With the City Council's approval Tuesday night of a land use plan that will allow 840 more housing units in a high-density complex in Hacienda Business Park, Pleasanton's days of slow-to-no growth are over. The council's action came just in time to meet a March 1 deadline imposed by the Alameda County Superior Court and the Urban Habitat affordable housing organization to require Pleasanton to meet its current state housing obligation to provide more workforce/affordable homes. Tuesday's ordinance was given its first reading; the required second reading will come at the council's next meeting on March 1. That should satisfy the order of the court, which also declared Pleasanton's 29,000-unit housing cap illegal for being out of compliance with state mandates to provide more housing. The next mandate will require Pleasanton to add another 1,400 affordable and market rate housing units by 2014, an objective that the city's new Housing Element Task Force is now pursuing.
For a city that has long promoted itself as a model of orderly, carefully controlled growth, the turn-around in attitude by the City Council on Tuesday and its 25-member Hacienda Task Force is truly commendable. At first, the council and city staff fought the lawsuit brought by Urban Habitat and the state attorney general's office, then headed by now Gov. Jerry Brown. The task force already had been meeting to refine a proposal for a mixed-use development on three sites located within half a mile of the Pleasanton/Dublin BART station. They include 11 acres at the southeast corner of Owens Drive and Willow Road, owned by W. P. Carey; 8.2 acres at the north corner of Hacienda and Gibraltar drives, owned by BRE; and 12.4 acres south of Gibraltar Drive and between Hacienda Driver and Willow Road, owned by Roche Molecular Systems. A proposed land use change would allow residential development on the sites with a density of at least 30 units per acre with buildings up to six stories tall. The city's inclusionary zoning ordinance would require that at least 15% of the 950 housing units that could be built on the three sites be affordable to low and very-low households.
But that plan failed to convince Urban Habitat and Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch, who wanted the city to act faster and without the housing cap limits. So instead of leaving development decisions to the discretion of the court, the council chose to work with Urban Habitat and to spearhead the effort by the task force to prepare the plan approved Tuesday. The agreement cuts the number of units to be built to 840, increases the number of affordables to 50%, and includes a public park, retail and office units on the ground floors on some of the buildings and keeps the building heights to three but mostly two stories with extensive landscaping. BRE, now the primary developer, also agreed to include the Iron Horse Trail as part of its development plans. The development plan also will serve as a model for similar high-density housing projects Pleasanton will need to accommodate in the future, whether in Hacienda, the South Bay-owned acreage along I-680 or on quarry land in East Pleasanton that is yet to be developed.
It's clear, though, that with a projected 2.4 individuals per housing unit in BRE's complex, several thousand more people will soon be moving to Pleasanton. The city's slow-growth policies of the past are moving into the history books.