The meeting, scheduled to review a supplemental environmental impact report for Staples Ranch as well as to consider the proposed municipal budget for 2010-11 and an updated Youth Master Plan, got off to a shaky start with an angry, red-faced Mayor Jennifer Hosterman throwing a voluminous staff report on the floor after learning that the public hearing was being continued. It turned out that the postponement was made by City Manager Nelson Fialho, and with good reason. Cards notifying the public of the meeting, which must be delivered 10 days in advance of a public hearing, arrived late in some mailboxes, including those of opponents of the new EIR. Rather than spend part of the meeting debating if and why the cards were late, Fialho rescheduled the hearing to a special meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 24, when the council could devote its entire session to Staples. Although the mayor settled down and the council continued with its agenda discussion of the budget and youth master plan, tempers flared again late in the evening and after most constituents had left the council chamber. What those who stayed and viewers who kept tuned in to the council broadcast on TV30's Channel 29 then saw and heard were council members berating one another and the Staples issue, itself. It was 30 minutes of diatribe that would have been better aired behind closed doors if they could have found some way of making that legal.
Consideration on developing of the 124-acre empty track of land called Staples Ranch goes back to the early 1990s and has been part of heated discussions in the past five years, mostly over plans to extend Stoneridge Drive to El Charro Road and Livermore. Hosterman and Council members Cheryl Cook-Kallio and Jerry Thorne support the extension; council members Cindy McGovern and Matt Sullivan are opposed. Alameda County, which owns Staples and wants to offload the site, is insisting that the Stoneridge extension be included in development plans.
Although the public hearing has been moved to Aug. 24 with notifications to be sent well in advance by certified mail, it's anybody's guess how fast this controversial process will continue. Any single council member can ask for a continuance one time. At least two more meetings must be held. Judging by the loud and bitter exchanges at last week's meeting, and with a municipal election to be held Nov. 2, it could be after that and well into 2011 before those who want to build on Staples Ranch or live in the independent and assisted living community planned there know the outcome of their petitions to proceed. The least we can hope for is a mayor that facilitates a productive discussion and council members who re-read the Community of Character pledge that hangs on the council chamber wall.