Pleasanton planning commissioners indicated support Wednesday for the concept of subdividing three neighboring Augustine Street parcels into six residential lots but said more work needed to be done to bring the development proposal more in line with their design goals for that part of downtown.
The plans submitted by Dale Morris of Valley Brokers call for converting the narrow and deep lots into space for six smaller parcels, expanding the three existing single-story houses at the front properties, adding a trio of two-story houses behind them and creating a driving lane for access back to the new homes.
All four commissioners said they liked the idea of the new lots -- an infill project that increases housing downtown in detached homes, as opposed to apartments -- but they wanted more design improvements to the existing houses at the front and smaller house designs for the new ones at the back.
"Conceptually, I think it's the right direction for us to go," Commissioner David Nagler said during a sparsely attended public workshop Wednesday night at the Pleasanton Civic Center.
"On the front parcels, there are improvements that I would like to see more of," Nagler added. "The buildings in the back, the proposed homes, I believe that while the height is completely appropriate, their mass is not appropriate to the site."
The project site, owned by Frank Abboud, consists of 0.59 acres in all with three smaller single-story houses each with a one-car garage at 4664, 4676 and 4682 Augustine St., located between the downtown business center and the Alameda County Fairgrounds.
The current proposal from Valley Brokers calls for remodeling the 925-square-foot house at 4664 Augustine St. by tearing down the garage and building an addition at the side, a front porch and a two-car garage at the back of the home.
Next-door at 4676 Augustine St., additions would be built on the south and east sides of the 795-square-foot house with no other design changes. And the 1,015-square-foot house at 4682 Augustine St. would have another 43 square feet tacked on to the side with no other design changes.
Those two houses would retain their single-car garages and split a tandem parking area between the properties.
A driving aisle would be added between 4664 and 4676 Augustine St. to give people access to the three homes proposed for the back part of the properties.
As proposed, the three new parcels would be created to accommodate a total of three detached two-story homes -- 2384 square feet, 2,289 square feet and 1,960 square feet, respectively -- with an attached two-car garage each. There would be two guest parking spots in the back area, too.
The proposal would also require rezoning the properties from multi-family residential to planned unit development, high-density residential, as well as removing all eight trees on-site, including two heritage-sized trees.
The subdivision concept, with creating new lots for homes at the back, is similar to a housing project recently completed across the street at Augustine Street and the new Augustine Place.
"This town is in dire need of real estate. These houses are actually being built to rent, not for sale," Morris said, adding that the new houses would likely be valued in the $950,000 to $1 million range. "Trying to bring housing is real important with this project here."
The commission also heard from one resident, a neighbor concerned about privacy in her single-story home if two-story houses are added.
"I don't care about real estate in Pleasanton and how much it is ... I don't care that much about some of those trees that are going to be removed," Mary Jo Kotter said. "I care that those two-story buildings are going to look right down into my living room. I live in an 800-square-foot home; I got nowhere to go."
City associate planner Natalie Amos also walked the commissioners through three alternative projects that could be allowed on the site based on its current land-use designation and residential zoning.
The developer could demolish the three existing houses and build apartments, they could keep the three houses and add attached multi-family housing at the back, or they could retain the three houses and build three new houses at the back smaller than what's proposed, more cottage-styled.
Nagler and Commissioner Nancy Allen said they started out with a "prejudice against" second-story houses behind the smaller homes at the front, but they might be open to a concept at one-story with a loft or tapered two-story approach.
Commissioners Jack Balch and Herb Ritter expressed more support for two-story homes at the back, but said they should be smaller-scale than what is proposed, with Balch noting all three new houses would be well above the maximum floor area ratio allowed in that zoning district.
The commissioners also said they wanted to see more architectural upgrades to the three front houses, especially the two that would go largely untouched design-wise under the current proposal, to bring those houses more in line with the desired character of residences downtown.
Balch said he would rather see all six lots "better balanced" with each other, while also advocating for saving one of the heritage trees pegged for removal.
"I totally agree ... if you don't fix the front houses, what's the good of doing the back ones," Ritter added.
"We have an opportunity with this site to set the right example for how we would like to craft this that could be a model for the many, many other lots that have not come to us yet," Allen said. "I'm very concerned with what I see, and I'm hoping we don't do that in the end. I'm hoping we create a model for what we hope other infill sites will look like."
She and Nagler also expressed disappointment with the results of other infill projects approved within the last eight years for elsewhere on Augustine, projects they noted they had endorsed at the time.
In addition to house size and architecture, the commissioners also asked for crisper design plans, high-quality building and facade materials, and for the developer to seek more neighborhood input about the proposal.
No action was taken during Wednesday night's discussion, scheduled as a workshop for the commission to get an early look at the concept and give the developer and city staff feedback before the application moves forward for final consideration. Commissioner Greg O'Connor and commission alternate Justin Brown were absent from the meeting.
In other business
* The commission voted 4-0 to approve a proposal from Mathew Zaheri to bring a new, 201-stall parking lot for car dealership vehicle display and inventory storage just south of Stoneridge Chrysler-Jeep-Dodge-Ram.
The new parking lot on the north part of a vacant 3.6-acre parcel at 2694 Stoneridge Drive -- part of the auto mall at Staples Ranch at El Charro Road and Interstate 580 -- would serve only Chrysler initially, but it would eventually be shared with a future car dealership, estimated at 14,200 square feet, planned for the southern part of the parcel.
Zaheri's development plan was updated before the meeting to address concerns some commissioners introduced when first reviewing the parking lot plan during a workshop June 28.
The owner now plans to reduce lighting levels during normal business hours and after hours, as well as improve landscaping by adding shrubs around the perimeter, enhancing plantings at the corners of the site and replacing dead or dying plants.
* Commissioners signed off on an application from Crosspoint Church to bring an after-school program for elementary school kids to its church site at 5627 Gibraltar Drive, Suite 100.
As proposed, the new Joyful Kids Club would focus on a variety of activities including language, speech and debate, robotics, sports and fitness, music, baking, homework and character-building.
It would operate from 3-6:30 p.m. Mondays through Fridays during the regular school year with a maximum of 100 students and three to six staff members. A daytime summer program is also in the works.
The commission vote was 3-0, with Balch recusing himself because he owns property within 500 feet of the church site.
* The commission was originally scheduled to talk about a proposed amendment to the Pleasanton Municipal Code to allow for concealed small-cell-wireless systems in the Hacienda Business Park, but that discussion was postponed to Aug. 23.