The Pleasanton City Council approved unanimously and without comment Tuesday night a new growth management ordinance that will slow down residential building in the future.
Capping new housing units at 235 a year, the new ordinance is written to meet the state's ongoing Regional Housing Needs Allocation, yet keep the city's residential building floodgates reasonably closed.
Building won't stop for now. An Alameda County Superior Court order, favoring a lawsuit filed in 2008 by affordable housing coalition Urban Habitat against a 29,000-unit housing cap Pleasanton voters passed in 1996, along with supportive state mandates, means that work will continue on major apartment projects already approved. Two are already under construction on West Las Positas Boulevard and in Hacienda, with more to follow.
But that will be it. The new growth management measure limits new housing while also giving city staff and the council wiggle room to approve individual requests for up to 10 new homes each year and flexibility to allocate the allowable annual number to accommodate low-income housing.
It also changes the method of tracking housing unit allocations from the time building permits are issued to back when the development plan is actually approved, ending a process that was at times complex and confusing.
Adoption of the growth management ordinance brings to a close an era that started with a voter-approved housing cap, which voters approved by a wide margin in 1996. But later, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled that the housing cap flaunted California housing requirements that cities provide adequate and affordable homes and apartments for a state with a rapidly-growing population.
Besides declaring the housing cap illegal, and in the first ruling of its kind, Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch also ordered the city to complete rezoning that the city had ignored but had been required by state law so that Pleasanton could meet its share of the region's affordable housing. This major victory for affordable housing in California reverberated in cities across the state.
The court's decision, accompanied by the support of the then-Attorney General and now Gov. Jerry Brown, also ended the no-growth policies of late Mayor Ben Tarver, former Mayor Tom Pico and the no-growth City Councils elected with them. A new council, led by former Mayor Jennifer Hosterman, largely undid those growth impediments, although not because any council member or most voters wanted Pleasanton to become another high-density city like those along El Camino Real on the Peninsula or a thoroughfare of high-rise apartment houses and residential parking garages that we see today along Dublin Boulevard.
But with their hands tied by the court and state orders, they rezoned 70 acres of land for high-density housing, initiating a period of "by right" development, which we see underway today.
Tuesday's approval of the growth management ordinance was written so as to right the course once again for long-range growth in Pleasanton, yet still in accord with state housing requirements.