UPDATE: Pleasanton council set to delay hearing on Chabad Center appeals

Also: State housing legislation, JDEDZ consultant costs and students to push ‘Green New Deal’

The Pleasanton City Council is expected to postpone its public hearing on project plans for the Chabad Center for Jewish Life after one of the appellants asked that the meeting originally scheduled for Tuesday night be instead pushed out to next month.

City Manager Nelson Fialho confirmed late Monday afternoon that Rabbi Raleigh Resnick, spiritual leader for Chabad of the Tri-Valley, requested a continuance -- which occurred after the hearing was included in Tuesday’s council agenda.

This marks the second continuance request from the rabbi in the nearly six months since the council’s last public hearing on dueling appeals regarding expanded use of the Chabad’s religious center on Hopyard Road.

The full hearing is now expected to take place in March, though a date has not been confirmed.

The Chabad seeks permission to expand its religious activities while also offering a preschool and hosting outdoor events at property the Jewish organization bought in 2017 -- a land-use proposal that drew concerns from neighbors who faced noise and rowdiness problems with the site when it was the Pleasanton Masonic Lodge.

The project has placed the city in the middle of the neighborhood dispute, as Rabbi Raleigh Resnick, the Chabad’s spiritual leader, and backyard neighbors Darlene and Michael Miller each separately appealed the permit conditions approved by the Planning Commission in June.

After months of discussion and review among the stakeholders and Pleasanton planning staff since that Aug. 21 council hearing, city officials were ready to recommend the council deny both appeals and uphold the commission’s project approval on Tuesday night.

“Staff believes the Planning Commission action to approve the project with modified conditions is appropriate,” community development director Gerry Beaudin wrote in his staff report to the council.

“Adherence to these conditions will ensure that the safety and general welfare of the surrounding area is maintain,” Beaudin added. “Staff believes the proposed uses and site modifications would provide a service to the community and that the proposed location is appropriate, and therefore recommends the City Council deny both of the appeals.”

The permit conditions endorsed by city planning commissioners June 27 were aimed at finding a balance between the property rights of both sides -- a middle ground that neither group ended up particularly happy with.

Resnick, in his appeal on behalf of the Chabad, said some of the commission's permit conditions violated the organization's rights for their property at 3370 Hopyard Road under the federal Religious Land Use & Institutionalized Persons Act.

Those provisions included limitations on outdoor events to 15 per year, the number of people at the Chabad Center inside or out to 120 at any time, how the back patio could be used and how often preschool kids could play outside -- as well as a stipulation requiring all windows and doors to remain closed while the building is in use.

The Millers, in their appeal, argued the commissioners did not adequately analyze noise impacts from the preschool and outdoor events, nor should they have allowed non-religious outdoor events or override the council's prior restrictions when the site was Masons-owned.

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

But the two sides seemed to be drifting away from potential compromise as the Aug. 21 council hearing played out, and after city staff requested more time to review the new proposal, the council postponed a decision for a future hearing date. Originally set for September, that new hearing was delayed at Rabbi Resnick’s request into the new year.

The status of that partial compromise remains unclear, though Beaudin’s staff report seems to imply it’s largely off the table.

Beaudin said the two appellants still have concerns with various permit conditions, divided among six categories: maximum occupancy of the facility; number, size, frequency and location of large outdoor activities; size and location of small outdoor gatherings; amplification at outdoor events; operation and design of the preschool playground; and use of the patio “buffer area.”

City officials mainly recommend the council adhere to the commission’s conditions and deny the appellants’ requests, other than supporting the second patio area both sides introduced in the partial compromise and allowing the Chabad to apply for a permit to have events with 250 people maximum up to five times per year.

Since the last hearing in August, the city also received a letter St. Clare’s Episcopal Church -- a neighbor who shares a parking lot with Chabad -- raising concerns about parking and trash storage.

Church officials contended the Chabad’s outdoor patio and playground proposal would reduce space available to accommodate the nine extra parking spots needed if St. Clare’s carries out its master expansion plan that the city approved in 2005, Beaudin said.

So, city officials suggest adding a condition to the Chabad Center permit requiring Chabad and St. Clare’s representatives ink an agreement to allow shared parking on part of that land identified in city plans for future St. Clare’s parking.

They also support St. Clare’s request that Chabad create its own trash enclosure, rather than share the church’s, due to space constraints from forthcoming recycling regulations.

In the end, whenever the matter does return for public hearing, council members could uphold the Planning Commission’s approval with staff modifications (as recommended by staff) or they could add or subtract any other provisions as part of denying both appeals.

They could also uphold one or both appeals and deny the project, which would require Chabad to file a new permit application, or they could delay a decision and refer the matter back to the Planning Commission for further deliberations.

Though the Chabad hearing is delayed, the council still has other business on the docket for its regular meeting Tuesday, set to begin at 7 p.m. inside the council chambers at the Pleasanton Civic Center, 200 Old Bernal Ave.

In other business

* City staff and the council will hold a review and discussion of housing laws and emerging state legislation.

* The council will consider authorizing an additional $100,000 maximum to the budget for consultant work related to updating the environmental impact report for the Johnson Drive Economic Development -- the area eyed for rezoning to allow Costco, two hotels and other commercial uses. The contract amendment is part of a four-item consent calendar.

* Representatives of a Foothill High School student group have told the Weekly that they, in partnership with iMatter and the Sunrise Movement, will attend the council meeting and urge the city to endorse federal legislation for a “Green New Deal.”

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4 people like this
Posted by Free The Masons
a resident of Birdland
on Feb 19, 2019 at 10:04 am

It seems like our years of Masonic debauchery has cast a shadow on all that follows.

14 people like this
Posted by Mary
a resident of Country Fair
on Feb 19, 2019 at 3:28 pm

As usual, NIMBY is at work. Did the Millers really buy property next to this alternate use property and think it should be run like a 2000 sf residential home? I’d be proud to have these neighbors and would respect the fact that I purchased my little piece of heaven with surrounding businesses present. Years ago I owned a home under the south bound flight path of Dulles International Airport. The Concord flew by twice a week. But I had the intelligence to know that I couldn’t expect to meet with the airport authority or FAA and try to negotiate some agreement over how and when they should fly in that airspace.

It’s simply absurd .
Get over it and be neighborly.
Or move.

6 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Feb 19, 2019 at 6:31 pm

David is a registered user.

Nice of the City to try to find a balanced solution but this is now ridiculous as far as Staff time, taxpayers expenses for all that time writing reports and having meetings and just plain dragging it out so everyone is so unsettled.
I would think Hopyard Road traffic noise alone would be more of an impact to the opposing resident. Besides, who would monitor all of those restrictions? The door and window police? The pre-school police? The code enforcement team who will undoubtedly be called regularly every time there is a wedding, religious celebration or special event? And if the code enforement officer has a day off, taxpayers spend more to have our police officers investigate.
Despite good intentions, the policy and rule makers have become mired and can’t see the forest through the trees.
Approve the Chabad with reasonable but common sense regulations with minimal restrictions. Otherwise, the City should build a police sub-station nearby to deal with constant complaints.
Hint, the resident next door must be holding out for something to improve their property and then sell. Who would otherwise go through this parade of absurdity

7 people like this
Posted by John
a resident of Sycamore Heights
on Feb 21, 2019 at 11:12 am

Haha what a joke. Because Hopyard road is not a heavily used road, and not loud at all.. right. It would be nice for the area to receive a facelift that these new plans would allow for. Speaking for myself, I would much rather enjoy seeing a remodeled building/facility rather than what is currently there.

Also, noise complaint from the preschool and/or events. How loud can preschoolers really be with all doors and windows closed while in use along with limited access to recess. On top of this, noise from events would be limited due to having events only during designated days/times. Seems reasonable that an event can take place between city noise ordinance time period.

Seems there is more to this than a noise issue. I sense it has to do more with who/what organization is requesting the expansion rather than the actual noise issue.. which is sad because it's merely an ask to expand community involvement capabilities, and adding more space for those to come together with good intentions.

2 people like this
Posted by My opinion
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 24, 2019 at 1:21 pm

My opinion is a registered user.

There would likely be no real opposition if this rabbi had not been such a loud, obnoxious and inconsiderate neighbor at his previous home. This was well documented by many former neighbors who are all greatly relieved to have him gone from the neighborhood.

It seems that if the City was ready to proceed and he keeps postponing it he should be held accountable for all of the costs to the city.

Since he wants it to also be a day care facility does anyone know if he has bothered to bring the property up to code? A previous report indicated that he was doing construction without permits and attempting to coerce the city into allowing the day care use without proper safety items.

1 person likes this
Posted by David
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Feb 27, 2019 at 8:29 pm

We go to another synogue in Pleasanton. There is too much conflict surrounding this rabbi, chabad activities and the neighbors. Many neighbors have also protested several church expansions in the past as well.

Like this comment
Posted by Jane storey
a resident of Birdland
on Mar 2, 2019 at 7:22 pm

I'm told he really wants to build a residence there. Tax break????

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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