Pleasanton council poised to debate Downtown Specific Plan next week

Draft could be signed off Tuesday; Testa out for living too close to DSP area

The Downtown Specific Plan is a comprehensive legislative package aimed at updating city regulations and objectives for the 307 acres of commercial, residential and public land in the downtown planning area that is centered around the commercial core on Main Street. (Photo by Mike Sedlak)

The Pleasanton City Council is set to hold what could be its final debate on proposed updates to the city's Downtown Specific Plan next week.

Though the council's full agenda packet had not been released as of Wednesday afternoon, city public information officer Cindy Chin confirmed to the Weekly that the DSP draft will be the main hearing item next Tuesday evening and could be decided on that night.

"The Draft Specific Plan proposed for adoption will reflect the direction provided by the City Council in their April and May recommendations on the Draft Downtown Specific Plan, which were also, for the most part, supported by the Planning Commission," Chin said in an email.

The council's regular meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. at the Pleasanton Civic Center, 200 Old Bernal Ave.

The council chamber is expected to be packed next Tuesday night, but one familiar face will be missing from the dais.

Councilwoman Julie Testa said Wednesday morning she will be recusing herself from the matter after a recent California Fair Political Practices Commission opinion deemed her home is located too close to the DSP boundary.

Testa, a vocal participant in the DSP process before and after her election last November, said she sought guidance from the FPPC after researching her recusal boundary related to another project. Her residence is outside of the DSP area but the property is about 470 feet away from one outer edge boundary -- the buffer zone that state officials deem still creates a financial conflict of interest and necessitates recusal is 500 feet.

Testa said she respects the independent finding from the state commission dated Aug. 6 but is disappointed she won't have the opportunity to represent her constituents in the DSP deliberations in the way they had expected.

The other four council members are anticipated to participate without issue Tuesday -- although property-owning conflict did force two planning commissioners to bow out of the DSP debate.

A comprehensive legislative package, the DSP process is aimed at updating city regulations and objectives for the 307 acres of commercial, residential and public land in the downtown planning area. It is the outcome of the work by city staff and the task force of city leaders, downtown stakeholders and other volunteers since 2017.

The documents include wide-ranging updates to the DSP document itself; amendments to the General Plan, downtown design guidelines, downtown hospitality guidelines and city code regulations; modifications to land-use designations for certain properties in the DSP area; and an environmental impact report.

Some of the revisions are designed to better align city regulations and priorities across policy documents while others are new proposals with an eye on the future of downtown.

As the DSP process winded down, the public debate took three sharp turns when the task force shifted gears from members' previous leanings on several design and zoning items in February, the council chimed in to give direction on those points in April and May, and then the task force voted 4-3 at its final meeting May 28 to reject the council's direction and recommend its Feb. 26 plan instead.

That left the Planning Commission to weigh a draft legislative package that was unified on most fronts but featured competing recommendations on those several items -- topics like maximum building heights, ground-floor residential and zoning overlays for the Shell station and Barone's sites.

The three commissioners discussed the pending line items and took a straw vote on each, with most decisions advancing on by 2-1 counts. The majority often sided with the council over the task force on pending points -- or made no recommendation, leaving it up to the council.

But the commissioners were unanimous on one other point: the DSP update was far too quiet on parking, a major topic of concern for many downtown stakeholders and patrons.

So in advancing the DSP package to the council for consideration, they also strongly urged the city officials to prioritize a downtown parking action plan as soon as possible.

The council majority, in its direction to the task force in the spring, called for tightening the building standards for future development on downtown properties in the residential zone by stipulating that buildings be a maximum of two stories.

They also supported the existing 40-foot-tall and 300% floor-area ratio (FAR) maximums for the commercial core area; a 36-foot-tall, two-story maximum with 125% FAR for the new "mixed-use transitional" zone; and 46 feet with three stories maximum and 300% FAR for the new "mixed-use downtown" district.

And the council majority preferred ban on ground-floor residential on commercial properties fronting Main Street and in the "mixed-use downtown" zone -- among other key input provided in the spring.

When the council revisits the matter Tuesday night, perhaps for the decisive time, Testa won't be the only key player from the DSP process missing from the equation.

Gerry Beaudin, the city's community development director for the past four-plus years, resigned from the city effective last Thursday to take a promotion as assistant city manager in Alameda. It is Beaudin's former department leading the DSP updates and he was a central figure overseeing the drafting process and task force meetings.

And Laura Olson, a vocal task force member, Pleasanton native and longtime executive director of the Pleasanton Downtown Association, is no longer involved in the process after stepping down effective Aug. 2 and relocating with her family to Alabama.

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