Sometimes it's hard to build a few retail stores and apartments in downtown Pleasanton, even on a narrow, unpaved and empty lot a few feet from Main Street that has a history of failed businesses.
Still, James Knuppe and his partner, Galen Grant of FCGA Architects, keep trying. They've spent tens of thousands of dollars already to sell their project to city planners and, over the past month, to the City Council with little success.
Last Tuesday, council members turned the project away (not down) for another look. Council members said they liked the architecture, "though the building's colors need to be subdued."
The 4,000-square-foot building will blend in nicely with nearby Main Street buildings, "although it needs to be set back farther from Spring Street." The mixed use of having apartments and small retail shops in one building is in step with proposed downtown guidelines of more mixed-use developments, "but people who live there will park in the store spaces.Bamboo will be planted at the rear of the property to screen the building from the neighbors. ("Really, do you want bamboo? It's a fast-growing weed.")
The development will be short seven required commercial parking spaces, meaning that Knuppe will have to pay $19,117 per space into the city's in-lieu parking fund
Even the Pleasanton Downtown Association opposes Knuppe's plan, with executive director Laura Olson saying the PDA doesn't want more downtown dwellers "because they complain about noise from nearby nightlife."
The 0.39-acre property is unusual, consisting of a narrow street front and extending back to the rear fence of a house on Ray Street. A two-story commercial/office building would face Spring Street with a second-floor apartment. Three-story, multi-family residential units would be built along a 20-foot-wide driveway stretching to the north.
Parking is also an obstacle for the developer, as his plan only includes a one car garage and one driveway for each of the four 3 bed/3 bath apartments. Again, those who objected to the plan Tuesday night said that won't be enough. They said that tenants are likely to use their garages for storage and workbenches and park in the driveways, meaning guests or the drivers of second and third cars will park on Spring Street and Main Street, adding to already filled and too few on-street parking spaces.
The development will be short seven required parking spaces, meaning that Knuppe will have to pay $19,117 per space into the city's in-lieu parking fund. That fund, which has been charged for years to downtown businesses that lack their own parking, has been used to acquire the once-county-owned railroad corridor between Main and First streets and to pave other available properties.
Knuppe submitted his application to build on the Spring Street property in May 2014. He and architect Grant held a number of meetings with the city's planning staff related to land-use compatibility, aesthetics, architectural styling and consistency with the Downtown Specific Plan. Thinking the two parties had ironed out all of their differences, Knuppe, with the planners' agreement, submitted his formal development Planned Unit Development Rezoning and Development Plan, a multi-page detailed document with architectural drawings and land-use information.
An informal work session was held Aug. 26, where planning commissioners added more comments and suggestions for changes. At the request of planners, Knuppe hired a firm to install story poles on the site for a better look at the placement and height of the buildings. A full public hearing was held Dec. 9 with the commission voting 3-2 to approve the project.
The proposal moved to the City Council Jan. 19, but the hearing was postponed to last Tuesday after a majority of council members expressed reservations about the project. Last Tuesday, still not supportive, Knuppe's bid was postponed for a later council hearing, when he can go through all of it again.
For now, downtown shoppers and store employees can keep parking on Knuppe's dirt lot for free.