By Tim Hunt
Prosperity problems in the Bay AreaUploaded: Oct 8, 2015
To be clear (and transparent, although that's word that the current White House Administration has destroyed), I have been a member at Centerpointe Church since my mid-20s. My dear wife has been a member since her teen-age years. We both are ordained elders.
So, as I watched and lent non-verbal support to the City Council hearing on the amendment to the city's General Plan, I was struck by a few points.
ï¿½ Some of the people who testified in opposition wanted no more houses in Pleasanton. Period.
ï¿½ The drought, which has effected all of us, provided a convenient shield to those who simply wanted no more residents.
ï¿½ Schools are over-crowded.
ï¿½ The concerns over traffic, water use and impacts on the neighborhood were dramatically reduced with the 25 homes versus a church campus that would serve a 3,500-member congregation. Centerpointe currently is at about 250 members, although non-members routinely attend.
Thinking about it, most of the "problems" are directly tied to prosperity. The economy in the Bay Area, particularly in the technology sector, has been booming.
When Centerpointe faced its financial situation about 15 months ago, we were advised by commercial real estate brokers that we would have no issues finding a new home in a business park. After plenty of work, we have been advised there is just one property that potentially will work for our fellowship—the market has been that hot with firms expanding and creating jobs.
Housing is a true supply and demand market. There was a lot of whining about the 1,700 apartments that the city was forced by court order to permit after a prolonged and very expensive law suit that the city lost. The city had not approved an apartment complex since the big Archstone project in Hacienda Business Park in the early 2000s, if memory serves.
While job growth has continued, housing supply was greatly constrained and the newcomers led the charge against no changes.
What many people fail to understand is that the framework for Pleasanton today was set in the 1970s when the first General Plan was developed that included the Hacienda Business Park and other business centers. They also do not know that in the 1980s when Hacienda and three other major business centers (Bernal, Signature and the Home Depot retail complex) were approved and under construction, that the city approved 1,000 units of housing per year.
From a business standpoint, Pleasanton (and Dublin) are blessed with the best locations in the Bay Area—BART stations, freeways, what once were easy commutes.
The mis-guided notion that Pleasanton is perfect—do not allow any more—fails to recognize economic reality. If some additional housing does not accompany job growth, then the city creates more commuters. In Pleasanton's case, it is ideally located for families with one or more workers heading south to the core Silicon Valley. Those folks can pay more for a home than most local workers and that results in commutes coming from the west (minor) and the San Joaquin Valley (major).
School crowding is an issue that comes along with new families with young children (neighborhoods turning over). It is not the City Council's responsibility to plan—that is up to the school district.
It is notable that the district had sold off a third high school site and not exercised an option for a middle school site in the Ironwood neighborhood.
The great challenge for school trustees and leadership is coping with population bubbles. My daughter (now 27) was in one of those bulges moving through the system. Today, the high schools are right on capacity while the lower grade schools are over-capacity.
The cycles in student population is the rationale for the state school funding board to require that half of any new school be portable classrooms. The board members recognized that the population of school children run in a cycle and building permanent facilities was a waste of money. In Livermore, for instance, one elementary school site as sold off for housing, while two other elementary schools are closed and leased for other uses.
The Pleasanton school system generally does a good job with any student who is reasonably motivated—regardless of the number of students in the class room.
Is it perfect—no? That's what charter schools and other options are for and it is notable that there are private school options in Pleasanton and the valley, but, except for Livermore, no charter schools.