In a joint meeting on December 21, the San Ramon Planning Commission and City Council, along with many members of the public, discussed plans for the future of the historic El Nido house, built in the 19th century. century by the Harlan family, at San Boulevard Ramon Valley and Westside Drive.
On the public hearing table was a proposal for a 27,947-square-foot, three-story senior care facility with a capacity of 84 beds on 0.7 acres, which would include the renovation of the Harlan House. long standing and its integration into development.
The owner of the property, Sohail Siddiqi, resident of San Ramon, presented the recent and complicated history of the project, after years of efforts by many parties to develop the property. He emphasized in his presentation a “collaborative” approach to developing plans for good, and having listened to, processed and integrated community feedback.
Siddiqi said he was “surprised” at the project’s first planning committee meeting in 2017 at the number of public reservations about proposed developments for the property.
“At that point, I decided that we just couldn’t develop and design this project in a vacuum,” Siddiqi said. “We have to engage our neighbors. So we did.”
Siddiqi highlighted efforts which included meetings at Town Hall for residents of his family’s home, open house events on the property, meetings with homeowner associations near the property, and working with local residents. local historical societies and municipal officials.
Previous plans explored for the El Nido house involved moving the historic old home of the Harlan family to another location in order to clear the way for development or to demolish the building entirely. Restoring the building and integrating it into a plan for a care facility for the elderly is an option that emerged following logistical problems with the first and the general outcry over the destruction of a historic building for the latter. .
Siddiqi highlighted the preservation of the city’s history with the restoration of the house, with plans to organize tours and events in the property organized by the San Ramon Historical Foundation, as well as adding jobs and volunteer opportunities in the area.
As a further effort to address community concerns, Siddiqi said the proposed project would involve not only restoring and integrating the historic house into the new development, but architecture inspired by the house and aimed at complementing it. .
Nonetheless, some community members remained skeptical of any changes the development could bring to the neighborhood, citing traffic as a major concern, with some questioning Siddiqi’s motives.
“This is a commercial entity for all intents and purposes, and any idea that this is done for altruistic reasons is misplaced,” Anthony Deangelis said in a public comment. “This project will cause a lot of inconvenience to people living in the surrounding area.”
“I am categorically opposed to this project as a healthcare facility,” said Brea Fisher. “Having worked in healthcare for several years, no one seems to mention the sheer amount of trash, chemicals, garbage, laundry, noise and light pollution that a healthcare facility will generate. It is an inappropriate area to place a health center. ease.”
Overall, neighboring residents expressed concerns about increased traffic, noise, and lingering aesthetic concerns with the architecture as overarching concerns, and asked the council, commission and applicant to ‘examine these questions.
Other residents, however, pointed to a shortage of senior housing in the area and hoped the proposed facility could help San Ramon Valley seniors stay in the area rather than relocate elsewhere in the region. State or country to find an assisted living facility.
“I’m in my 80s,” said Mary Lou Oliver. “I’m one of those people who is looking at what kind of facilities are available, and there is a real shortage in San Ramon.”
Oliver added that as a longtime resident of San Ramon, she has seen many arguments against new developments over the years, while watching the city continue to develop.
“When I moved here, it was the first development built north of Montevideo Drive,” Oliver said. “There was nothing between Montevideo Drive and my property… Most people, if I had said the kinds of things I heard tonight, they wouldn’t have a home here.”
Some further expressed frustration that, as debates over the future of House Harlan raged, the house itself deteriorated further as it and the surrounding property lay unoccupied. One of those commentators was Bill Harlan, a descendant of the early owners of the house.
Harlan said that when he came to San Ramon in 1985 to work on establishing a new college in the area, he unexpectedly found himself embroiled in the saga of his ancestor’s home and followed and participated closely in these discussions over the years. .
“Around the same time I got involved, because of my name and background, that my great-great-grandfather was growing up in this house in the 19th century, I was also sucked into all this soap opera going on from House Harlan, ”he said.
Harlan was part of the city commission that had sought property to relocate the house in efforts that failed in 2015.
“While all of this was going on, the house deteriorated, much of the damage to the house was unintentional and conscious and part of a political effort, and now I am listening to people worrying about their walking around. dogs and cars spinning on Westside Drive, ”said Harlan.“ Joe Harlan, who originally built this house in the 19th century, brought his grandmother, Mrs. Duncan, who was 93, through planes in a boxcar in 1846. “
“This spirit, this attitude has survived all the years of degradation of this house, and the Harlan Family Association of the United States of America… is really behind this plan,” Harlan continued. “It makes sense to use history as a springboard to address our current issues in the community.”
The December 21 hearing on the El Nido seniors’ residence project was for information and discussion purposes only, with no action to be taken by the council or commission. The two bodies voted unanimously to approve the next stage of discussions on the project, which will resume at the Planning Commission meeting on January 18.