Around Pleasanton: State housing push revives need for East Side planning

Sale marks the start of acreage on Pleasanton's East Side. With the housing legislation proposals at the state level, it might be time for the city to reignite the specific plan process for the East Side. (Photo by Jeb Bing)

Two years ago, the City Council halted the planning of development on Pleasanton's largely empty 400-acre East Side. Given the state's current determination to force more housing on cities, it might be time to restart that effort so that Pleasanton is ahead of the pack before state mandates hit us again.

The recent legislative session saw more than 130 housing-related bills introduced. A $3 billion affordable housing bond is headed for the November ballot next year.

"In 2018, we're going to see continued pressure from the state for local municipalities to meet housing objectives that are statewide," said Scott Raty, president of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce.

"With the state's continued emphasis on housing, we need to return to a discussion about the East Side before Gov. (Jerry) Brown decides what's the best use of that acreage," Raty said.

Pleasanton offers a good example of what state mandates mean for a city.

Over the last two years, high-density apartment complexes have been built on some of the 70 acres the council rezoned to meet numbers imposed by the state's Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) and requirements by a Superior Court judge and state housing authorities.

That followed a lawsuit the city lost to an Oakland-based affordable housing coalition over a 1996 voter-approved 29,000 housing cap which, the court ruled, discriminated against those who want to live here but can't find affordable housing.

At the same time, the council created the East Pleasanton Specific Plan Task Force to put together a plan for the 400 undeveloped acres that would lock in that property before 2023, when RHNA will issue new housing numbers. An East Side master plan would take the site off RHNA's list of potential sites.

However, pending bills now being considered in the legislature could allow the state and developers to move more aggressively to meet California's housing shortages well before RHNA issues new numbers.

With the state under increasing pressure to streamline the approval process for new construction, some of the legislature's new bills "encourage" more housing with or without city approvals.

Senate Bill 35, introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would require cities to provide their fair share of housing. It would also require, among other provisions, that developers and any subcontractors they use to pay prevailing (union) wages.

"Streamlining the housing development process is an important part of addressing our housing needs," said Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon). "But SB 35 shuts down critical local input on housing and its effects on local communities, and unnecessarily adds to the cost of housing with rigid state mandates."

"Under this bill, even cities in our area like Dublin, which have built considerable housing options, could end up having zero say on whether they must build more housing," she added. "That would mean zero say in how the city must adjust a project to the needs of local schools and traffic and services. That is not the solution to housing bureaucracy and shortages."

Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne agreed.

"The mayors in the 11 largest cities in the state have come out in support of the legislative package," Thorne noted. "Their instinct isn't wrong, but I want to ensure that we maintain individual control at the local level, while we also work collectively to solve our housing challenge."

Thorne wrote a letter of opposition on SB 35, saying though it is intended to streamline the housing approval process, it would have the net effect of "circumventing our current planning process."

"We have been advocating for local control over local land use issues for many years," Thorne said. "That is essential for local communities. But having that autonomy doesn't give us permission to put our heads in the sand and pretend we don't have a housing problem."

"We have all heard time and again how so many of our own children can't afford to live here," he added. "Irrespective of what the governor wants and will likely get, affordable housing is in short supply here in Pleasanton and throughout California."

* Editor's note: Jeb Bing is editor emeritus for the Pleasanton Weekly. His "Around Pleasanton" columns run on the second and fourth Fridays of every month.


40 people like this
Posted by Ellen
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Sep 8, 2017 at 12:25 pm

Please no. The growth is out of control. In some cases, 33 kids are packed in to classrooms built for 20 kids, 580/680 is total gridlock during and beyond commute hours and school neighborhoods are stressed to the max during drop off and pick up times.

The traffic due to the lights near the new development at Stanley and Bernal is terrible and I don't even think those apartments are at full capacity yet are they? This is happening all over town. I'm all for progress and steady growth but we need to calm it down a bit before we burst at the seams. Why are we trying so hard to become Dublin? ;(

29 people like this
Posted by Map
a resident of Del Prado
on Sep 8, 2017 at 2:17 pm

The city council and planning department are herded into the corral like obedient cattle by the developers and it looks like it's almost time for another "roundup"!! Still the same people in charge so can't expect any changes.

37 people like this
Posted by We have a voice!
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2017 at 2:23 pm

We don't have the infrastructure for any more housing, plain and simple! Plus the fact that the majority of these "housing projects" are not low income so our kids still couldn't afford to purchase homes (if you can call them that, more like "boxes"). We are buried under horrendous traffic, our schools are maxed out, we're losing what little open space we have left by building these huge monstrosities, our police and fire departments are over-burdened, and crime is on the increase. Mayor Thorne and our City Council needs to stand up against these thugs that are pushing this horrible housing agenda and listen to the community! We don't want or need anymore high-density housing projects. We still have a voice, don't take it away from us!

10 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 8, 2017 at 2:35 pm

BobB is a registered user.

@"We have a voice" and others,

No matter what is built, there is no way it is going to inexpensive to live in. That is the reality of the Bay Area. If your kids don't make much money, they won't be able to buy or rent here no matter what. The reason it is expensive -- Demand is greater than supply. The way to fix that is to build more.

Crime is not on the increase, that simply isn't true. Statistics are abundant on this. Pleasanton is less crowded than many Peninsula towns, and traffic is only bad right around rush hour and on roads near schools.

Of course Pleasanton isn't like it was 40 years ago, and thank goodness for that. That is called progress. I'm glad builders were able to build the house that I bought and now enjoy.

25 people like this
Posted by Linda
a resident of Birdland
on Sep 8, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Noooooo! Stop the growth as we are bursting at the seams! Been in Pleasanton for 21 years and cannot wait to leave. The growth and overbuilding is unbearable. Schools too full, (I work there and I see it), traffic outrageous and our beautiful scenery is gone. What has happened here over the last 2 decades is a crime.

16 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Sep 8, 2017 at 5:12 pm

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

I'm fine with sustainable growth, I agree infastructure doesnt support it today though. I would think we coukd sue the state for mandating housing increases without making an equivalent investment in the infastructure they are responsible for to support the required growth requirements

3 people like this
Posted by Mongo
a resident of Laguna Oaks
on Sep 11, 2017 at 3:31 pm

Our future housing growth is not being controlled locally, its going to be dictated from Sacramento. Check out a few of the pending bills that are coming our way. Web Link

10 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Sep 11, 2017 at 6:04 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

In the meantime, there is minimal effort to build any new schools, usually a 3-5 year process. Along with this inaction is a group pushing to tear down Lydiksen, push it onto the current play area and back lawn*, and spending $30MM to do it, with very little of this qualifying for state matching funds. A new school could bring in $15MM (half the cost of a school). If we do not act soon, the state funds will be spoken for by other districts.

*Do residents now across the street and facing the lawn and playground at Lydiksen realize the plan is for them to look at the back of school buildings? If we do not speak up, if we do not attend tomorrow's meeting, the decisions will be made by other community members pressuring the board.

16 people like this
Posted by Marcie
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Sep 13, 2017 at 5:43 am

This is beyond frustrating!

Basically, our council and elected officials buried their heads in the sand and sold us out to Sacramento and whatever state mandates ultimately dictate.

The city knew we needed to plan to maintain control of our beautiful city and the area around us, but the city council didn't hold onto the plan!! Karla Brown (A COUNCIL MEMBER) lead an effort against planning the East Side and now we are going to be stuck with "Streamlining the housing development process is an important part of addressing our housing needs."

Congrats. Your refusal to hear discussion and failure to take control (for what? fear of doing the wrong thing?) is foreclosing our option everyday.

"However, pending bills now being considered in the legislature could allow the state and developers to move more aggressively to meet California's housing shortages well before RHNA issues new numbers."

We obviously knew that this was the direction the state was heading.

"That followed a lawsuit the city lost to an Oakland-based affordable housing coalition over a 1996 voter-approved 29,000 housing cap which, the court ruled, discriminated against those who want to live here but can't find affordable housing."

Third parties have successfully forced us to build stack and pack housing when we don't move the ball forward on our own. Now what? Unbelievable.

Like this comment
Posted by Barry
a resident of Danbury Park
on Sep 13, 2017 at 10:25 pm

The poster Kathleen thinks a new school is needed so bad that she wants the East Area developed so more money can be obtained by the district as well as probably a new school site from the developers. Valley Avenue into that vacant area is gridllock already and a new El Charro Road would bring more commute traffic going to San Jose from InterState 580 in addition to the new houses. And more cars going to a new school is ridiculous especially when Amador HS, Harvest Park MS and Alsial Elementary are all within a short distance. The district should effectfully make use of ecisting school facilities instead if building more schools when enrollment levels will fluctuate. If the East Area is planned, please dont put super high density to address all the affordable housing shortages.

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

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