Around Pleasanton: A new downtown plan is coming, or is it?


A proposed new Pleasanton Downtown Specific Plan due to be voted on this year has run into headwinds.

Critics are questioning the new plan's consideration of a proposal to relocate city buildings at the south end of Main Street, including the public library and police station, to Bernal Community Park, which by some estimates could cost up to $200 million.

Others, citing what they view as the incompatible heights of new buildings downtown, want the new plan to lower the 40-foot height allowance in the current plan, adopted in 2002.

Gerry Beaudin, Pleasanton's director of community development, and city planning manager Ellen Clark fielded questions at a recent Chamber of Commerce committee meeting, which at times were unpredictably negative.

Beaudin responded to critics who said recent tall buildings downtown, such as the one that Starbucks occupies, dwarf the long-preserved historic ones.

He said the new plan retains the 40-foot height allowance on downtown buildings for good reason.

"If you lower the height of buildings allowed downtown, you'll be limiting development opportunities," Beaudin said. "That would create challenges for people to want to invest in our downtown."

He added that while no one expects that a freeway-oriented hotel would want to build downtown, boutique hotels like the Rose or another Starbucks-style commercial building are what investors want to build.

As for the new downtown plan's consideration of the current Civic Center site, Clark and Beaudin said it provides a framework on the kinds of development possible on the current 13-acre site if the city moves forward to build a new Civic Center complex at the Bernal Park.

For starters, a new library would be built on a 27-acre, city-owned site in the park. The existing Civic Center buildings would then be razed with city offices moved into the old library. Private developers would then be offered a chance to bid for the Civic Center properties, which would pay for the new library.

Eventually, a new City Hall, Civic Center, police station and possibly Pleasanton Unified School District administrative offices would move to the Bernal Park complex.

But before any of this could happen, voters would have to approve the plan to move city facilities to Bernal Park.

Like the 40-foot building height allowance, the Civic Center redevelopment project also has its critics. Newly-elected Councilwoman Julie Testa, a frequent participant at Downtown Specific Plan Update Task Force meetings, said the estimated cost of relocating city offices and the library to Bernal is over $200 million.

"Why do we want this?" she asked.

Beaudin pointed out that there's much more to the new specific plan. Its purpose is to guide land development within downtown Pleasanton through the year 2040.

"When we talk about downtown Pleasanton, we usually think of Main Street," Beaudin said. "But it also includes side streets and more. It's a 319-acre area, covering 60 city blocks. There are about 1,270 homes in the area, and they're not to be forgotten in this process."

A key goal of the plan is to preserve the character and development traditions of the downtown and to retain its small-town scale and physical characteristics.

The Downtown Specific Plan draft update is available for review both online at and at the Planning Department counter in the Pleasanton Civic Center, 200 Old Bernal Ave.

Be prepared, though, to spend some time. The draft consists of 138 pages of commentary, two pages of acknowledgments, a five-page list of tables of contents and maps, and 53 pages of appendices.

Editor's note: Jeb Bing is editor emeritus for the Pleasanton Weekly. His "Around Pleasanton" columns typically run on the second and fourth Fridays of every month.

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20 people like this
Posted by 30 yr Pleasanton resident
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 17, 2019 at 7:34 pm

At least they've stopped kidding everyone and finally admitted that real estate runs Pleasanton and downtown is for sale to the highest bidder.

Like this comment
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 17, 2019 at 7:43 pm

Awaits, jk we are going to build a new downtown on the open space on the existing downtown property.

8 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jan 17, 2019 at 8:31 pm

Get the Costco built!
Nothing else is as important!
Once Costco is built, the trickle down will happen!

37 people like this
Posted by Adam
a resident of Happy Valley
on Jan 17, 2019 at 8:37 pm

The cost of the city center is absolutely insane. If the citizens actually knew about it en masse there is no way it would happen.

I have recently been in the city buildings at the south part of main street and they are perfectly fine. They are in much better order than any federal or state facility i have ever been in. You dont need to sit in a brand new palace to responsibly run a city.

We dont need to spend this kind of money on an obnoxious shrine to government. They cant do it with "only" 50 million? They dont need to do it at all.

26 people like this
Posted by AD
a resident of Sycamore Place
on Jan 17, 2019 at 11:04 pm

One of the rare gems in east bay is Pleasanton and its downtown. Can we not monetize the downtown as it is ? It is a rare and unique downtown in the bay area. It doesn't need to do what everyone else has done. And to what purpose? I still don't know what the goals of this initiative are?

23 people like this
Posted by Juanita
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Jan 18, 2019 at 12:31 am

Juanita is a registered user.

I’m not too hopeful a downtown plan will be of benefit. Kudos to those dedicated citizens willing to volunteer time to sit in endless meetings but city government running the show is scary. The new Spring Street building iand recent Peters Ave homes over powers the historic houses around them. And building a new expensive civic center is excessive when existing city hall buildings can be remodeled at a much less taxpayer burden. Now I hear they want a parking garage next to the train station. Wow, can any location farther from downtown shopping and restaurants be picked? I know Pleasanton bureaucrats want something real fancy to match Dublin and Livermore but half of those buildings aren’t used! My confidence is so diminished.

21 people like this
Posted by TAMom
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 18, 2019 at 9:44 am

Thank you Julie Testa! Those of us who question the merits of this plan now have a voice on the council. Perhaps now alternative viewpoints will be heard (and incorporated into) future iterations of the downtown specific plan. I'm glad I voted for you!

16 people like this
Posted by Vinelander
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jan 18, 2019 at 9:53 am

The current city offices are an abomination. Take a walk around and you will see employees are working out of closets. Let's just build the new city offices and library like they do in Livermore and Dublin - without the endless process. Building the "City of Planned Progress" can be ridiculous at times.

3 people like this
Posted by Venkat
a resident of Harvest Park Middle School
on Jan 18, 2019 at 11:06 am

Venkat is a registered user.

Razing down the library? I cant think of it.Why don't the existing downtown is left as is?
Let them 'plan' and 'develop' the vast vacant lands and mountains away from here.

15 people like this
Posted by Tom &Ken
a resident of Country Fair
on Jan 18, 2019 at 11:25 am

Very poor planning...looks like you are putting the carriage in front of the horse. Time to get your ducks in a row!! Too much talk and no action.
Lets do what the people want and expect....keep real estate groups out of the picture! Bill be kinder to the handicapped.

19 people like this
Posted by a concerned citizen
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Jan 18, 2019 at 12:35 pm

The cost of $200M is huge and for what benefit to the existing residents of Pleasanton?
I agree with Juanita about the new Spring Street 3 story condos, behind where the old fish and meat market was. This building is so massive compared to anything around it. How does this enhance the charm of Pleasanton and serve our residents? Does anyone know how this building ever got approved?

5 people like this
Posted by Jose Jimenez
a resident of Castlewood Heights
on Jan 18, 2019 at 1:37 pm

The new downtown plan does not include an area where illegal immigrants may congregate to be hired by Pleasanton residents to do yardwork or other projects around our houses . It is very inconvenient to go to the Home Depot parking lot every time you want to hire an illegal immigrant to do work. The City can build exercise equipment similar to the equipment near the Home Depot parking lot and should also include a bathroom (Or a porta potty).

8 people like this
Posted by Birdie
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Jan 18, 2019 at 2:21 pm

The new city plan should not only accommodate the undocumented workers who are vital to the well-being of Pleasanton residents and appearance of the community, but also budget $$ to provide child support,food, cash, free housing, free daycare, utility assistance, free medical, free public transit pass, free phones, free... Tax free...

15 people like this
Posted by wow
a resident of Deer Oaks/Twelve Oaks
on Jan 18, 2019 at 3:02 pm

So lets get Creative. put the city offices on the lot next to the train tracks. Move the police station to the library. Get rid of the taxpayer day care ummm I mean library. Then raze the entire lot from valley to old bernal and build a three or four story retail below residential above. open air concept space. Set the height limit at main street four stories and walla beautiful modern old fashioned downtown.

18 people like this
Posted by My opinion
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 18, 2019 at 5:14 pm

My opinion is a registered user.

Since the city employees seem to think they need a brand new building, I have a proposal to get one. Let them pay 100% of their pension costs for the rest of their careers, pay 100% of their city paid medical benefits and with the money left over we can discuss fancy new offices. Or they can continue to work in space that is exponentially better than any government buildings that I have been in.

The library is fine as it is. I have been inside hundreds of times, at just about any hour that they are open, and I have never seen it overcrowded other than when used as the day care for after school kids. $200 million for this project is insane. And we all know that if the estimate is $200 million now it will actually end up costing at least 50% more before it is done. Too bad the city isn't trying to add a cheap gas station to the complex, we could get Matt Sullivan on the bandwagon to oppose it to protect the high gas prices of his client.

12 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 19, 2019 at 8:20 pm

BobB is a registered user.

I think the new housing on Spring Street looks great.

I can't believe anyone would prefer Pleasanton's downtown to Livermore's. I think Pleasanton should be looking to Livermore as a something to emulate.

14 people like this
Posted by Map
a resident of Del Prado
on Jan 20, 2019 at 10:51 am

That Spring St. housing looks a lot more hideous than what I remember of the initial drawing of what was being proposed when the developer first presented this idea to the city, what happened?? Can’t wait till the homeowners and their “guest” start parking their cars up and down Main st all hours of the day and night it’s a good thing we don’t have parking police.
Anybody not liking our downtown the way it is now, wishing to bulldoze and bring in stack and pack housing on top of retail spaces need to rethink their priorities, this town is fine just the way it is we don’t need to be another Dublin or Livermore.

13 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jan 20, 2019 at 12:34 pm

BobB is a registered user.

Livermore downtown is so much better than Pleasanton. And please someone do something about that defunct Dean's Cafe eyesore. The sign looks awful.

11 people like this
Posted by Jayala
a resident of Jensen Tract
on Jan 20, 2019 at 4:05 pm

I stopped by a downtown specific meeting a few months ago. The two elected officials on this committee are Mayor Thorne and Council woman Narum. We know they have both been backed by the Chamber of Commerce, builders and PACs in their previous elections, so expect to see more big buildings and stacked housing downtown unless you speak up. Hopefully they will listen.

2 people like this
Posted by Al B.
a resident of Downtown
on Jan 24, 2019 at 10:23 pm

Another specific plan, $200 Mil. for new City offices, move the police station,
raze the library, etc. etc. Really ? Pleasanton City Government loves to spend money unnecessarily, the only benefit I see is that it keeps them employed.
Why is there no conversation about parking, that's the issue that should be faced. The Main Street project was completed in the early nineties, parking was an issue then, and is much worse now.
There is an in lieu parking fee that new businesses pay into, where is that money, isn't that supposed to be used to create parking Downtown.
How about a low profile parking garage where the old Thiesen Sheet Metal Shop was on Railroad Ave. It's not a new idea, it's been talked about for many years, but so far it's just talk.

5 people like this
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Jan 30, 2019 at 3:54 pm

DKHSK is a registered user.

I went downtown last Thursday evening and was struck by how many buildings are vacant. It was a ghost town.

If you want to improve downtown, look towards Livermore. Their city planners of the past really did a great job in developing that area.

And "government workers" wanting to have new digs? Who the hell gave government workers the right to dictate where and what they want to work in?

You work FOR THE CITIZENS of the community. You don't like your building? Move on to another job where you're expected to produce.

8 people like this
Posted by Juanita
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Feb 4, 2019 at 11:26 am

Juanita is a registered user.

A big reason Livermore is successful is because the surrounding residents don’t get to be road blockers or design buildings to their personal specifications. The City of Livermore has expanded its downtown while Pleasanton’s has been restricted to only office and no retail on Peters Avenue. Heaven forbid you buy in downtown and demand to hear nothing, experience no traffic or street parking. If that’s what you want, move to the country where the best restaurant is a Denny’s.
Plus, Livermore’s success comes from having housing that is affordable to young families who like going out and making their downtown vibrant. Our town locks down early and is known as the old, rich people with kids restaurant row. Fine if that’s what we want to remain but go into that realization with eyes wide open.

2 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Feb 15, 2019 at 3:33 pm

David is a registered user.

Kayala, what’s wrong with a new boutique hotel, parking garage, and 2-3 story retail and apartments above? I like the idea of senior apartments. Downtowns have to change to remain vibrant and having all restaurants is not the way to have a true downtown. Don’t fall into the negativity of builders and chamber running things but I would take most of their input on building and local economics and over residents with no experience in these areas other than their own vision of what they want. Especially when most residents don’t stay long and move for jobs or larger new houses elsewhere. I know business owners and chamber members involved in the community who have lived here for 30, 40 and 50 years. How many of our own neighbors can we say the same? .

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