http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2008/02/08/heritage-group-seeks-to-preserve-downtowns-character


Pleasanton Weekly

News - February 8, 2008

Heritage group seeks to preserve downtown's character

Pleasanton Heritage Association aims to also be a resource to those interested in remodels, additions and new construction

by Janet Pelletier

There are a number of architectural hints to the history of downtown Pleasanton. The Pleasanton sign on Main Street, the 19th century buildings that dot the downtown and the victorian, craftsman, colonial and cottage-style homes that surround it are among them.

A new group called the Pleasanton Heritage Association has set out to advocate for the preservation of that historic character and is working with the city with the goal of creating a future preservation ordinance and providing input on development proposals in the downtown area.

"The organization was formed as a result of extreme frustration by many of us who have been longtime residents of Pleasanton, living in basically vintage and heritage neighborhoods and homes," said Linda Garbarino, a 30-year resident who has owned two historic homes.

A point of contention, Garbarino said, has been downtown development projects that aren't keeping with the historic architecture in the city center and the city's willingness to approve them.

"We've seen things in the General Plan, commitments to maintain that look, the Downtown Specific Plan notably, and the current downtown guidelines, which were just updated in May of 2006," she said. "Every time those are cited by us individuals, we're told those are not laws, they're just suggestions and guidelines, so it seems to have become a really hot point for us."

The group formed last spring. They approached the city in late December to air their concerns and express an interest in giving input on development projects going before the city, according to city Planning Director Jerry Iserson.

The type of input the group would like to have, Garbarino said, is addressing architectural elements of projects, as well as offering specific design guidelines for preserving character to remodels, additions and renovations.

High density housing is something she said the group is against, but added they are open to compromise.

"I would say probably 90 percent of the people moving to or living in Pleasanton came here because of that charm, the nature of that heritage look that drew them here," she said. "It's a small town, it has a small town look and it has that character that appeals to people."

Garbarino said she appreciates that the city has taken up their request to be involved in new project proposals and the goal would be to create a downtown preservation ordinance. That's something Iserson said the city has already cited as one of its priorities.

"We are very much concerned with all of those issues," Iserson said. "It is something that the City Council has said that they want us to work on and as soon as we get done with some other priority projects, we would like to go ahead and do that."

"I've had a couple meetings with them so they could share with me what their goal is, they've prepared a mission statement and we've asked them to review a couple projects, so it really hasn't been defined as to how they're going to interact, but we see them as a citizen's group, kind of like a homeowners' association that's involved in the city," he added. "We would be open to hearing their comments and consider them along with other comments or other perspectives as we go through the approval process (of downtown projects)."

The city follows the Downtown Specific Plan, which was developed in 1989 and updated in 2002, which identifies the types of architecture found downtown and its characteristics. Among the guidelines in the plan, it says "if done properly, additions and remodels will look comfortable with the original buildings," and "new construction needs to be especially sensitive to surrounding structures."

Iserson said the city also works with the Pleasanton Downtown Association, which has a design committee, closely on commercial projects.

Garbarino said the Pleasanton Heritage Association is looking to other Bay Area cities to see what they've done. Livermore has a historic preservation committee that meets monthly. Among its duties is recommending to the City Council action to preserve historic resources, coordinating activities with the Planning Commission so that historic needs are considered in the planning process and offering preservation advice to historic resource owners.

"Berkeley has a booklet of suggestions for remodeling and materials and supplies, and types of things that make something in a remodel or new construction look like it is a heritage," Garbarino added.

She said the group is looking to expand its membership and form a board. They plan to put up a Web site shortly, but in the meantime, Garbarino can be contacted at 462-8779.

"The heritage look of the city doesn't just happen or isn't maintained by coincidence or happen stance; it takes a lot of hard work on the parts of people and good partnerships," she said. "I think that's what we want to do--form good partnerships."

To view the Downtown Specific Plan, visit www.ci.pleasanton.ca.us/pdf/plan-downtown-plan.pdf and for downtown design guidelines, visit www.ci.pleasanton.ca.us/pdf/plan-downtown-guidelines.pdf.

Comments

Posted by John Smith, a resident of Ruby Hill
on Feb 21, 2008 at 2:48 pm

Doesn't the City already have enough professional review (red tape) processes in place??? Do we really need a group of un-trained people to offer opinions on what looks good or not??? Who are they to say??? Sounds like a bunch dramaseekers with too much time on their hands medling in others property owners business - causing additional costs, confusion and delay....


Posted by John Smith, a resident of Ruby Hill
on Feb 21, 2008 at 2:49 pm

Doesn't the City already have enough professional review (red tape) processes in place??? Do we really need a group of un-trained people to offer opinions on what looks good or not??? Who are they to say??? Sounds like a bunch dramaseekers with too much time on their hands medling in others property owners business - causing additional costs, confusion and delay....


Posted by Beth, a resident of Del Prado
on Feb 21, 2008 at 5:00 pm

John,

I'm sure your Ruby Hill homeowners association has something to say everytime anyone does significant work on their home. This is the same thing, but for the downtown and I for one welcome their input as concerned citizens.

So sorry you think professional review = red tape...


Posted by John Smith, a resident of Ruby Hill
on Feb 22, 2008 at 1:26 pm

Beth, I knew going into Ruby what to expect from the HOA, they have very CLEAR rules and guildlines. (What rules are we to follow with this new group??? And I hear they are already voicing opinions on projects!) So clear (the ruby rules), the city barely looks at projects from a "planning" dept. standpoint - In and out 2 weeks! As a downtown property owner as well, the last thing I want, is one more added "group" telling me, owner of my property, how to do this and that with no formal rules or guidelines. They somehow have the ear of the city, (because they have to listen...) they should be made to follow the same rules as the general public and not be given ANY special treatment! (Sending plans back and forth via email/PDF may even violate copyright laws) Make them go down to the counter like the rest of us! They tried to start this group (some of the same members), some years back, it fell apart, hopefully this one will too. The city, has its faults, but overall, they do a really good job and are trying even harder, putting together groups, such as the CSRT, to battle exactly what we as property owners down here have to deal with. Let the city planners do their job, dont let a single voice at the planning commision or council throw a project in the fire. (Oh and they should spend some more time on the mayor's definition of a bird-foul-duck whatever it was too.) It gets that bad... As soon as you try to develop a property whether a simple addition or new construction you will soon see how difficult (it can be) of a city it is to get anything done in... Dont get me wrong I have lived here ALL MY LIFE and plan on staying for good doing what I do... Because the city listens to everyone and tries to please everyone most every project goes into a design review or turns into a PUD, this is simple stuff that could be done "over the counter" in most cities - like in livermore for example. Minutes instead of months! Give me rules up front and I will play by them, dont come in late in the game (after spending lots of time, money and effort with design professionals) and change them up... Respectfully, John (not my real name) Smith


Posted by John Smith, a resident of Ruby Hill
on Feb 22, 2008 at 1:39 pm

Beth, a ps. I grew up in Del Prado. Lived there for 20 years, still remember walking to Alpha Beta (Now Genes) for food and getting a single OR a double ice cream for 5 cents from Thiftys. (Triple was 10)(Now Rite-aid) I love this town and have faith in the planning dept that they, and they alone (or recognized groups with rules) can do their job....


Posted by Shelley, a resident of Downtown
on Feb 22, 2008 at 1:41 pm

cross-posted in UPDATE: Superior Court judge delays final ruling on Oak Grove (Web Link)
"As a downtown property owner as well, the last thing I want, is one more added "group" telling me, owner of my property, how to do this and that with no formal rules or guidelines."
"It gets that bad... As soon as you try to develop a property whether a simple addition or new construction you will soon see how difficult (it can be) of a city it is to get anything done in... "
--I hope you're not an Oak Grove opponent given these statements.


Posted by Here we go again, a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Feb 22, 2008 at 2:51 pm

It seems as if little gets done in our city through the approval process of the plain old City Planning Dept. Every project has to go to some adhoc committee of people with too much time on thier hands that seem to hide behind "we care about our city" and make up rules that are in most cases rediculous to comply with. I am a Downtown Business owner as well, and someday, maybe just someday the city will ask business owners _directly_ what they like or dislike about doing business downtown, what is needed, and the realities of running a small business in today's economy.

Instead we seem to prefer to hire consultants (from who knows where) to come in and tell us that everyone is happy and everything is perfect and dosen't need to change.

Don't get me wrong. As a resident of Pleasanton I LOVE Mainstreet. As a business owner there is a whole lot lacking. Look around the tri-valley and you'll notice that good growth feeds upon itself, bad growth kills a place, and no growth, well you just stay stuck where you are. While a romantic thought, not very practical for a business.