Guest Opinion: Laying the foundation for Kottinger Gardens


This month, residents are moving into 52 new affordable apartments for elders on the south side of Kottinger Drive. This is the culmination of an 18-year effort to replace small and old units at Pleasanton Gardens with larger, accessible and energy efficient apartment homes.

These units are part of the new Kottinger Gardens development by MidPen Housing in partnership with the city of Pleasanton and Pleasanton Gardens Inc., which contributed the 2-acre site for redevelopment.

To see how we got to this day, it is informative to look back to an earlier time.

In 1966, the population of Pleasanton was about 16,000. A small group of far-sighted individuals led by the Rev. Robert Stuart Vogt, the pastor of the Pleasanton Presbyterian Church, came together to consider establishing very affordable elder housing in the town.

After they garnered support from the city, they formed a community-based, not-for-profit corporation. Members from four congregations nominated two directors each: the First Baptist Church, Pleasanton Presbyterian Church, St. Augustine Parish and Lynnewood United Methodist Church. An "at-large" director was added to represent the wider community.

The new corporation successfully applied to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) -- for construction funding and ongoing resident rental assistance.

The first residents moved into 40 garden apartments during the fall of 1969. Pleasanton Gardens assumed a mortgage of $540,000, and the board agreed to follow HUD guidelines and provide very low-cost housing for 40 years.

As time went by, Pleasanton Gardens was a partner in several community endeavors. For years, Spectrum Community Services operated its senior meals in the clubhouse. Likewise, in the early days of the Senior Support Program of the Tri-Valley, their events found a home at 251 Kottinger Drive.

As Pleasanton Gardens partnered with other organizations to meet the needs of the wider community, so it also benefited from assistance from other groups:

* The Rotary Club of Pleasanton North completed a dozen work days to refurbish kitchens and bathrooms in the apartments. The club also put on a gala Valentine's Day "Sweethearts Dinner" for years.

* The Livermore-Amador Valley Garden Club did summer cleanups of the 23 trees and many bushes around the apartments and a winter pruning of the 121 rose bushes on the property.

* Boy Scouts seeking the Eagle Award organized fellow Scouts and Scout parents in varied endeavors.

* The city of Pleasanton was a regular supporter with awards of federal Community Development Block Grants.

After completing the initial contract with HUD, the Board of Directors chose to continue operation in the government mode. This meant that the 32 Section 8 housing subsidies and the annual grants for the senior service coordinator continued and provide a significant contribution to the operating budget of the new Kottinger Gardens.

Credit should be given to the members of the Pleasanton Gardens Board of Directors for their perseverance in the seemingly unending planning process. And the Pleasanton Gardens operation benefited from the efforts of a former administrator who served for 26 years, and Claire Chow, MA, MFT, the service coordinator for 13 years.

Thanks to all who persevered in this effort!

Editor's note: Bruce Fiedler served as the administrator of Pleasanton Gardens until his retirement in 2012.

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