In a surprise move, the Pleasanton City Council voted 3-1 Tuesday to skirt the multiple choices under consideration affecting the East Side planing process and ask voters to make the decision in a special advisory balloting on Nov. 3.
The option to seek a recommendation from voters came late in a three-hour council meeting on the East Side land use issues. Mayor Jerry Thorne proposed going to voters and had the support of Councilwoman Karla Brown and Kathy Narum. Councilman Jerry Pentin voted against the proposal. Councilman Arne Olson, whose home backs on to the East Side site under consideration, had to recuse himself from the discussion and vote.
Thorne made his proposal after the council considered multiple options determining whether to proceed on the planning process now underway for development of the 1,100-acre East Side site by the East Pleasanton Specific Plan (EPSP) task force. In its most recent proposed plan, the city would allow the development of 1,300 residential units on the site, with 1.6 million square feet for non-residential uses by developers and landowners, and leaving another 759 acres as open space.
The plan has never been presented officially to either the city Planning Commission or the council, although consultants have worked with the task force and city staff to develop a draft Environmental Impact Report that would be needed if the plan was adopted. Besides this "base" plan, there are nine other variations under consideration. Earlier any consideration of allowing high density apartments building on the site was nixed.
The task force has been working on an East Side specific plan since it was established in the summer of 2012 when the city was rushing to meet new state-required housing demands. Since then, however, the council rezoned 70 acres of available land for high density housing, with more project being built today that are needed by that 2014 housing number deadline.
Also, a growing public outcry over allowing more homes in Pleasanton during a drought and when home and business owners have been required to cut back water usage by at least 25% saw the East Side development lose favor. A citizens' coalition urged the council Tuesday to stop the planing process, discard the EIR, and wait until 2022 when new housing numbers will be issue to see if the East Side is even needed for residential development.
Options ranging from stop the process now to more lenient ones allowing the planning effort to continue in a limited and drought-restricted basis brought 28 speakers to the council podium Tuesday. Although a show of hands called for by Thorne indicated that most in the room wanted the planning process stopped, there were also some who urged that it be continued, including East Side landowners and developers who have already spent near $1 million for consultants and the draft EIR.
As the night moved on, it was clear that the four-member council split the needed three-member majority uncertain on any of the options. By going to voters, the East Side dilemma will at least have direct public input with a sample ballot giving room for opponents and supporters of the planning process to state their positions.
Thorne said that even if voters choose to continue the planning process, he will still insist that any final recommended plan for development go back to the voters another time for a Yes or Down vote.
When the meeting ended at 10:03 p.m., thee were handshakes all around with a crowd that had been hostile early on appearing satisfied that a public vote would give them time to rally their sides for another showdown at the polls.