The Public Storage facility on Stanley Boulevard is on its way to getting a major overhaul after the Pleasanton City Council approved the final redesign plans following an at times testy public debate late last month.
The three-hour hearing on Dec. 15, which focused primarily on the new three-story storage building being added toward the backside of the property and the affordable housing fee being charged to the owner for redeveloping the site, was the first significant action item for the revamped council whose newly elected members were sworn in earlier that night.
A first test for the new council, the Public Storage project had been called up for review one month earlier at the request of now-Vice Mayor Julie Testa, who would openly criticize the version of the plans approved by the Planning Commission but strongly support the final designs revised by the developer days before the council meeting.
"I'm very pleased with the changes that have happened, and how rapidly it was done. And I'm very appreciative of that because I do not believe this project, a couple of weeks ago, was what our community deserved, what our residents deserved," Testa said.
Councilwoman Kathy Narum, the lone dissenting voice in the 3-1 vote on the plans, specifically objected to the revised pitched roof design for the new buildings instead of flat top look more common for industrial facilities. But she also raised concerns about how the redesign process played out.
"It's an industrial area, and I think we're trying to make something into mixed-use (transitional), when it's industrial," Narum said, later adding: "I do have some concern about the public process. I feel like this design was done much without public input ... I'm not sure that this is good government. It doesn't feel transparent, quite frankly."
Testa later explained that she spoke with the developer at their request after she called for council review of the project, and "I certainly wasn't planning to plan a project, but the applicant asked me what my concerns were and I did share."
Narum and Testa also found themselves on opposing ends in the debate on the affordable housing fee before Testa ultimately joined the 3-1 majority in imposing a $137,000 fee -- a total reached as new Mayor Karla Brown and Councilwoman Valerie Arkin attempted to find a passable compromise.
The council's decisions last month would seem to represent a final resolution for the Public Storage redevelopment that had been in the planning phase for nearly three years; although the approvals could still be challenged in court, no such appeals had been filed to date.
"All we're trying to do is reinvest in the community and build new, state-of-the-art storage," Public Storage official Bryan Miranda told the council on Dec. 15.
Miranda at one point said the Pleasanton project was "by far the longest process that I have had in all of my projects," but later, after being prodded by Brown, he acknowledged that there were certainly delays on Public Storage's end that contributed to the length of the city's review timeline.
The final plans call for major renovations at the Public Storage facility that has long been in operation at 3716 Stanley Blvd., located roughly between the Nevada Street-Old Stanley Boulevard intersection and the Bernal-Valley-Stanley junction.
Seven existing, single-story storage buildings would be torn down, and the outdoor storage areas used primarily for trailers, boats and recreational vehicles would be removed. In their place would be a new three-story storage building with a net total of almost 166,000 square feet of new space, along with a separate new single-story storage building at about 9,300 square feet.
Another seven single-story storage buildings currently at the property would remain intact. The office building at the front along Stanley Boulevard would be renovated.
Public Storage will retain one apartment unit onsite for the manager, one of several changes made to the project plans after the Planning Commission meeting. That version, approved by the commission 4-1, removed the manager's unit.
The 6.59-acre parcel is among commercial and service businesses, including several car repair shops, to the east, and the Central Self Storage site across the street. The Vintage Apartments and downtown Pleasanton are also just down the road, in opposite directions.
But Public Storage is now next door to part of the new Irby Ranch housing development, including the Sunflower Hill at Irby Ranch apartment complex for adults with special needs.
The proposed three-story building is on the east and south side of the Public Storage property, away from Irby Ranch and partly alongside the new Nevada Street extension.
As part of their redevelopment application, Public Storage agreed to provide $300,000 to the city to build a public trail on the south side of Nevada Street, plus another $14,000 for five years worth of trail maintenance as well as construct two decorative benches for the Nevada sidewalk.
The Planning Commission voted 4-1 on Oct. 28 to approve the project as proposed at that time, which was similar in concept to the revised version taken to the council -- except for the manager's unit and exterior building design elements. The commission action incorporated 97 conditions of approval for the project.
Commissioner Nancy Allen dissented, opposing the Public Storage brand orange banding on some of the new construction, which she argued went against the "community character element policies" in the city's General Plan that aim to discourage bright franchise colors and signs.
Then, at Testa's request on Nov. 17, the Public Storage application was called up for council review.
The council hearing was originally scheduled for Dec. 1 but then bumped out to Dec. 15 at the applicant's request -- the first in a series of late twists and turns for the project before it reached the finish line:
* The shift in hearing date meant the project would come before the new council, instead of the prior council before the transition.
* That also meant there would only be four people on the dais for the debate. Newly elected Councilman Jack Balch had to recuse himself from the Public Storage hearing because he already voted on the matter when he was on the Planning Commission -- he was part of that commission majority.
* Public Storage officials submitted revised plans to the city on Dec. 8. Among the changes was to incorporate design elements from the Irby Ranch neighborhood and Sunflower Hill complex, including roof forms, materials and colors (and remove the orange brand color banding).
* As part of the council hearing, the company requested the city substantially reduce the affordable housing fee down from the amount prescribed by city code of approximately $2.1 million down to around $26,000 because they'd only have five employees maximum. The assumed density, off which the fee maximum fee was calculated at $13.02 per square foot for industrial, was 414 employees, per city staff.
* Noting the much-lower employee count, the manager's unit staying and past fee reductions for other storage facility projects, city staff recommended the council impose a fee of $68,973. They presented the council with five total options for consideration.
* In another calculation, city staff issued a memo on the same day as the hearing correcting the revised land value estimate to $338,459 -- saying an earlier value they calculated ($2.4 million) was a mistake.
* Because the project was called up for review by the council, it was not considered an appeal and instead Dec. 15 was a separate process independent of the commission action, in effect like a new application, according to city attorney Dan Sodergren. So the council needed majority votes to pass; a 2-2 stalemate would be the same as "no action" and the application dying. That news surprised Public Storage reps at the hearing.
* During public comment, council members heard from several residents of the new Irby Ranch neighborhood concerned about the new construction next to their homes and the visual impacts from the end product.
* They also heard several critical comments about the city creating undue burdens on businesses as well as the way the public process played out. Steve Van Dorn, president and CEO of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce, said, "We now have a completely different project than what was approved by the Planning Commission and supported by staff, based on input from one City Council member. Based on what I have just outlined, why would anyone want to serve on our Planning Commission when all their hard work is thrown out the window by our council member that is not even discussed in a public manner?"
* Testa later remarked that she was concerned that the original design passed through the Planning Commission while, in her view, not conforming to the General Plan due to the orange brand colors.
* It took the council three motions to finally settle on an affordable housing fee. A motion by Testa for $516,878 failed; a motion by Narum for $68,973 was withdrawn without a majority; a motion by Arkin for $137,000 (approximately double staff's recommendation) passed 3-1 with Narum in dissent.