The Pleasanton City Council Tuesday rejected for a second time a bid by a martial arts professional to operate a childcare facility for 20 children at a time in the Valley Business Park off Valley Avenue.
The council voted 4-1 to support Councilwoman Cindy McGovern who successfully sought to overturn the city Planning Commission's approval of the project on Nov. 12 and a subsequent recommendation that the council abide by that decision.
Brian Dolan, Director of Community Development, said his staff had determined that John Pfund had met—or would soon meet--all requirements needed for a conditional use permit to operate his Martial Arts Academy in a section of a building at 1262 Quarry Lane, which is zoned for industrial uses.
But in a nearly two-hour-long discussion with the council, Pfund and Dolan acknowledged, under questioning by McGovern and others on the council, that the facility still lacked approvals by the fire department and building inspectors because final approval by state authorities has not been obtained.
Although McGovern said she opposes placing childcare facilities in an industrial park, she was even more concerned that state authorities have yet to complete a background check on Pfund, which he asked for in April of 2008. He needs a background check approval by the state to obtain a childcare operating license.
Dolan said Pfund is in a "Catch 22" situation, with the state contending that it cannot issue a license until he has a facility to operate and Pleasanton fire and building officials saying they can't approve the facility until he is prepared to operate it.
Dolan suggested that the council approve Pfund's request for an operating permit on condition that he can open the facility for childcare only when he has the required state license. In the end, that was a condition of approval favored by Councilman Jerry Thorne, who said Pfund had worked hard over the last year to satisfy conditions imposed by both the Planning Commission and City Council and should be allowed to proceed once he has the license.
Others disagreed, however, and supported McGovern in voting against the project because of concerns beyond the childcare license problem.
Asked why it is taking so long for the state to complete his background check, Pfund said it could be because of his arrest several years ago on a charge of child molesting. He said the charge was dismissed after the state's attorney determined that there was no truth to the charge.
State authorities have scheduled a hearing on Pfunds' request for a childcare license in February when they will review background information they have collected related to his petition.
"I have a top secret clearance from working at the Sandia National Laboratory and also in Dublin in 2003, where I had a background check as required," Pfund told the council.
Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio countered, however, that in her 32 years of teaching, she has never heard of a state-required background check, which all school districts require, taking so long and without any explanation from state authorities, Pfund or the Planning Department.
"Although Mr. Pfund plans to operate a martial arts program, he also plans to enroll children as young as kindergarteners who will be there for up to six hours a day," Cook-Kallio said. "That's not a recreational facility, it's childcare and he needs to have an approved background check before operating that facility."
Councilman Matt Sullivan agreed.
"When my daughter was taking martial arts, she would be there for two hours and then come home," he said. "We're talking here about a program that could keep kids there for up to eight hours."
Dolan, in a staff report recommending approval of the Pfund application, said his staff continued to support the approval by the Planning commission.
"The applicant has fulfilled the application requirements and followed through to meet the intent of the direction provided by the City Council in May, 2008," Dolan stated in his report. "The time that has been taken for the background check by the state is out of the applicant's control and there is nothing more that he can do to expedite the state's process."
After voting to overturn the Planning Commission's approval of the project, as well as Dolan's recommendation, Mayor Jennifer Hosterman told Pfund that the council, planners and others have spent months researching and debating the issue.
"I hope that your background check will be completed and everything in order before you ever come back to this city with another application like this," Hosterman said.