A task force that's about to wind up its 2-1/2-year effort to recommend a new "vibrancy plan" for downtown Pleasanton appears to have changed course.
It's new recommended plan could now allow ground-floor residential units downtown. Three- and four-story apartments and condos could be built behind shallow storefront retail shops on Main Street.
After hearing comments from members of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce and the leadership of the Pleasanton Downtown Association, a majority of the members of the Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) Update Task Force voted Feb. 26 to accept their recommendations to allow higher-density mixed-use buildings in the core downtown district.
The only requirement would be that they must be built behind 50-foot-deep retail and commercial storefronts. These would be similar to the higher-density three-story building now nearing completion on Spring Street, just off Main, which also has ground floor retail spaces.
The task force also broke new ground by considering a request by Joe Barone to eventually tear down his restaurant at 475 St. John St. and rezone land he owns on the street for single-family homes. Rezoning requests are typically made to the city planning staff and decided by the Planning Commission, not a task force. No notices were sent out about the possible zoning change, as required by the city.
In a letter sent last week to Mayor Jerry Thorne and other members of the Pleasanton City Council, Planning Commissioner Nancy Allen questioned the new direction of the Downtown Specific Plan task force.
She wrote: "I was excited about the direction of the DSP task force prior to the Feb. 26 meeting. I thought many of the recommendations would help create a more vibrant retail center for our residents. However, I was concerned with the sudden reversal of DSP recommendations at that meeting.
"If left to stand, I believe these recommendations will reduce our retail vibrancy and turn our existing Main Street and connecting side streets into more of a dense residential area vs. a vibrant and unique retail-oriented downtown that excites our residents. I think there are unintended consequences that have not yet been fully explored. Hopefully I am wrong."
Another elephant in the task force's room concerns the proposed relocation of the public library, police station and city offices to Bernal Community Park, a project that could cost upward of $200 million.
Determining what to do with the land where city offices sit at the south end of Main Street was a key assignment for the task force.
Critics have questioned the plan, but the task force was told to proceed as if the public will approve it when the city takes it to voters next year.
City Manager Nelson Fialho said last week that it could take 10, 20 or even more years for the city to be able to fund and entire relocation project, which would include a new police headquarters building.
Allen said her biggest concern is that the task force plan is moving forward without much public input. Only one or two members of the public have been coming to meetings of the task force and Planning Commission when the downtown plan has been discussed, with developers and those with downtown business interests doing most of the speaking.
"We need to engage the public in what changes are being considered to ensure our plan creates a better downtown for our residents," Allen said.
After the task force's final meeting April 22, its recommendations will go to the Planning Commission for a public hearing, and then to the City Council where a final decision will be made on a new downtown plan.
Correction: An earlier version of this column listed an incorrect date for the task force's February meeting. The meeting was held Feb. 26. The Weekly regrets the error.