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Planning Commission OKs new Shengmeng tutoring center

Permits also given to Tri Valley Auto Service, LifeSafer of Northern California

The Pleasanton Planning Commission approved a use permit for the Shengmeng Education Center on Owens Drive last month, tweaking the proposal slightly to try to address parking concerns from another learning center next door.

Shengmeng representative Hong Chen sought a conditional use permit for a tutoring facility for up to 80 students at 6691 Owens Drive, within the Pleasanton Park Business Center at Owens and Johnson drives.

The Shengmeng Education Center, which focuses on after-school and weekend tutoring and longer sessions during school breaks, was the central topic during the Planning Commission's Oct. 24 meeting.

"There were quite a few speakers for the Shengmeng application, with major concerns (from representatives of the neighboring Sun Flower Academy) with respect to parking," city planning manager Ellen Clark said.

The situation began unfolding last December when Chen received city staff approval for a tutoring center with up to 20 students. But in March, Chen came back with a permit application for over 20 students -- which required commission review.

Representatives from the Sun Flower Academy, the next-door tenant in the single-story office building, raised concerns in the summer about the permit application and certain uses already underway at the Shengmeng center, namely about the center's size, overlapping sessions and the shared parking lot, according to city staff.

Chen revised the proposal, and city staff recommended approval in light of the changes and project conditions covering topics such as building layout, vehicle circulation, parking and noise.

After hearing public comment during their meeting last month, the commissioners added a minor change to a parking condition that required Shengmeng officials to encourage parents to use the south and west parking lots, as opposed to the north lot shared with Sun Flower, according to Clark.

The commission unanimously approved the Shengmeng permit without further changes, Clark said.

In other business

* The commission endorsed a request to expand the smog inspection business to a full automotive repair shop at the Shell gas station site on First Street -- located at the intersection of First and Ray Street/Vineyard Avenue, across the street from the Pleasant Plaza shopping center.

The expanded Tri Valley Auto Service will operate at similar levels to the smog check business (about eight cars per day), and all work will be done indoors to minimize noise impacts, according to city officials. Staff also noted there is a code compliance case pending for the property related to landscaping, but they said that problem shouldn't preclude the business expansion.

The project was approved unanimously as part of the commission's consent calendar, a collection of items deemed routine and up for approval without discussion unless pulled for separate consideration.

* Also on consent, the commission signed off on a permit to allow LifeSafer of Northern California to continue operating its service center on the northeast end of Commerce Circle, in a multi-tenant commercial building.

LifeSafer of Northern California is a certified installation and monitoring service center of ignition interlock devices (IIDs), which are placed in vehicles pursuant to a court order or a Department of Motor Vehicles administrative program for license reinstatement.

City staff said the business has been operating without a use permit since 2014 due to a miscommunication between the operator and their landlord regarding necessary city approvals -- an error discovered by the city earlier this year. There have been no known complaints against the businesses during that time.

The business is at 7059 Commerce Circle, Suite J, a site located near -- but not within -- the proposed Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone that is eyed as the home for a new Costco, two hotels and other expanded commercial businesses.

* Oct. 24 marked the first meeting as a regular planning commissioner for Justin Brown, who was elevated from alternate to a full position after David Nagler resigned to move to Sacramento. The city plans to recruit for a new alternate in April, according to Clark.

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