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.”