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Tim Talk: Will the city develop more parking downtown?

 

As the two-year process to update Pleasanton's downtown plan nears its conclusion, naturally some key questions have arisen.

The task force is scheduled to meet April 23 to work through some of those points with final consideration by the Planning Commission and the City Council to come this summer. The council considered five issues at its meeting Tuesday. That was planned before they received a missive email from PleasantonVoters.com, led by Kelly Cousins.

The group condemned the draft plan for four-story buildings on the current civic center site, dubbing it "supersizing" Pleasanton. They also opposed further residential development downtown, citing Danville's approach with no housing downtown as superior.

Both Pleasanton and Danville are blessed with historic downtowns with a bunch of restaurants. The key difference is downtown Pleasanton is surrounded by historic housing and some transitional areas such as along Peters Avenue, while Danville has distinct separation between its core and most neighborhoods.

As downtown Pleasanton interests have pointed out, one striking omission in the plan so far is any commitment to public parking. Drive around downtown trying to find parking near lunch time, and you'll find virtually all of the lots are posted as private property with parking only for designated businesses and the threat of towing.

There's public parking along the former railroad right-of-way a couple of blocks off Main Street plus street parking. During the week, First Street can have parking if people are willing to walk. It's notable that Danville's key public improvements in its downtown area have been adding public parking, recognizing that people will walk a bit, but, as suburban residents, they are used to parking in shopping centers with ample spaces.

What's needed in Pleasanton is the commitment to build more public parking with designated locations and timelines. The former San Francisco property located across from the library is designated for parking for the ACE train to alleviate the jammed street parking in that neighborhood, but that will not help downtown.

There also are questions about the city micro-managing first-floor uses with a new "active uses" category for the ground floor. Property owners, residents and city officials alike all share the desire for retail uses on the ground floors. That said, there needs to be flexibility if a space cannot be leased after time on the market.

It's worth remembering that in an earlier day (pre-Hacienda Business Park), the city required all banks to have a location downtown. As needs for that industry have shifted and branches have gotten much smaller, there are several bank buildings downtown that are larger than ideal, but they have been challenging to transition to other uses. That reality points out why a special plan should be a guide with flexibility to be shifted as the market moves.

For instance, how will the gig economy and self-driving cars change the demand for parking and when?

Another potentially sticky issue is building height. Naturally, the public doesn't want to change anything -- although they should be reminded, is the Pastime Plaza with the Starbucks and Sabio an improvement over the bar?

Well-designed three-story and four-story buildings -- it's design that's the key -- can fit into downtown and enhance it. One key to a vibrant downtown is foot traffic and people living in the area jump start that.

Livermore has demonstrated that with several projects around the downtown area. The task force and staff have it right with more density clustered in the civic center site. This assumes it will be relocated to the Bernal property, a move that will take millions of dollars plus a public vote.

One real opportunity for significant improvement is the school district's willingness to discuss consolidating its operations and maintenance facility with the city's on Busch Road. That key corner at Bernal and First is under-utilized with the district operations and relocating some or all of those facilities could create millions for school site rehabilitation and improvements.

Incidentally, tracking sales tax revenue for nearby downtown Livermore is interesting. For decades, there was no "there" there for Livermore, but that's turned dramatically with the Bankhead and significant changes to First Street, including the re-routing of Highway 84 to the Isabel corridor and the diversion of through traffic to Railroad.

Since 2010, downtown sales tax revenue has climbed in Livermore from $1.46 million to $2.01 million in calendar 2018. The rate of growth has slowed in the last two years.

Editor's note: Journalist Tim Hunt has written columns on the Tri-Valley community for more than 40 years. He grew up in the valley and lives in Pleasanton. His "Tim Talk" blog appears twice a week at PleasantonWeekly.com.

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Comments

8 people like this
Posted by Doug Miller
a resident of Country Fair
on Apr 18, 2019 at 9:18 am

Doug Miller is a registered user.

About twenty year ago Valley Community Church, which is located adjacent to Amador Valley High School, needed additional parking in order to build a new sanctuary. The church offered to build a parking garage on the high school property. This parking structure is now shared by both organizations. This might be the model for one or more parking structures downtown such as behind the Bank of America building, and/or adjacent to Inklings and/or adjacent to True Value Hardware.


3 people like this
Posted by Doug
a resident of Birdland
on Apr 18, 2019 at 9:45 am

"Drive around downtown trying to find parking near lunch time, and you'll find virtually all of the lots are posted as private property with parking only for designated businesses and the threat of towing."

Is this true? I don't often go downtown for lunch on a weekday, but on the occasions on which I do take a day off and go downtown to have lunch with my wife on Main Street, I don't recall having big problems in finding parking either in a lot or on a street.


6 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Apr 18, 2019 at 10:16 am

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Are you reading the spaces. Marked for Inklings; marked for the banks; marked for various restaurants; marked for True Value and adjacent businesses. The only lot not marked is behind Blue Agave/Andy & Yu’s/Beer Baron—it is always full.


3 people like this
Posted by Doug
a resident of Birdland
on Apr 18, 2019 at 1:45 pm

@Kathleen

I'm pretty sure that I'm reading the spaces. I believe that there are several (city owned?) public parking lots for general use in the downtown area, are there not? In addition to that there's street parking on Main Street and surrounding streets. Normally I prefer street parking and have had no problem finding parking not more than one street away from Main Street even at lunchtime on weekdays.


4 people like this
Posted by David
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Apr 18, 2019 at 2:27 pm

David is a registered user.

I agree a parking structure next to the ACE station does not serve downtown. A garage situated between True Value and the old Dean’s restaurant could make the best sense but I’m interested why the task force did not select it since I’m sure they studied it. Probably the adjoining businesses objected but it is an ideal location for a 2-3 story structure. Reminds me of Grand Junction CO.


2 people like this
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Apr 18, 2019 at 3:34 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

Doug, I usually park in the Firehouse Theater lot because I don’t mind walking to get where I’m headed. And yes there are the spaces behind Sidetrack and other restaurants along that stretch of Main. I have had to do the shark crawl behind people who might be leaving; there just are not enough spaces, and if we add more attractions and keep taking spaces for bicycles (I’m in favor of that use), there are not enough parking spots.


4 people like this
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on Apr 18, 2019 at 10:30 pm

Subsidized parking is not an effective use of city dollars in 2019.

Plus, there isn't street space to absorb all the cars that would go to a new parking structure, so it would require yet more road widening leading to less pedestrian safety

Parking lot sharing is great where possible. Better yet, encourage different travel modes.


3 people like this
Posted by Fifty Years Here
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Apr 20, 2019 at 9:58 am

Fifty Years Here is a registered user.

When Livermore began their effort to "reinvent" their downtown about 20 years ago, I almost found it amusing. Well look today, who is laughing now? One glaring difference between Livermore and Pleasanton: Livermore is currently building their Second parking structure, while Pleasanton has added a Parklet. Livermore is investing IN their Downtown, while Pleasanton, through their Task Force, is designing a way to take dollars OUT of their Downtown. Parking should have been any Task Force's first priority, and as I understand it, they haven't even got to it yet.


3 people like this
Posted by sly
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 20, 2019 at 11:06 am

Allowing more high density housing on the side streets leading to Main Street just increases the traffic in downtown. Our side streets should be for retail, shops, businesses - Businesses have left downtown because of the parking problem - just look at the Spring Street development which the city could have bought for parking on the north side of downtown...and how about the 3 big units beside the Chamber of Commerce on Peters - no parking in front of them because it would block their driveways...If the voters turn down moving the offices, police station, library, the updated Downtown Specific Plan will still favor housing downtown -


1 person likes this
Posted by David
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Apr 28, 2019 at 11:05 pm

Sly: if I remember correctly a bunch of vocal residents along Peters and adjacent blocks vigorously objected to businesses being located on those side streets claiming noise, parking, etc would impact their quality of life and preferred low density housing instead. It really annoys me that people move into downtown and expect to have total quiet. The downtown is for all of us in the community and if it is to be viable, more retail, restaurants, and offices should be allowed to expand the area. I agree that Livermore is thriving while Pleasanton is struggling and has become a row of nail and hair salons, pasta restaurants and the occasional dubious Asian massage storefronts. We also need a parking garage close to Main Street and live music venues to attract more life. The most exciting thing in downtown is the wait line at MeadowLark for a cone.


Like this comment
Posted by Wow
a resident of Apperson Ridge
on Apr 29, 2019 at 7:27 am

The diversity of the downtown should be celebrated not condoned some people like a quiet downtown and some dont want retail on side streets. Why the hate and racism embrace diversity by keeping your mouth shut unless you agree with their "diverse" views
All hail diversity. Racism and sexism just another way to say diversity


Like this comment
Posted by Pleasanton Parent
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Apr 29, 2019 at 8:40 am

I don't frequent downtown during the weekday lunch time hours, so I'm not familiar with the parking issues during this time. I've never had trouble finding a spot during the weeknights or weekends (less a special event). However if the downtown plan is to grow, I can definitely see how parking would need to be addressed with those growth plans. Personally, I'd use the library parking lot.


1 person likes this
Posted by John
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 30, 2019 at 3:00 pm

It's curious how all of the planning the city is doing now incorporates the new $200MM City Center on the Bernal property as a given. Sounds like this task force is already planning uses for the vacated city hall/police station. The new City Center plan is a boondoggle and nobody in town is asking for it other than the City employees and City council. With over $100MM in pension liabilities, how can we afford to borrow $200MM in bonds? I'm watching closely to see how they City goes about positioning this project, especially as to when they put up the bond issue to pay for it to a vote in front of the citizens. I hope the majority feels the same way as I do - kill this project.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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