News

Pleasanton council set for Downtown Specific Plan debate

12% raise proposed for city manager, PPIE 'Pillars' presentation also on tap

The Pleasanton City Council is ready for what could be its last comprehensive public discussion on proposed updates to the city's Downtown Specific Plan on Tuesday night.

A subject for debate in public meetings, local news headlines, social media posts and conversations around town since 2017, the new draft DSP features policy and guideline updates on a wealth of topics relevant to the 307-acre downtown area.

But most of the public interest has centered on changes in the commercial core and surrounding side streets -- issues such as maximum building height, residential on Main Street and parking.

The council is poised for a debate that could last for hours Tuesday evening, at the end of which members could cast initial votes on the entire DSP legislative package that would then need to be confirmed with a second reading and final adoption of DSP-related ordinances next month.

Councilwoman Julie Testa told the Weekly last week that 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.

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From city staff's perspective, there have been a handful of objectives in mind while working to update the city's DSP, which was last overhauled in 2002, according to city planning manager Ellen Clark.

"Provide clear and consistent policy guidance; provide a framework for new development on significant opportunity sites, particularly the existing civic center site; ensure consistency and integration with recent and ongoing planning efforts," Clark wrote in her staff report to the council.

"Achieve the most desirable mix of land uses, including residential, retail, and office throughout the downtown area, including ground-floor uses along Main Street," she added. "Ensure a high-quality, well-designed public realm; improve connections from Main Street to side streets; and improve the mobility of cars, buses, bicycles and pedestrians in the downtown area."

The DSP package is aimed at updating city regulations and goals for the commercial, residential and publicly owned properties in the downtown planning area. 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.

It is the outcome of the work by city staff and the task force of city leaders, downtown stakeholders and other volunteers since 2017.

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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.

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.

The Planning Commission weighed in on the package as a whole in June, with the majority largely siding with the council over the task force on pending points.

Commissioners also went out of their way to argue the DSP update did not go far enough in addressing parking availability in downtown -- a major concern for many business owners, residents and patrons. The staff recommendation to the council heading into Tuesday does not call for any new parking proposals, but points out the commission's suggestion to form a working group for downtown parking among city staff and stakeholders.

Other talking points heading into Tuesday's meeting include standards for new development projects in downtown.

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.

Still, there are those who caution that the less-stringent rules for building height, residential location and density pushed by the task force majority still remain on the table -- though not supported by city staff and the council's previous majority vote.

Other aspects expected to be part of the council debate Tuesday include whether to require a more intensive planned unit development (PUD) process for any new residential in the commercial or mixed use transitional districts; right-to-do-business ordinance; outdoor dining approvals; ground-floor residential on corner lots; and zoning overlays for the Shell station and Barone's sites.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the council chamber at the Pleasanton Civic Center, 200 Old Bernal Ave.

In other business

* The council will consider giving pay raises to the city's top administrative employees: City Manager Nelson Fialho (12%) and city attorney Daniel Sodergren (8%).

Fialho has led the city in his position for the past 15 years and Sodergren has been on board since May 2016, but neither man has received a salary increase the last two years. After glowing performance evaluations this summer, Mayor Jerry Thorne recommends the full council confirm raises for both.

The proposed 12% increase would raise Fialho's annual salary to $255,452. The 8% bump would up Sodergren's annual salary to $226,800.

Thorne, in his staff report, notes that Fialho and Sodergren each would remain below the market average in the area for their positions even after the new raises.

The contract amendments for Fialho and Sodergren are listed among the council's 19-item consent calendar, a collection of items deemed routine and voted upon all at once unless an item is pulled for separate consideration.

* Pleasanton Partnerships in Education Foundation (PPIE) representatives are scheduled to present to the council about the nonprofit's new "Pillars of Pleasanton" program aimed at generating increased business support for Pleasanton Unified School District schools.

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Pleasanton council set for Downtown Specific Plan debate

12% raise proposed for city manager, PPIE 'Pillars' presentation also on tap

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Mon, Aug 19, 2019, 5:07 pm

The Pleasanton City Council is ready for what could be its last comprehensive public discussion on proposed updates to the city's Downtown Specific Plan on Tuesday night.

A subject for debate in public meetings, local news headlines, social media posts and conversations around town since 2017, the new draft DSP features policy and guideline updates on a wealth of topics relevant to the 307-acre downtown area.

But most of the public interest has centered on changes in the commercial core and surrounding side streets -- issues such as maximum building height, residential on Main Street and parking.

The council is poised for a debate that could last for hours Tuesday evening, at the end of which members could cast initial votes on the entire DSP legislative package that would then need to be confirmed with a second reading and final adoption of DSP-related ordinances next month.

Councilwoman Julie Testa told the Weekly last week that 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.

From city staff's perspective, there have been a handful of objectives in mind while working to update the city's DSP, which was last overhauled in 2002, according to city planning manager Ellen Clark.

"Provide clear and consistent policy guidance; provide a framework for new development on significant opportunity sites, particularly the existing civic center site; ensure consistency and integration with recent and ongoing planning efforts," Clark wrote in her staff report to the council.

"Achieve the most desirable mix of land uses, including residential, retail, and office throughout the downtown area, including ground-floor uses along Main Street," she added. "Ensure a high-quality, well-designed public realm; improve connections from Main Street to side streets; and improve the mobility of cars, buses, bicycles and pedestrians in the downtown area."

The DSP package is aimed at updating city regulations and goals for the commercial, residential and publicly owned properties in the downtown planning area. 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.

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.

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.

The Planning Commission weighed in on the package as a whole in June, with the majority largely siding with the council over the task force on pending points.

Commissioners also went out of their way to argue the DSP update did not go far enough in addressing parking availability in downtown -- a major concern for many business owners, residents and patrons. The staff recommendation to the council heading into Tuesday does not call for any new parking proposals, but points out the commission's suggestion to form a working group for downtown parking among city staff and stakeholders.

Other talking points heading into Tuesday's meeting include standards for new development projects in downtown.

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.

Still, there are those who caution that the less-stringent rules for building height, residential location and density pushed by the task force majority still remain on the table -- though not supported by city staff and the council's previous majority vote.

Other aspects expected to be part of the council debate Tuesday include whether to require a more intensive planned unit development (PUD) process for any new residential in the commercial or mixed use transitional districts; right-to-do-business ordinance; outdoor dining approvals; ground-floor residential on corner lots; and zoning overlays for the Shell station and Barone's sites.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the council chamber at the Pleasanton Civic Center, 200 Old Bernal Ave.

In other business

* The council will consider giving pay raises to the city's top administrative employees: City Manager Nelson Fialho (12%) and city attorney Daniel Sodergren (8%).

Fialho has led the city in his position for the past 15 years and Sodergren has been on board since May 2016, but neither man has received a salary increase the last two years. After glowing performance evaluations this summer, Mayor Jerry Thorne recommends the full council confirm raises for both.

The proposed 12% increase would raise Fialho's annual salary to $255,452. The 8% bump would up Sodergren's annual salary to $226,800.

Thorne, in his staff report, notes that Fialho and Sodergren each would remain below the market average in the area for their positions even after the new raises.

The contract amendments for Fialho and Sodergren are listed among the council's 19-item consent calendar, a collection of items deemed routine and voted upon all at once unless an item is pulled for separate consideration.

* Pleasanton Partnerships in Education Foundation (PPIE) representatives are scheduled to present to the council about the nonprofit's new "Pillars of Pleasanton" program aimed at generating increased business support for Pleasanton Unified School District schools.

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