I bought a ticket to the Mayor's State of the City address at the Chamber of Commerce for February 12th, but I was too tired to go and took a nap instead. This week I am rested and alert; so I have been going back through Council agendas and minutes and trying to catch up.
The Council held a Closed Session at the end of their last meeting to discuss two properties on Bollinger Canyon Road. I looked up the APN numbers and these are the dirt lot at the corner of Bollinger Canyon and Camino Ramon and the lot on the south side of Bollinger where the new City Hall is planned.
The item is described on the Agenda as "Instruct the City Council's Real Property Negotiator Greg Rogers Regarding Negotiations with Sunset Development Company on Price and Terms Relating to a Proposal for Purchase of APN: 213-133-086 and for Transfer of City's Interest in a Portion of APN: 213-120-010."
Louis Dagen, who helped me get around during my recovery, is Vice-Chair of the Economic Development Advisory Committee (EDAC) and Chair of the City Center Sub Committee. The City Center was put on hold back in 2008 during the financial crisis and recession.
Lou told me that Bishop Ranch is almost 100% leased. The economy in San Ramon has been improving, and EDAC has been working with Sunset Development to restart their plans for the City Center.
Councilman Scott Perkins told me that Alex Mehran recently hired Chris Truebridge, who managed the development of Gale Ranch for Shapell. An article in the San Francisco Business Times states that "Truebridge will be responsible for all forward planning and entitlements for Bishop Ranch and other Sunset projects. He will also be responsible for governmental relations with the local, state and federal agencies."
Perkins believes Truebridge was hired to manage the development of the City Center for Sunset. So it looks like our City Center is finally getting underway.
One of the delays in developing the City Center was attracting high quality anchor stores for the retail portion. It was disappointing when Neiman Marcus chose to locate in Walnut Creek instead of our City Center. I don't know what the status is on which stores Sunset is hoping to bring to San Ramon.
When the City Center was first proposed about 4 or 5 years ago, I suggested contacting L. L. Bean. At that time Bean's was located primarily in Freeport, Maine, with a few small satellite stores in Malls along the Eastern Seaboard.
Bean's still does not have any stores in California or for that matter west of the Mississippi. I think it is a good idea and worth checking into. With San Ramon half-way between Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton, the new outlet stores in Livermore, and the upscale shopping in Walnut Creek, we would need something totally different to attract shoppers here. L. L. Bean could provide that if they are willing to open a Freeport-type superstore in California.
The City's website has some new things worth checking into now too. There are ten short promotional videos under the banner "Video Tour of San Ramon." These are slickly produced and run about one to two minutes.
I wondered how the City Council paid for these videos. I tried to find an item for their production in past Council agendas, but it turns out that the company producing them provides them to communities for free and charges for sponsoring playback.
The two sponsors on most of the videos are San Ramon Valley Regional Medical Center and Bay Area Water & Smoke Damage Restoration. I'm surprised Bishop Ranch isn't sponsoring the Business Community video, which features an interview with Alex Mehran, Jr.
A few of the videos include some incongruous images, such as a rendering of the proposed City Center while the voice over is talking about proximity to San Francisco, but they are mostly well produced and pleasantly short. The only thing I dislike about them is the syrupy-voiced narrator.
The 2012 Salary Report and State of the City video are also posted on City's webpage. I was surprised to find that Economic Development Director, Marc Fontes, retired last year, but he is back working part time until June. I was told that there are no full-time employees remaining in the Economic Development Department.
Lou Dagen suggested I phone Leigh Boyd, who is working as a consultant with the EDAC. Leigh and I had a lively discussion about the future of EDAC. Leigh said EDAC will still represent residents and business groups in an advisory capacity to the City Council. Leigh said the City is good about surveys and the EDAC will reach out to businesses about what the city should or should not be doing.
This reminded me of the Art Summit I participated in last October when businesses and individuals involved in artistic endeavors were gathered to review what the city was doing to help them, what they would like it to be doing, and what they would like less of. This kind of reaching out is very productive and I could see where the EDAC could do something similar to find out how to support, grow, and attract new businesses in San Ramon.