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Council splits on appointments to Planning Commission

Chairman Phil O'Loane and Vice-Chair Harry Sachs were both up for reappointment. Sachs and O'Loane were appointed in 2006 to replace Mike DiGeronimo and Jeff Rhoton who did not reapply.

Two residents also applied for the positions. Jeanne Benedetti is Director of Marketing and Sales at Calpine Corporation, a clean energy company. She attended the last Government 101 class. John Mills served on the Economic Development Advisory Committee and is Chief of Staff for Santa Clara County Supervisor Ken Yeager.

Vice-Mayor Carol Rowley started off each interview by asking the applicant what made him or her best for this appointment.

O'Loane mentioned his years of experience on the Economic Development Advisory Committee and his current experience on the Planning Commission.

Benedetti said her experience as a project developer and applicant for new power plants gave her a different perspective from the government side of planning.

Sachs said his four years on the Planning Commission put him up on the learning curve and made him better qualified to serve again.

John Mills said his experience working for Yeager in county government gave him a lot of experience with state laws, planning and general plans.

Councilman Dave Hudson described the pressure from environmental groups to increase the housing element in the North Camino Ramon Specific Plan from 1,200 to 4,000 and asked each applicant how he or she felt about that.

O'Loane didn't see any reason to have "more for the sake of more."

Benedetti likes the idea of smart growth and favors increasing the housing element where residents could walk to work.

"Building up is better than building out," she said.

Sachs questioned how the existing infrastructure would handle this high level of infill.

"It puts a lot of strain on everything associated with it," Sachs said. "Things that go under the ground have to be considered too."

Mills said any increase in housing depended on what the plan would look like.

"It has to be a good plan," Mills told Hudson.

Councilman Jim Livingstone asked all four applicants what their positions are on the Urban Growth Boundary.

O'Loane said he is for the changes on the West but feels the expansion on the East is not necessary at this time.

The other three all felt that moving the City's Urban Growth Boundary and Sphere of Influence into Tassajara Valley would give San Ramon a say in what goes on out there.

Councilman Scott Perkins asked how the applicants saw the density in Tassajara Valley in the next 15 to 20 years.

Benedetti said it would depend on the availability of utilities, especially water.

Sachs said it would definitely be less than Dougherty Valley because of geographical constraints and smaller parcels.

Mills also felt the terrain in Tassajara Valley didn't lend itself to high density developments.

Perkins arrived at the meeting after O'Loane's interview was over; so O'Loane didn't answer that question.

The Council voted to continue their decision on the Planning Commission until after a meeting of the Redevelopment Agency to interview four applicants for the Housing Advisory Committee.

Three applicants were renewing their appointments. The forth applicant was John Mills, who had just interviewed for the Planning Commission. The RDA voted to appoint Mills to the Housing Advisory Committee and reappoint Kris Viers and Elyse Huettl.

Then the Council resumed its meeting to vote on the appointments to the Planning Commission.

Councilman Scott Perkins, who missed the interview with Phil O'Loane, reviewed the tape recording of O'Loane's interview before the Council voted.

Sachs was unanimously reappointed on the first ballot, but there was no majority for the second opening. The Council was split with Rowley and Hudson voting for O'Loane, and Mayor Abram Wilson and Perkins for Benedetti. Councilman Jim Livingstone broke the tie by changing his vote from Mills to Benedetti.

Benedetti and Sachs will serve on the Planning Commission until June of 2014.

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