"They are the ones who built all of this beautiful San Ramon for us," he added. "If we today say 'no we cannot help you, no you cannot live here, that's not our responsibility' -- as a citizen, as a resident of San Ramon it is our fundamental duty to see how we can provide that facility for our seniors to live in the community they built, the community they love, the community they gave to us."
Although last week's vote wasn't on the 84-unit senior care facility sought by applicant Sohail Siddiqi, the passage of the ordinance meant overcoming a significant hurdle for Siddiqi's plans.
Under the original WSP, the property at the corner of Westside Drive and San Ramon Valley Boulevard was zoned for park land-use rather than housing. Following the council's vote in favor of amendments to the WSP that included this, discussions of the project itself can return to the Planning Commission and future council hearings.
While the current iteration of the proposed project, which sees the historic Harlan House incorporated into the facility rather than demolished or relocated, has been viewed favorably by councilmembers seeking to address a range of housing needs in the city, residents in the neighboring area have expressed concerns about the project over the past several months of public hearings.
Last week's meeting proved to be no exception, with a number of public comments opposing the amendment that would give way to the project, and residents holding signs with slogans such as "No to El Nido" in the audience at the council's in-person meeting.
"It's kind of obvious every time I call in that councilmembers are all for (the project) because it sounds like that every time we speak," Dora Daniel said in a public comment on the ordinance. "We tell you guys what our concerns are, why we're not happy with it ... Look at it from our point of view. We are the ones living there, you guys are not living there. You have to understand how we are looking at it."
Although residents have expressed a range of concerns with the overall project and development surrounding issues such as parking, traffic, noise, safety and infrastructure, the vote on the WSP amendment that would shift the land use zone of the property from "park" to "residential" garnered outcry in particular from residents who said they would prefer an actual park on the property.
However, city officials have sought to clarify that while the original WSP zoned the area for "park" use, there had never been robust plans to establish an actual park there by the city under the General Plan or others.
"That site is not part of our long-term parks master plan ... I don't think it's intended to be a city park," Councilmember Mark Armstrong said.
Councilmember Sabina Zafar emphasized that logistically, and for the sake of the greater community, a facility such as that proposed by Siddiqi would be better suited for meeting the needs of all residents.
"It is important for you to understand that the city needs to provide all housing and places for people to live throughout the city," Zafar said.
"As you're all aware, California is going through a major housing crisis," she added. "Homelessness is an issue in California. Home affordability is becoming a challenge. And those of us in San Ramon are fortunate that our house prices are going up but that also means our community is becoming harder and harder for people to live in now."
Zafar added that while there were reasons to move forward with the proposed facility that are more important than property value, the historical preservation of the Harlan House, and its incorporation into the facility, would likely have the opposite effect.
"Preserving the El Nido house is an important preservation goal for the city and the history of this community, and this would actually add more value to the neighborhood rather than less value," Zafar said.
Following the council's unanimous vote, discussions and next steps for the El Nido project itself are scheduled for the Planning Commission's meeting this week, with results pending as of press time.
Despite supporting the proposed project and voting in favor of the amendments clearing the way for it to go through its next stages, the Council emphasized that they were listening to the concerns of residents, and wanted to keep hearing and addressing them throughout the process. Nonetheless, they noted that they were looking towards the overall needs of the city in their support of the project thus far.
"All in all everybody makes some sacrifice at some level to make this city a better city," Councilmember Scott Perkins said. "Whether you live next to a fire station, an elementary school, a high school, or you live nearby an assisted living facility with 84 residents who don't drive."
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