Commission endorses east side, housing policy, Merritt property for city's priority list | News | |


Commission endorses east side, housing policy, Merritt property for city's priority list

Also: Initial review of Stoneridge Mall renovations, supporting Trails Master Plan

The Pleasanton Planning Commission has recommended five land-use and planning topics for the city's two-year work plan, urging the City Council to feature those programs in the final list when confirmed in the weeks ahead.

Though their priorities include familiar hot topics like local housing policies and the East Pleasanton Specific Plan, the majority of public comment during the commission's nearly two-hour discussion Feb. 27 focused on whether to add the new development proposal for the Merritt property on Foothill Road to their priority list.

After hearing from more than a dozen residents on all sides of the Merritt debate (in favor, against and undecided), the commission ultimately selected the project as its fifth, but lowest-ranked, priority.

Introduced only in concept, with no formal application submitted yet, the latest proposal for the Merritt property calls for constructing a new neighborhood age-restricted for seniors only on the undeveloped acreage on the east side of Foothill Road, south of Muirwood Drive.

Commissioners and city staff were careful to clarify that featuring the Merritt property (or any project) on the priority list wasn't an endorsement of the proposal, but rather an acknowledgment of the importance of allocating city resources to manage the application amid full public review.

The Merritt application would require extra staff time and public review because of aspects such as annexation, Foothill Road renovations and neighborhood design.

The council and city administrators use the priority work plan to guide their budgeting and staffing decisions for each two-year cycle.

Like all city commissions, the planning commissioners were given the chance to make priority recommendations to the council -- and they got the highest count, five maximum.

As the clock approached 11 p.m. Feb. 27, the Planning Commission came to consensus on its list of five, ranked in order starting with most important:

1. Comprehensive housing legislative review, and city policy and regulations update.

2. Monitor and coordinate city's response to the Committee to House the Bay Area's "CASA Compact."

3. Restart work on the East Pleasanton Specific Plan.

4. Stoneridge Shopping Center area planning framework.

5. Merritt property.

The draft work plan from city staff also includes three planning-related council priorities carried over from the 2017-2018 plan: Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone, updating the Downtown Specific Plan and the Lester property development application.

Topics the Planning Commission considered but did not prioritize were the Alameda County Fairgrounds hotel and amphitheater project review, a "big picture" housing strategy, updating the city's rules for public notification and visual renderings on projects, and a proposal to redevelop the Signature Center office park on Hopyard Road into a mixed-use site with housing, offices and a park.

The City Council is scheduled to review the full list of priority recommendations, and hear input from the public, during a workshop next Tuesday (March 12) before voting on the finalized work plan by mid-April.

In other business

* The commission gave mostly positive feedback about initial plans from Simon Property Group to demolish the now-vacant Sears building and parking garage it owns at Stoneridge Shopping Center and replace them with a movie theater, grocery store, a lifestyle health club, an outdoor courtyard, and new retail and restaurants.

Other key components of Simon's proposal include adding back only 78 street-level parking spaces -- resulting in a net reduction of 1,251 spots at the mall, with the loss of the Sears garage -- as well as closing off six of the nine driveway openings onto Stoneridge Mall Road.

Commissioners generally liked the concept, but urged some fine-tuning with regard to architectural elements, traffic circulation and parking.

The discussion was a public workshop for initial review of the plans, with the application due back for full hearing and final consideration later this year.

* The commission endorsed the final draft of the updated Trails Master Plan, recommending its approval to the council.

The updated plan, which has been in the works for a year and a half, focuses policies and long-range planning for the city's off-street trails network.

A handful of residents and mountain bike enthusiasts turned out to the meeting to urge the city to give higher priority to a project to create a separate, narrow mountain bike trail at Augustin Bernal Community Park.

LaVerne Spotorno, whose family owns the Spotorno tract long debated for future development, also spoke, calling on the city to add verbiage to the Trails Master Plan to clearly state that private property eyed for possible future trails is off-limits to the public: "Until future trails are analyzed, approved and built, no public access is implied or allowed."

Commissioners were supportive of making that distinction in the document, but staff wanted time to review verbiage options with the city attorney. Any change would come forward in the final plan brought to the council.

* The commission approved applications from the city to change the land-use designation (to public) and the zoning (to public and institutional) for the property at 4363 and 4377 First St., a commercial site the city acquired Jan. 31 for around $2 million, adjacent to Lions Wayside Park and the Firehouse Arts Center.

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4 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Mar 5, 2019 at 8:03 pm

It was about a dozen or more years ago that voters turned down the Walnut farm development. It now looks like it is called the Merritt property.

That previous proposal turned down by the voters also included enhanced Foothill Road improvements along with other enhancements.

This proposal would also make Edgewood Way a through road into the Walnut Farm (Merritt Property) from Muirwood Drive South which I oppose.

Foothill Highschool traffic is already horandous two hours every day. This development would add to that horandous traffic.

Why does it take a development to improve Foothill Road?
Why dosen't the city or county just improve the Foorhill Road without all the BS?

17 people like this
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Mar 5, 2019 at 8:21 pm

Pleasanton Parent is a registered user.

Because they used our property taxes to pay for pensions and use developer fees for improvements our taxes are supposed to cover

23 people like this
Posted by CWM
a resident of Stoneridge
on Mar 6, 2019 at 10:13 am

It is called The Merritt Property because it is the land owners name who were here long before any of us and I’ve been here 50 years. The property was always designed for residential housing in the general plan since Foothill Farms was developed in the 1960’s. Fernwood and Eastwood are called “Ways” and not “Courts” since they were designed to provide access to the Merritt property off of Muirwood Dr. and as each deadends into the property. It is the Johnny come lately selfish people that say “I have mine, screw everyone else” that is trying to dictate housing policy. When people moved into the Foothill Farms neighborhood it was not a secret that the Merritt property was to be developed into a residential neighborhood. In fact there are already two infill projects in that particular area, the homes on the north side of Muirwood Dr across from the original Foothill Farms as well most of the homes from Lemonwood to W. Las Positas. Just think, if the people from the 70 & 80’s were as selfish as the people today you may not have a nice home to live in.

6 people like this
Posted by Frankie
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Mar 6, 2019 at 6:14 pm

Frankie is a registered user.

That property was a walnut orchard in ancient times. One way to improve Foothill other than building on this property is to finally extend the dead end little streets from the two areas touching the property so kids can walk and bike and yes drive to school with an alternative to the busy Foothill. Residents always protest extending streets when they move in even though it’s been planned long before and they were given disclosures. That is what is screwing up traffic flow by putting all cars on a few big streets.
Senior for sale homes makes sense because retirees don’t drive at commute times or crowd other neighbors dropping off and picking up kids.

2 people like this
Posted by Kristin
a resident of Verona
on Mar 7, 2019 at 3:47 pm

The way I see this, after 20+ years the Merritt property owners are emerging with new found concern for their Foothill neighbors. Their concern is holding their safety hostage and dangling a carrot of new development, or they won't budge with a safer bike and walking path on Foothill.

I hope city leaders are not so gullible to fall for this. If the Merritt family cared about their neighbors or about their safety, they would open up the pathways and work on the property development separately.

6 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Mar 7, 2019 at 5:10 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Kristin, are you saying the neighbors want to hold the stick and carrot — build the pathways first . . . with no guarantee of allowing them to develop? It seems collaboration is necessary to get the safer pathways and the development at the same time. Should the city have built those bike and walking paths on Foothill or does the necessary land belong to the Merritts (genuine question; I don’t have the answer)? Foothills has been unsafe for forever; it just seems the city should have addressed that part years ago.

5 people like this
Posted by Frankie
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Mar 7, 2019 at 9:29 pm

I think you have it backward. The family has owned and lived on that land long before all the development occurred in that area especially and including all the houses along Foothill Road. Why would they let the City take their property to straighten out Foothill Rd and put the street close to their homes, and that’s assuming the City ever offered them any compensation. At this point, let that family build on their land which is surrounded by houses. What a bunch of next door hypocrites. Many of those opposing neighbors actually trespass and put their gardens, rabbit hutches and BMX courses on the Merritt property without permission taking advantage, and selfishly want their open space views forever. If Foothill Road is to be improved, let the Merritt family finally be able to enjoy some peace and property rights which are so taken for granted by the entitled.

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