The Pleasanton City Council approved plans for redesigning and expanding the city's downtown parking lot on the old railroad corridor between Bernal Avenue and Abbie Street on Tuesday night.
The 4-1 vote after nearly two hours of public discussion and three failed motions represented a reluctant endorsement by the council majority of city staff's initial designs after being unable to find an acceptable compromise to better balance competing interests of maximizing parking and trail width on the narrow, 75-foot-wide property.
"One of the reasons I've really struggled with it is because both points are valid," Mayor Jerry Thorne said during the hearing at the Pleasanton Civic Center.
The debate hinged on the new trail that would span the length of the property alongside the parking lot, whether it should be 8-9 feet wide as staff recommended for a slow-speed recreational pathway for pedestrians and bicyclists or 12 feet wide or more as the cycling community wanted for a multi-use regional transportation trail.
The problem given the property dimensions and other site challenges was that the wider the trail, the fewer new parking spots could be added -- at least 33 fewer new spaces to accommodate a 12-foot-wide trail, according to city staff.
The council majority, agreeing that 8 feet was unsafe as too narrow, directed staff to proceed with the design that maximizes new parking but look for ways to cut back on landscape buffers, retaining wall width and even lose several parking stalls to make the trail a minimum of 9 feet wide throughout.
"Having sat on the Downtown Specific Plan (task force) for a little over two years, I can tell you that every meeting the issue of parking came up," Thorne said. "Maybe there doesn't have to be a lot of landscaping and what have you, and maybe we can maximize parking and have a trail that's usable."
Councilman Jerry Pentin, an avid bicyclist and cycling advocate, cast the dissenting vote.
"We should have looked at this as a transportation corridor first, and a parking lot second," Pentin said. "(The trail) is just not wide enough ... It will be a sidewalk, and I don't think we're accomplishing our goal if that's what we end up building."
The city-owned lot on the south end of downtown, located between Main and First streets, currently contains 59 diagonal spaces in a dirt/gravel strip in the so-called transportation corridor -- former Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way running through downtown that the city purchased from Alameda County in 2008 to increase parking and trail connectivity.
With corridor improvements being developed in phases as funding allows, the council in 2017, as part of prioritizing more public parking throughout downtown, supported a proposed project to redesign the Bernal-to-Abbie section of the transportation corridor to create a lot more similar to the Firehouse Arts Center parking lot that was also built in the old railroad corridor.
City officials have allocated $3.2 million for the project, and city staff and contractor HMH Engineers are ready with partial designs (known as "65% complete plans").
Their plans call for installing a two-way drive aisle, a 90-degree parking configuration on each side, a concrete walkway and landscaping improvements while creating a total of 140 parking spots, an increase of 81 stalls.
The project would also include a retaining wall, site lighting, electric vehicle charging stations, drainage improvements, stormwater treatment, curb, gutter, asphalt pavement and striping, according to Steve Kirkpatrick, the city's director of engineering.
When city staff took the plans to the Bicycle, Pedestrian and Trails Committee for review in March, committee members thought the designs too unevenly favored parking over cyclist and pedestrian needs, specifically opposing the trail's 9-foot width, with four pinch points at 8 feet wide, according to Kirkpatrick.
The staff design concept took its lead from the Firehouse parking lot construction in 2011, which added an 8-foot-wide concrete trail, although other city guiding documents call for a minimum width of 10 feet with buffers for a multi-use trail, Kirkpatrick said.
The committee voted in March to recommend the project be redesigned to "consider both parking and bicycle/pedestrians more equally," he said. Though not formally endorsing a specific new layout, the committee did discuss widening the trail to 12 feet by mixing 90-degree and parallel parking -- instead of all perpendicular, as city staff urges -- for 107 spots overall.
With the competing recommendations, city staff wanted the council to weigh in Tuesday night and decide whether to advance the 65% complete plans for finalization or send staff and consultants back to the drawing board to create a new layout with a wider trail.
Kirkpatrick pointed out several key factors at the site don't really allow engineers to create a layout on city property that widens the trail to 10-12 feet without losing dozens of parking stalls, including a slight slope, a Kinder Morgan gas pipeline below ground and the fact the available city land is only 75 feet wide (compared to the Firehouse lot, which is 100 feet wide).
Staff did present the council with alternatives to consider such as a smaller lot, diagonal parking (31 new spots), eliminating landscape buffers, or the mixed perpendicular-parallel parking suggestion from the committee (48 new spots).
But the council majority considered the parking loss too great if widening the trail to 12 feet, so after struggling to find a workable compromise, they ultimately told staff to find ways to reduce landscaping around the trail to get the minimum width of 9 feet -- and saying engineers could remove up to 10 parking spots if necessary to accomplish the goal.
"Nobody's happy, so that means we did our job," Thorne quipped after the vote on the fourth and final motion attempt.
With the council direction confirmed, city and consultant engineers will work to finalize designs by the fall so the project could be sent out to bid and begin construction by the winter or spring. If that timeline holds, the renovated parking lot would reopen during summer 2020, according to Kirkpatrick.
In other business
* The council opened the meeting with a ceremony recognizing the 125th anniversary of Pleasanton's incorporation as a city -- which occurred on June 18, 1894.
The public ceremony, which followed a dessert reception in city hall, included a historical overview of the incorporation process, recognitions from county, state and federal officials, and Pleasanton teen Lauryn Hedges performing her original song "Our Home" for the occasion.
The council's ceremony served as the kick-off event for Pleasanton's "Summer of Celebration," with a slate of programs and activities in honor of the city's quasquicentennial
* Council members presented a proclamation declaring June as LGBTQ Pride Month in Pleasanton.
* They also anointed Jeffrey Williams as Pleasanton's 2019 Ambassadog, a program partnership with the Valley Humane Society to recognize one local pup as the city's canine representative for the year.
* During non-agenda comment, the council heard from a handful of Gatetree Circle residents critical of the decision to designate their neighborhood as a drop-off and pick-up point for families in the fall during the school district's Amador Valley High parking lot closure.
* The council adopted the city's two-year operating budget (with $192.3 million in expenditures for 2019-20 and $196.1 million for 2010-21) as well as the city's four-year capital improvement program (CIP), with $168.3 million worth of projects between 2019-20 and 2022-23.
The budget and CIP, which were initially reviewed by the council during a public hearing two weeks ago, were approved as part of Tuesday night's 17-item consent calendar.