Council to consider approving Sunflower Hill project with financial support

Closing off one entrance to Laurel Creek Drive for traffic calming also on tap

Design rendering for the Sunflower Hill project on (future) Nevada Street includes a two-story, U-shaped apartment building facing a single-story community center. (Image courtesy of city of Pleasanton)

The Pleasanton City Council is set to debate whether to endorse the design for Sunflower Hill's proposed residential community for adults with special needs and sign off on millions of dollars in public financial support for the project Tuesday night.

The Pleasanton-based nonprofit, in partnership with Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA), seeks to construct a two-story apartment building with 31 units, along with a community center, a central courtyard and other amenities, on a vacant parcel adjacent to a new neighborhood planned for the Irby Ranch site just outside downtown.

In addition to pursuing federal and state tax credits for the $19 million project, the proponents are also seeking council support for a $2.25 million loan from the city's lower income housing fund and an allocation of just under $7.2 million of the city's base allocation of Alameda County Measure A1 housing bond funding.

The project designs received unanimous support from the Pleasanton Planning Commission last month, and city officials recommend approval of the development plans and financial terms.

"Staff believes the proposed project is well designed ... in a manner compatible with surrounding residential developments and believes the proposed development merits a favorable recommendation," community development director Gerry Beaudin said in his staff report to the council.

The Sunflower Hill project aims to bring the new residential community for special-needs adults to the Irby Ranch property where Stanley Boulevard turns into First Street.

The main apartment building is two stories, U-shaped around an interior courtyard, with one studio unit, 22 one-bedroom units and eight two-bedroom units -- giving the complex 39 beds in all. An onsite SAHA property manager will live in one of the two-bedroom apartments, and the studio will be occupied by a Sunflower Hill staff member as needed to provide support at the complex.

The complex would feature six rental apartments at 20% of the area median income (AMI), three at 40%, 14 at 50% and six at 60%, assistant city manager Brian Dolan said in his staff report.

A 5,000-square-foot community center is proposed to sit across from the apartment building, complete with a multipurpose room, commercial kitchen, fitness room, craft room and administrative offices. The plans also call for a spa lounge area, bocce court, multi-use lawn, group outdoor seating and a convertible sport court.

Sunflower Hill's concept has been endorsed by city officials, with the special-needs housing proposal serving as a key reason the City Council approved the 87-house neighborhood at Irby Ranch last year -- a development plan that included setting aside 1.64 acres for the future Sunflower Hill project.

That land was technically dedicated to the city for affordable housing, but all parties envisioned the project as a Sunflower Hill development for adults with special needs -- and the Pleasanton-based nonprofit signed an exclusive negotiating rights agreement with the city for the site.

The current proposal would see the city retain ownership of the land and lease it to the Sunflower Hill complex for $1 per year.

SAHA and Sunflower Hill have an agreement in place to form a new company, Sunflower Hill LLC at Irby Ranch, with the two entities serving as 51% (SAHA) to 49% (Sunflower Hill) partners, according to Sunflower Hill board president Susan Houghton.

The full project is estimated to cost $19.2 million, with an initial construction estimate of $13 million, according to Houghton.

The project proponents are asking the city for a $2.25 million loan from its lower income housing fund to support the project, a total that includes $1 million paid by the Irby Ranch neighborhood developer.

"The offering of a loan instead of a grant is often used in doing affordable housing deals because if it was a grant, there are some tax disadvantages for investors in the project," Dolan told the Weekly. "We will only be paid back if the project operates with a surplus, which could happen but often it isn't much."

The proponents also seek to receive an allocation of up to $7,195,844 of the city's base allocation of county housing bond money.

The city has about $7.75 million left over from its $13.7 million allocation after committing $4.6 million for Kottinger Gardens Phase 2 and almost $1.4 million for its share of bond issuance and other administrative costs.

"It's important to note that the city does not have any additional affordable housing projects in the 'pipeline," Houghton told the Weekly.

The council is set to consider approving the project plans and financial support for Sunflower Hill at Irby Ranch as part of its regular meeting Tuesday, scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. inside the council chamber at the Pleasanton Civic Center, 200 Old Bernal Ave.

In other business

* The council will consider whether to permanently close half of Laurel Creek Drive at Dublin Canyon Road after complaints from residents in The Preserve about high speeds and traffic volume from commute drivers cutting through their neighborhood.

The proposal calls for blocking off the southbound side of Laurel Creek Drive at the intersection to prevent drivers from turning from Dublin Canyon Road onto Laurel Creek. Drivers would also not be allowed to turn left from Laurel Creek onto Dublin Canyon.

The half-street closure, which received support from 67% of residents who responded to a petition circulated in the neighborhood last summer, would mean that all traffic wanting to enter The Preserve would need to come in on Foothill Road on the opposite side, according Mike Tassano, the city's deputy director of community development.

The new proposal follows traffic-calming measures implemented in December 2016 -- two radar speed signs and an afternoon weekday turn restriction from Dublin Canyon Road to Laurel Creek Drive -- that hasn't cut down on cut-through traffic and speeding nearly as much as estimated, Tassano said.

So, the Laurel Creek Drive Traffic Calming Steering Committee circulated a petition in the neighborhood last summer, asking residents whether they would support the half-street closure or if they wanted Laurel Creek at Dublin Canyon to be closed completely, according to Tassano. The partial closure received support from 67% of residents who responded.

However at a public neighborhood meeting in December, most of the 30 people in attendance opposed the half-street closure, Tassano said. Some residents there wanted to allow a left turn from Laurel Creek onto Dublin Canyon whereas some others also wanted to allow a left turn from westbound Dublin Canyon.

The council will have the final say when city staff presents their recommendation for the half-closure Tuesday night.

The concept calls for flexible, spring-loaded polyvinyl delineators to be installed to block off southbound Laurel Creek at Dublin Canyon -- which would still allow emergency vehicles to pass over top if needed. Those delineators, plus new striping and signage, would cost an estimated $20,000, Tassano said.

* The council will also consider a seven-item consent calendar Tuesday night, which includes updates to the agreement with the city of Livermore for the joint Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department and a $332,280 contract with Motorola for new police radios and related equipment.

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1 person likes this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Feb 5, 2018 at 11:57 pm

All of these cones and striping make the city look incomplete and ugly.

Surely there must be another way. Why not just post a “Do not enter” sign and remove the median stripe?

I HATE the hatchmarks on Sauterne. (I also don’t like being reminded that this area was known for fraudulent cheap wine trying to knock off Sauternes, with an s)

By the way, does anyone know if they plan on putting the original old truck back at Irby Ranch? It was on the first proposal but I haven’t seen it since.

2 people like this
Posted by Jetson
a resident of Downtown
on Feb 6, 2018 at 9:27 am

Of course the city council is going to approve it because all they want to do is build build build especially in the downtown area. They could care less about keeping any type of historic sites in this city. Not to mention the eye sore this whole development will be for all the people across the arroyo. A nice park would of been great. Oh and the traffic it will add coming down First...yippee!!

6 people like this
Posted by Keeknlinda
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Feb 6, 2018 at 3:33 pm

At the risk of bursting Jetson's bubble, this developments neighbors will be an existing McDonald's, Subway, Chinese restaurant, an auto body repair shop or two, the Valley Humane Society, and Fire Station #1. Not to forget RyNyk tires and other automotive businesses in the area. And an antique shop tucked in.
Irby Ranch as such is long since gone, sad but true. This is not Pleasanton's true downtown, but definitely on the perimeter. I forgot to mention it is directly across First Street from a storage yard.
The nearby intersection of Valley/Bernal and Stanley/First Street has a stoplight, elaborate new bicycle lanes, and is a main route through our city. I'm sad the old days are gone, too, but recognnize all California cities are being pressured to provide lower income housing and lots of it. Currently the area is a dusty field (muddy when the rains come) and an eyesore begging to be gussied up. A park is a lovely idea, but this is hardly a suitable place. To access it from downtown would entail crossing a busy thoroughfare, the main route from Livermore to Pleasanton. I surely wouldn't allow my youngsters to bicycle over to a park in that location.
We can't turn back the clock. The damage was done years ago, so now our officials must make the best of what is here.
If I had my druthers, we would still be a much smaller community, with the horses grazing off Foothill Road, sheep in the pasture off Bernal near the fairgrounds, and lots of other amenities that have vanished. I don't have, so I have to adapt. This has been my home for nearly half a century now, and I'm not planning on leaving anytime soon.
The community to be served by allowing, rather, encouraging it, is one which is deserving of the efforts being put into it. Let's try to embrace the fact our community cares about special needs residents who require a little extra boost, and be glad we have the resources to provide that to them. Let's just take that lemon and turn it into a refreshing lemonade.

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a resident of Avila
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