offered as affordable housing units. About 86 out of the development's 198 rental apartments would be restricted to seniors, and 28 affordable housing units would be for sale.

That is higher than the 25 percent affordable housing that's outlined in the city's general plan -- and in most developments, said Cindy Yee, the city's associate planner. Consultants said resulting traffic from the additional residents in the area could be alleviated by adding a traffic signal on Deerwood and Omega roads and adding lanes at San Ramon Valley Boulevard and Deerwood Roads.

Yet residents seemed unconvinced that the proposed solutions would prevent what they see as an inevitable escalation in the number of bottlenecked streets in the area. They said they worry that Bollinger Canyon and Deerwood roads were not built to handle the extra traffic.

Many residents expressed concerns about how the development would pack schools with extra students and require a new school, as well as obscure views of the natural landscape and shine lights from recreation fields into homes. However, planning commissioner Donna Kerger said residents should raise such concerns to the San Ramon school board, not the city.

"Talk to them about it," she said. "They are the policymakers, and they decide whether they build a school or not."

However, resident Jim Gibbon, of San Ramon for Open Government, said city officials should do more to urge the district to plan a school in the area.

"Everyone knows it's needed, and no one is doing anything about it," he said. He also worries about the development being built on an active fault line, which could result in earthquake damage.

However, Planning Commission Chairperson Eric Wallis stressed to residents that the decision to build the development at this point had already been approved, and the recent application to build was merely looking for a modification that would in essence, build fewer homes.

"What is not before us is where the plan should be built or not," he said. "The question is whether it's compliant (with the city's growth general plan)."

Also, he said, the city will hold more public hearings on the issue in January and February, so there is plenty of time for more public comment.

Contact Joyce Tsai at 925-847-2123. Follow her at Twitter.com/JoyceTsaiNews.

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