By Roz Rogoff
Keeping Toyota in San RamonUploaded: Feb 3, 2011
Toyota Motor Sales USA has owned a property on the corner of Norris Canyon Blvd. and Bishop Drive for over 25 years. This isn't some ugly warehouse, but a beautifully landscaped building used as a parts warehouse and training facility.
Toyota has been a model corporate citizen, providing space for the Rotary Club of San Ramon's Carboload dinner held the night before Primo's Run for Education. In 2009 the Rotary Club inducted the Toyota Distribution Center into its Business Hall of Fame.
Toyota has wanted to expand its facility in San Ramon for several years. In 2006 Toyota submitted a proposal to the City for an 11,200 sq. ft. training center expansion, which was approved in September of 2007. Instead of allowing Toyota to move ahead with their expansion, the City zoned Toyota's property Multifamily High-Density Housing to meet ABAG's housing requirements.
At a Planning Commission Workshop on the Housing Element for the General Plan on May 6, 2008 Carlos Soria, Project Development Manager, Toyota Motor Sales, USA stated that "Toyota is considering expanding their operation in San Ramon and would request re-zoning their vacant parcel back to a manufacturing/warehouse zoning from a multi-family very high density residential zoning."
Soria, speaking again in a joint meeting of the City Council and Planning Commission in December of 2008, "questioned why housing would be included in the Toyota parcel as Toyota has no intention of using this site for housing. He stated that Toyota would like to expand their warehouse facility. He would like to work with other landowners to shift housing unit allocations to appropriate sites."
In September of 2009 Mr. Soria congratulated the City on meeting State housing requirements, but he commented "that it was unfortunate for Toyota Motor Sales, that the City of San Ramon has met the site adequacy requirement by designating residential uses on the property which Toyota Motor Sales, intended to develop on."
Planning Commissioner Dennis Viers told Soria "that there might be flexibility with the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan." Mr. Soria replied "that he is aware of the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan and supports placing more commercial uses on and near the Toyota site and removing the residential land use designation."
The adjacent illustration is from a consultants' report on the "Current Conditions and Alternatives Identification" for the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan. It is dated November 19, 2009 and shows the current uses of properties in the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan area. Note that the Eastern side of the Toyota property was then and still is vacant.
Last year I asked Senior Planner Lauren Barr if changing the zoning to Mixed Use in the NCRSP would enable Toyota to expand their warehouse, and Barr said it wouldn't.
Soria spoke again at this week's Public Hearing on the General Plan Update and told the City Council and Planning Commissioners that if Toyota cannot expand its warehouse facility here, it will have to relocate to another city.
I also spoke at that meeting on Tuesday and encouraged the City Council to work with Toyota to keep them here and to take Toyota and the Bishop Ranch Veterinary Center out of the NCRSP.
I also suggested taking the Northern portion that borders Fostoria Road out of the NCRSP. Then Kevin and the other automotive businesses there would not have to worry about losing their businesses to future development.
If the Southern properties on Bishop Drive and the Northern properties on Fostoria Road are taken out of the NCRSP, that leaves the middle section from the North side of Norris Canyon Road to Crow Canyon in the NCRSP for the big box stores, public transit, and whatever additional housing is required by ABAG.