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COMMENTARY: Pleasanton's housing cap: Do we need it?

Original post made on Feb 20, 2009

Pleasanton's 29,000-unit housing cap, approved by voters in 1996, is under attack, both in the courts by an affordable housing coalition and by state housing authorities, including California Atty. General Jerry Brown because it now blocks the number of homes that can be built here where 27,500 already are in the ground or approved.



Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, February 20, 2009, 11:45 AM

Comments (14)

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Posted by Becky Dennis
a resident of Foxborough Estates
on Feb 20, 2009 at 2:05 pm

To the Editor: Thank you for calling attention to this important issue. However, I believe you mischaracterized the content of Attorney General Brown's comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for Pleasanton's General Plan.

(Please see the link to the AG's letter above)

The AG's comments on the DEIR correctly relate to the environmental impacts on air quality caused by the new General Plan's substantial addition of commercial square footage. This proposed increase in commercial development, when coupled with the Housing Cap's restriction on affordable workforce housing, would cause a huge increase in greenhouse gas emissions from higher numbers of workers commuting into Pleasanton from outside the Tri-Valley.

This trend has steadily accelerated since the passage of the Housing Cap in 1996. Initially the Housing Cap was not the sole cause of growing in-commute. For 13 years after the voters enacted the Housing Cap, Pleasanton approved mostly high-end housing, while failing to address its obligation to provide the State mandated amount affordable workforce housing. At this point, there are insufficient units left under the Cap to meet this requirement.

Increasing Pleasanton's level of commercial development will only exacerbate the situation. Under California housing law, adding commercial development triggers requirements for Pleasanton to provide more housing for its growing workforce beyond that allowed under the Housing Cap. Adherence to the Cap therefore places Pleasanton in violation of State housing law. In his letter, the Attorney General indicates that failing to consider the air quality impacts of more commercial development while adhering to the Cap also violates California environmental protection laws.

The General Plan update provides an opportunity for Pleasanton to adopt policies that protect air quality by bringing jobs and housing into better balance, either by reducing commercial development, by increasing affordable workforce housing, or by some combination of the two.



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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 20, 2009 at 3:10 pm

Sometime last year when I briefly looked at housing cap issues, I saw that some other cities have a different kind of housing cap. They don't set a hard limit on the total number of housing units like we do in Pleasanton. Instead they set limits on the number of housing units that can be built in a single year. That made it easier to protect slow-growth sensibilities. A cap on the total number of units is a no-growth policy.


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Posted by Shelley
a resident of another community
on Feb 20, 2009 at 3:19 pm

I think the value of land in Pleasanton is already a housing cap, one that naturally occurs because of the free market. Because of this, I don't think Pleasanton needs its artificially-created housing cap.


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Posted by Pete
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 20, 2009 at 4:35 pm

Actually commentors, there are many residents within Pleasanton that are not professional educated idiots. They understood that to maintain our Community that a self-reliant attitude needed to co-exist. The strengths of our Community came from a vision to understand population,the environment, economics and of course the distortion of information. Pleasanton is not a no growth or slow growth community but a Community that has tried to ultilize their strengths while maintaining some kind of stability to plan for all the tomorrows. The lady from the Foxborough Estates, at least understands that...


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 20, 2009 at 6:04 pm

Planning (and related zoning) is not an activity unique to Pleasanton so I'm unclear on why such an activity is being trumpeted as some self-reliant characteristic of Pleasanton.

The statement regarding Pleasanton not being a no-growth or slow-growth community seems to reflect some sort of reinterpretation of Pleasanton political history and makes me question how long Pete has been a member of this community. Such a statement ignores the political support that propelled slow-growth advocates like Ben Tarver and Tom Pico to office. They successfully slowed the rapid growth the City saw throughout the 80s. The lady from Foxborough Estates happens to have been a part of that slow-growth movement.

Housing caps are a municipal growth management tool. Pleasanton's cap is a cap on the total number of housing units _ever_ and has the side-effect of being considered a no-growth stance regardless of whatever one may say regarding utilizing strengths. Contrast this with other cities who have caps on the number of housing units permitted per year. Such housing caps have had their constitutionality upheld while the sort that Pleasanton has is still in murky water, indeed being challenged in court now.

Web Link
"Housing caps emerged in the Bay Area in the early 1970s, when burgeoning suburbs such as Petaluma found themselves in the same position that Tracy is in today -- suddenly accessible to growing job centers (in Petaluma's case, because of the completion of Highway 101) and therefore attractive to starter-home developers. Indeed, Petaluma was the test case for housing caps in California; after imposing a restriction of 500 houses per year in the early 1970s, the city fought a long, hard -- and, ultimately, successful -- battle against the building industry to affirm the constitutionality of the restriction. (Construction Industry Association, Sonoma County v. City of Petaluma, 522 F.2d 897 [9th Cir 1975].) "


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Posted by Jerry Brown
a resident of Oak Hill
on Feb 21, 2009 at 12:33 pm

More jobs with housing 20, 30 or 40 miles away cause congestion and traffic delays getting to and from Pleasanton. Housing close to new jobs will cut gas purchases and provide more time for families to be together. It will also cut green house emissions.


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Posted by Terry
a resident of Val Vista
on Feb 21, 2009 at 4:24 pm

The housing cap has always been to keep low income, usually Hispanic and African American out of Pleasanton. It like San Leandro fifty ears ago.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 21, 2009 at 5:48 pm

I think it somewhat ironic that we're getting a finger wagged at us because of having more places of employment than housing to support that. Pleasanton grew up to what it is today because of the housing situation close to jobs over on the Peninsula.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Ruby Hill
on Feb 22, 2009 at 11:20 pm

Let's make sure everyone can live here that way Pleasanton can turn out to be like San Leandro. I can't wait to have Nortuenos killing Surenos in one of our schools or Downtown. So let's make sure everyone can live here, maybe we can give the Stimulas money to people who don't work but are entitled to live in a nice house.


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Posted by Ed
a resident of Castlewood
on Feb 22, 2009 at 11:26 pm

Anyone who states that adding more housing will remove green house gases and is more environmentally conscientious is kidding themselves. Look at San Jose, Los Angeles etc.. I commend the thinking behind the housing limit. I only wish other communities would do the same.


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Posted by Sean
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 23, 2009 at 9:14 am

People who can't afford to live here should go elsewhere. There's no free lunch here.


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Posted by Ann
a resident of Val Vista
on Feb 23, 2009 at 7:25 pm

It may be that build-out will be determined by something other than a desire to build. I recently attended a DSRSD meeting and asked the folks there whether or not there was enough sewage treatment capacity at the current facility when Pleasanton arrived to its current build-out figure. Enough they said, but very little more.

Pleasanton's problem has been the stated desire, but not the ability to provide lower (or even market) income housing. People moving out here traditionally have wanted single-detached homes, not condos or townhouses. So, for years builders have pressured the various City Councils to approve the more expensive developments. That is not to say that a committed City Council couldn't insist that only transit-village-type and other more dense housing is all that is built from here on out, they just need the will to do it.


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Posted by Rachael
a resident of Downtown
on Feb 23, 2009 at 9:58 pm

I support the cap or at least something that limits residential growth severely. We should follow Los Altos, Atherton & Woodside's leads in order to get out of building mass low-income housing. Pleasanton doesn't discriminate for those that need to use Section 8 housing, but I don't want to attract a large low-income demographic to this area. That brings property values down and strains the resources of the community.


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Posted by Lauren
a resident of Ironwood
on Feb 27, 2009 at 11:26 am

Diversity is good for a community. Low income housing is one mechanism, but not the only one; city services and a safe and thriving economy help tremendously. Demographics in Pleasanton has changed because it is a desirable community;good schools, good services and consciencious city government. Housing caps have moderated growth, and help the community absorb the associated costs without straining it's streets, schools, hospitals, fire and police, parks, etc. Dublin has decided it's community can grow exponentially, enough high density housing to support the entire tri-valley region; Dublin, Pleasanton, San Ramon, and Livermore. Pleasanton shares it's shopping, streets and entertainment with a regional community. We are all affected by growth in each city. BART provides easy access to the rest of the bay area. I believe Pleasanton has been very responsible in allowing the community to go through phases of growth. As a wealthy member of Alameda county, it's share of sales and real estate taxes has helped provide services throughout the county. I think sueing the city is an extreme measure, unjustly penalizing a responsible community that has opened it's doors to all people. Not having enough low income property in Pleasanton is not a crime when we have Section 8 housing and lower income housing not 2 miles away from the center of town with buses and bike trails to accomodate all.


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