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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Bad consequences can follow bad decisions in Pleasanton

Uploaded: Mar 21, 2023
Pleasanton Vice Mayor Jack Balch spoke to the Pleasanton Men’s Club last week and strove to wear that hat, instead of a more partisan councilman’s who often is in the minority.
He pointed out that decisions have consequences such as the potential that the Pleasanton school district will act on its own to build workforce housing on its valuable site at Bernal Avenue and First Street. That followed the City Council majority’s decision to go its own way instead of the zoning recommended by the staff after consultation with the school district. Given state law, the district could legally build a far more dense project than what the city plan allows. What the district will do remains to be seen, but there’s a crying need for housing for its younger teachers to say nothing of its support staff that do not make near what the teaching staff does.
Balch also cited the negative impacts of the council’s earlier decision to abandon a master plan process for the 1,100 acres east of Valley Avenue and north of Stanley Boulevard. Ponderosa Homes, an experienced builder in Pleasanton, had negotiated an agreement to serve as the master developer with the other landowners cooperating. City staff, under former City Manager Nelson Fialho, never moved the agreement forward for final council approval and when the council changed in November 2020, the master plan died.
With it, died the potential to move the garbage transfer station further east, extend Busch Road to El Charro and connect El Charro, currently a private road south of the San Francisco Premium Outlets, to Stanley Boulevard. Because of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks that means an undercrossing at an estimated cost of $25 million. There also were enough potential units for affordable housing for veterans and teachers as well as a school site that would have been much more practical than the Vineyard Avenue site that the district is planning to sell to a developer.
That sparked one landowner with industrially zoned land to cut a deal with Amazon potentially for a last-mile distribution center with a mix of 18-wheelers and delivery vans. Surprisingly, Mayor Karla Brown, who may live in a neighborhood immune to traffic, praised the deal.
The original plan, which needed to go through a full city process, also included an extension of Ponderosa’s popular Ironwood adult living community. That’s been a home run for both the builder and for the homeowners who have seen their property values soar in the community for adults aged 55 years and older.
The land is outside of the city limits and the landowner, SteelWave, has submitted a development application to Alameda County. It’s a project similar to Ironwood as it was in the working master plan. It proposes using a well to provide water and is silent on what would happen to sewage. This is a case where the city will have minimal leverage as it tries to negotiate annexing the parcel. It is within the city’s sphere of influence that is considered land that potentially can become part of the city.
Doing it piecemeal wipes out any chance for the needed infrastructure improvements.
San Ramon saw this happen during the approval process for the Dougherty Valley. The city was in the driver’s seat until residents tossed out a majority of the council and the new council members passed ordinances that would make development much more challenging. The two developers simply folded their tent with the city and went back to working with Contra Costa County with the majority of the supervisors welcoming them.
Doing any development there would send property tax revenues soaring beyond agriculturally zoned open land. The county imposed some stringent conditions, such as 25%, if memory serves, affordable housing. The developers, Shapell Homes and the Windemere Group, worked closely with the school district and the city to develop a plan that would be suitable for annexation.
The city council changed back to leaders amenable to working with the developers, but the county remained the lead agency.
With a population at buildout of about 30,000 it was nearly doubling San Ramon so amenities were added including a remote campus of Diablo Valley College and another community center as well as a theater at Dougherty High School. Despite the best estimates, the student count was much higher necessitating the developers constructing another elementary school—like what happened in Dublin.
Barring a reversal by the majority of the Pleasanton council, a positive outcome such as the Dougherty Valley will not happen.
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Posted by V, a resident of Laguna Oaks,
on Mar 21, 2023 at 2:51 pm

V is a registered user.

Good article Tim. Pleasanton sorely needs to build housing. This city council can either ride the wave and control the process. Or have it done for them by the state and the county.

They need to stop burying their head in the sand.

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