Speaking to one Alisal Street family, they had a different perspective from mine. They believe that the Spotorno family has a right to develop, but they are concerned about traffic on Alisal, particularly because it gets all the traffic other than the morning window that allows the families living on the golf course to use Happy Valley Road.
The challenge is all three of the roads serving the golf course and the neighborhoods were constructed decades ago.
Sycamore Road is in the city of Pleasanton, while Alisal St. and Happy Valley Road both are in Alameda County. The city’s agreement with the county when the golf course was built limited golf course traffic to Sycamore and Alisal—thus the no left turn sign Westbridge Lane. That was changed about a year ago when residents around the golf course who were commuting south in the morning or taking students to Foothill High complained about being dumped into major traffic on Sunol Boulevard and having to go way out of their way.
The compromise allows access to Happy Valley for a couple of hours in the morning commute.
The family I spoke with questions whether the bypass road will make any sense. The new road originally was to run in the hills of the ranch and take traffic off both Alisal and Sycamore.
The Alisal family would prefer to use whatever money comes from development to improve Alisal and Happy Valley and open both to golf course traffic so it is split. They view the bypass road as a questionable from an environmental standard and potentially damaging to their land and others as well as shifting the traffic onto the road through the newer neighborhood.
The current agreement calls for the city to split the cost of the road with the developer of the Spotorno Ranch, but, if the development moves ahead at 22 units, there’s no way there’s enough money generated to pay for the bypass road. And the city has consistently had higher priorities for its traffic capital improvement program. The developer said that the 39-unit proposal could not cover the cost of the bypass road.
The Alisal family would like to see additional traffic calming measures on Alisal to slow the traffic. Their view is that the golfers are always late and driving fast in the mornings to make their tee times and then much more relaxed when they are returning. During the peak seasons, the golf course generates between 400 and 500 trips per day, most of them on Alisal and Sycamore because of the left-turn restriction onto Happy Valley Road.
The proposed 39 homes, unlikely at this point, would add about 400 more trips per day. The 22 homes that the Planning Commission seemed inclined toward would just about cut that in half.
As for speeding motorists, a few traffic bumps on Alisal (they are in place on Sycamore) plus motorcycle patrols can make a real difference.
For the Alisal family, they proposed thinking out of the box. They asked what if a land conservancy could purchase the development rights from the Spotornos who could continue to use it for grazing their animals. Then the city and the county could come together to improve both roads and include more traffic calming measures.
It could be preserved as a working ranch with conservation easements—just like much of the vineyard land in the Livermore Valley—and the Spotorno family could get paid for their land.
It’s a potential win-win—the question is whether the Tri-Valley Conservancy or another group or groups, could come up with the cash and whether the Spotorno family would accept a potential offer.
I also heard from Al and LaVerne Spotorno (Al is nearing his 91st birthday). If the development proposal moves ahead in some fashion, they plan to only sell the flat parcel and retain ownership of the other two parcels. That includes the parcel with their home and the 44-acre plot on Minnie Road that has the pens, barns, farm equipment and corrals to work the livestock.