Council OKs purchase of San Francisco property for $4.2 million

3-acre parcel across from public library eyed as key in future downtown development

In a nearly-empty chamber and with only one objector, the City Council Tuesday agreed to spend $4.2-million to acquire a 3-acre vacant property that has been owned by the City of San Francisco Public Utilities Commission since 1930.

The purchase will be made early next year, but representatives of Pleasanton and the SFPUC have agreed to the price of the so-called Old Bernal Parcel after a land assessment set the current market price of the property.

In addition, Pleasanton will have to pay closing costs related to title insurance, environmental assessment, property transfer taxes, escrow fees and recording charges due once the sale is completed in March or April.

City Manager Nelson Fialho said Pleasanton will use either reserves available in its Capitial Improvement Program or an inter-fund city loan to pay the costs of the lane.

Council members said the acquisition comes at an opportune time. City leaders are considering relocating all city-owned buildings on the other side of Old Bernal to the Bernal Community Park.

At the same time, a task force has just been appointed to consider a long-range strategic plan for downtown Pleasanton, which includes this last 3.18-acre parcel. Uses could include an ACE train/downtown parking lot, housing, a church or retail stores.

The sale also comes as the SFPUC was putting the site on the market in an effort to divest its portfolio of excess property it owns. By buying the parcel, Pleasanton will be able to better control its future use.

The sale will also complete years of negotiation for 510 acres of property San Francisco and the SFPUC owned here goings back to 1930 when it acquired Spring Valley Water Works. At the time, the properties were used for ground water extraction and water was pumped for sale outside the Pleasanton area.

When the SFPUC stopped pumping from the wells there in 1949, the land was declared surplus.

The only objection to purchasing the site came from former mayoral candidate Julie Testa.

"I don't see the need for purchasing the land at this price when we don't have a purpose for it," she told the council. "We don't have to own it to control it."

She also referred to the failure of city leaders to acquire the land for $500,000 in 2000 as part of its agreement for developing the Bernal property when Greenbriar Homes and its associates bought the 510-acre Bernal site from San Francisco for $126 million. Greenbriar have 318 acres of its purchase free of charge to the city of Pleasanton in return for development agreements for homes, apartments and what is now a Safeway story-anchored retail center.

The 3.18-acre parcel across from the library was inadvertently left out of the final Greenbriar purchase agreement, although Pleasanton and then San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown "shook hands" on completing the $500,000 deal later. Brown left office soon after and that deal was never consummated.

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7 people like this
Posted by J Woolley
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Dec 21, 2016 at 10:20 am

This is one of the smartest strategic moves the City of Pleasanton can make to help transform the primary access point of Main Street into a vibrant retail segment. City offices do not need to consume space best allocated to strong retailers and restaurants which bring traffic and energy.

We may look at Danville and Livermore as excellent East Bay examples of where the city offices are placed conveniently away from the main downtown core, and see how they have emphasized having synergy as the primary goal.

Jane Woolley / Director Retail Leasing / Pleasanton resident

2 people like this
Posted by dknute
a resident of Golden Eagle
on Dec 21, 2016 at 11:22 am

In my oponion, major finance error has been made by city. Pleasanton should have negotiated this matter much more in their favor, and could have, if they hadn't jumped so quickly at a suppised 'appraised value'.... poor judgment.

24 people like this
Posted by Julie Testa
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Dec 21, 2016 at 12:15 pm

We all support a vibrant downtown. Supporting downtown should not come at the expense of taxpayers. Resident’s interests are not served by adding more unmitigated housing that will further impact our schools, traffic, and water. The identified goal of the Downtown Task force is “integration of residential development” and “evaluate building height”. The 5 story mixed-use-development that we have across from BART is an example of Pleasanton mix-use development.

When using 4.2 million tax dollars to purchase land we should have assurance that the intended use will benefit residents not developers.

Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) Task Force is intended to result in increased building height and a lot of residential development. The Task Force objective is clearly stated, "The key objective for DSP is…downtown land use and policy changes. Specific objectives…integration of residential development…evaluation of maximum building height…for residential and commercial properties…recommendations for land uses on the existing civic center site”. Web Link

24 people like this
Posted by Matt Sullivan
a resident of Stoneridge
on Dec 21, 2016 at 1:15 pm

Matt Sullivan is a registered user.

According to the PW, “Council members said the acquisition comes at an opportune time. City leaders are considering relocating all city-owned buildings on the other side of Old Bernal to the Bernal Community Park. At the same time, a task force has just been appointed to consider a long-range strategic plan for downtown Pleasanton, which includes this last 3.18-acre parcel. Uses could include an ACE train/downtown parking lot, housing, a church or retail stores.”

Since the Task Force has yet to make any recommendations isn’t the city jumping the gun a bit in spending $4.2 million of taxpayers money on this property? The truth is the City Council and City Staff have already made up their minds and they have appointed a Task Force that will rubber-stamp what they want: move the civic center to the Bernal Property at a cost estimated to be $200 million so they can sell the Main Street property to developers who will make a killing at our expense. Good for retail leasing agents but not so much for the rest of us.

Julie – thanks for going down and speaking out against this.

9 people like this
Posted by Map
a resident of Del Prado
on Dec 22, 2016 at 10:59 am

Here comes our downtown high rise residential units, good thing the city is spending 1.3 million on a new aerial fire fighting truck, its good to have very deep pockets!! Shouldn't the developers be paying for that fancy new truck? Does anybody on the city council or the planning commission represent the citizens?

5 people like this
Posted by Ptownrox
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 23, 2016 at 8:15 am

It's too bad this didn't get wrapped up on 2000 but it's not like the land is going to ever get any cheaper. And it is an important location for the City to control. If in the end they don't use it for a new civic center, they can sell it. It's not like they'll lose money on it. I'm pretty excited to see a more vibrant downtown and new residential units will help achieve that. I'm glad that the city is showing some concern for long-term economic health & sustainability instead of listening to people who simply oppose any and all growth and change for their own personal (short term) benefit.

1 person likes this
Posted by highdiver
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 26, 2016 at 5:10 pm

It certainly is hard to change what happened in the past. So, let's look to the future. The plot of land in question is not that big and could have used been years ago. I don't think it was ever used for Fair parking either. Currently, ACE riders use city streets and the Off Track betting facility on Valley for their overflow parking. I don't ride Ace, but it makes sense to put a parking garage there with an overpass to the Ace Station. Anything to alleviate the freeway traffic makes sense to me. BTW, I don't care how tall that garage is, maybe it will help downtown parking also.

4 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Dec 26, 2016 at 10:09 pm

Jack is a registered user.

This in itself is probably not a bad thing... The City should expand, redesign, and modernize City Hall on this site, and abandon the idea of moving to the "Bernal" property, thereby dropping a zero in the process. Thus turning their $200,000,000 pipe dream into a more responsible 20 million dollar deal...

Like this comment
Posted by Geraldine
a resident of Downtown
on Dec 28, 2016 at 7:47 am

To @Jack- If the city buys the land for $4.2M or they use land ALREADY owned by the city, that alone saves $4.2M towards a civic center/library. The city owns the land in the Bernal Park - so it is not in the pricy up to $200M project.

We know one day the city will need to update their buildings and planning for it now just makes sense. It also makes sense to use the land the city owns and locate a building or all of the buildings there. Time to update and get city employees out of antiquated buildings and portables.

And finally, with all of the regulations of a government building, a $20M building is not large enough to serve many city services.

7 people like this
Posted by res1
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Dec 28, 2016 at 11:48 am

res1 is a registered user.

With the city approaching build-out, we should be looking at downsizing our facilities, not increasing them. Instead of investing in more square feet we should be investing in online technology. Most of us would rather take care of what we can online and not have to schedule a time to go to the civic center with our busy lives.

I think the employee union is scared of the future and wants as much square feet and employees are possible so keep union membership up. However, that is not in the best interest of the residents. We have also invested a ton of money in our employees already with the pension and retiree medical debt we still have to pay for. I don't want to give them another bonus of a new building. Or how about we build city hall once the pension system makes 7.5% annually that is needed for the current payments we make. I am sure the unions would not mind that since they keep saying that 7.5% annual earnings on the pension system is obtainable.

5 people like this
Posted by Flightops
a resident of Downtown
on Dec 28, 2016 at 9:50 pm

Flightops is a registered user.

Have to agree with res1, can't see why we need new buildings for our city employees the existing bldgs are working just fine, nobody seems to worry about our kids using prefab bldgs for their classrooms! They need to quit coming up with excuses to vacate that property on main st so they can turn it over to one of their favorite residential developers. Still haven't seen the library crowded yet except during after school "daycare" so no need to move it, unless they want high rise townhomes on that property, such a sneaky bunch, can't fool us old timers, it's all the newbies in town that keep getting snookered---- Wake up people!!

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