Heritage group seeks to preserve downtown's character
Pleasanton Heritage Association aims to also be a resource to those interested in remodels, additions and new construction
There are a number of architectural hints to the history of downtown Pleasanton. The Pleasanton sign on Main Street, the 19th century buildings that dot the downtown and the victorian, craftsman, colonial and cottage-style homes that surround it are among them.
A new group called the Pleasanton Heritage Association has set out to advocate for the preservation of that historic character and is working with the city with the goal of creating a future preservation ordinance and providing input on development proposals in the downtown area.
"The organization was formed as a result of extreme frustration by many of us who have been longtime residents of Pleasanton, living in basically vintage and heritage neighborhoods and homes," said Linda Garbarino, a 30-year resident who has owned two historic homes.
A point of contention, Garbarino said, has been downtown development projects that aren't keeping with the historic architecture in the city center and the city's willingness to approve them.
"We've seen things in the General Plan, commitments to maintain that look, the Downtown Specific Plan notably, and the current downtown guidelines, which were just updated in May of 2006," she said. "Every time those are cited by us individuals, we're told those are not laws, they're just suggestions and guidelines, so it seems to have become a really hot point for us."
The group formed last spring. They approached the city in late December to air their concerns and express an interest in giving input on development projects going before the city, according to city Planning Director Jerry Iserson.
The type of input the group would like to have, Garbarino said, is addressing architectural elements of projects, as well as offering specific design guidelines for preserving character to remodels, additions and renovations.
High density housing is something she said the group is against, but added they are open to compromise.
"I would say probably 90 percent of the people moving to or living in Pleasanton came here because of that charm, the nature of that heritage look that drew them here," she said. "It's a small town, it has a small town look and it has that character that appeals to people."
Garbarino said she appreciates that the city has taken up their request to be involved in new project proposals and the goal would be to create a downtown preservation ordinance. That's something Iserson said the city has already cited as one of its priorities.
"We are very much concerned with all of those issues," Iserson said. "It is something that the City Council has said that they want us to work on and as soon as we get done with some other priority projects, we would like to go ahead and do that."
"I've had a couple meetings with them so they could share with me what their goal is, they've prepared a mission statement and we've asked them to review a couple projects, so it really hasn't been defined as to how they're going to interact, but we see them as a citizen's group, kind of like a homeowners' association that's involved in the city," he added. "We would be open to hearing their comments and consider them along with other comments or other perspectives as we go through the approval process (of downtown projects)."
The city follows the Downtown Specific Plan, which was developed in 1989 and updated in 2002, which identifies the types of architecture found downtown and its characteristics. Among the guidelines in the plan, it says "if done properly, additions and remodels will look comfortable with the original buildings," and "new construction needs to be especially sensitive to surrounding structures."
Iserson said the city also works with the Pleasanton Downtown Association, which has a design committee, closely on commercial projects.
Garbarino said the Pleasanton Heritage Association is looking to other Bay Area cities to see what they've done. Livermore has a historic preservation committee that meets monthly. Among its duties is recommending to the City Council action to preserve historic resources, coordinating activities with the Planning Commission so that historic needs are considered in the planning process and offering preservation advice to historic resource owners.
"Berkeley has a booklet of suggestions for remodeling and materials and supplies, and types of things that make something in a remodel or new construction look like it is a heritage," Garbarino added.
She said the group is looking to expand its membership and form a board. They plan to put up a Web site shortly, but in the meantime, Garbarino can be contacted at 462-8779.
"The heritage look of the city doesn't just happen or isn't maintained by coincidence or happen stance; it takes a lot of hard work on the parts of people and good partnerships," she said. "I think that's what we want to do--form good partnerships."
To view the Downtown Specific Plan, visit www.ci.pleasanton.ca.us/pdf/plan-downtown-plan.pdf and for downtown design guidelines, visit www.ci.pleasanton.ca.us/pdf/plan-downtown-guidelines.pdf.