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By Tim Hunt

City Council faces major housing challenges

Uploaded: Mar 25, 2021

The Pleasanton City Council will have some particularly challenging decisions facing it when it comes to housing.
The governor and Legislature likely will turn up the heat to deal with the state’s huge housing crisis. The number of new housing starts in the last two years fell despite the governor’s aggressive goals. The Legislature passed a few bills, but there’s a fundamental debate between the local control exerted by city councils and boards of supervisors and the overwhelming need for more housing felt in the state capitol and by potential homebuyers.
Now on the council’s plate is updating the housing element of the city’s General Plan to reflect updated regional housing goals. State law requires the housing element be updated and approved by the state every eight years. The state continues to tighten the rules to force compliance.
Planning Director Ellen Clark outlined what’s facing Pleasanton in a staff report earlier this month.
The bottom line is that Pleasanton will need to zone land for housing to accommodate 5,965 units, nearly triple the number in the current cycle. The number increased by about 1,100 units after criteria was adjusted. That was driven by the release of the draft Plan Bay Area 2050. The criteria includes proximity to transit (two BART stations), quality of schools (excellent) as well as jobs (abundant—pre-Covid the unemployment rate was 2%).
For comparison, the city currently has 25,245 housing units so it’s a major increase.
Pleasanton’s goals actually dropped significantly in the current cycle that launched after the Great Recession. Clark’s report noted that meeting the low-income housing goals was going to be an ongoing challenge—353 were produced in the current cycle, about 23% of the goal. The numbers in the very-low and low-income categories will increase by over 1,600 units, while above-moderate (a class that is easy to build in Pleasanton) climbs by 1,700 units.
Council members discussed appealing the allocation. Clark said that it was unlikely, based on past experience, that they would change much. Any change to lower one goal would require increasing another city’s goal so only minor changes could be expected.
The current council majority ran on a platform to slow down growth and already has pulled the city out of a valley-wide study to determine alternative sources of potable water including highly treated effluent. That ill-advised decision came a couple of months before Zone 7 announced voluntary conservation because Northern California is facing another critically dry season. Rainfall to date is 5.53 inches, threatening to be the lowest total of all-time.
Nice timing for such a bad decision.
Returning to housing, remember that Pleasanton has a dubious reputation in Sacramento because of its former housing cap that was overturned in court after the city spent millions defending it. So, potential plaintiffs will be watching and there’s no telling what will come down from Sacramento this year as the vaccinations increase and life starts to get a bit back to whatever is “normal.”