Pleasanton Weekly

Column - January 29, 2010

'Not much news here?' Look again

by Jeb Bing

Although a former mayor once warned us that Pleasanton "is just a small town and there's not much news here," both our stories in the Pleasanton Weekly and a robust city proved him wrong in the 10 years since we launched this newspaper. The city's population has grown from about 55,000 to 68,000 with the number of housing units nearing the 29,000-unit cap, a limit that was set in 1996 and is being challenged in court, which means more people and homes could be coming. During this time, the Weekly has covered the election and appointments of an entirely new City Council, city Planning Commission and Pleasanton school board. Nelson Fialho was named city manager and the school district hired a new superintendent, John Casey, and many of the key city and school district administration managers have been named to their posts since we first went to press on Jan. 28, 2000.

In this past decade, Happy Valley residents turned down a bid to have their community annexed into Pleasanton, but property owners across Alisal Street liked the idea, joined the city and that paved the way for developing Callippe Preserve Golf Course and trails that locked in scenic open space at the southwest corner of Pleasanton where homes and thoroughfares were once planned.

On the east side, much of Ruby Hill, an upscale gated community, has been largely built out with custom homes also built or under construction on Vineyard Avenue between Montevino that used to mark the old city limits and Isabel, with even Vineyard realigned and rebuilt to provide a much improved gateway into Pleasanton from the old narrow roadway that we remember in 2000. Half-way between, an empty 13-acre field also reminds us of the ongoing feud between the school district and Signature Properties over who would pay for Neal Elementary School on the site, an $8-million to $15-million 10th elementary school that's no longer needed although the cost of litigation is still unresolved.

On the northeast corner of the city, a multi-million-dollar retail and senior housing development has been tentatively approved for the 126-acre Staples Ranch, which in 2000 wasn't on anyone's radar screen. An earlier housing plan had been scuttled; IKEA and a ballpark were considered for the site. But not until Alameda County, which owns Staples, and Supervisor Scott Haggerty and the Pleasanton council agreed over the last few years to the development plan now nearing completion has Staples been so close to becoming a part of Pleasanton. If all goes according to schedule, the property will be annexed this year and construction of a new auto mall and senior retirement community could get under way in 2011 or 2012.

We've also covered numerous public meetings on extending Stoneridge Drive from the Mohr-Martin neighborhood to El Charro Road, where it would connect to Jack London Boulevard on the Livermore side, and on building an interchange at Interstate 680 and West Las Positas Boulevard. Frequent neighborhood and city committee and commission meetings on these two proposals kept us out late many nights to cover these stories, with final copy still not written. Although the City Council took the option of building the Las Positas interchange out of the new General Plan, the state still owns the empty land at all four corners of the overpass where freeway ramps could be built if the proposal comes back another day. As for Stoneridge, its extension has been approved by the council, subject to final approval of an environmental impact report now under consideration. It's possible that those opposed to the roadway could sue the city and county to block its construction, with the results of that suit determining if the extension is built.

That story, along with reports yet to come on BART's extension of service to Livermore, the opening of its second station in west Pleasanton, a resolution of plans to build a 51-home development called Oak Grove in the hills above Kottinger Ranch, and the school district's looming budget crisis and its search for a new superintendent to succeed Casey, who will retire in June, will give us plenty of news to cover in the year ahead. Also, we'll be reporting online at www.pleasantonweekly.com, in our Pleasanton Express updates at 8 a.m. weekdays and in our Friday print editions news on another round of elections this year, including the race for Pleasanton mayor, two council seats, two school board positions, three State Assembly members, a congressman, U.S. senator and a new governor. Who said "there's not much news here" again?

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