The City Council reversing its decision from last year to approve the Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone would be a smart move.
Filing a stipulation in court last month, city officials stated they plan to present the City Council with a resolution -- most likely in September or October -- to cancel last year's JDEDZ approval so further environmental review can take place.
This would temporarily delay the new Costco store and hotels proposed to move into the JDEDZ area.
Counter-intuitive as it might be, delaying the project now would in all likelihood actually move it forward quicker.
Local resident coalition Pleasanton Citizens for Responsible Growth, spearheaded by former city councilman Matt Sullivan, sued the city in December 2017, challenging the council's environmental impact report (EIR) for the JDEDZ. This move came after the group's failing to collect enough signatures to put a second Costco-related referendum on the ballot.
Some people have criticized rescinding the JDEDZ, saying it is a sign of weak leadership, that the city isn't confident in the EIR results it certified or that the city is "giving in" to pressure from Sullivan and his group.
But this is not weakness, second-guessing or capitulation; it's a strategy, and it's a good one.
By canceling the approval and doing supplemental EIR analysis, complete with a public comment period, the council is expediting the ultimate approval because it will stop the lawsuit from languishing in the court system.
By canceling and agreeing to more analysis now, specifically on the air quality impacts on the Stoneridge Apartments complex across the freeway from the Costco site, the city is being proactive.
"Given the inherent delay associated with litigation involving the California Environmental Quality Act, the city has agreed to set aside the approvals so that supplemental environmental review can take place," city attorney Dan Sodergren said last week.
"Although this project has already been subject to extensive environmental review, the city believes that this is the most effective way to provide the public and public officials with information and allow for reconsideration of the project," Sodergren added. "Costco is in support of this approach and is a signatory to the (court) stipulation."
Work has already been stopped once, between July and November of 2016 pending results of the voter initiative (Measure MM) to limit the size of buildings within the JDEDZ to 50,000 square feet or less. Residents spoke loud and clear when the initiative was defeated by 63% of the voters basically a pro-Costco vote.
Costco is in support of rescinding the JDEDZ now because they want this process to move forward too. In the city's online FAQs on the project, Costco representatives are quoted as stating, "Costco Wholesale is committed to our future Pleasanton location ... We believe this location represents a great opportunity for us to better serve our many members in Pleasanton."
Sodergren said he could not estimate how long the JDEDZ supplemental review would take, but he noted the council took a similar approach when faced with a lawsuit challenging the Staples Ranch development EIR in 2009. That project was approved again after the city completed extra environmental review.
It will more than likely take a few months to complete the additional analysis for the JDEDZ, but who knows how long the legal wrangling would have continued with the lawsuit, with the possibility of having to do this same supplemental EIR work anyway.
At least now the timeline doesn't belong to the court.
Kudos to city staff and the council for recognizing the residents of Pleasanton want the Costco built and for remaining committed to it by formulating the best plan to move it forward.