The action came despite several objections and the threat of an initiative that would ask city voters to ban all commercial and residential development on the 124-acre, undeveloped Staples Ranch property except for a proposed auto mall.
As initially proposed by the city's Parks and Recreation Commission, the new park would be one of the largest in Pleasanton outside of Sports Park and would include at least two all-weather lighted sports fields, six lighted tennis courts, bocce ball courts, a dog exercise area and trails with a trail assembly area of restrooms and parking.
Staples Ranch is located just northeast of the Pleasanton city limits at the corner of I-580 and El Charro Road. It is unincorporated and owned by Alameda County, which has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Pleasanton officials to develop the property with a 40-acre auto mall, a retail center, a 600-800-unit senior living complex, the community park and a corridor reserved for the future extension of Stoneridge Drive to El Charro.
Although fielding public comments for much of the council meeting on the Greenbelt initiative, Mayor Jennifer Hosterman ruled that comments on the Staples Ranch park could not deviate to other concerns for the property, including the proposed initiative.
"I will not entertain those comments," she told a crowded council chamber.
A supporter of the ice arena, retired Parks and Community Services Director Dolores Bengtson, said the proposed park and all of its amenities "should enjoy broad public support."
"While I feel there is an elephant in this room that we can't talk about," Bengtson said, referring to the initiative, "I hope we get many in the community behind this. To those who question why we need four sheets of ice (ice rinks), I'd like to point out that we have more than 30 soccer fields and plenty of baseball and softball fields. I think our community will be well served by this."
Eight-year-old Nicholas Powers agreed. An avid hockey player, he said his parents drive him a minimum of 45 minutes to reach the nearest rink.
"Hockey is a fast, growing sport," he told the council. Many kids play baseball and soccer here, but they can't play hockey because there's no facility in town."
Businessman Brad Hirst cited hockey tournaments in the Lake Tahoe area where his grandchildren play, games that attract hundreds of players and their families who, in turn, spend thousands of dollars on fees, refreshments, restaurant, food and hotels.
"This proposed arena would have a tremendous economic impact on Pleasanton," Hirst said.
Another resident, John Carroll, disagreed. He called the proposed facility "enormous," and said it would be a regional, not a Pleasanton-only, attraction.
Anne Fox, whose Greenbelt initiative would block the ice hockey arena proposal, said at one time all of Staples Ranch--and much of the Vineyard corridor and a part of the Bernal property--was to be zoned for agricultural uses. She said the proposed Sharks facility would be a commercial use on land intended for a public park.
Even so, the council voted 4-0, with Councilman Matt Sullivan absent because he was on vacation, to adopt the recommendation by city staff and the Parks and Recreation Commission to proceed with a conceptual plan for developing the 17-acre parcel, which could be expanded to 22 acres, for recreational uses and the ice arena.
City manager Nelson Fialho said negotiations will get under way immediately with San Jose Arena Management, the Sharks subsidiary.
In other action, the council:
* Voted to install radar speed-detection warning signs along Sycamore Road and Alisal Street as part of an $80,000 traffic calming program sought by Traffic Engineer Michael Tassano and Happy Valley residents. The plan includes at least seven speed "lumps" to force motorists--many of them golfers headed for Callippe Preserve Golf Course--to keep close to the posted 25 mph speed limit on those streets. Some warned, however, that the lumps, similar to those installed on Crellin Road, could encourage motorists to use Happy Valley Road as an alternative.
* Agreed to join the new East Bay Joint Powers Authority to upgrade and coordinate regional communications systems among various Contra Costa and Alameda County police, fire and other emergency response systems.
* Voted to increase the speed limit on Vineyard Avenue between Pietronave Lane and Machado Place from 40 mph to 45 mph.
* Voted to give itself a 90 percent pay raise effective with the election and swearing in of the next City Council in December 2008. The council's action boosts the stipend for council members from $500 to $950 a month, and the mayor's from $600 to $1,050. The last time council salaries were raised was in 1990.