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.