The Pleasanton City Council will decide at its meeting tonight whether to rezone a church site for new houses in the midst of a drought emergency.
Then it will also vote on a plan to raise water rates across the board for those whose homes are already built.
It's by coincidence that the two issues come before the council at the same time, but both are vitally linked to the drought and the city's mandatory 25% water-use cutback.
Public protests over possible development on Pleasanton's East Side centered on the drought. Complaints continue to come in over apartment projects whose tenants will need more water in a city already facing short supplies.
Water shortages also will likely be an issue tonight as Ponderosa Homes seeks to rezone property at Valley Avenue and Busch Road owned by Centerpointe Presbyterian Church. The city already has approved use of part of the site by Montessori West, a private school that will add another building as it expands enrollment in preschool and kindergarten through sixth grades.
But the rest of the site, including the church's large dirigible-shaped sprung structure, would be rezoned and cleared under Ponderosa's plan for 25 houses with landscaped streets, new trees and front yards. The Pleasanton Planning Commission was only lukewarm to the plan, which at the time called for 27 homes. After a 3 1/2-hour public hearing, three commissioners voted for approval, two abstained.
The Rev. Mike Barris, pastor of Centerpointe, said the church is in the process of acquiring another site and needs to sell the Valley/Busch property to finance the deal. In response, one Planning Commissioner suggested keeping the current zoning and letting Centerpointe sell the site to another religious organization.
But others in the community have asked what religious organization would want it or could afford it? Several Pleasanton churches, such as Centerpointe, already face mounting debts. Others, including Congregation Beth Emek and all of the major Christian denominations, have their own and adequate sanctuaries. CrossWinds in Dublin might have been interested, but it just moved into its new building next to the Outlet Mall in Livermore. Smaller congregations meeting in schools and office buildings here lack the funds to pay Centerpointe's cost.
Muslims might have the money and the need to build on the site. The Muslim Community Center of the East Bay, which is serving a growing population, meets in office space in Hacienda. Another Islamic group gained city approval several years ago for a small mosque on Dublin Canyon Road, near the Pleasanton Marriott, but that facility was never built.
Last month, after a Pleasanton Weekly story reported on the Planning Commission meeting, a Town Square commenter responded to critics of Ponderosa' plan for houses there.
"Sure," the commenter wrote, "maybe a church, mosque, ashram or temple would be interested to build there. But you miss the point. Any such campus would create traffic and noise during the week and weekend, at least a lot more than a dozen of houses would in that neighborhood. This campus was approved before the neighborhood there was even built, and now that people actually live there, a less impacting use would be better. And as far as the church bailing out, I understand they could not raise the money to build the new campus from their congregation so that is why they need to sell and relocate."
Yet with the council likely to approve water-rate increases Tuesday, Ponderosa may find the council and others opposed to the rezoning bid, putting concerns over the drought ahead of housing.
The council meeting will start at 7 p.m. in the Civic Center, 200 Old Bernal Ave.