News

Council halts plans for 90-home senior housing on Merritt property

Projects fails to generate votes to start building before 2021, if then

The Pleasanton City Council in effect has rejected a developer’s bid to build a 90-home project for seniors 55 and older on the largely-vacant 45-acre Merritt property on Foothill Road.

Mayor Jerry Thorne cast the deciding vote Tuesday night at a priorities-setting meeting, keeping the DeSilva Gates Construction Group’s plan in the “C” category, meaning it won’t get the city’s consideration for at least another two years, if then.

Jim Summers, president of the DeSilva Group, had asked that the project be advanced to the “A” or “B” categories so that construction permits could be submitted and work begin.

At a council workshop meeting last week, with Thorne absent, the council split 2-2 in commenting on DeSilva’s bid. At that meeting, the Merritt plan proved to be the most contentious of the nearly 90 proposed short- and long-term objectives brought forward for the council to rank for consideration in allocating resources and staff time in its two-year work plan for 2019-2021.

But with opposition to the project continuing, Thorne dashed DeSilva’s hopes, saying, “Let’s leave it as a C, there’s just more work to do on this plan.”

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Councilwomen Karla Brown and Julie Testa agreed.

“We’ve had a huge number of e-mails on this, mostly in opposition,” Testa said. “Our city has met all of our housing requirements, so we don’t need this.”

Brown added: “This (development) could mean another 900 trips per day on Foothill Road. Plus, the half-acre lots planned there won’t help (the city’s) water situation.”

For DeSilva, it was another defeat over efforts to develop the hilly former walnut orchard that is sandwiched between single-family homes on both sides and Interstate 680 at the back.

The city’s approval of a development plan for 89 homes by the property’s late owner Jim Merritt was overturned in a referendum measure in 1999 and affirmed later on the owner’s appeal by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Henry E. Needham, Jr.

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Later proposals by the Merritt family also never gained ground.

DeSilva’s plan this time not only called for restricting homes sales to buyers 55 and older, but also would have added pedestrian and bicycle paths along I-680 to Foothill High School and Muirwood Drive, an alternative to heavily traveled, two-lane Foothill Road.

Summers also said his company would have worked with the city to add bicycle and pedestrian paths on Foothill, another priority on the council’s two-year work plan that was also scuttled after the DeSilva project lost support.

Still, the two-year work plan adopted by unanimous vote by the council Tuesday includes scores of other priorities.

These include restarting the planning of development of the East Side of Pleasanton, another largely empty 400-acre site off Valley Avenue, and renovating the Amador Theater, where an aging fire escape has forced the closing of the balcony and water seepage on the other side is affecting the structure itself.

Also given high priority status were the pending update of the Downtown Specific Plan, creating a framework to address redevelopment in the Stoneridge Shopping Center, monitoring regional and state housing legislation as well as regional transportation projects and traffic, bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements.

New priorities to be undertaken in the next two years also call for addressing water sustainability issues, updating the city’s climate action strategy, working with the school district on facility needs where the municipal government could participate, expanding and improving public safety initiatives and developing a comprehensive strategy to curb homelessness in partnership with other Tri-Valley communities.

For the past 15 years, the Pleasanton City Council has adopted a two-year work plan.

“The public process in developing the work plan allows for the community to engage in open dialogue with the council and city staff in implementing our shared vision for Pleasanton,” said Nelson Fialho, city manager.

“Now that the council has adopted its 2019-2021 Work Plan, there is a clear direction on what we will be working on to deliver these priorities,” he added. “City staff will work to allocate resources to achieve these objectives through the city’s two-year operating budget and four-year capital improvement plan.”

The finalized list of priorities for the next two years will be presented to the City Council for review and adoption in June, prior to the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.

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Council halts plans for 90-home senior housing on Merritt property

Projects fails to generate votes to start building before 2021, if then

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Mar 21, 2019, 3:01 pm

The Pleasanton City Council in effect has rejected a developer’s bid to build a 90-home project for seniors 55 and older on the largely-vacant 45-acre Merritt property on Foothill Road.

Mayor Jerry Thorne cast the deciding vote Tuesday night at a priorities-setting meeting, keeping the DeSilva Gates Construction Group’s plan in the “C” category, meaning it won’t get the city’s consideration for at least another two years, if then.

Jim Summers, president of the DeSilva Group, had asked that the project be advanced to the “A” or “B” categories so that construction permits could be submitted and work begin.

At a council workshop meeting last week, with Thorne absent, the council split 2-2 in commenting on DeSilva’s bid. At that meeting, the Merritt plan proved to be the most contentious of the nearly 90 proposed short- and long-term objectives brought forward for the council to rank for consideration in allocating resources and staff time in its two-year work plan for 2019-2021.

But with opposition to the project continuing, Thorne dashed DeSilva’s hopes, saying, “Let’s leave it as a C, there’s just more work to do on this plan.”

Councilwomen Karla Brown and Julie Testa agreed.

“We’ve had a huge number of e-mails on this, mostly in opposition,” Testa said. “Our city has met all of our housing requirements, so we don’t need this.”

Brown added: “This (development) could mean another 900 trips per day on Foothill Road. Plus, the half-acre lots planned there won’t help (the city’s) water situation.”

For DeSilva, it was another defeat over efforts to develop the hilly former walnut orchard that is sandwiched between single-family homes on both sides and Interstate 680 at the back.

The city’s approval of a development plan for 89 homes by the property’s late owner Jim Merritt was overturned in a referendum measure in 1999 and affirmed later on the owner’s appeal by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Henry E. Needham, Jr.

Later proposals by the Merritt family also never gained ground.

DeSilva’s plan this time not only called for restricting homes sales to buyers 55 and older, but also would have added pedestrian and bicycle paths along I-680 to Foothill High School and Muirwood Drive, an alternative to heavily traveled, two-lane Foothill Road.

Summers also said his company would have worked with the city to add bicycle and pedestrian paths on Foothill, another priority on the council’s two-year work plan that was also scuttled after the DeSilva project lost support.

Still, the two-year work plan adopted by unanimous vote by the council Tuesday includes scores of other priorities.

These include restarting the planning of development of the East Side of Pleasanton, another largely empty 400-acre site off Valley Avenue, and renovating the Amador Theater, where an aging fire escape has forced the closing of the balcony and water seepage on the other side is affecting the structure itself.

Also given high priority status were the pending update of the Downtown Specific Plan, creating a framework to address redevelopment in the Stoneridge Shopping Center, monitoring regional and state housing legislation as well as regional transportation projects and traffic, bicycle and pedestrian safety improvements.

New priorities to be undertaken in the next two years also call for addressing water sustainability issues, updating the city’s climate action strategy, working with the school district on facility needs where the municipal government could participate, expanding and improving public safety initiatives and developing a comprehensive strategy to curb homelessness in partnership with other Tri-Valley communities.

For the past 15 years, the Pleasanton City Council has adopted a two-year work plan.

“The public process in developing the work plan allows for the community to engage in open dialogue with the council and city staff in implementing our shared vision for Pleasanton,” said Nelson Fialho, city manager.

“Now that the council has adopted its 2019-2021 Work Plan, there is a clear direction on what we will be working on to deliver these priorities,” he added. “City staff will work to allocate resources to achieve these objectives through the city’s two-year operating budget and four-year capital improvement plan.”

The finalized list of priorities for the next two years will be presented to the City Council for review and adoption in June, prior to the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.

Comments

sjd
Livermore
on Mar 21, 2019 at 10:01 pm
sjd, Livermore
on Mar 21, 2019 at 10:01 pm
26 people like this

“Our city has met all of our housing requirements, so we don’t need this.”

Good grief.


James Michael
Registered user
Val Vista
on Mar 21, 2019 at 11:17 pm
James Michael, Val Vista
Registered user
on Mar 21, 2019 at 11:17 pm
13 people like this

Hmm, let me see...Karla Brown says this development could mean an extra 900 trips a day on Foothill Rd. and she has a problem with that. But there seems no problem to increasing the traffic in the Val Vista neighborhood with the Donlon expansion and that is confusing, no? Two year plan...kick the can.


Doug
Birdland
on Mar 22, 2019 at 6:20 am
Doug, Birdland
on Mar 22, 2019 at 6:20 am
9 people like this

@James Michael

Haven’t been following the Donlon expansion story but isn’t the issue there that we need more elementary school capacity and so we need to consider a Donlon expansion or building a new elementary school? That’s not optional. That’s something that must be done. This 90 home senior project, on the other hand, does not have to be built.


James Michael
Registered user
Val Vista
on Mar 22, 2019 at 9:55 am
James Michael, Val Vista
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2019 at 9:55 am
5 people like this

Doug...
A new school is needed but it shouldn’t be at the expense of ruining a neighborhood. A new school needs to be built in a new area because the Donlon expansion will just bring in more cars. I would suggest the Merritt property but we already know the answer to that. My main point, however, was not about the school but about how the TRAFFIC EXCUSE is always cited as a reason when city or citizens don’t want something in their neighborhood. Pleasanton is looking at the traffic issue in the rearview mirror.


Sandra
Registered user
Alisal Elementary School
on Mar 22, 2019 at 10:03 am
Sandra , Alisal Elementary School
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2019 at 10:03 am
19 people like this

We need more senior housing period. Besides doesn’t Brown and Tesla get the fact that the pending housing legislation will soon dictate requirements for higher density?


Peter M.
Pleasanton Valley
on Mar 22, 2019 at 10:10 am
Peter M. , Pleasanton Valley
on Mar 22, 2019 at 10:10 am
25 people like this

California has housing prices twice as high as the rest of America, and our children have lower living standards, because of local government decisions like this. Not allowing low impact senior housing sets this area up for having the State impose higher density housing.


Ellen
Donlon Elementary School
on Mar 22, 2019 at 2:08 pm
Ellen, Donlon Elementary School
on Mar 22, 2019 at 2:08 pm
7 people like this

It is my understanding that the property next to Donlon School has always been zoned for another school. Neighborhood residents have been fortunate for over 30 years that it has not been used. Seems a bit unfair that there is so much complaining now. Am I wrong?


A senior
Del Prado
on Mar 22, 2019 at 2:11 pm
A senior, Del Prado
on Mar 22, 2019 at 2:11 pm
15 people like this

It seems to me that the senior housing project proposed by DeSilva had 1/2 acre lots. Now in the current real estate market, those houses would be well over one million each. Not the level of senior housing needed by the aging/senior population in Pleasanton. I agree that this project is not needed and only adds to the problem of seniors being priced out of the community. A senior housing project close to downtown, with affordable units close to services in convenient to transportation (not necessarily transit), would be very welcome.


Pleasanton Parent
Pleasanton Meadows
on Mar 22, 2019 at 2:24 pm
Pleasanton Parent, Pleasanton Meadows
on Mar 22, 2019 at 2:24 pm
Like this comment

Build it but you’re putting a new school on the site, not this tumor being added onto donlon


sjd
Livermore
on Mar 22, 2019 at 2:55 pm
sjd, Livermore
on Mar 22, 2019 at 2:55 pm
3 people like this

@a senior

In my opinion, yes, the lots sizes are far too large to be affordable by design.

But the voters rejected annexing that site for 89 units back in 2000. I somehow doubt these councilmembers are voting this down because there are "too few" units, given their rhetoric on other developments.


Sandra
Registered user
Alisal Elementary School
on Mar 22, 2019 at 4:33 pm
Sandra , Alisal Elementary School
Registered user
on Mar 22, 2019 at 4:33 pm
4 people like this

There was common open space no doubt. So neighborhood streets considered too, the lots would be much smaller than 1/2 acre.


John B
Happy Valley
on Mar 22, 2019 at 10:02 pm
John B, Happy Valley
on Mar 22, 2019 at 10:02 pm
7 people like this

City council should be looking into how middle and low income housing that is very badly needed. half acre lots cannot be senior living as it becomes more challenging to maintain them (unless you are quite rich) as you grow old. This large sites are prime/ideal for building denser communities. Entire bay area should be working together to make middle and low income housing a reality. I do not believe it is the issue of San Jose, SFO or Oakland etc. No more the cities are little villages isolated from the rest of bay area. A job created in San Jose, may affect housing as far as Tracy, Gilroy etc..Strongly believe in solving issue collectively. Every city to chip in and reap the benefit collectively of it..More housing will provide more property tax for new city building and other amenities.


BobB
Registered user
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2019 at 8:54 am
BobB, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
Registered user
on Mar 23, 2019 at 8:54 am
7 people like this

NIMBY's are at it again.

Of course Testa and Brown oppose this development because they oppose everything. They both represent the very worst of Pleasanton.

The proposal should have been for denser, more affordable senior housing, but Testa and Brown would be against that too. That's what they do.


BobB
Registered user
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2019 at 8:56 am
BobB, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
Registered user
on Mar 23, 2019 at 8:56 am
5 people like this

John B has it exactly right:

" No more the cities are little villages isolated from the rest of bay area. A job created in San Jose, may affect housing as far as Tracy, Gilroy etc..Strongly believe in solving issue collectively. Every city to chip in and reap the benefit collectively of it..More housing will provide more property tax for new city building and other amenities. "


Really?
Birdland
on Mar 23, 2019 at 12:14 pm
Really?, Birdland
on Mar 23, 2019 at 12:14 pm
2 people like this

Those commenting on Brown and Testa. . .did you miss that Mayor Thorne was the DECIDING vote?


BobB
Registered user
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2019 at 2:20 pm
BobB, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
Registered user
on Mar 23, 2019 at 2:20 pm
10 people like this

@Really,

Didn't miss that.

Did you miss Testa's comment?

"Our city has met all of our housing requirements, so we don’t need this."

Good grief indeed.


Michael Austin
Pleasanton Meadows
on Mar 23, 2019 at 7:21 pm
Michael Austin, Pleasanton Meadows
on Mar 23, 2019 at 7:21 pm
3 people like this

Jerry Thorne made the correct decision.


Sandra
Registered user
Alisal Elementary School
on Mar 24, 2019 at 8:56 pm
Sandra , Alisal Elementary School
Registered user
on Mar 24, 2019 at 8:56 pm
4 people like this

I believe Thorne did not like the plan design. That is completely different from saying we should not have any housing there.
I also think he wants to focus on the East Side Specific Plan and the Johnson Drive development area. Those are two big efforts and given the NIMBY opposition to even a senior community, the City has only so much resources to process
I think it should be high density senior homes. All the lots north of Merritt are tiny so high density would be the right approach. I still get mad about the high density condos close to Stoneridge Drive who protested the Sunrise Senior housing complex and had the number of apartments reduced.


Al
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2019 at 10:31 am
Al, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 25, 2019 at 10:31 am
4 people like this

IMO, the future of senior housing in Pleasanton is homeowners who have become empty-nesters carve off (or build) a small, gorgeous in-law suite, or Granny flat, or tiny house, or garage-modified-into-exquisite-studio, or whatever you want to call it. Zoning is evolving to allow this, more and more, as it should. Rent it at first, perhaps, but then move into it yourself and rent the giant house for extra income. Add a reverse mortgage to that, and it's a nice retirement scenario, complete with your lovely back yard and existing neighborhood.


Stuart
Kottinger Ranch
on Mar 25, 2019 at 11:11 am
Stuart, Kottinger Ranch
on Mar 25, 2019 at 11:11 am
11 people like this

Julie Testa lives in a bubble. It is the obligation of the Council to provide direction to the developer. They should have encouraged compact, higher density development as suggested by the others' comments. THERE IS NO WAY Pleasanton will be able to avoid its fair share of more intensive development ala CASA Compact in the future. Testa and the Matt Sullivans of the world are relics in today's reality of marrying jobs with appropriate housing. Perhaps they should review past litigation btw Housing advocates/Gov. Brown and the City re: RHNA housing requirements. Newsom will be here soon to chew up Testa,et al if her emotional, narrow-minded comments and actions continue to dictate Council actions. #SB50


John B
Happy Valley
on Mar 25, 2019 at 3:50 pm
John B, Happy Valley
on Mar 25, 2019 at 3:50 pm
8 people like this

This kind of reluctance from council members and Mayor's around the bay area to add more housing, results in mandates or laws from Sacramento. I can understand some times it could be due to re-election planning of local elected members. No wonder there are 20+ housing laws on their way to get passed. Some will and some not. One way or other, these laws are going to curb the local control. SB50 is one of them, which can be a right tool. This will make the burden on council members or Mayor, easier to approve, as there isn't much they can do on those. Also, I see couple of ADU related laws are on the way, to remove even ministerial approval on ADU development and reduce the impact fees. They should in-fact make the impact fees of ADU to zero to incentivize the existing home owners.


another senior
Alisal Elementary School
on Mar 26, 2019 at 9:54 pm
another senior, Alisal Elementary School
on Mar 26, 2019 at 9:54 pm
4 people like this

Yes Mayor Thorne (and Council Members Brown and Testa) made the right decision. Mayor Thorne continues to be the swing vote on a number of issues carefully listening to public input. That is leadership.

Having another community of $1M plus homes does not help us solve the housing challenge. Let's have a developer come back with a project that helps us meet our 2022 RHNA challenges and insures more benefits accrue to the local community vs. costs


Factchecker
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2019 at 10:05 pm
Factchecker, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 26, 2019 at 10:05 pm
Like this comment

Pretty sure only Councilmember Pentin voted to make Merritt a B priority in the end.


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