The City Council last night unanimously approved a new General Plan that will serve as the blueprint for continued and future development of Pleasanton through the city's projected residential buildout of 2025.
Although the comprehensive document was approved in a 5-0 vote, a portion of it dealing with the extension of Stoneridge Drive and Staples Ranch was bifurcated to allow for ongoing review as lawsuits affecting that project proceed in the Alameda County Superior Court. In effect, that action amended the new General Plan as soon as it was approved.
Even so, the final approval was a major accomplishment for hundreds of individuals who served on committees, commissions and even the City Councils elected over the seven-year deliberation process to produce the new plan, which now supersedes the 1996 General Plan. Major changes, as outlined Tuesday, include new guidelines and restrictions in the areas of climate change, green building, energy and water conservation, air quality and other key environmental issues that weren't even thought of when the 1996 plan was enacted.
Still in the new plan is a 29,000-unit housing cap on residential units, a restriction that both an affordable housing coalition and State Attorney General Jerry Brown are contesting in court. Their argument is that the cap prevents Pleasanton from fully utilizing available land for low-to-medium income and so-called workforce housing which the state and the Association of Bay Area Governments insist should be greater than 29,000. The City Council has instructed City Attorney Michael Roush to defend the housing cap on the grounds that the measure was approved overwhelmingly in 1996 by Pleasanton voters. To change it would require another public vote authorizing the change or a judicial ruling.
Anticipating a requirement to add more housing, the council agreed to also rezone a large portion of Hacienda Business Park for mixed use, which would allow more residential housing in the city's primary business district.
Although councilmembers spent more than two hours discussing the draft General Plan and tweaking the language in the multi-page document, it was once again the proposal to extend Stoneridge Drive to El Charro Road that produced the most rancor.
Councilman Matt Sullivan said he assured his constituents in the Mohr-Martin neighborhood who would be most affected by the extension that the new roadway would not be built until other Tri-Valley cities made similar improvements to their arterial streets first and that an action plan with funding to widen State Route 84 between interstates 680 and 580 were in place. He said the General Plan fails to include any of these requirements.
"I went out to the community and convinced people who were very skeptical that we would keep these requirements in the plan, that at the end of the day we would have these checks and balances," Sullivan said. "That was the basis of my agreement when I voted to keep the Stoneridge extension in the General Plan."
"I made that personal commitment to people, which I want to honor," he added. "This council also made that commitment which it isn't honoring."
Councilwoman Cindy McGovern, who has long objected to extending Stoneridge Drive, also called for considering the extension separately from the General Plan until the lawsuit and a new environmental impact study on its effects on local neighborhoods can be completed.
The bound General Plan document of text, color photos, maps, sketches, charts and lists will be the guiding rulebook for the final buildout of Pleasanton in the year 2025. A key component, however, is the continued inclusion of the voter-mandated housing cap of 29,000 units which are expected to be completed at buildout. Whether the cap stays or goes, city officials said this new General Plan is capable of handling any future unplanned development through growth management restraints and other measures that the city also has in place.
The rapid pace of development under way when the last General Plan was considered has given way to almost no new developments today with fewer than 2,000 residential units to complete under the housing cap. This pull-back from a builders' frenzy to the slower pace of 2009 affects every part of Pleasanton, from school enrollment to traffic to infrastructure such as sewer and water capacity.
That's why officials said the new plan has taken much longer, with city planners carefully writing the plan based on discussions with the school district, neighborhoods, downtown merchants, Stoneridge Shopping Center, Hacienda Business Park, the Chamber of Commerce and the changing times. The Planning Commission and City Council, separately and in joint workshops, held discussion meetings with these civic groups to make sure this new General Plan put the right finishing touches on completing the city of Pleasanton.
What distinguishes this new General Plan from the previous one is that, first, it contains a vision statement that clearly articulates the future roadmap for the city. The vision statement, a brief two-paragraph statement on page 5 of the General Plan document, which had much input and many rewrites before it was accepted, was especially useful in guiding the development of the General Plan over the last several years. It speaks to the high quality of life in Pleasanton, the city's diversified economic base and its commitment to sustainability for the future.
This sustainability theme is woven throughout the plan, not only in its emphasis on environmental issues and safeguards, but also on the city's long-term fiscal sustainability. It's carried through in the various goals stated in the plan, including policies and programs related to land use and traffic.
The new plan also places more emphasis than before on mixed use housing, both high density condos and apartments and more affordable housing units.
Councilmembers said the new General Plan will help secure Pleasanton's future sustainability as a fiscally strong community committed to the quality of life that Pleasanton residents and businesses have come to expect and enjoy.