Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - April 24, 2009


Is commercial zoning losing out to private schools, music studios?

Pleasanton's zoning and land use controls apparently aren't keeping up with changes in the city's mix of commerce, industry, private schools and the arts. In February, the City Council denied an appeal of a Planning Commission decision and allowed the Little Ivy League School to continue its operations at a new location in the Hacienda Business Park. School founder and Principal Jennifer Zheng said the school, which has 90 students, had lost its lease on a Stoneridge Drive location where it had been permitted to operate since opening in 2005. The new location, approved in a 3-2 vote by the council, is at 5925 W. Las Positas Blvd., across from Hart Middle School and in a former commercial building that has since become the home of the Korean Presbyterian Church. Little Ivy, whose main enrollment consists of American-born children of Chinese descent, provides tutoring on a variety of English and mathematics subjects but with a special focus on Chinese language and culture.

Councilmembers Cindy McGovern and Matt Sullivan voted against granting Little Ivy a conditional use permit to open at the new location. Calling Little Ivy a school, not just a tutorial center, McGovern said she would reconsider the application once the school had a child care license, apparently not required of tutors in Pleasanton. Sullivan said the city needs to rewrite its guidelines for tutorial schools of this type that are really functioning as child care centers. Former Planning Commissioner Anne Fox, who appealed the commission's approval, said preschools and day care centers of this type need to meet the state licensing requirements that include thorough background checks of school administrators and staff. Others questioned the wisdom of adding yet another school, day care center or cultural center in Hacienda Business Park, facilities that pay no business taxes nor do they generate other revenue for the city of Pleasanton.

This past Tuesday, again in a 3-2 vote with McGovern and Sullivan dissenting, the council voted to reject another appeal of a Planning Commission decision, this one by Chris Studzinski, owner of Progressive Concepts Machining at 1236 Quarry Lane in the Valley Business Park. Studzinski had objected without success to a conditional use permit requested by Rimma Radayeva to expand the music studio she owns and operates in the building next door at 1228 Quarry Lane. Radayeva, a career music professional, opened her studio three years ago, with a permit for one-on-one piano lessons. Over time, she has increased the number of instructors from one to five, purchased five baby grand pianos for her studio, and has added half an hour to her studio time, now offering instruction from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Since most of her students are in school during the day, the bulk of the instruction is in the late afternoon and evening.

Studzinski said that when he moved his machining business to Valley Business Park years ago, it was primarily an industrial/manufacturing district with each building site required to have ample off-street parking for its customers and employees. He said the park's own requirements prohibit on-street parking, although he's now often confronted with cars parked in front of his building, sometimes at the end of a driveway and even in his own parking lot. Besides Radayeva's studio patrons, at least one other music studio--Mark Anderson's New World Music Academy--as well as Quarry Lane School and the Pump It Up children's activity center are nearby. Studzinski says his firm machines tools and equipment for a global list of customers, employs more than 40, and like similar industrial and manufacturing operations in the business park, contributes significantly to the local economy. But now when prospective tenants look at the area, they see unsupervised children running through parking lots and parents waiting in cars. Some prospects, he told the council, look for other sites more suitable for small manufacturing businesses.

With new business park opportunities increasingly limited as Pleasanton nears buildout, it's time for city planners to take a fresh look at commercial and other uses in these special districts to clarify who can operate in them, making a special effort to keep and attract tax revenue generating businesses while gradually weaning out non-profits and private schools to sites that offer better compatibility to the arts.


Posted by Robert, a resident of Downtown
on Apr 24, 2009 at 10:15 am

The council majority (Hosterman, Thorne, Cook) who are approving child-based businesses outside of retail areas are driving downtown Pleasanton into the ground. And they are driving manufacturing/industrial businesses out of the area by approving these kid businesses in industrial areas.

I just saw where G.R. Doodlebug is closing its doors on Main Street. With all these approved children's businesses in industrially zoned Valley Business Park (aka "Romper Room" Alley) and Hacienda Business Park, no wonder Main Street is no longer viable and there are so many vacancies.

America can't survive if it can't produce anything anymore. No wonder businesses are outsourcing overseas when local officials are approving children's businesses in industrial zoning areas by calling them "trade schools." Give me a break! No wonder America no longer has a viable economy.

Sounds like McGovern, Sullivan and Fox are the only ones that realize the damage that these local decisions are doing to our economy.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 24, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Hrm, I somehow doubt that zoning laws cause consumers to stop spending.

I wonder if the City and Council has considered local currency as a way to help local businesses. We could get Claudette to help design it.

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