We talk a great deal in this town about local control. Pleasantonians are independent and proud and want to direct the future of our great city. I do too. But for too long we have operated under the pressure of RHNA, those regional housing needs allocation numbers mandated to us by the state of California. Lately, Pleasanton has zoned and rezoned its required share of acreage for workforce housing (e.g., apartments) because we were required to do so by the state and by court order.
We began the planning of the East Side with our future anticipated RHNA numbers in mind. But the RHNA forecast for Pleasanton has changed; we no longer need to rezone property for high-density housing in the short term. We have enough land rezoned for now. That's really good news for Pleasanton and for local control.
However, freedom from RHNA numbers does not mean that the planning on the East Side should stop. In fact, this reprieve grants Pleasanton an opportunity to plan this area for Pleasanton. What do we want on the East Side? How can we enhance Pleasanton? Do we want trails? Open space? Parks? Family-oriented neighborhoods? Or do we want what is currently there: industrial storage space and abandoned, privately owned quarry areas? What is the vision for the East Side that improves the quality of life for all of Pleasanton?
Creating a plan for the East Side has been a priority of past councils for decades. Its inclusion in the General Plan since 1996 exhibits our acknowledgment that the largest piece of undeveloped land in Pleasanton should be carefully planned and it should honor the voter-approved urban growth boundary. To say we should only create a specific plan for the East Side when we are faced with state-imposed RHNA numbers flies in the face of everything Pleasanton stands for. However, those who complained that the East Side Task Force was operating solely in order to zone for RHNA numbers now argue that we should not plan the East Side until that is once again the case. That is not Pleasanton-controlled planned progress.
The opportunities offered by the East Side planning area are boundless. A Specific Plan can and should be carefully crafted with the input of the entire community so that the result is something that Pleasanton is proud of and will be willing to support. I encourage all Pleasanton residents to participate in the shaping of the East Pleasanton Specific Plan by attending the upcoming community meetings and by providing your input about what we should envision for in the East Side. More of the same? Or plan something better that befits a town like Pleasanton?
Together we can show that the "City of Planned Progress" is not just our motto; it is our commitment to future generations. Come join the discussion.
Editor's Note: Jerry Thorne was elected mayor in November 2012 after serving seven years on the City Council.