The city of Pleasanton is poised to adopt a seriously flawed Downtown Specific Plan Update. The draft plan does not provide the public parking absolutely essential to maintain downtown vitality.
The City Council, the Downtown Task Force, planning staff, consultants and many citizens have worked sincerely to develop this draft specific plan. But, they got bamboozled by the phony planning theory that if you do not build parking, people will take the bus, walk or bicycle to get downtown.
Those of us who live or work in downtown know that from about 10 a.m. to about 3 p.m. on any weekday, there are almost no available parking spaces within two blocks of the Main/Rose-Neal intersection.
The city's own Hexcel parking study in September 2013 confirmed the lack of parking in the core: That Hexcel survey, over multiple days, showed there were only 2.6 vacant parking spaces on average within one block of the Main/Rose-Neal intersection. Within two blocks there were only 27.1 vacant parking spaces, which equates to less than one vacant space per block of curb parking, given that 9.8 of those vacant spaces were actually on the distant railroad corridor by First Street.
That was before the city waived the 20 parking space requirement for the new Starbucks-Sotheby's building at the northwest corner of Main/Rose-Neal intersection.
As the parking scarcity worsened, private businesses were forced to hoard their spaces for their customers, exacerbating the scarcity. Our city planners seem to believe that people need to be like Rockridge visitors (by College Avenue in Oakland) and learn to walk five blocks when they visit downtown.
Not surprisingly, downtown sales have flat-lined. From 2014-15 to 2017-18 (a three-year timeframe), sales tax from downtown has increased by only 1.5%. That happened despite having some wonderful businesses and restaurants opening in downtown. Customers stop coming to businesses that are inconvenient to visit.
The Pleasanton Downtown Association and the Chamber of Commerce, along with many businesses and downtowners, have begged for inclusion of substantial public parking in the downtown core. Instead, we now have a draft Downtown Specific Plan Update that has no substantial public parking expansion planned within even four blocks from the Main/Rose-Neal intersection.
The plan does include a parking garage at the Bernal-Old Bernal corner, to benefit the city's redevelopment of its current Civic Center site and the ACE train station. But, that parking garage will be five blocks from the Main/Rose-Neal intersection and useless to support the retail core of downtown -- this isn't Rockridge or Carmel.
The draft Downtown Specific Plan Update is focused on moving City Hall activities out of the downtown to the Bernal property across from the fairgrounds. That requires voter approval.
This is a $150 million to $200 million project (phased over time). Unless the city is willing to spend even $10 million to build some needed public parking in the downtown core, and plan now for where that parking will be located, I cannot support their City Hall move or the draft Downtown Specific Plan Update.
If you want the downtown retail core, the real heart of Pleasanton, to be more vital, please weigh in with our city officials. With your voice, we can get this flaw corrected before the specific plan gets adopted.