The Pleasanton City Council will meet July 16 to take action on pending plans for developing 1,100 acres of the city's mostly vacant East Side.
The meeting will follow a decision last Tuesday to scuttle a proposed special advisory ballot measure about land uses on the East Side after learning it would cost about $500,000 in county election costs.
A resolution to place the strictly advisory measure on the Nov. 3 ballot was the main issue on the council's agenda with about 30 objectors in the audience ready to speak against it.
Even after Mayor Jerry Thorne opened the meeting to say he had changed his mind about holding a special election because of the cost, nine speakers went to the lectern to voice their opposition and suggest that the East Side planning process simply be stopped.
"I applaud you for your decision," said George Bowen, a leader of the opposition to East Side development and an unsuccessful candidate for the council in last November's election.
He urged the council to cancel any plans to develop the 1,100- acre largely undeveloped land east of Valley Avenue that extends to the Livermore city boundary, plan that have been largely criticized because of the current drought.
"My sense is that a vast majority of voters don't want any more major development in our city even if it rains," Bowen said. "We still have traffic and school problems. I'm asking that you make it clear in your actions that you are bringing this development planning process to a halt."
Scott Raty, president of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce, agreed.
"Right now, water availability is our concern and there are steps we can take to ensure that," Raty said. "We need to focus on recycling projects and new water agreements with Zone 7 and other providers to add certainty to our supplies. We need to put the brakes on (the East Side planning) at least for the next12 months."
He said the council was once set to move forward with planning for a new civic center and public library when the recession hit. It backed off on those plans, only resuming them again earlier this year now that the economy has improved. He urged the council to impose the same type of delay in planning development of the East Side until the drought is over.
In the end, the council voted 4-0 to cancel plans for a special election and instead to hold another pubic hearing at its next meeting on June 16 to determine the next steps for considering future land uses on the East Side.
Councilman Arne Olson, whose home in the Ironwood community is next to East Side properties, recused himself from voting on the issue.
Even so, wearing his "citizen's hat", he was the first speaker at Tuesday night's meeting.
"I said earlier that I thought the planning process should continue as did three of us (on the council) while campaigning in the last election, which we won," Olson said. "But I think this has become a divisive issue because of the drought and should be stopped."
"I don't think the work of the (East Pleasanton) task force and the EIR (Environmental Impact Report) are a waste," he added. "They can be reviewed and updated whenever planning resumes for the east side."
Objectors cited other concerns in building 1,300 housing units on the East Side as the task force has considered, including overcrowded public schools, traffic, a surging population, even the lack of adequate hospitals to serve the region's growing housing numbers.
Suggestions mentioned at Tuesday's public hearing for land uses on the east side ranged from having the city buy the property from its current owners for use as a park or for building senior housing.
"So we stop now and when we take this up again, we will talk about those other issues," Thorne said. "I would also suggest that if we do decide (June 16) to pause this process, that would-be developers there look outside the box for a plan that wouldn't have quite as much of an impact on the public."
"We might want to consider age-restricted development because people 55 and older don't have an impact on schools and more of them spend their money here in Pleasanton," Thorne added. "That would make sense to me."
Although a final decision on dealing with the current East Side planning process will be made June 16, Thorne indicated how he will vote.
"I hope others on the council will join me in signing a letter thanking the members of the East Pleasanton Specific Plan task force for their many hours of work they did on this project," he said. at the close of Tuesday night's meeting.