The Pleasanton City Council threw its support behind plans from the Carpenters Training Committee for Northern California to redesign and expand its apprentice training facility on Santa Rita Road on Tuesday night.
With their unanimous vote, council members endorsed the Planning Commission's recommendation in favor of the carpenters' proposal to move the new building toward the back of the property -- breaking with city planning staff who disapproved of shifting the facility away from the Santa Rita Road frontage.
"While I understand staff's concern or desire to have the building closer to the street, I just see this as very attractive and an improvement over what's there now," Councilwoman Kathy Narum said during the meeting at the Pleasanton Civic Center. "What's being proposed here will be a real enhancement to that area."
The Carpenters Training Committee seeks to replace its 1980s-era, single-story training building at 2350 Santa Rita Road with a modern, two-story facility at the back of the property about 225 feet away from Santa Rita, whereas the current training center is much closer to the street.
According to the carpenters, shifting the location of the new facility would allow them to keep the old training center open for classes during construction -- the only way to make their expansion feasible financially, and keep their school in Pleasanton.
The carpenters also want to relocate their outdoor training and storage yard within the 8.13-acre property near the southern intersection of the Iron Horse Regional Trail and Santa Rita.
But it was their desired building location that caused a split between city staff and the Planning Commission as the project proposal went through several iterations during the past year.
City officials said that while they supported the expansion concept and proposed architecture, they found the building location inconsistent with the city's long-term vision for that stretch of Santa Rita Road, where they prefer to see office and commercial buildings right up along Santa Rita frontage and parking in back or to the side.
In staff's view, the site design and building location appeared undesirable and incompatible with development in the area and inconsistent with the General Plan, according to planning manager Ellen Clark.
The Planning Commission took a different stance earlier this year, concluding the carpenters' latest plans represented a good compromise of priorities because of design elements to minimize the visual impacts and inconsistencies with the neighborhood as a result of having the building more set-back, including landscaping, decorative stone walls, weathered steel screening panels and an art piece.
Commissioners voted 5-0 April 25 to endorse the project and recommend the council approve it.
Nearly two-dozen union carpenters, apprentices and training facility staff were on hand in the council chamber Tuesday night in a show of support for the expansion plans.
"This will be our premier and flagship facility," said Bob Alvarado, executive director of the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council.
"The teachers there are invaluable ... They show us skills and productive ways to finish our work and do our duties," said Daniel Neely, a student in the training program. "I think the new school is a fantastic idea because we don't want to be left behind. There are a lot of technological advancements, new tools that come out, industry standards and different codes that are changing all the time."
Instructor Tony Hernandez said, "There's a lot of opportunity there, and that's what this school provides. It not only provides training, but it also provides opportunities for these students in the local community to go ahead and get out there and earn a good living and continue their education."
And when asked by Councilwoman Karla Brown, Hernandez added, "Yes ma'am, union carpenters will build this building. Absolutely."
The council was united in its support of the proposed site design and building location, as well as the school's presence in Pleasanton and the union's record of accepting military veterans and students seeking a career path after high school.
"As much as we have a fairly affluent community, I'm sure we have students who come out of our schools and need your particular services. So keeping you in Pleasanton is foremost," Councilman Jerry Pentin said. "And the work you do with veterans, I just have to say with three veterans up here on the dais, we do appreciate what you're doing for them."
"I really like this layout," Vice Mayor Arne Olson added. "And I want to thank and congratulate the Planning Commission for weighing in on this, getting through this and not backing off and saying, 'Well, let the City Council do it.' I'm glad our Planning Commission came in 5-0 on this."
The council's 5-0 vote Tuesday night introduced the proposed ordinance that would approve the carpenters' development request. The ordinance is due to return to the council next month for final adoption -- a required two-meeting process.