Ponderosa Homes is "shovel-ready"--the current buzz-word--to start construction within the next few months of its multi-million-dollar, 110-home gated residential community for seniors in the Ironwood community.
If the final mapping and permitting process go smoothly in City Hall, Ponderosa will have contractors and hundreds of workers preparing the 23-acre site and building the one- and two-story homes in July, a welcome sign in these troubling times when most new home construction has come to a halt. The first group of homes should be ready for buyers in late 2010.
The project, which won the approval of the City Council in a 3-2 vote Feb. 17, has been in the planning stage for about nine years and was made possible when the Pleasanton school district, which had an option to buy the site, decided it no longer needed it nor could afford more property.
It also will be Alameda County's first privately developed project of homes to be available at market price and restricted to at least one of the buyers being 55 years old or older. No children will be allowed to live in the development except in special cases and access will be limited to owners with a magnetic card to open the gate.
Besides bringing more senior housing to Pleasanton, Ponderosa also is filling a long-standing demand for market rate homes for seniors that offer more security. Those seeking homes at the site say they travel more frequently now that they're empty nesters and will appreciate having a security team to check on their homes while they're away. The project also includes a centrally-located recreational facility with a swimming pool and other outdoor activities and a community meeting room.
Because those expected to move into the development have no school-age children and will travel occasionally, traffic flow into and out of the development will be one-tenth of what city traffic engineers had projected if a school had been built on the site, as once was proposed.
Just as significantly, this latest project wraps up Ponderosa's development of the Busch property, a development now largely completed on what used to be called the "Pumpkin Patch," a favorite place for kids to go when the Busch family opened up their farm to school children to pick the pumpkins the family had planted. Ponderosa, which originally asked to build 300 homes on the site, trimmed the number to the 175 single family homes now built, along with 16 duplexes and a 172-unit senior apartment project. Centerpointe Presbyterian Church recently completed the first phase of its major new church facility on a six-acre site at the corner of Busch Road and Valley Avenue, which is also a part of the Ironwood community.
It was rough sledding for Ponderosa during the early days of its development application. Neighbors objected to the size of the development and the traffic it might bring to their local streets. Protests grew angry at times and there was a widespread effort by those groups to force a referendum after the City Council approved the development. The City Council withdrew its approval, canceling the need for a referendum and, with the help of former mayors Ben Tarver and Tom Pico, Ponderosa executives and a new marketing team began holding a series of neighborhood meetings to develop a new plan that all could accept. In the end, at a council meeting in 2002, Ponderosa's current development plan was approved to the applause of city officials, neighbors and the home building firm. Today, that team effort to resolve differences over a proposed development is the model for other negotiations in Pleasanton and beyond.
Besides Ironwood homeowners and neighbors near the community who have publicly praised Ponderosa for the design and land use amenities of the development, Ponderosa also has paid $5 million in school fees as part of its development agreement. It will soon pay another $120,000 in fees to the school district for its new gated senior home community, a welcome gift from a development that will have no children and at a time when the school district needs financial support.