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 www.ptowndtown.org 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.