Pleasanton council endorses priorities at packed workshop

Hundreds turn out for public input meeting; final vote due next week

The Pleasanton City Council is moving closer to confirming the city's next two-year work plan after a lengthy meeting filled with resident comments and council deliberations Tuesday night -- in what was the city's most well-attended priority-setting workshop to date.

The council members came away with a near-complete draft list of about 80 priorities for 2019 and 2020 that span the spectrum, from familiar topics like East Pleasanton planning, updating the Downtown Specific Plan, supporting regional transportation projects and designing bike safety improvements to new topics like options to reduce single-use plastics, Amador Theater facility assessment and lighted sand volleyball courts.

The two-year work plan is scheduled to come back for final adoption during next week's regular council meeting, at which time Mayor Jerry Thorne (who was out sick on Tuesday) is expected to return and cast the deciding vote on several potential priorities, including the Merritt and Lester residential developments.

The priority list will guide the council's and city administrators' decision-making during the 2019-20 and 2020-21 fiscal years, especially for how to allocate city resources -- financial and staffing -- toward achieving those key objectives.

Coming into the meeting, city staff compiled a draft work plan with nearly 90 proposed priorities up for consideration, a list with recommendations from city departments, commissions, committees and individual council members as well as the public. They included new initiatives and ongoing or prior projects from previous years.

The items fall into top priority categories of the Bernal property, General Plan, fiscal sustainability, affordable housing, traffic circulation, economic development, youth programs, public safety, quality of life, environmental awareness, city services and organizational success.

Tuesday's public workshop provided residents the chance to have their voices heard before the council's decisions, and plenty of people took advantage of the opportunity.

More than 250 people attended the meeting in the council chambers, filling the seats, lining the walls and crowding into the lobby. The council heard 2-1/2 hours of comment from almost 70 speakers, with dozens of other residents expressing support for projects more quietly from the audience or in emails beforehand.

The majority of public comment focused on a handful of projects and programs up for consideration: the Merritt development, bicycle safety, updating the Climate Action Plan, Amador Theater, East Pleasanton Specific Plan, new skate park and lighted sand volleyball courts.

The four council members then spent nearly two hours going through each of the nearly 90 items, settling on their recommended priority list as the clock approached 11:30 p.m.

To make the final cut, a project or initiative needs support from a majority of the council members (three out of five). Thorne, like his four colleagues, indicated his initial preference on the priorities listed in the draft plan before the meeting. They all will formally confirm their votes next week.

The bulk of the priority topics cleared the majority threshold even without Thorne, receiving support from either three or all four of the members in the room Tuesday.

That included the proposal to restart the East Pleasanton Specific Plan process, which had been a priority in the past but was halted in mid-2015 and held off the city's 2017-2018 work plan. Only Councilwoman Julie Testa was in opposition.

Thorne will need to cast the deciding vote on whether to keep the Lester property development on Dublin Canyon Road on the list and whether to add the Merritt property application, for an age-restricted senior development with Foothill Road renovations.

He will also decide the fate of prioritizing the designs of bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements on Foothill Road and Santa Rita Road. Designing West Las Positas Boulevard improvements, the city's top bike/ped priority, received unanimous support.

Other key topics on track to make the final list are the Climate Action Plan update, Amador Theater facility assessment, lighted sand volleyball courts, Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone, continued support of Highway 84 expansion, ACE parking solutions, new or expanded skate park facilities, ValleyLink planning, Kottinger Gardens phase two and options for single-use plastics reduction.

The work plan is scheduled to return to the council for final adoption during its regular evening meeting next Tuesday (March 19). The lag time allows city staff to finalize the document based on input from this week, as well as for council members to consider changing their votes on individual items.

Editor's note: In-depth coverage of the council's full work plan is being planned for the weeks ahead.

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7 people like this
Posted by Jim Van Dyke (my real name)
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 14, 2019 at 12:32 pm

"...of the people, by the people, and for the people..." (attributed to both Abraham and John Wycliffe) is what we saw in action on Tuesday, which is the way i t is supposed to be. I'm proud to live in a community where elected officials and employees alike encourage a civil, fact-driven, and ultimately participative government process, which ultimately supports what another lesser-known person once said: "if you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own" (a former KFOG newsman).

It was heartwarming to see so many people cite environmental concerns, now that the science is clear: we must do something to make progress in the face of an obesity epidemic, cardio-problems being the #1 cause of adult deaths, and simply having no silver bullet to ensure everyone a parking space for their 10x5 foot 4,000 lb average weight auto or truck right in front of their favorite store or coffee shop.

We need to make it safer for people to choose the healthiest and most sustainable form of transportation, because no one should have to fear for their lives simply because they prefer to bike instead of drive. Imagine a city where you can bike anywhere...that sounds like a place that would have even greater economic prosperity, which is a win-win for literally everyone.

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