Guest Opinion: Who benefits from proposed costly redevelopment of Civic Center site?


Pleasanton residents should consider carefully the proposed changes to our current Civic Center site, the home of our city hall, library and police station. Benefits to our community are few and at too high a cost in both dollars ($200 million plus public subsidies) and negative impacts (housing, water, school overcrowding, traffic).

There are aspects of the Downtown Specific Plan update process I look forward to seeing implemented, but the agenda for our Civic Center site and Bernal property is alarming.

Today's cost estimate of relocating city offices, police station and library to Bernal is over $200 million.

The Bernal property (vacant land next to the new Bernal sports fields) was protected for citizen amenities in a hard-won negotiation. Currently, the proposed uses of city offices/police station are illegal without a vote of residents to allow a change of land-use. Restrictions were put in place to preserve this land for us; we should not give it up without great benefit to residents.

For a decade, we were told moving the police station was "cost prohibitive"; conveniently, it can now be moved to free up the site for residential development. It is stated there is nothing inadequate about the current 30-year-old police station -- "moving it is a land-use decision" to redevelop the site. Selling the land to developers does not offset the cost of this expensive project that offers little benefit to residents.

The redeveloped site (after razing the current buildings) is marketed as an "Arts & Cultural Square," but instead of a plan filled with citizen amenities and enticements, it is residential/office space. Where we currently enjoy our lovely library with the statue of a family frolicking on the green lawn, could be four stories of mixed-use residential/office complex or a parking garage to support that complex.

A proposed hotel is not a resident amenity, yet it was given the premier location at the entrance to Main Street and will require public subsidies. A proposed theater is a placeholder; it has been determined that demand for another theater is already over-saturated, so it would also require public subsidies.

A crumb is being thrown to residents with the public square, which given the location, seems intended to serve the residential/office complex. The pressure to allow additional housing and increased building height downtown is extreme. The resident response has been a clear no, but the city agenda incorporates housing and increased building height regardless.

City staff stated the "Arts & Cultural Square" is not a plan but an example vision -- "the market will drive the uses on the redeveloped site." Residential holds the highest development value; we're told to be receptive to more residential in order to reduce public subsidies. This means this vision opens the door to even more housing.

This proposal is a tremendous expense to taxpayers: more impact on water, traffic, schools and loss of our protected Bernal property, with benefit to future developers but little benefit to residents. I support an improved library and town square, but they should not be held hostage to so many costly and negative impacts.

Editor's note: A 30-year Pleasanton community advocate, Julie Testa is a former member of the Pleasanton Human Services Commission and has participated on various budget committees and planning task forces.


44 people like this
Posted by Joe
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jan 10, 2018 at 9:13 pm

Great Opinion...I'm unaware of any Pleasantonian who is pro this relocation/redevelopment plan. Other than those on the committees and caoincil, who is complaining about the civic buildings. Sure the developers have their eyes on the land, but that's been part of Pleasanton since the 1970's.

I love the committee... all developers and their cronies. Any poll, worded correctly, would see a resounding NO on redevelopment. However if it is polled by asking Pleasanton residents about having a downtown Culural Arts center it may seem as if it has some support.
But what about the 100+ units of residences so Pleasanton can look like Dublin and Livermore. The same committee will use the old line...nothing to see here, keep moving along cultural arts etc.

18 people like this
Posted by Jennifer
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Jan 10, 2018 at 11:12 pm


It’s pretty insulting to call the committee “cronies” just because you might not agree with them. Why don’t you check yourself and have a little respect for our city’s tireless volunteers.

44 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 10, 2018 at 11:20 pm

Seems like a waste of money.

What problem are we solving through this activity?

55 people like this
Posted by Flightops
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 10, 2018 at 11:28 pm

Flightops is a registered user.

City council and committee “volunteers” need to wake up and smell the coffee, we don’t want or need their ideas that they are trying to shove down our throats !! Good luck trying to get that 200+ million bucks out of the citizens, hopefully they aren’t that gullible to fall for this “smoke and mirrors” razzle dazzle. If modulars and portables are good enough for our kids then they are good enough for our city employees

8 people like this
Posted by West side observer
a resident of Oak Hill
on Jan 11, 2018 at 10:09 am

[removed] Hope the council moves forward. Should have done so 10 years ago when suggested by Bob Cordtz.

16 people like this
Posted by Ndna Jnz
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jan 11, 2018 at 10:32 am

The majority of us here in Pleasanton are educated professionals. Why then is name-calling so prominent in these discussion forums? This is a place for expressing opinions and rebuttals. Let's try and keep it to stating known facts and personal opinions. There should be zero tolerance even for mild name calling like "cronies" and "junk." I suggest we all begin reporting all name calling to the editor as objectionable content. P-town Weekly is a beautiful local newspaper and we should do our best to uphold the standard even in the Town Square opinions section.

48 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jan 11, 2018 at 11:29 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Flightops, “If modulars and portables are good enough for our kids then they are good enough for our city employees” Truly.

28 people like this
Posted by Scott Walsh
a resident of Amador Estates
on Jan 11, 2018 at 12:06 pm

The Chamber and certain donors owns the Council Majority. What Chamber and certain donors want they get. Simple as that. Reality...just follow the money folks.

26 people like this
a resident of West of Foothill
on Jan 11, 2018 at 3:58 pm


29 people like this
Posted by Another fact checker
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Jan 11, 2018 at 6:00 pm

Thank you Julie for the thoughtful and fact based editorial. I too am concerned about the high cost of relocating our city offices, especially on top of the new long term liabilities the city is now grappling with. Am also concerned about relocating city offices further away as it will be less convenient to attend city meetings and visit offices. There must be better and less expensive options to help expand out library.

31 people like this
Posted by another westsider
a resident of Oak Hill
on Jan 11, 2018 at 7:22 pm

I also think the initial proposal is too grand and expensive. I seldom use the Ptown Library because the Dublin Library is just as convenient (for me) with more books, better parking and available to all Alameda county residents and paid for by our taxes. That said, I do like the current library building and find it hard to believe with it's wide front and side lawn areas that it can't be modified or remodeled for either a larger library or "repurposed" for city gov't or police. Thanks Julie for adding your input.

24 people like this
Posted by Nancy
a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on Jan 11, 2018 at 11:26 pm

I'm glad Julie spoke up; I've also been thinking this plan is a waste of money for some time. Was hoping it would offer a retreat for all ages --- a well designed park with flowering vegetation, shade from sun, a stage for evening entertainment ...

10 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Jan 12, 2018 at 10:19 am

David is a registered user.

Wow. Where were all of the rock throwers when the City asked for committee applications to devote time on a volunteer basis to serve? Having volunteered in the past, it is a lot of work and typically a thankless commitment often accompanied by accusations from non -participants. I am concerned about an over-ambitious plan for a new relocated Civic Center and the amount of money which no doubt will be another bond measure vote in the future. I would like to see an alternate plan to upgrade and reconstruct city buildings on the existing property which perhaps a relocated and expanded library/community center nearby on the Bernal land.

2 people like this
Posted by Bella
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Jan 12, 2018 at 10:45 am

Bella is a registered user.

I like the idea of a boutique hotel to anchor the south end of Main Street and I know many residents who have family and friends stay at the Rose Hotel rather than a highway, chain motel/hotel. There are also features of the plan I like but I think the feedback is best made to the commitee members during the public meetings. The existing city hall is a hodge podge no doubt and perhaps could be better assembled and upgraded on that property and still allow for other land uses as part of our downtown experience. Although do we really need to build an over the top civic center elsewhere? I do agree with David that relocating the library only to Bernal along with an active community center (classes, community meeting rooms) would be good.

22 people like this
Posted by Julie Testa
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Jan 12, 2018 at 10:54 am

A final decision, to put the Bernal property land use change on the on the Nov. 2018 ballot, has not yet been made by our City Council. This redevelopment plan is dependent on doing so. The resources for this process would not be expended if it was not the intention to do so.

Send email to:
Also send an email to the Task Force:

You can connect with me at Web Link. I am open to talking with anyone whether we agree or not.

21 people like this
Posted by Julie Testa
a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Jan 12, 2018 at 11:21 am

Rock throwers, more name calling and shaming?

I have attended and participated in the entire process. I wish more residents would attend meetings but no one needs to sit in the room for their input to have value. At the start of the process the comments were to give the process a chance, now the suggestion is it is too late? This community forum gives City Council one more source of feedback. The vote of the people will decide.

16 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 12, 2018 at 2:09 pm

Jack is a registered user.

Fund your pensions, fill those potholes, bring about a modern solution to parking in the Downtown, and then with what is left over, consider building yourselves some new offices...
How's that $45M golf course investment panning out?

18 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Resident
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jan 12, 2018 at 2:55 pm

Council should rethink about relocating, Existing location is convenient to most of the residents, new location is not ideal. Instead of wasting money one relocating, spend on improving schools, etc.

7 people like this
Posted by Paulette
a resident of Val Vista
on Jan 12, 2018 at 8:58 pm

Paulette is a registered user.

I agree with Kathleen about the modulars and portables. I know I'm still waiting for the so called "Field of Dreams." Like Nancy said, we can always use more garden space and just open space for meandering around. I miss going to the ponds that are way behind the Safeway shopping center on Bernal. We use to train our dogs at the ponds back there. Now we can't go in there at all. I don't think what's there is what people of Pleasanton really had in mind when we first voted for the "Field of Dreams" projects. I wasn't thinking of more houses and shopping centers. Now, again, we have a small group of people with grand notions. If you want something grand, build a bigger and better library if you are so stuck on the idea of buildings. We can always use more library space and maybe another safe space for kids while they wait for their parents to pick them up instead of everyone piling over to the small space that exists at the current library.

15 people like this
Posted by Concerned_In_the_Gates
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jan 14, 2018 at 8:21 am

Concerned_In_the_Gates is a registered user.

The city council knows no one will vote for the giant complex, so they piggy-backed on the library commission effort and attached their new city hall/police station to that, thinking people will vote for the bond if it contains the library. As far as I know, there was never an outcry for a new police station/city hall/offices - that came from the city council. There was public support for the a new library, which sadly will probably not get built because of being attached to the civic center idea.

With a $200MM pension liability looming out there and no real way to pay for it identified, I would love to hear the spin on how we can afford $200MM in bonds to pay for this boondoggle.

18 people like this
Posted by Matt Sullivan
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jan 17, 2018 at 11:12 am

Matt Sullivan is a registered user.

Just like Costco, this is another sweetheart deal for developers at the expense of the public. But instead of a $20 million subsidy for Costco, it will be $200 million. People seem willing to pay $20 million for hot dogs and crates of toilet paper, but this will be a much harder sell.

I was involved in the fight against the City of San Francisco in the ‘90’s who wanted to build 2,500 houses on the Bernal Property. Because of the tenacity of Ben Tarver, Tom Pico, and countless other citizens we were able to cut a deal for far fewer houses and hundreds of acres of public land for parks and community amenities. The Specific Plan for the property approved by the voters did not include a new City Hall, library, or police station. Even if this went back to the voters, the city would be in charge of framing the issue, the ballot question, and the terms – including the subsidies. As we saw with Measure MM, the city is less than transparent when it comes to something they want. They would propagandize this in a way to make it appealing to the public.

As a participant in way too many city committees over the years, my judgement based on the membership is that this committee is indeed stacked with Chamber people, developers, and others who would gain in one way or another (campaign contributions?) from the development. But this is nothing new. It’s always the same story: “Nothing is approved yet, let the committee process work”. Next thing you know, it’s “Too late – you should have attended the committee meetings!”. Of course, nobody mentions that the Council made up their minds to support the project long before the committee was formed.

5 people like this
Posted by Wilma
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Jan 19, 2018 at 7:50 am

Wilma is a registered user.

Classic Matt Sullivan Strikes Again in his last post.
First, the continued imagined conspiracies, accusations and insults. Next, claiming himself as our savior. Matt, the San Francisco plan would have still provided and constructed a sports park without City general fund money, and the existing housing of approx 500 not including the stacked units next to Safeway is not an insignificant amount. You did not lead that fight, it was Mayor Hosterman. By the way, how much did that lawsuit and infrastructure installation (versus provided by the developer) cost us? And finally, bashing and insulting citizens who volunteer their time to sit on committees, task forces and commissions as being a dupe of the Chamber or somehow personally benefitting. You have a real nerve and shame on you.

8 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 22, 2018 at 8:26 pm

Jack is a registered user.

The second half of Matt's post above should be required reading for every Pleasanton resident...

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

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