Candidates for election to the Pleasanton City Council voiced their views on a wide-ranging number of issues from housing to a proposed transportation tax at a Candidates Forum hosted by the Pleasanton Weekly and Tri-Valley Community Television (TV30).
The forum is being broadcast on Community Television channels 29 and 30 at various times leading up to the Nov. 4 municipal election.
Housing issues dominated much of the one-hour forum with candidates chiming in on a task force plan still being discussed for developing Pleasanton's east side.
Although the task force is expected to meet well into 2015 before producing a plan, council candidate George Bowen wants the planning process stopped while candidates Olivia Sanwong, Arne Olson and incumbent Councilwoman Kathy Narum want it continued.
"If they plan it, they will build it," Bowen said, adding that the preliminary plan he has seen calls for up to 2,200 housing units to be allowed on the undeveloped east side properties.
Citing the rezoning actions by the council, Narum and Olson said those were done to meet state- and court-mandated orders that Pleasanton provide more high density housing for those who work here but haven't been able to find affordable places to live.
Now that those demands have been met, Narum said, the council will only approve new housing applications required to meet updated state housing requirements.
"We are all frustrated about the state telling us what to do, telling us how much we have to build," Narum said.
"But the fact is that we weren't in compliance with our housing," she added. "We got sued and lost and it cost taxpayers over $4 million in the process. I don't want that to happen again."
Sanwong, who is chairwoman of the city's Economic Vitality Committee, said she has no objections to the task force completing its planning process. However, she said housing growth in Pleasanton has brought with it more traffic and school overcrowding.
"Before I would go forward with any new development, I would want to look at the city's infrastructure, traffic, public safety, library and more to determine their capacities," she said.
"We are possibly overbuilding Pleasanton and we need to be mindful of that."
"We have already approved 1,900 housing units as part of RHNA (the state's Regional Housing Needs Allocation) that weren't subject to the city's Growth Management ordinance," Bowen said. "A total of 673 have broken ground or are under construction. Now we are looking at adding up to 2,200 more homes on the east side. This will exacerbate our problems."
Pleasanton's ongoing water shortage also generated comments.
"Obviously we are in a drought," Olson said. "Recently our mayor talked to state legislators about extending time period to meet RHNA requirements from eight to 10 or 11 years. That will help"
He also praised the council for signing up for a 30-year state loan to finance the installation of recycled water pipes in the city.
"Although I don't want to see the city take on additional debt, taking this grant money at a 30-year fixed rate of 1% was a good move," he added. "Other communities have been using purple pipe recycled water for years, and we can do that here."
Sanwong suggested that the city work with Zone 7, to use land on the east side for ground water recharging and to expand water storage there.
Bowen said the water problem is another reason not to develop the east side with housing.
Narum, who currently is the council's liaison representative to Zone 7, said she opposed successfully that agency's recent plan for a permanent rate increase because of the drought.
"There was no justification for it," she said. "They can't raise rates and go buy more water because there isn't any."
Other issues that differentiated the candidates at the forum included:
George Bowen said he will vote against Measure BB, a countywide transportation tax measure that is on the November ballot. He said the measure, which has a 30-year shelf life, "will be asking our grandchildren 30 years from now to be paying for the benefits that we receive today."
The three other candidates said they support the measure, with Narum explaining that she likes its provision to complete the widening of State Hwy. 84 and to help fund extending BART to Livermore.
Asked about special interests contributing to their campaign funds, Sanwong said she doesn't have any and favors public funding of local political campaigns.
"That would take out the special interest concerns in our elections," she said.
The other candidates said they have received only a few large donations with none representing a "special interest."
"I am the only City Council candidate who is not receiving special interest money," Bowen added, although he acknowledged receiving a large donation from Pleasanton Gravel Company that he said has no involvement in Pleasanton issues.