The Pleasanton City Council voted Tuesday night to support an 87-home development on the edge of downtown, a project that also sets aside more than 1.6 acres for a planned residential complex for adults with special needs.
The proposal from developer Mike Serpa and his Irby Ranch, LLC, calls for a combination of two- and three-story family homes -- along with two parks, trails, open space and a Nevada Street extension -- on a 15-acre site of three connected properties long-designated for commercial uses where Stanley Boulevard turns into First Street.
The project also sees the developer dedicate 1.64 acres on the southeast side to the city for future development for an affordable residential complex with up to 30 units for adults with special needs, envisioned as a partnership with Pleasanton-based nonprofit Sunflower Hill.
"I think it's a terrific project," Councilman Arne Olson said toward the end of the nearly three-hour meeting. "If you take Sunflower Hill out of the equation, it's still a terrific project. It supports the downtown. It provides a price-range of housing that we really need in our town."
"I really think it's just a fabulous win-win for the location, being able to create the community," Councilwoman Kathy Narum added.
The council voted 4-0 Tuesday to endorse a series of moves needed to advance the project forward after hearing from city staff as well as 40 citizen speakers, mainly in support of the proposal. Vice Mayor Jerry Pentin was absent.
City officials received more than 100 emails and letters regarding the project before the council meeting, with about 70% in favor and 30% against, according to community development director Gerry Beaudin.
The split in the council chamber Tuesday night was even more supportive, with many of the 90-plus people in attendance wearing yellow Sunflower Hill shirts or stickers and all but six speakers urging the council to approve the project.
Supporters mainly praised the development for dedicating a portion of land for future affordable housing for special needs adults, while some also cited planned Nevada Street extension and offering new standalone houses expected to be priced below $1 million.
The handful of critics primarily cited concerns about traffic and school impacts as well as there being no guarantees that the Sunflower Hill complex would come to fruition as currently contemplated.
The Sunflower Hill residential project is still in its early concept phase, and no development proposals for that component have been submitted to the city yet.
"We have a project that will pencil out, on every level. And we will break ground, mark my words, in early 2019. But it starts with approving this tonight," Sunflower Hill board president Susan Houghton told the council Tuesday.
Many of the supporters were like Janet Brown, parent of an adult with special needs who saw strong benefit from the development with the Sunflower Hill component.
"I can't convey to you the extreme worry and angst that parents like myself go through when we wonder what's going to happen to our child after we're no longer here -- where will they live and who will take care of them," Brown said.
Lynne Milkie, mother of an 18-year-old with autism, said her son needs "a safe and stable community of individuals like him where he can have social and recreational and occupational opportunities."
"We will not be here forever to take care of him, but it is our fervent hope that Sunflower Hill at Irby Ranch will be," she added.
Some parents said they may move into an Irby Ranch house to be near their adult with special needs at Sunflower Hill or to keep their child close to the Sunflower Hill complex if still living at home.
Critics included Beverly Gill, a retired special education teacher who said, "I'm totally in favor of the concept of the Sunflower Hill project, but I think it's rather slick to tie it to this 87-home project because who would deny such a worthy group of people a nice place to live."
"Please slow down. There's no need to put this project in right now," she added.
"These homes will put additional burden on the schools, without a guarantee that Sunflower Hill is going to happen," resident Julie Testa said. "Right now, the Irby Ranch is purely optional housing. Pleasanton has met and exceeded all mandates related to the (housing cap) lawsuit."
With the council's endorsement, work on the 87-home Irby Ranch development could start as soon as this year.
The project site has been marked by a long-closed family market and a rusting tractor as well as three farm-like homes owned by the Irby, Kaplan and Zia families. The developer would restore and relocate the Zia house, to be used as a community and meeting room, and repurpose an old water tower on-site.
Richard Irby Jr., with tears in his eyes, gave full support to the project proposed for his family's property, and the council also heard praise from a representative of the Kaplan family.
To accommodate the development, the council approved a General Plan amendment to change the land-use designation for the 15 acres from "retail/highway/service commercial, business or professional office" to high-density residential.
The council also gave support to rezoning the land -- now split between agricultural and commercial services -- to high-density residential and open space, for 2.8 acres for open space and arroyo areas at the site.
The development proposal calls for 56 two-story homes and 31 three-story homes -- down from 42 three-story houses outlined in the proposal approved by the Planning Commission last August.
The final project version also features six fewer homes overall from what the Planning Commission approved (also down from 115 houses once contemplated several years ago), and 0.29 acres more space dedicated for the special needs complex.
"It has been a long haul, to say the least. I was in my mid-40s when this started, and now, I'm not," developer Serpa told the council, drawing laughs from the audience. "And I would say because of the process we've been through, we have a great product."
There are four models of houses planned, with the two-story options standing 27 feet tall and being 2,223 square feet to 2,359 square feet and the three-story options, at 35 feet tall, being 1,908 square feet to 2,294 square feet. The average lot size would be 2,391 square feet.
The houses, likely to be priced at under $1 million, would be geared toward buyer profiles such as empty nesters, young families or couples, single residents or those looking to downsize, Serpa said.
As part of the development, Irby Ranch LLC would also create a multi-use trail, complete the Nevada Street extension to First Street from California Avenue parallel to Arroyo Del Valle and reconfigure the intersection of the new Nevada Street and First/Stanley.
The developer would satisfy their affordable housing requirements through the 1.64-acre dedication, assisting Sunflower Hill with applications for its formal proposal and giving $1 million to the city to support affordable housing on the site, envisioned as the Sunflower Hill project.
The early concept for Sunflower Hill contemplates 30 housing units in two-story buildings similar to college dormitories with common areas for recreation, kitchens and dining. One large building would serve as a community center, and the complex would include a swimming pool and other outdoor amenities.
To help facilitate the special needs housing, council members Tuesday approved a framework agreement among the city, Irby Ranch LLC and Sunflower Hill.
They also signed off on an exclusive negotiating rights agreement with Sunflower Hill for the housing project for adults with special needs. Sunflower Hill has until June 2020 to submit its development plan to the city for consideration, under the agreement.
The city also agreed to commit up to $2.25 million, which includes Irby Ranch's $1 million contribution, toward the affordable housing project for special needs adults.
In all Tuesday, the council gave final approval to resolutions affirming the General Plan amendment, Downtown Specific Plan amendment, vesting tentative map, and affordable housing, growth management, framework and negotiating rights agreements.
The rezoning and development plan, as well as a development agreement, require ordinance approvals that must be considered by council members twice. They approved the first readings Tuesday, with the final adoptions expected at their Feb. 21 meeting.