Guest Opinion: No decision is permanent with downtown Pleasanton

Resident reflects on city's Downtown Specific Plan update process

Pleasanton's downtown has a strong sense of historic preservation and distinctive architecture that makes our town unique.

However, this core foundation has been weakened, as a result of the final adoption and approval of the updated Pleasanton Downtown Specific Plan (DSP), finalized by our City Council. The updated DSP does not go far enough to protect and preserve our historic downtown areas.

Kelly Mokashi
Adversely, the approved ordinance No. 2193 paves the way for rezoning designations for several properties within our downtown. For instance, certain public land-use properties are now approved to be rezoned as "mixed-use downtown" areas, including where the Civic Center resides.

Mixed-use zoning means the first floor is used commercially, and subsequent floors are used for residential housing. These newly zoned "mixed-use downtown" areas allow for buildings up to 46 feet in height and three stories maximum -- though a developer could try for four stories through a planned-unit development (PUD) application. These changes go against what many residents surveyed in 2017 stated, "No more housing downtown!"

DSP historic preservation goals were ignored in the plan by including revised standards that are "out of scale" to the architectural compatibility of nearby downtown areas.

In my opinion, the updated DSP falls short of seeking comprehensive solutions and lacks a clear vision for our residents. Instead, there is an over-emphasis on rezoning land-use areas, with a shortsighted solution to relocate the Civic Center to Bernal Park.

The updated DSP should have diligently searched for multiple solutions on how to revitalize our downtown areas, instead of prioritizing expansive building projects. It also should have included more strategic options for improving existing public land-use areas, such as by redeveloping the existing Civic Center into two stories or adding a community center.

Looking beyond many debates held during the DSP review process, we must not lose sight of the real battle at hand. We must remember, the residents still have a voice to preserve public land-use areas by keeping the existing Civic Center in its current location.

How? The public must stay firm and vote against the relocation of the existing Civic Center to Bernal Park.

Why? Because then, Pleasanton city staff and the City Council must go back to amend the DSP, as it relates to the existing Civic Center site. Simply stated, the mixed-use downtown zoning area would most likely be rezoned back to public land-use.

As residents, we must consider what makes Pleasanton's downtown unique and remember it's about protecting and preserving the small-town, historic buildings, its downtown areas and the downtown public land-uses. Until the time comes for us to cast our final vote, remember that no decision is permanent!

Until then, I urge all residents to email our City Council at and ask for concrete next steps and assurances for the preservation of our historic downtown areas.

Why? Because many elements of the updated DSP leave room for potential undesirable outcomes, that are contradictory to historic preservation and do not reflect the many voices of our residents.

Editor's note: Kelly Mokashi was an active citizen voice during the city's Downtown Specific Plan update process in 2019. She is a newer transplant to Pleasanton, just shy of two years, and a mother of three children in local schools. She is a former educator and currently a K-12 educational consultant and content development writer.

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23 people like this
Posted by Local Grad
a resident of Downtown
on Sep 30, 2019 at 12:54 pm

We have one of the few downtowns around that is substantial, but feels quaint.
It is a beautiful thing that should be preserved.
It is not hard to get businesses and builders on board and build and build.

The costs of the new city government HQ are shocking.
It shakes my faith in this community that the leaders are planning to get away with such a misproportioned plan.

5 people like this
Posted by Thirty years here
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Oct 1, 2019 at 2:23 pm

Thank you for your thoughtful editorial. You said it well. I moved here for the downtown and pray that it will remain vital with a unique charm. I too was disappointed that the majority on the council agreed to allow ground floor residential on our key side streets as part of standard zoning (so long as behind small store). And was disappointed they asked staff to consider 3 stories for the Shell parcel after they had previously insisted that residential should only be two stories. We need leaders who walk the talk and protect our downtown.

Aside from the enormous cost of moving the city center, I worry that a new civic center at Bernal Park will kill the vibrancy of our main downtown. What city our size can support 2 downtowns/civic centers in two locations.

We need to get creative and possibly refresh our library or older city buildings but should not be moving them out of the downtown.

1 person likes this
Posted by Oliver Heaviside
a resident of Val Vista
on Oct 1, 2019 at 2:55 pm

Oliver Heaviside is a registered user.

A plan that allows for more housing, especially housing at the lower end of the price range, is worth considering. We don't need another Ruby Hill. We do need apartments and such that ordinary folks can afford. A three-story building is hardly a sky-scraper.

Any plan is going to involve some compromise, and the downtown needs to evolve, as it has. Just imagine if it was the downtown of forty years ago - the Pastime Pool Hall and six more places just like it. No thanks!

5 people like this
Posted by Pete
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 1, 2019 at 6:58 pm

Oliver Heaviside, “ Any plan is going to involve some compromise, and the downtown needs to evolve, as it has.” Obviously you were here forty years ago...and not paying $48 for a 12oz steak at one of those six places you mentioned with Pastime Pool Hall. No Thanks...!!! That does not include a baked potato...that’s extra.
Housing at the end of town would not be affordable to ordinary people. Of course, what is ordinary to you? Get real...
The more you allow government to get away from the people, you get what you pay for. Never will my family vote to extend government further away from the Community with their/his/her agenda.

Like this comment
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Oct 1, 2019 at 7:16 pm

Kathleen Ruegsegger is a registered user.

What are the chances that Main St. property owner A gets approval for some kind of housing. How long before property owner X or Y or L or G decide to sell to developers and the whole downtown is first floor business and top floor residences? I can’t say if that is good or bad change, but wonder if it is the change we want to see.

2 people like this
Posted by Patcher
a resident of Downtown
on Oct 3, 2019 at 1:01 pm

Recipe for Disaster: Add several 1000 units of housing. Mix it in with several 1000 units of residents. Add some Big Box stores. No, needs more. Still not enough. Add More. Get a whiff of that. The smell of traffic and taste of overcrowding. This town used to have such simple, wonderful, flavor, but now it tastes just like any other big city armpit.

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