The Pleasanton City Council threw its support Tuesday behind regional officials' initial concept of creating a commuter light rail system, dubbed Valley Link, to extend public transit service east between the Dublin-Pleasanton BART stop and the North Lathrop ACE Train station.
The council vote confirmed a departure from the city's prior policy position of advocating an extension of conventional BART rail service into Livermore -- but a move that also reflected the current reality of Valley Link being the region's preferred option in the wake of BART opting in May against expanding its service in the Tri-Valley.
"It is something different than what the council supported originally, but since that time, the BART board has decided not to pursue BART to Isabel, so this is a completely different environment we're in now," Mayor Jerry Thorne said Tuesday night.
Thorne, who represents Pleasanton on the new Tri-Valley/San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority, asked the authority's staff to give a presentation to the full council and city residents about the Valley Link project, which is still in the early design stage.
The concept 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 Valley Link concept by next summer with the goal of having project adoption by July 1.
Council members generally spoke in favor of the commuter light rail idea, but some said they would want the authority to consider an early phase one from Dublin-Pleasanton out to Greenville Road in Livermore if public funding for the San Joaquin Valley portions were delayed -- with about $600 million of Alameda County funding is already earmarked for the project.
Earlier this month, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission awarded the rail authority $10.1 million in new funding to complete the environmental review and initial design work.
"We have to start somewhere, and I think this is the start we need," Councilman Jerry Pentin said of Valley Link before the council unanimously approved the resolution expressing explicit support of the Valley Link commuter light rail concept.
In other business
* Though the council had been scheduled to continue with its Chabad Center for Jewish Life permit hearing Tuesday night, Rabbi Raleigh Resnick in recent days asked for a postponement. City staff said a new hearing date will be announced soon.
"Unfortunately, some technical and incremental issues just came up that we want to have all mapped out before we go before the council," Resnick, spiritual leader of the Chabad of the Tri-Valley, told the Weekly. "We presume they will be worked out shortly and expect to be back in front of the City Council in the immediate future."
The 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 unanimously adopted a resolution urging the Zone 7 Water Agency, which sells potable water wholesale to Tri-Valley water providers like the city of Pleasanton, to delay its consideration of new water rates to allow for more time for city staff and the public at large to review the agency's final proposal.
The Zone 7 board was scheduled to consider a final vote on new water rates at its meeting Wednesday night. Go to PleasantonWeekly.com to see coverage of the Zone 7 meeting and look for it in next Friday's paper.
* The council was set to consider approval of restriping Stoneridge Drive over the Arroyo Mocho Bridge to create four travel lanes, as originally envisioned, but the matter was delayed for two weeks for more public review at Councilwoman Karla Brown's request.
The bridge was built for four lanes (plus bike lanes) as part of the Stoneridge Drive extension on the northeast side in 2013, with a condition that the road on and near the bridge would be limited to one lane each direction initially but could be expanded to two lanes each way some time in the future.
City staff thinks now is that appropriate time, after analyzing traffic volume, speed and crash data. About 20 Stoneridge Creek senior living community residents also attended the council meeting to express strong support for the four-lane plan for safety and traffic relief reasons.
But Brown said she was concerned key stakeholders in the Staples Ranch Specific Plan debate from the early 2010s were not properly notified of the council's hearing Tuesday night, so she requested the item be put over. The matter is scheduled to return to the council for final deliberations at the next meeting, on Election Night.
* Council members hosted a ceremony recognizing local businesses for reaching milestone anniversaries. They also presented a proclamation declaring October as National Bullying Prevention Month and Oct. 24 as Unity Day.