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Have churches become too big for Pleasanton neighborhoods?

Original post made by Jeb Bing, editor of the Pleasanton Weekly, on Feb 9, 2007

Here we go again. Another Pleasanton church--Trinity Lutheran- is facing the wrath of homeowners who live nearby and even some who don't because of this city's absolute obsession with traffic. Valley Trails homeowners, represented by their neighborhood association, blocked expansion plans by St. Clare's Episcopal Church for months before the church caved in to pressure from the City Council to make amends, a decision that resulted in few changes but will cost St. Clare's an extra $250,000 due to rapidly-rising construction costs.
Last month, the Catholic Community of Pleasanton finally won approval for its long-planned community gymnasium and new parish center at its St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church complex on Stoneridge Drive. Again, the development—which all officials publicly stated would be good for the community as well as the church—was delayed by neighbors who complained about traffic. The added cost to the Catholic community because of long delays in its city approval process? An estimated $350,000.
Now it's Trinity's turn. Already nearly a year behind in the approval process, this church, built in 1965 on Hopyard Road between Del Valle Parkway and Golden Road, has a $1-million-plus plan to tear down two portable classroom structures used for pre-school and Sunday school classes and replace them with a one-story classroom building and a second to serve its young parishioners. The fast-growing church needs the extra space to serve its congregation but neighbors, most who moved into their homes long after the church was built, don't want any more traffic or a large parking lot that's proposed so that church-goers and others won't park in front of their homes. The Planning Commission approved the plan 4-0, but the neighborhood's appeal will now force consideration once again to a higher level, the City Council.
It used to be that churches were the cornerstone of small town American neighborhoods, much preferred over corner dry cleaners or apartment houses that seem to dot the landscape in larger municipalities. What do you think? Has our city become too big for value-added amenities in our neighborhoods, such as churches?

Comments (22)

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Posted by Ronnie
a resident of Livermore
on Feb 9, 2007 at 1:28 pm

"It used to be that churches were the cornerstone of small town American neighborhoods..."

It used to be. Now, though, churches have become less important, whereas traffic through ones neighborhood is much more important. Perhps it's because, in addition to the larger number of cars, the cars themnselves are louder, faster, and the drivers are ruder and more inconsiderate than ever. Perhaps, Heaven forbid, churches just aren't as important because religion is as important as it used to be. Regardless, communities and neighborhoods should have the last say in what is built within them, shouldn't they? And not someone who pines for a day long gone.


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Posted by Jim
a resident of Ruby Hill
on Feb 12, 2007 at 10:32 am

I would guess that people buy homes because they like the way the area is when they buy. If they liked it when they bought, they are going to tend to not like changes. Despite this, if they don't own the property that is changing, they should have limited say over the changes. I fear we give too much power to neighbors and not enough to owners. It is not necessary that there be no objection at all to a change. If no rules are being broken, the owner should have the final say.


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Posted by Rob
a resident of Amador Estates
on Feb 13, 2007 at 11:55 am

When you move into a neighborhood, you have to look at what is there and what could expand. The Church is trying to expand it's facilities to accommodate its growing congregation so that they will not park in front of the neighbors houses, yet the neighbors complain.

Typically Churches a great addition to the neighborhood and provide a set of valuable services. They also offer youth programs that provide our youth with a Moral compass and activities to keep them out of trouble.

It is not the Churches fault if new neighbors did not bother to factor in that the Church could potentially grow over time and expand to fill the land they legally own. Let them expand and if you do not like it, move elsewhere.


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Posted by Patricia
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Feb 13, 2007 at 5:07 pm

I find it incredibly sad that you are even asking this question. I've always viewed Pleasanton as a city that values family and community, and believe our churches play a huge role in building up both family and community.

Churces offer more than religious services and education, important as both are to those who attend. They also offer places for support groups to meet. They provide space for boy scout and girl scout troops to meet and sports teams to play. They host community dinners, guest speakers and musical events that enrich our community. (In case you think I exaggerate, I attend one Pleasanton church; my kids participated in cub scout meetings at another, Boy Scout meetings at another, drama summer camps at a third, a concert at a fourth and children's events at two more. My husband's former vocal group found performace space at two Pleasanton churches and two Livermore churches. And I could go on!)

If we push our churches out of the neighborhoods they have been in for years, what will be put in their place? Shopping centers? More Million Dollar Homes for residents who think they own, not only their own property but the right to prohibit others from parking on the public street for an hour or two on Sunday morning and the right to control what happens next door, right down to the color of paint and the kinds of plants in the landscaping?

I ask you to send your churches to my neighborhood. I'd rather have the traffic, noise and 'unsightliness' of families going to church, neighbors sharing music and children playing in safe preschools and youth programs than another Home Depot or shopping center (new OR abandoned!)


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Feb 15, 2007 at 11:32 am

If you:

Buy a house near a church:
Expect Saturday and Sunday traffic in your neighborhood
Expect build out / up and or rebuild
Buy a house on a busy street:
Expect not to play in the street
Expect noise
Buy a house in view of an airport:
Expect noise from airplanes
Buy a house near a school:
Expect noise from children and bells
Expect traffic in your neighborhood around school activities
Expect parking issues during large school activities
Buy a house near a fire house:
Expect to be wakened by noise in the middle of the night
Buy a house in California:
Expect an earthquake

Bottom line: Don't blame others for your mistakes. Make an educated real estate investment. If you were not informed of obvious issue with the property your beef is with the realtor and previous owner NOT the community.


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Posted by Jessica
a resident of Village High School
on Feb 24, 2007 at 5:18 pm

God is a big guy. He just might need a big house.


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Posted by Tanya Schwenk
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2007 at 3:40 pm

Tanya Schwenk is a registered user.

I would much rather have a church near my home than a bar or liquor store where drug dealers tend to hang out and peddle their poison and attract drug related crimes.

Leave the churches alone. Don't we have anything better to complain about?? It just seems petty to me.


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Posted by Tanya Schwenk
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 25, 2007 at 3:44 pm

Tanya Schwenk is a registered user.

I'm ok with the traffic of families going to and from church, it doesn't bother me and I live right across the street from a very big church. If people dont like traffic then they should consider buying a home in a less urban area.


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Posted by Tyler
a resident of Dublin
on Mar 8, 2007 at 8:28 pm

Churches are not getting too big for the community, the community is getting too big for the churches. It is necessary for most churches in Pleasanton to expand as our community grows. With regard to Trinity, neighbors are not asking to block the expansion of the church, but to have the church work with the neighbors to see how they can have traffic patterns shifted to Del Valle and not Golden Rd. where the neighbords would experience heavy traffic from the expansion


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Posted by Sarah
a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School
on Mar 17, 2007 at 5:02 pm

My home is three doors down from Trinity, I knew full well that I was buying my home next door to a church, two preschools and a swim club, and what living near these facilities entailed. But to be honest, I did not anticipate the disregard that drivers have shown for our neighborhood and it's pedestrians while they are traveling to and from the church and it's preschool, nor the disregard for the safety immediately in front of my home. I have had to leave notes on vehicles asking that the crosswalks not be illegally blocked by parked cars, that my driveway not be blocked, that the corners of our court not be blocked by parked cars, and that the area that is posted as a "no parking" zone on the frontage road not be used for parking. Experience has taught me that I should not attempt to use the crosswalk on Golden during peak drop off and pick up times at the preschool or during church functions to take my child to Harvest Park.

We are asking for the church to be a good neighbor, that is all. We are asking that the traffic flow be redirected away from Golden to Del Valle. We support the church's goals and would like to see the church support our neighborhood. There is nothing petty about hoping to find a way to support one another.

I didn't make a mistake in where I bought my home. However I did make a mistake in believing that certain members of the church cared to treat my neighborhood with the same care as they would like their own neighborhoods to be treated, and I made a mistake in believing that because my neighbor was a church, and not a big box store or mini mall, that if they expanded it would be done with sensitivity to the community in which it sits.


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Posted by Natalie
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2007 at 6:31 pm

The questions before the council regarding church expansion was not a referendum on whether churches are valuable but a recognition that there are other people who live in the area and are impacted. In the case of Trinity, anyone watching the council meeting could see the disconnect. The church thought they had covered their bases and the neighborhood believed that their interests had been ignored. In a number of cases, the church leaders claimed to have a series of talks with the neighbors and the neighbors stated this was not the case. I think one gentleman sumed it up when he mentioned the meetings were held to explain what the church wanted to do, not to seek input. With all the talk about traffic in town, it does not seem unreasonable to split the traffic exiting the church in two. This is particularly true given that Golden is an uncontrolled intersection with no stop sign and Del Valle has no houses directly across from the church and a three way stop at the intersection with Hopyard. The city suggested solution is not perfect but understandable. Watching the meeting, I did not hear one objection to the project itself. It is really a shame that the church leaders and the neigborhood could not come to some consensus on their own. These are all nice people. It is not too late. A good leader would approach the neighbors again and try and address their concerns. Nothing stops Trinity from approaching the city with a different design.


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Posted by Margaret
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 7, 2007 at 4:54 pm

I noticed the guest editorial in the paper this week. It was from a member of Trinity Lutheran. That makes two editorial in two weeks from church members. It is important to get input from all concerned in any decision. I also think it is important to know the source of any opinion. While Mr. Hamilton did mention that he is a member of Trinity, Jeb Bing did not in his editorial last week. Are we getting all sides here?


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Posted by Anne Marie
a resident of Del Prado
on Apr 7, 2007 at 5:25 pm

It is safe to say that no assumptions can be made about the character of people who attend or work for churches. As I watch people speeding to the church on my corner, (one of them rear-ended me, and never apologized), clogging the streets with their SUV's, (God likes car-pools because it keeps his creation cleaner, but who cares), I am not impressed. There is no correlation between church-going and character. Whether a church is a 'value' to the community is subjective. They definitely create hazardous traffic conditions. What if a small daycare decided to build an elementary school and high school on their lot in Pleasanton? If the neighbors objected, would you blame them? But if a church wants to expand in a residential neighborhood some people pretend it's a kind of holy endeavor. Give me a break.


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Posted by Stacey Borsody
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 10, 2007 at 2:22 pm

Stacey Borsody is a registered user.

It is normal for Planning Commission decisions to be appealed to City Council. What is not normal is for the City to create alternate plans and for Council to vote on those instead of considering the property-owner's plan. Shame on City Council for thinking this was ok to do.


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Posted by Susan
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jul 13, 2007 at 9:43 pm

It's interesting to me because I know someone who pushed for the St. Elizabeth Seton expansion to go through because she was a member of that church. However, when the Trinity Lutheran expansion came along she was all against it because it was in her neighborhood and she didn't want to be inconvenienced. I grew up right next to a school and because of that I was inconvenienced but I put up with it.Back then, 25 years ago, I think we were more understanding and willing to work as a community. Have we all gotten so self absorbed that we can't deal with a little adversity from time to time. I think everyone has become too overly sensitive. 40 years ago when I moved to Pleasanton it was still a relatively young city trying to become a community. Now that it is the wonderful place we've made it into no one is willing to act like a community. Understanding and compromise, is a good way to start.Maybe we should try it!


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Posted by Perry
a resident of Beratlis Place
on Dec 5, 2007 at 1:55 pm

Something tells me Ronald Reagan is Jeb Bing's idol. Everytime I read his line, "Here we go again," it makes me think of Ronald. (Portion removed by Pleasanton Weekly staff)


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Posted by God
a resident of Downtown
on Dec 17, 2007 at 1:20 pm

God is just a imagainary friend for grownups to think what they think and do is right. they comfort themselves saying i go to church every sunday and i do good things but really not. who cares if a chruch wants to be bigger and who cares if its gone. People have lost the meaning of true religon. poeple are pathetic and religon just makes it worse.


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Posted by Cholo
a resident of Livermore
on Dec 20, 2007 at 3:11 pm

I don't care about the size of any place of worship. However, I can say that it's best to keep your eye on your children in any religious setting. Child sexual abuse by clergy of all faiths is quite common. Protect children and vulnerable adults!


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Posted by Dominic Di Blasio
a resident of Del Prado
on Apr 21, 2009 at 9:38 am

Dominic Di Blasio is a registered user.

Going back in history there have always been those who claim that relgion is either bad for humanity or just a human construct. it has beocme fashionable and very profitable these days to bash God. In my view, churches are one of the backbones of our culture that makes America great..."When people stop believing in God, they don't believe in nothing -- they believe in anything" - G.K. Chesterton


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Posted by Another Gatetree Resident
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Apr 21, 2009 at 6:09 pm

I hate to be ignorant, but is Trinity Lutheran the same church or different from Valley Community Church at 4455 Del Valle Parkway? I am asking because I received a "Notice Of Public Hearing" in my mail today for Valley Community Church. This church has filed an application for a "Conditional Use Permit" to increase the number of students at the existing preschool and add a summer preschool program. So we have TWO churches impacting the neighborhood? Or are they one in the same?

Jeb, please -- let's not come off holier than thou. Do you attend one of these churches? If so, you have shown yourself to have no bias on the Measure G issue and one can question if you really should not be reporting on this topic too.


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Posted by Rae
a resident of Mohr Park
on Apr 22, 2009 at 11:31 am

Gatetree,
Did you happen to notice that the original date on this thread was FEBRUARY 9, 2007??? and the last pertinent blog entry was JULY 13, 2007??? The DECEMBER 2007 entries seem to just want to stir the pot, much like Dominic's.

Why don't you take a look in the phone book to verify addresses, then check their proximity with Mapquest??


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Posted by Another Gatetree Resident
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Apr 22, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Rae;

Thank you for the heads up. I didn't notice the original date. As for addresses -- I've verified they are two different churches. I have also provided my comments on the "Conditional Use Permit" to increase the number of students at the existing preschool and add a summer preschool program.

Again, thanks for bringing the date differences to my attention. Clearly I need to pay more attention in the future to stuff like that!


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