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Council to talk Valley Link concept, Zone 7 rate hikes; Chabad hearing postponed

Business anniversary recognitions, Bullying Prevention Month also on tap

The Pleasanton City Council is set to discuss taking positions on the Valley Link commuter rail system and proposed rate increases from the Zone 7 Water Agency on Tuesday, but the hearing on the Chabad Center for Jewish Life -- the night's most-anticipated debate -- has been postponed.

The decision to reschedule the hearing came late last week at the request of Rabbi Raleigh Resnick, spiritual leader of the Chabad of the Tri-Valley, according to city officials. A new hearing date has not been confirmed yet.

That leaves council members with still plenty of business to talk about during their regular meeting Tuesday.

First on the council's public discussion list is a presentation from the Tri-Valley/San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority about its concept to expand public transit service east via a commuter light rail system between the Dublin-Pleasanton BART stop and the North Lathrop ACE Train station.

The Valley Link project, still in the early design stage, centers on multiple-unit trains that utilize self-propelled cars with a hybrid engine traveling along primarily Alameda County right-of-way to the county line in the Interstate 580 median, the former Southern Pacific Railroad corridor over the Altamont Pass and in or near the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way in San Joaquin Valley.

The regional rail authority directors voted to confirm the estimated $1.8 billion commuter light rail system as their preferred concept in July, almost two months after the BART Board of Directors opted against expanding BART service beyond Dublin-Pleasanton into Livermore.

That move left the ball in the court of the new authority, whose sole task is finding an effective way to connect BART to ACE. Made up of elected leaders from the Tri-Valley and San Joaquin County, the authority board must complete a feasibility study and environmental review for its preferred project option by July 1.

The city of Pleasanton's official policy position to this point has been in favor of extending conventional BART rail service into Livermore, but with the BART board balking, city staff is recommending a resolution Tuesday for the council to express explicit support of the Valley Link commuter light rail concept.

The open-session council meeting is set to begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the council chambers at the Pleasanton Civic Center, 200 Old Bernal Ave.

In other business

* The council will talk about Zone 7's water supply and proposed wholesale water rate increases -- a day before the Zone 7 board is set to consider adopting new water rates.

Zone 7 is the potable water wholesaler for southern Tri-Valley water service providers, including the city of Pleasanton, and the cost of purchasing Zone 7 water is passed through to residential and commercial customers via local providers.

Zone 7, which is a separate public agency with its own elected board, held a series of public meetings this summer on its water rates, with the goal of adopting new water rates for 2019-22 this month.

Agency staff released its formal recommendation in recent days, with the Zone 7 board scheduled to vote Wednesday night in Livermore. Zone 7 General Manager Valarie Pryor is expected to lead the presentation to the Pleasanton City Council on Tuesday night.

City officials, however, argue there should be more time for water providers and residents to review the latest Zone 7 proposal. The City Council will consider a resolution Tuesday urging Zone 7 to delay its vote.

The proposed four-part resolution also calls on Zone 7 to rely on issuing bonds to help pay for major capital projects, to reorganize its reserves and fund replenishment of those reserves by net revenues (surpluses) instead of by raising rates, and to continue facilitating opportunities for public comment on matters related to water rates.

* Though the council had been scheduled to continue its Chabad Center for Jewish Life permit hearing Tuesday night, Rabbi Resnick in recent days asked for a postponement. City staff said a new hearing date will be announced soon.

The City Council is weighing in on the neighborhood dispute after the Chabad and their backyard neighbors Darlene and Michael Miller each appealed the Planning Commission's earlier approval of the Jewish congregation’s request to expand its religious activities while also offering a preschool and hosting outdoor events at its property at 3370 Hopyard Road -- a site previously hampered by noise and rowdiness problems when it served as the Pleasanton Masons’ lodge.

The commission on June 27 endorsed permit conditions aimed at finding a balance between the property rights of both sides -- a middle ground that neither group appeared particularly happy with.

The council held an initial, nearly two-hour hearing on the appeals in August but held off on a final decision after learning of an 11th-hour partial compromise between Chabad leadership and the Millers.

City staff wanted more time to review the proposal, plus the two sides seemed to be drifting away from potential compromise as that Aug. 21 hearing played out.

The status of that deal, as well as city staff's recommendation on the Chabad project at this point, remain unknown.

* Council members will present a proclamation declaring October as National Bullying Prevention Month and Oct. 24 as Unity Day.

* They will also host a ceremony recognizing local businesses for reaching milestone anniversaries.

* In closed session at 6:30 p.m., before the open-session meeting, the council will consult with legal counsel about a pending workers' compensation case.

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