A housing market downturn and political changes on the City Council are making construction of the $10-million to $15-million bypass less certain. A few weeks ago, the council voted 4-1 to allow Dutra Trust to build five large estate homes on a 10-acre vacant parcel it owns in Happy Valley with no requirement that Dutra help pay the cost of the bypass if and when it is built. Councilman Matt Sullivan cast the lone negative vote, partly because he opposes more large homes in town that are far from public transit, but also because he believes the city and developers should commit to building the bypass before more housing permits are issued there.
Last month, in considering its priorities for the next two years, the bypass dropped down a notch with Mayor Jennifer Hosterman arguing that complaints over speeding golf course traffic have abated since the city installed speed bumps on Alisal to slow vehicles to about 30 mph.
The bypass, for those who haven't followed this decade-old story, would connect Sycamore Creek Way across ranchland owned by Al Spotorno to Westbridge Lane on the golf course, closing the entryway to Callippe now at Alisal and Happy Valley Road. In return for allowing a roadway to go through his property, Spotorno would be allowed to subdivide part of his acreage for home sites.
At the time, long before there were homes on Sycamore Creek or even a golf course, everyone liked the plan. Spotorno would turn a profit, Happy Valley residents would finally get their country-like Alisal Street back for their exclusive use and the city would benefit by having a tree-lined gateway to its multi-million-dollar championship golf course, instead of a narrow road with speed bumps.
But times have changed. Greenbriar Homes and Summerfield Homes built homes on Sycamore Creek and the homeowners there now don't want golf course traffic zipping by, even though their street was built wider and landscaped to accommodate them. Greenbriar, which had a deal with Spotorno to build 75 homes on the flatland near Alisal and to pay much of the cost of building the bypass, just withdrew its option. It's unlikely Spotorno will find another developer soon.
Happy Valley property owners, who are in unincorporated Alameda County, also have themselves to blame. They rejected by a narrow margin a Pleasanton-supported vote to annex into the city, with the result that city planners worked a deal to annex Spotorno's property on the other side of Alisal and eventually acquired the open space that is now Callippe. By rejecting annexation, they lost the chance to become part of the city that is in charge of determining the future of the bypass road. Then Happy Valley's homeowners association, the Alisal Improvement Club, sued Pleasanton to block construction of the golf course. It lost the suit, appealed, and lost again. Although City Atty. Michael Roush believes the court agreed with the AIP that the city has a commitment to provide a bypass road, it's not a legally binding ruling and a council majority vote could modify the Happy Valley Specific Plan that calls for it.
Though miffed by Happy Valley's vote to reject annexation, members of the City Council at the time continued to support the bypass road so long as someone else pays for it. With each election, fewer council members remember those testy public arguments and, without the money, are increasingly reluctant to commit public funds to a bypass road that (1) has become controversial in newer neighborhoods and (2) would cost millions of dollars in taxpayer funds that no one in still-unincorporated Happy Valley would have to pay.
Maybe times will change again, but for now I'd plan on driving to the golf course on Alisal Street for years to come.