Stark says the agreement signed last month by the City Council with Urban Habitat and Public Advocates, two affordable housing coalitions, does commit the city to revise its housing element numbers to meet those required by the Association of Bay Area Governments and the state's housing authority. Those numbers needed to be updated since it's been since 2003 that Pleasanton has revised its plan while it researched, reviewed and finally approved a revised General Plan last fall. The coalitions' lawsuit, which was approved by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch, orders Pleasanton to submit its new housing element numbers to the state by next August. Pleasanton also was ordered to remove its housing cap ordinance that was approved by voters in 1996, setting 29,000 housing units as the absolute top number that could be built here. With more than 27,000 units already built, the housing coalitions convinced Roesch that Pleasanton could not comply with the 3,000 and more housing units it would need over the next few years to comply with state numbers.
Stark says that Roesch's ruling doesn't require the city to build anything, only to rezone sufficient acreage for more housing in the 30-units-to-the-acre amount range to serve builders who specialize in high density and lower-income housing. Lower income, he explains, doesn't mean subsidized rentals, although there are a number of those in Pleasanton. It means housing that should be more affordable to those in the Pleasanton workforce whose incomes, although livable, just aren't high enough to afford most of the city's current housing stock. Property that's likely to be rezoned for high density housing lies in Hacienda Business Park and the undeveloped land east of Valley Avenue near the quarries that are gradually shutting down.
Also, Stark points out that just because Pleasanton rezones some acreage for high density housing, don't expect builders in the current weak economy to start plowing the ground for new buildings. Whether units for low-to-moderate income tenants or upscale apartment complexes, Stark says the projects must "pencil out" to be profitable. He also notes that Pleasanton's tough standards are still in place. With Growth Management policies limiting permits to no more than 350 units a year and firm design review policies, whatever is built will look much like apartment buildings already here. In fact, Stark says, we can drive through Hacienda Business Park to the BART station now and pass scores of subsidized, affordable apartments and town homes that even next door neighbors don't know are being rented or were sold in that category.
Stark says a bigger concern for Realtors and their clients in the court settlement just approved lies with Attorney General Jerry Brown's office. Brown joined the affordable housing coalition suit and also filed one of his own against Pleasanton's revised General Plan, claiming that its housing cap restricted the construction of an adequate number of dwellings for the much larger workforce that commutes to Pleasanton. All this driving causes greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to global warming. Brown dropped the lawsuit once Pleasanton settled with Judge Roesch and the others, but he's moving forward on climate change regulations that could require extensive and expensive retrofitting of existing homes where they're sold. For Stark, that's a much greater worry for Realtors and their clients in today's already-struggling housing market.