Held in a meeting room at Pleasanton Gardens, a senior residence on Kottinger Drive, the forum included the two candidates for mayor and four for City Council in the upcoming Nov. 6 municipal election.
Because nearly a third of those invited to the forum are Chinese with limited English language skills, an interpreter was hired who carefully and slowly translated each candidate's remarks after only a few sentences.
The translations took nearly twice as long as comments made in English by each of the candidates, stretching out the meeting.
Even so, the candidates talked about plans to rebuild both Pleasanton Gardens and Kottinger Place with a new multi-story building on city-owned property that could accommodate several hundred seniors who need low-cost subsidized housing.
"A community is measured by how well it takes care of its families, including its seniors," said Pleasanton City Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio, a candidate for mayor.
With regard to rebuilding Pleasanton Gardens, she said she had been following the meetings of the task force assigned to consider a redevelopment since she was first elected.
"This facility is a tremendous asset to the city," she said. "I am appalled that it has taken this long to make a decision. We need this housing. Our need for senior housing is only going to grow."
She said the City Council will ultimately make the decision on the number of units, adding that an increased number of units often allows for an increase in services, such as shuttle service and an on-site director. There is $15.9 million in the affordable housing fund that has been set aside for just this type of purpose, Cook-Kallio said.
Pleasanton City Councilman Jerry Thorne, also a candidate for mayor, said he strongly supports the Pleasanton Gardens/Kottinger Place project.
"I would like to see a density that makes sense, but we need as many units as we can get to accommodate our growing senior population," Thorne said. "The plan presented will most likely be somewhere around 190 units.
"I believe that the amount being requested from the low cost housing fund is actually a $9 million loan," he added. "However, this is the kind of project the fund was intended for and this project has been in the planning stages for many years. It is time to move it forward."
Businesswoman Karla Brown, a candidate for City Council, said she had attended the Kottinger Place Redevelopment Task Force meeting the previous night so had an up-to-date understanding of where it's at in terms of the redevelopment plans.
"This task force is considering an option to improve the living conditions of our seniors currently living in Kottinger Place and Pleasanton Gardens," she told those attending the forum.
"At this point, Kottinger Place units are non-ADA compliant and therefore cannot serve many of our seniors," she said.
"These units are not insulated and most cannot accept even a window air conditioner for comfort in 100-degree days. I don't' think that is acceptable for my own mother, and I don't think it is acceptable for your mom or dad either."
The task force hopes to present its plans to the City Council next month, Brown said.
City Council candidate and transportation consultant Erlene DeMarcus told the candidates forum participants that the redevelopment of these residences is very long overdue.
"These are your homes and they need to be remodeled," she said. "It's shameful it has taken so long to do so. I know how difficult it is for seniors to move. I hope that any redevelopment project can be done in stages to avoid that discomfort."
Pleasanton resident Mike Harris, another candidate for City Council, said he is too new in the race to know all the details of the Kottinger Place and Pleasanton Gardens redevelopment plan, "so I'm unable to take a position on it."
"I also don't know the source for funding, or the amount of funding, or how much funding the plan requires," he explained. "While I'm opposed to subsidized housing, I would likely support affordable housing for seniors. Still, I can't take a position since I do not know the details."
"My answer on the redevelopment question about these senior housing units is a resounding yes," said Planning Commission chairman and Pleasanton businessman Jerry Pentin, also a candidate for City Council:
"I've worked on community projects at Pleasanton Gardens with Pleasanton North Rotary over the past 20 years," he added. "If you spend a few hours on site working on these facilities, you'll come to know they're old and can't be renovated.
"I also served on the Kottinger Place Redevelopment Task Force for its first three years and am disappointed the task force, now in its ninth year, is no farther along than when I left it six years ago," Pentin said.
He also said that while he would support the proposed 189-unit density, he added: "I think if we can take that to over 200 units that would be wonderful."
"And as much as I appreciate the bucolic cottage setting of both Kottinger Place and Pleasanton Gardens, there's a reality check that doubling the density means some changes will have to take place," he added.