Pleasanton council to discuss Bernal community farm

$4.5M in affordable housing in-lieu funds, two-year work plan adoption, American Red Cross Month also on tap

The Pleasanton City Council is set Tuesday to consider whether to move forward with additional planning toward bringing a community farm to parts of the Bernal property on both sides of Interstate 680.

The community farm, envisioned as a concept under the 2006 voter-approved Bernal Property Phase II Specific Plan, could include areas for community-tended crops, vineyards and gardens, city officials said in their staff report to the council.

Work has begun on a Bernal Property Community Farm Master Plan, and the council on Tuesday night will discuss whether to authorize community farm design and use concepts as well as approve a $69,762 contract with Walnut Creek-based MD Fotheringham Landscape Architects to complete the master plan.

As part of the Bernal Phase II specific plan, two sections of land -- at 4.2 acres and 7.8 acres, respectively -- were set aside for possible community farming and agriculture, according to city staff.

The sections are slivers of land on the south end of the Bernal Phase II area, one on each side of I-680 and generally between Laguna Creek Lane and the rail line.

City staff recommends pursuing more crop, vineyard, orchard and community gardening options for the Bernal community farm without a livestock-raising component since the Abbie 4-H Club -- which had been involved in the community farm planning -- now has an understanding with the Alameda County Fairgrounds for access to a planned barn there.

City officials note that there isn't a best model for maintaining or administering a community farm, with options including land-lease, city operations, use agreements or informal agreements.

Successful community farms also rely on multiple partnerships between a city, interest groups, user groups and nonprofits for fundraising and on volunteers for ongoing operation, and a single nonprofit entity is often formed exclusively for fundraising and/or park oversight, city officials added.

If the council supports finishing the master plan process, city staff thinks the first steps would be to reach out to potential nonprofits who might be interested in assuming an operational, maintenance and funding role in the project.

The council's open-session meeting is set to get underway at 7 p.m. Tuesday inside the council chambers at 200 Old Bernal Ave.

In other business

* The council will discuss accepting the midyear 2016-17 operating budget.

In their staff report to the council, city officials recommend reducing revenue estimates by about $1.8 million primarily due to projected decreases in sales tax revenues, building permit fees and delinquent property taxes. They also expect expenditures to be almost $1.6 million under budget, primarily because of salary and benefit savings.

City staff now estimate the city's general fund will end the fiscal year in June with a balance of about $20.7 million, representing a 20% operating reserve.

A key talking point during the budget update will be what to do with $4.5 million paid to the city in October by the developer of the Vintage Village apartment project on Stanley Boulevard where Valley and Bernal avenues connect in lieu of providing affordable housing units in the complex.

The city has placed the full amount in the lower income housing fund for now, but the council in 2014 approved of only requiring just over $1 million to go into the lower income housing fund and putting the rest into a special fund for a yet-undetermined operating or capital project.

Staff recommends the council follow that plan and transfer just over $3.4 million of the fee payment to the capital improvement project reserve to be allocated to eligible projects at a future time.

* The council will consider adopting its two-year work plan, describing its top priorities for 2017 and 2018.

Council members developed its draft work plan during a workshop last week, ending the nearly three-hour meeting with almost 100 projects and initiatives on the list.

The items fell into top priority categories of the Bernal property, General Plan, fiscal sustainability, affordable housing, traffic circulation, economic development, youth programs, public safety, quality of life, environmental awareness, city services and organizational success.

City staff will then take the work plan and develop draft operating and capital improvement program budgets for prioritized projects and initiatives, set to be presented to the council in the spring.

* The council members will present a proclamation declaring this as American Red Cross Month.


Like this comment
Posted by Bill
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Mar 20, 2017 at 11:12 pm

"City officials note that there isn't a best model for maintaining or administering a community farm, with options including land-lease, city operations, use agreements or informal agreements."

Umm, isn't there one already at Val Vista?

FYI, the folks I've spoken to at Val Vista say one needs good subterranean barriers as well as above ground blockades.

3 people like this
Posted by spudly
a resident of Laguna Oaks
on Mar 21, 2017 at 10:07 am

The community farm plan is interesting. Humans have been farming for some time now and I imagine if a resident was simply granted a five foot by ten foot plot of land, they could figure out what to do on their own. If the city could provide a water outlet, the rest might take care of itself.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

GE's re-organization reaches San Ramon digital headquarters
By Tim Hunt | 3 comments | 1,885 views

Sound and Fury over Vile and Slur-ry
By Tom Cushing | 72 comments | 1,127 views

New state housing requirements could affect Pleasanton
By Jeb Bing | 2 comments | 422 views