News

Pleasanton: Task force spurns council's input, pushes own downtown plan version

3-hour meeting wraps up 2-1/2 years of debate; public hearings begin June 26

Downtown Specific Plan Update Task Force members discuss final changes to draft document that now goes to city Planning Commission and City Council for consideration, wrapping up 2-1/2 years of deliberation. From left are Jim Merryman, Jan Batcheller, Mayor Jerry Thorne, Councilwoman Kathy Narum, Planning Commissioner Justin Brown, Steve Baker and Herb Ritter, Chamber of Commerce chairman and city planning commissioner. (Photo by Jeb Bing)

A years-long effort to update the existing specific plan for downtown Pleasanton ended with a bit of a thud last week when the task force charged with spearheading the assignment voted 4-3 to reject the City Council's review and direction on several key policy issues to further restrict residential development and height in the area -- in favor of its own draft plan instead.

Despite these differences, the recommendations for updating the specific plan will go to the city's Planning Commission for a public hearing on June 26 along with suggested amendments related to the downtown district to the General Plan, Downtown Design Guidelines and the Pleasanton Municipal Code.

Then the City Council is expected to make the final decision on the new Downtown Specific Plan in late August or September.

The Downtown Specific Plan Update Task Force was formed by the council in 2016. The proposed draft in large part reflects the collective work of its 10 members in conjunction with a number of public outreach meetings and substantive reports to other municipal committees. The volunteer task force held a series of public hearings over 2-1/2 years, with the May 28 meeting marking its 18th and final.

"Candidly, there is agreement on 98% of the document," said Gerry Beaudin, the city's community development director, in referring to the final work of the task force. "Both the task force's recommendations and the council's direction will help inform the next phase of public review through the Planning Commission and City Council process in the coming months."

The goal is to wrap up the plan before 2020, an election year.

On May 28, some members of the task force criticized the council's "weighing in" on their work, especially after a Feb. 26 meeting when representatives of the Pleasanton Downtown Association, the Chamber of Commerce and developers pressed for more housing downtown.

Those task force members felt like they had been over-stepped. Whether or not they fully agreed with the council, they disagreed with how it was done.

During meetings on April 16 and May 7, the council clawed back on some of the task force decisions made at the February meeting that were related to development standards, such as maximum height and square footage restrictions.

The council said that residential units could be built on top of downtown commercial buildings, but not behind them, as had been suggested. It also stipulated that these new units would have to be minimally visible from Main Street and would be required to have parking on the site.

The council also told the task force that it would have to limit new buildings on the east side of Peters Street to 36 feet in height with a two-story limit. Under those guidelines, which the council is likely to approve this summer, the three-story buildings just constructed on Peters between St. Mary and St. John streets would not be allowed

After the council's comments, Steve Baker, a task force member, said: "Since the council weighed in, we're now being asked to rubber-stamp the council's plan, not ours. I'm not comfortable with that."

"We discussed the plan intensely at our first 16 meetings," member Jan Batcheller said, "and then on the 17th meeting, major changes were made by the City Council."

Said another task force member, Jim Merryman: "It's not clear to me what this downtown plan will produce over time. I don't think we've been able to deliver what the people want. We haven't done any economic analysis of what this will do. Will it help our businesses, our need for office space? We don't know."

"I don't think that we are supporting the people who want to invest in our downtown," he added.

Those members joined Herb Ritter, chairman of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce and a city planning commissioner, in voting to endorse the task force's February recommendations instead of the council-supported plan. Only seven of 10 voting members attended the May 28 meeting.

Still, the three task force members who voted in favor of the council-directed plan -- Mayor Jerry Thorne, Councilwoman Kathy Narum and Planning Commissioner Justin Brown -- praised the work of other task force members and the city's planning staff.

They said the new plan achieves the purpose of updating the land development guide, hopefully through the year 2040. It meets a key goal in preserving the character and development traditions of the downtown and retaining its small-town scale and physical characteristics.

"When we talk about downtown Pleasanton, we usually think of Main Street," explained Beaudin, who, with planning manager Ellen Clark, is the key city staff leader on updating the specific plan. "Remember, this plan also includes side streets and more. It's a 319-acre area, covering 60 city blocks. There are about 1,270 homes in the area, and they're not to be forgotten in this process."

In wrapping up their work, task force members also finalized site development recommendations for the current city hall, civic center, police headquarters and public library should voters authorize moving those facilities to new buildings on Bernal Community Park.

The task force also recommended that the Planning Commission consider two-story apartments on the Shell station parcel at Ray and First streets. The station's lease is expiring and the property owners will seek a zoning change in a few months.

A similar request by Barone's Restaurant on St. John Street was modified by the council to put the property in a mixed-use transitional zone, allowing restaurant owner Joe Barone to potentially redevelop the land he owns around the restaurant with homes or apartments, but he would have to continue keep the current commercial property as a restaurant or another business. But the task force recommendation would leave the door open for 100% residential at the site.

Both plan drafts -- the task force-supported version and the council-recommended -- will be presented for discussion during the upcoming public hearings.

Once the plan receives a favorable recommendation approved by the Planning Commission, and is adopted by the City Council, the 2002 Downtown Specific Plan will be superseded and the new plan will reflect the discussion, outreach and work that has occurred over the past 2-1/2 years.

"The many hours of research and meetings the task force and city planning staff and hundreds of public comments show just how important Pleasanton's downtown is to our community," said Narum, also a task force member. "People care."

She added: "If we've learned anything in this 2-1/2-year process, it's that we know how much residents value the unique downtown in our community and the importance of keeping the small-town feel it has. They want to keep the unique look of our downtown. I think we've done that -- the new Downtown Specific Plan and its guidelines will keep our downtown unique."

Members of the task force not already named in this article were Laura Olson, Dirk Christiansen and Teri Pohl. Alternates on the task force were Councilman Jerry Pentin, Nancy Allen, Harpreet Singh Judge and Sylvia Tian.

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Comments

19 people like this
Posted by My opinion
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2019 at 5:50 pm

My opinion is a registered user.

Barone shoved his meat market down the throats of the city and every resident within hearing of the excessive noise. Now he wants to bypass normal environmental studies -- which would be at his expense -- and get the city to rubber stamp his development of homes on that site. Who exactly has he paid off?


15 people like this
Posted by 30 yr resident
a resident of Downtown
on Jun 5, 2019 at 8:32 pm

Candidly there’s 98% agreement that’s because 98% of the election campaign funds come from the same people and groups. The CC sold our town to real estate developers years ago now the real estate developers are recognizing the roi from that investment.


3 people like this
Posted by Michael Austin
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Jun 5, 2019 at 8:45 pm

I remember a phone conversation I had with a lady city council member twenty-five years ago. She said to me "developers are not welcomed in this town".

So, 30 yr resident: Can you be more specific and detail when that sell out occurred?


10 people like this
Posted by Fifty Years Here
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jun 5, 2019 at 9:54 pm

Fifty Years Here is a registered user.

How about parking?


5 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 5, 2019 at 10:27 pm

Michael, you have an awesome memory. The women on the council at the time, 25 years ago, were dynamic contributors to the Community of Pleasanton. To say "developers are not welcome in this town" perhaps was out of context. Maybe she was talking about developers are not welcome to develop the Ridgelands. Anyhow, they wanted housing on Bernal, endorsed Stoneridge Drive and the West Las Positas Interchange.
Aside from that, we have a well managed City, the meeting was attended by no more than 40 people, not counting Pleasanton Staff. Vice-Mayor Karla Brown and Councilmember Julie Testa attended as well.
It was a most interesting meeting. One thing for certain, property owners want to stake their claim, that is their right and our Planning Commission and City Council with Staff's assistance will fiqure it out...being that the Community at-large is not really engaged with so mich of their own to deal with. Anyhow...parking was discussed for about a half hour, plan A and B but meeting was geared toward the solution at hand...18 meetings later.


6 people like this
Posted by Hijacking citizen committees
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2019 at 2:12 am

The headline with the word "spurn" sounds like something out of the National Enquirer.

"spurn"

verb
1.
reject with disdain or contempt

The City Council and Planning Commissioners can vote Yes or No on items on Specific Plans when they come to them for review and approval. For them to insert themselves in the process prior to it coming to them for review and approval is hijacking the process.

I believe the Pleasanton Weekly is unaware that Specific Plan committees used to be independent committees where City Council members did not hijack the process.

For the last 15 years, the City Council has not allowed citizen committees to do their work without being hounded by politicians.

Once upon a time, there were citizens committees that developed and revised the General Plan. Starting in the early 2000's the City Council took it over and did not even allow a citizen committee to be appointed.

Also, prior to a few years ago, Planning Commissioners and/or City Council members were not members of Specific Plan committees or Ad Hoc committees or Task Forces. These operated as working committees not under the direction of the Planning Commission or City Council. In the mid 2000 time period this changed. Gone were the independent citizen committees.

Now for some reason, the politicians --- at least 2 Planning Commissioners and/or 2 City Council members --- are usually appointed to every one of these committees or task forces so that their votes are essentially doubled. Now the commissions and committees became unduly influenced by the politicians.

The Planning Commission and City Council should not weigh in or attempt to influence the once independent Specific Plan committees until their work is done.
Instead they have inserted themselves in the process from beginning to end.

No wonder the Downtown Specific Plan committee refused to rubber stamp work that was not their own. Good for them.


11 people like this
Posted by Frankie
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Jun 6, 2019 at 12:47 pm

Frankie is a registered user.

The TF are to be commended for volunteering 2-1/2 years of public service whether people like the plan or not, although 98 percent of the plan appears to be a consensus. Why vilify developers who constructed and rehab several buildings in downtown. I remember the “good old days” when downtown was a bunch of run down bars and vacant storefronts. Now we have some life there!


10 people like this
Posted by Protect vibrancy
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Jun 7, 2019 at 9:33 am

Protect vibrancy is a registered user.

Frankie appreciate your thoughts about how developers can help us increase vibrancy in our downtown. A Shout out to the developers who Increased downtown vibrancy, for example, The Sidetrack restaurant and the Starbucks building. We need more developers like this.
Shout down to the developers that profit by displacing our commercial spaces with supersized residential townhouses like on Peters and Spring. Instead, there is plenty of opportunity to build residential where it belongs - in the residentially zoned areas of our downtown. This will help us keep our unique downtown character.


2 people like this
Posted by Frankie
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Jun 7, 2019 at 9:54 am

Frankie is a registered user.

While I think the Peters and Spring Street are somewhat overwhelming due to their height and mostly scale next to smaller buildings, I don’t completely oppose houses in downtown so long as they blend nicely. I like the idea of senior apartments at Railroad and Division across from the Firehouse Theatre. I think developers should make a profit like any other business but it is the community that should help to guide the decisions.


12 people like this
Posted by Protect vibrancy
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Jun 7, 2019 at 11:54 am

Protect vibrancy is a registered user.

Yes the community should guide decisions. And residents have been loud and clear they do not want residential displacing commercial space. You can see this in minuttrs from tadk force meetings and community survey. That is why the exiting downtown plan forbids residential unless the Council allows exceptions which they allowed on these properties.

So just hope developers help us build projects that mutually benefit the community and where they can make money. There is plenty of opportunity. But it is not turning our business district into a bunch of condo buildings.


Like this comment
Posted by Frankie
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Jun 8, 2019 at 1:51 pm

I hope Vibrancy attends the task force meetings. Online opinion posts are fine but if you really need to be involved to understand all issues and perspectives when you have strong opinions.


2 people like this
Posted by BobB
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2019 at 5:55 pm

BobB is a registered user.

I think the townhouses at Peters and Spring look fine.


3 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Jun 8, 2019 at 8:39 pm

Jack is a registered user.

How come when something happens in other Pleasanton neighborhoods, the residents are always consulted, but when it's downtown, our neighborhood belongs to the community, and things get decided by a Task Force?


3 people like this
Posted by Jan
a resident of Country Fair
on Jun 10, 2019 at 8:40 am

Jack, you know your question is rhetorical — and you do not live in a traditional neighborhood. The DSP has unusual traffic problems, a large commercial district, some undeveloped open spaces, land owners that hope to make large amounts of money by building up multi story buildings, and most of all, this is our historic downtown. Many of us purchased homes in Pleasanton to enjoy the bucolic, quaint, small scale, old-fashioned and precious downtown. We are willing to fight to retain all that is special in our downtown. Please keep that in mind when you complain about public feedback throughout Pleasanton.


2 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Jun 10, 2019 at 9:45 am

Jack is a registered user.

Jan, you write like a well informed and intelligent person... Do you know how many people on the Task Force pay property taxes in the Downtown? One, Jan Batcheller. Why did they purposely avoid putting residents and property owners on the Task Force? My issue goes back to the Boston Tea Party, taxation without representation! If you're going to tell me what is best for me and my property, at least give me a seat at the table! And since you and others "purchased homes in Pleasanton to enjoy the bucolic, quaint, small scale, old-fashioned and precious downtown," why don't you attend a Council Mtg and tell them to use some of your tax dollars to build some parking down here? And while you might be "willing to fight to retain all that is special in our downtown," how about the people who pay the bills to create and maintain what is special in Downtown?


4 people like this
Posted by Joe P
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jun 10, 2019 at 1:45 pm

Jack, your facts are not right. Teri Pohl has stated early on at the DSP Task Force meetings that she lives downtown, for a total of 2 members that LIVE in the DSP area. I personally do not know where everyone else lives but they all live in Pleasanton and they all dine, shop and enjoy our great downtown. In addition, the City helps to fund the PDA/Downtown Assoc. with my tax dollars so to your point - the residents throughout Pleasanton have a paid seat at the table for what this town looks like going forward.


8 people like this
Posted by Our shared downtown
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Jun 10, 2019 at 2:39 pm

Our shared downtown is a registered user.

Healthy downtowns are gathering places for all residents of A community. Our downtown is one of the top reasons residents moved here. All residents pay taxes to maintain downtown streets, sidewalks, parks, lighting, city buildings including the library. It takes all residents to shop and eat downtown to keep it healthy. I live near Amador and walk to coffee or dinner a few times a week. I spend at least $5k a year in purchases a year adv do many others who do not live in downtown. This is OUR collective downtown and we care about it just as much as you and deserve to share in the future.

We do not want our prime commercial areas turned into houses as we would amenities we all enjoy. We need more vibrant retail.


3 people like this
Posted by Patcher
a resident of Downtown
on Jun 14, 2019 at 2:04 pm

@Frankie, "I remember the “good old days” when downtown was a bunch of run down bars and vacant storefronts. Now we have some life there!"

We have numerous vacancies (except for residential stack & packs being built in a flash). Vibrancy, not so much.

Just look at the vacancies between Angela and Ray alone that either sit vacant for years, or else take years to complete.

310 Main Street A
310 Main Street D
337 Main Street (adjacent space to BofA)
349 Main Street #150
401 Main Street
620 Main Street
725 Main Street

We should take SF's lead by having tighter requirements and a penalty for owners of vacant storefronts.

@Protect Vibrancy, "A Shout out to the developers who Increased downtown vibrancy, for example, The Sidetrack restaurant and the Starbucks building. We need more developers like this."

YES!!
And, how about sign enforcement, which would provide for a maximum number of days that a "Coming Soon" Banner can be displayed, so it actually means something.


1 person likes this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Jun 14, 2019 at 7:23 pm

Jack is a registered user.

Our shared Downtown writes: This is OUR collective downtown and we care about it just as much as you and deserve to share in the future.

Patcher writes: We should take SF's lead by having tighter requirements and a penalty for owners of vacant storefronts.

Which is it?


Like this comment
Posted by Susan
a resident of Pleasanton Village
on Aug 20, 2019 at 2:57 pm

Where is the Parking, Autos out here to stay?


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

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