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Affordable housing is good for Pleasanton

Original post made by Tim Hunt on Jan 24, 2012



Now that the Pleasanton City Council has rezoned land for affordable housing in response to a successful law suit by Urban Habitat and then-state Attorney General Jerry Brown, the question remains: will any of it be built?
The legal action challenged the city's 29,000-unit cap on housing that was approved in 1996. It was a law suit in waiting from the time the City Council put it on the ballot and voters approved it. The state requires communities to develop plans to meet their regional share of housing and Pleasanton had been harvesting jobs and retail tax revenue while approving upscale housing. There was a huge gap for workforce or housing for folks with lower incomes.
More than 20 years ago, when the city almost no higher density housing projects, four projects were approved and built that today are successful apartment complexes. These ranged in density from 20 to 30 units per acre. Somehow, the addition of those apartments did not prevent Pleasanton from continuing as a highly desirable place to live.
The new rezoning allows 30 to 40 units per acre, an appropriate increase in density given what housing values are today versus 20 years ago—even with the downward price adjustments driven by the popping of the housing bubble.
If builders can actually find that the densities and land prices pencil out so there's potential profit, then we will see the apartments built.
It's hardly a doomsday for Pleasanton—it's a recognition that the policy of welcoming those who could afford to buy their way in while banking tax money—does not meet the test of the law.
As a more than 50-year resident of the city, I can remember when Pleasanton had one high school (built in the 1920s), no shopping center (you had to travel to Hayward or Concord if you needed to buy a suit), and one car dealership. The city has grown and evolved and remains a great place to live.
I suspect, moving forward, it will remain just that—albeit a place where some folks of more modest incomes may have a place to live.

Comments (6)

Posted by SteveP, a resident of Parkside
on Jan 24, 2012 at 8:39 am

SteveP is a registered user.

Tim, please help me understand the thinking that went into the crafting of this statement: "It's hardly a doomsday for Pleasanton—it's a recognition that the policy of welcoming those who could afford to buy their way in while banking tax money—does not meet the test of the law."

Banking tax money? Is the assumption here that the money of those who worked hard to get there is the governments first and we get whatever is left over. Or, did I misunderstand your point?

I get that it's been deemed futile to try to impose a cap or plan for controlled growth, so we're supposed to roll over and take this, but I'm wondering if anyone at the state level is considering the impacts to our infrastructure. Nah, they would never think about the unintended conseqeunces of their meddling in the planning of our cities future growth.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 24, 2012 at 9:48 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Banking tax dollars? The school district is broke, overcrowded, and facing a shortened school year. The city, who was smart enough to set money aside, had its savings raided by the state. It's not the type of housing that worries me, but how The impacts of additional housing will be addressed and who will pay, in taxes or services.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 24, 2012 at 10:46 am

Stacey is a registered user.

"Pleasanton had been harvesting jobs and retail tax revenue while approving upscale housing"

It's useful to color this discussion by pointing out that some past ABAG regional housing allocation numbers actually encouraged Pleasanton to build more housing for "above moderate" and "moderate" income levels than for "low" and "very-low". Why would anyone want to build 729 "very-low" units when the profits to be made off 2,636 "above moderate" units are awesome?


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 24, 2012 at 10:58 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Does regional housing allocation work to create sustainable communities? If a city is allocated more "above moderate" and "moderate" units than "low" and "very-low" units in one planning cycle and then allocated more "low" and "very-low" units than "above moderate" and "moderate" units in the next planning cycle... In no way does that seem to reflect the kind of organically grown mixed-use style sustainable living spaces humans used to build for themselves.


Posted by Tim Hunt, a resident of Castlewood
on Jan 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Tim Hunt is a registered user.

Thanks for the comments. When Hacienda Business Park was approved in the 1980s, a group from Livermore sued because the jobs in the general plan would greatly out-number the housing in Pleasanton. As a result of the suit and a settlement, the general plan was modified to address this issue. The city has been banking revenues substantially greater than communities of similar size because of its robust business community that includes both the business parks and an enviable retail base. It also benefited from developments such as Ruby Hill that have high property taxes, but require minimal public services behind the private gates.
School district finances are entirely separate from those of the city--and Pleasanton still receives more per student than neighboring districts in Livermore and the San Ramon Valley. Because all of school funding is tied to the state--an unfortunate, unforseen consequence of Proposition 13--schools' funding (except local parcel taxes)rise and fall with the economic fortunes of the state. And, what too much of the state's revenue is tied to the investment results of the top 2 percent.


Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jan 24, 2012 at 7:16 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Tim, The operations are separate (city and schools), but I'm mailing tax dollars to one place and then it is doled out. As has been discussed at length on other topics, both entities are also looking at pension commitments that could hobble them even if the economy becomes more robust.

Prop 13 was the wrong answer to a real problem. Problem still remains though: tax, spend, repeat.


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