In a session dominated by discourse on far-reaching topics like plastic pollution, climate change and state housing legislation, perhaps the most noticeable takeaway from the Pleasanton City Council meeting was the neighborhood dispute that wasn't discussed.
City officials originally scheduled a public hearing for Tuesday night for council members to continue their debate over dueling appeals of the Planning Commission's permit conditions for expansion plans of the Chabad Center for Jewish Life on Hopyard Road.
But after the council agenda was posted, the city received a request from Rabbi Raleigh Resnick, spiritual leader of the Chabad of the Tri-Valley, for a short postponement. City officials agreed, and they anticipate the hearing will occur in just over a month.
Resnick told the Weekly that Chabad needed to delay the hearing because their land-use attorney was unavailable Tuesday for medical reasons.
"Considering what we've been through, we need proper legal representation. So we asked for a postponement until our religious, land, and zoning interests can be properly and professionally represented by our legal team," Resnick said in an email.
"(City) staff are still trying to impose restrictions that no other religious organizations are bound by -- unrelated to the impact on the neighbors," he added. "We're just a growing synagogue trying to serve the needs of our 200 families and the Jewish community at large ... not to mention the kids who can't attend our preschool that can't operate yet."
City Manager Nelson Fialho told the council Tuesday night that the city also received a late postponement request from the other appellants, Chabad's backyard neighbors Darlene and Michael Miller.
"We are very agreeable to the postponement in the City Council meeting requested by Chabad," the couple told the Weekly.
"We have heard informally that Chabad is having discussions with St. Clare's (church), and we are happy for Chabad to postpone the council meeting in order to conclude those discussions," they added. "Regarding the appeal, we do not have any updates. We will wait for the date of the next City Council meeting to be announced."
The council supported postponing the Chabad appeals without discussion Tuesday night. Fialho said city officials are working with both parties to schedule a new hearing date, likely for late March or early April.
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 permit conditions endorsed by city planning commissioners June 27 were aimed at finding a balance between the property rights of Chabad and their neighbors, a middle ground that neither group ended up particularly happy with, leading Resnick and the Millers to file separate appeals.
The council held an initial public hearing in August but held off on a final decision after learning of an 11th-hour partial compromise attempt between Chabad officials and the Millers -- a proposal that seemed to be falling apart as the two-hour meeting wrapped up that night.
Since the last hearing on Aug. 21, the city also received a letter from St. Clare's Episcopal Church -- a neighbor who shares a parking lot with Chabad -- raising concerns about parking and trash storage.
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.
In other business
* City staff led an hour-long presentation giving an overview of housing laws and emerging state legislation, the first of two discussions planned at the council level as Pleasanton prepares for potential state responses to the housing shortfall.
The State Legislature has been working in recent years to address causes of the so-called housing crisis, issues such as inequality and lack of opportunity, decreasing affordability, home ownership rates lowest since 1940s, high homelessness, and discrimination and inadequate accommodations, according to Gerry Beaudin, the city's community development director.
"As we get into these changes with state law, we're expecting some of our local control to be limited, and our thorough local processes to be eroded," Beaudin told the council
City officials are tracking new policy and legislative proposals at the regional and state levels that could greatly impact Pleasanton, such as the "CASA Compact," Senate Bill 50 and dozens of other potential state bills, Beaudin said.
He added, "There has been a pretty noticeable lack of focus on impacts associated with additional housing in communities -- things like water, sewer, transportation, schools, libraries, parks. There just hasn't been a lot of mitigation discussed with respect to solving about 30 years or more of housing shortfalls in a really short period of time."
City leaders are working to devise a strategy to advocate for top priorities related to housing regulations and local control.
The five Tri-Valley city councils are set to hold a quarterly meeting next Wednesday to discuss a regional framework for housing advocacy, and the Pleasanton council is expected to confirm its support of the regional framework, along with other Pleasanton-specific additions, during its March 5 meeting.
* Council members heard from more than 20 fourth-graders from Walnut Grove Elementary School lamenting the negative impacts single-use plastics have on the environment and urging the council to enact regulations to reduce plastic pollution in Pleasanton.
This marked the second straight council meeting Walnut Grove fourth-graders turned out in a call to action after the students watched the documentary short film "Straws" by director/producer Linda Booker focusing on the effects plastic waste have on the environment, the oceans and wildlife.
In addition to student speakers and parents in the audience, the council heard from Jackie Nunez, founder of The Last Plastic Straw, a movement aimed at eliminating single-use plastics at the source.
The council couldn't respond to the comments because the issue wasn't listed on Tuesday night's agenda, but Mayor Jerry Thorne suggested the advocates attend the March 12 public workshop when council members will formulate their two-year work plan. Two weeks ago, the council agreed to consider including a potential plastic straw ban among the city's priorities for 2019-2020.
* Also during non-agenda comment, several students from Foothill High School presented a proposed resolution requesting the council endorse a federal "Green New Deal" inspired by legislation recently introduced by Democrat Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
"Local governments calling for the federal government to pass a Green New Deal will demonstrate widespread popular support for necessary and just climate action," the resolution stated in part.
* Another handful of residents -- students and parents from Vintage Hills Elementary School -- also spoke during non-agenda comment, calling on the city to reinstate a crossing guard and implement other traffic safety measures at the Grillo Court crosswalk.
Grillo Court is a main dropoff spot for families next to the campus, and drivers often rush in and out of the court without regard for students crossing the street, resulting in dangerous conditions for the young kids and several close calls recently.
* The council authorized 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 was part of Tuesday's three-item consent calendar.