Pleasanton Weekly

News - June 4, 2010

Staples Ranch project moves forward

Planning Commission OKs new environmental report

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

Plans to develop Staples Ranch moved forward last week when the Pleasanton Planning Commission gave its nod of approval to a new environmental report and other recommendations. Now the project goes to the City Council for a public hearing, tentatively at its June 15 meeting.

The project for the 124-acre property south of I-580 and west of El Charro Road includes a 46-acre senior continuing care community to be developed by Continuing Life Communities; a 37-acre auto mall; an 11-acre retail/commercial center; a 5-acre neighborhood park; and a 17-acre community park. The community park could have a four-rink ice center built by an affiliate of the San Jose Sharks.

"I'm personally optimistic," said Patricia Kohnen, who plans to move to the Continuing Life Communities. "We were the first couple to put down 10 percent. It will be good for the whole Tri-Valley."

The City Council voted 3-2 in February 2009 to certify the environmental report, giving the go-ahead for the development and allowing Stoneridge Drive to be extended past where it now ends at Trevor Parkway. The city was to assess whether Stoneridge Drive should be four lanes on the bridge crossing Arroyo Mocho, which is adjacent to Staples Ranch, or reduced to two lanes.

Two environmental groups - San Francisco-based Center for Biological Diversity and Alameda Creek Alliance - and a citizens' coalition called Safe Streets filed a lawsuit the next month in Alameda County Superior Court to halt the project. They called the environmental report inadequate, noting that it did not include the Stoneridge Drive extension so violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

The supplemental environmental report was presented to the Planning Commission members last Wednesday, asking them to certify it and to rescind approvals by the City Council of the old report. They also were asked to adopt the revised CEQA findings and a Stoneridge Drive Specific Plan Amendment.

A re-evaluation of the California red-legged frog showed that it is not in Arroyo Mocho, said Senior Planner Robin Griffin. Two western pond turtles were observed but the report concluded that fencing could ensure that they would not be affected by bridge construction.

"The bridge will be striped to have one lane of travel in each direction," said Griffin, adding that it could be changed at a later date. "As drafted, the project contains flexibility."

"There will be significant unavoidable impacts," said Director of Community Development Brian Dolan.

He noted the change aesthetically of going from a rural to a developed site as well as impacts on air quality, noise and traffic.

Proposed mitigations include repaving Stoneridge Drive between Kamp Drive and Trevor Parkway with "noise attenuating pavement"; intersection improvements at Stoneridge Drive and Santa Rita Road; and installing traffic lights at the intersection of Stoneridge and Newton Way, Guzman Parkway and Trevor Parkway.

Dolan also pointed out the benefits of the project, noting that they outweigh the impacts.

"It allows us to maintain our auto sales businesses," he said, as well as adding a greatly needed senior continuing care facility. "The ice center and special events will draw people to do business at restaurants and stores. The ice center will contribute to our community park."

The city will also add a soundwall on Stoneridge Drive between Guzman and Trevor Parkway.

"That's the only area that doesn't have a soundwall," said Dolan. "We will need a more detailed plan before we move forward."

"What are the city of Pleasanton's responsibilities to other jurisdictions?" asked Commissioner Phil Blank. "Could Dublin sue us because we're impacting their intersection?"

Consulting attorney Michael Roush said cities work together to help solve traffic problems caused in each other's communities.

"We engage in a process with our regional partners," Roush said. "There is an overarching attempt to reach agreement on all the intersections impacted."

"A letter from the city of Dublin said they support this," added Assistant City Manager Steve Bocian.

Residents near Stoneridge Drive are opposing its extension, and several spoke at the meeting.

"Stoneridge Drive was not going to be put through until the 'proper time,' when 84 was widened and other arterials were opened," said John Carroll. "The impacts will be much greater than the mitigations are going to alleviate."

Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce president Scott Raty spoke in support of the Staples Ranch project and the Stoneridge Drive extension on behalf of the Chamber.

"Stoneridge Drive was the mitigation for Las Positas," he pointed out. "Not a single driveway opens on to Stoneridge Drive."

Pleasanton must also apply to the Alameda County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo) to annex the Staples Ranch property. Before this application is made, Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore and the county will discuss traffic priorities in the area.

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