The Pleasanton City Council gave the green light Tuesday to continue planning efforts toward bringing a community farm to sections of the Bernal property on both sides of Interstate 680.
The council supported staff’s recommendation to move forward with a crops-only farm concept — without a livestock component — and approved a $69,762 contract with Walnut Creek-based MD Fotheringham Landscape Architects to complete the Bernal Property Community Farm Master Plan.
“I think this is a great idea,” Councilwoman Kathy Narum said Tuesday night in the council chambers.
“I would hope that through this orchard, we can show our children that food doesn’t come from the local grocery store, and where it does come from. And more importantly, what all is involved to grow it and harvest it and transport it,” Narum added.
A community farm at the Bernal property has been on city officials’ radar for years.
The 2006 voter-approved Bernal Property Phase II Specific Plan included two sections of land set aside to be used in part for possible community farming and agriculture, according to assistant city manager Brian Dolan.
The parcels -- at 13 acres and 16 acres, respectively -- 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, with the Marilyn Murphy Kane Trail passing through them.
The City Council made developing the community farm master plan a priority in its 2015-2016 work plan, though at that time the concept included a livestock-raising component.
Dolan recommended moving forward Tuesday without livestock in the plans since local 4-H Club members now have an agreement with the Alameda County Fairgrounds for access to a planned new barn there.
“I’m very glad to see the animals go, and I think that would have been a major issue for the neighbors,” Mayor Jerry Thorne said.
The council agreed with city staff that the focus should shift to crop-tending uses only, such as orchards, vineyards and gardens. The site could also house a small classroom building for lessons and other meetings, along with restrooms, according to Dolan.
During public comment Tuesday, the council heard from three master gardeners who urged the city to include a University of California Master Gardener Program of Alameda County demonstration garden in the community farm.
Two residents, whose homes back up to the parcel west of I-680, voiced opposition to a community farm there, citing concerns such as home security, parking, disrupting trail use and negative impact to property values.
Council members reiterated to the speakers that the city is still early in its community farm planning effort and encouraged them to remain active in the public planning process.
“We will definitely take sensitivity,” Councilwoman Karla Brown said to the residents in attendance. “Please be involved, stay involved, give your feedback.”
The council voted 4-0 to continue the planning process, with Vice Mayor Jerry Pentin absent.
City staff and the consultant firm expect to take about seven months to complete the draft master plan, Dolan said. Key aspects include creating a schematic plan and analyzing options for operation and maintenance, among other variables.
Successful community farms usually 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, Dolan added.
After council approval, the first steps will be to reach out to potential nonprofits who might be interested in assuming an operational, maintenance and funding role in the project, according to Dolan.