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By Tim Hunt

Reflecting on 2016 in Pleasanton

Uploaded: Dec 27, 2016

As the New Year dawns, it’s a time for reflection about 2016.
Sadly, the Pleasanton school district, which had achieved some stability under the interim leadership by Superintendent Jim Hansen, now is roiled in further drama after trustees placed new Superintendent Rick Rubino on paid administrative leave Christmas week. Presumably, the investigation is ongoing as this is written, but it was the almost the last thing anyone connected with the district needed to see happen.
Meanwhile, it will be business as usual from a policy standpoint as the City Council enters a new year. With Mayor Jerry Thorne and Councilman Jerry Pentin easily winning re-election, they will join with Arnie Olsen and Kathy Narum to chart a steady course going forward. Councilwoman Karla Brown, who won re-election with the most votes, will offer the contrary viewpoint on development issues.
Looking back, the two ballot measures decided by voters both ended up with proponents’ views being rejected. A key difference was the Costco initiative on the November ballot was backed by Bill Wheeler of Black Tie Transportation and the Cox family that owns gas stations in town. There were clear business interests involved and they tried a pre-emptive strike to stop Costco before the City Council even had a chance to consider a formal application.
The voters overwhelmingly supported a Costco on Johnson Drive. The Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone allows a big-box retailer such as Costco and the way now is clear for the city and the council to approve an application in 2017.
The June referendum challenged the council’s approval of a much scaled-down version of Lund Ranch II, a 43-unit housing project that will complete long-planned development on the southeastern side of town. Gray Eagle resident Alan Roberts and other opponents in the Sycamore Creek neighborhood hired a firm to pay people to gather signatures for the referendum to put the council’s decision on the ballot.
It marked a first for Pleasanton with wealthy residents using their own financial resources to challenge a decision. Notably, the proposal was a major compromise with the houses limited to a small portion of the site and the city receiving dedicated open space.
Fortunately, residents citywide sorted out what was a deliberately confusing campaign to uphold the council’s decision. It was much closer than the Costco vote.
In the year ahead, the council also will have to take a measure back to voters. The development plan for the Bernal property including the sports park and open space was approved in an initiative that qualified for the ballot. Mayor Jerry Thorne was a key player in the group that put the measure on the ballot.
Now that the council has approved the master plan for a new civic center complex--(library, offices, police station and community center on the Bernal site—the voters must sign off on it because it was not in the original initiative. That will be interesting, but what will be more significant is how the city plans to pay for the expensive complex.