Local leaders throughout the Tri-Valley have been carefully watching regional and state officials' legislative proposals to address the housing shortfall, and the five municipalities now have a plan in place for a coordinated response.
The Pleasanton City Council last week threw its support behind a Tri-Valley cities' housing and policy framework, a consensus document that details shared concerns about the Bay Area's so-called "CASA Compact" and creates a starting point for proactive education and advocacy to achieve common priorities.
"I really like the idea of the five cities in the Tri-Valley getting together, working and trying to find the common ground. Putting the five cities together gives us substantial clout ... versus trying to go it alone," Councilwoman Kathy Narum said before the council's unanimous vote March 5.
Amid the slew of legislative proposals that have come forward to address California's housing shortfall, the cities of Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore and San Ramon and the town of Danville -- who already coordinate efforts on certain Tri-Valley priorities -- decided in recent weeks to join forces on more in-depth education and advocacy on the topic of housing.
Of particular concern locally is the CASA Compact.
Developed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission-appointed Committee to House the Bay Area (dubbed CASA) and released in December, the CASA Compact is a 10-point plan with recommendations and strategies to remedy the Bay Area's housing issues, according to Gerry Beaudin, Pleasanton's community development director.
While the CASA Compact itself isn't a piece of legislation, it is being used by regional and state officials to guide their legislative proposals to address the housing crisis, Beaudin said during his presentation to the council.
Councilman Jerry Pentin criticized the CASA Compact as being finalized without a typical full public review process and without most suburban Bay Area cities, like Pleasanton, having a seat at the table or a chance to provide informed input.
Tri-Valley local leaders have shared concerns with the CASA Compact, and the housing policy framework is a strategy to make sure their voices are heard.
The framework is designed to lay the foundation for education in the community and for coordinated advocacy to help influence the housing legislative process and achieve goals common among the five municipalities -- while also leaving the door open for each city to pursue individualized housing policy advocacy when needed.
The Tri-Valley's framework centers on five themes summarizing points of consensus among the five councils -- key topic areas they see as woefully and inadequately addressed by most state housing legislative proposals.
At the top of the list is balanced solutions, a push for equal policy consideration of housing, employment, and transportation and transit in proposed solutions to the housing crisis, Beaudin said.
The other themes focus on provide, promote and protect affordability; context-sensitive housing in communities (avoiding one-size-fits-all approach); solutions for infrastructure and public services; and funding and resources.
The framework also directly addresses the 10 elements in the CASA Compact, six of which were ranked as high levels of concern for the Tri-Valley.
Of those, only item No. 10 -- CASA's proposal to create a new Regional Housing Enterprise public agency to implement the compact -- received total opposition from the Tri-Valley.
Four others were labeled as "oppose unless amended": minimum zoning near transit, "good government" reforms to housing approval process, expedited approvals and financial incentives for select housing, and funding and financing the CASA Compact.
CASA's element No. 8, unlocking surplus public land for affordable housing, also received a "high concern" ranking but would be supported by the Tri-Valley with amendments.
The four other items were ranked as low concern: just cause eviction policy, emergency rent cap, emergency rent assistance and access to legal counsel, and remove regulatory barriers to accessory dwelling units. The latter is fully supported by local leaders.
Most Pleasanton council members spoke highly about the Tri-Valley framework, but first-term Councilwoman Julie Testa initially said she wanted absolute opposition to the CASA Compact and saw the local accord as too supportive of CASA's initiatives.
"I think that we're selling our community short if we aren't really standing strong (in opposition)," said Testa, a slow-growth advocate in her first year on the council. "Other cities are standing up in opposition, and I think we should be doing that."
Pentin countered that Pleasanton needs to work with the state and can't afford to be the poster-child for "no" on new housing -- referring to the city's reputation in the wake of losing a costly court battle over its housing cap, which an Alameda County Superior Court judge in 2010 invalidated as a violation of state law requiring all cities to provide adequate housing.
Vice Mayor Karla Brown added in support, "I don't see this as a rollover and accept CASA, at all ... I think it's a great start."
Testa ultimately joined her four colleagues, after a brief pause, in casting a vote in favor of the Tri-Valley framework.
Going forward, city staff will continue to track state housing bills (Pleasanton has 62 on its list) and then hold discussions with the Legislative Subcommittee of the City Council on what positions to take on certain bills before the full council weighs in.
The council also could hold a future conversation soon on topics for additional, Pleasanton-specific housing advocacy -- issues such as local control, voter rights, local context like exempting historic downtowns, layers of bureaucracy, affordability, service impacts and unfunded mandates.