An anticipated vote on a final site inventory list for Pleasanton's next Housing Element update was delayed again after the Pleasanton City Council agreed on Tuesday to not make a final decision until a special meeting next week.
Prior to Tuesday's council meeting, councilmembers Julie Testa and Jack Balch were advised by the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) on whether they could vote on items concerning the housing sites inventory. Testa and Balch each live within 500 feet of sites that are proposed for inclusion on the sites inventory list.
In their response to the city's inquiry, FPPC officials said both council members have "a potentially disqualifying financial interest in governmental decisions related to the Housing Sites Inventory."
"However, the public generally exception applies to the decision to approve the list as a whole and general policy discussions and decisions applicable to all properties on the list," FPPC officials said.
Both Balch and Testa may still participate in the discussion and decision to approve the site inventory list "as a whole and general policy decisions applicable to all the properties on the list," according to city attorney Dan Sodergren.
"However, at the same time, the FPPC also pointed out that the exception may not apply to a decision to remove a site that is in proximity to their homes or a discussion of parameters for such sites that do not apply to the final list as a whole," Sodergren said.
Because of this, Sodergren said the two sites -- St. Augustine Catholic Church and a parcel owned by the Pleasanton Unified School District -- will be addressed individually first "so that council members Testa and Balch can refrain from participating in the sites in proximity to their homes."
Once it is determined whether to include those sites, the council will decide on the remaining sites on the inventory list.
Balch, who lives 45 feet from the St. Augustine site, told the Weekly that he is prohibited from participating in decisions about the site "only if it becomes its own separate matter," but is "otherwise free to discuss in context of all the sites and all the housing in the community."
On Tuesday, Testa said she appreciated the explanation, "but the letter read, as you pointed out, that we may have a conflict of interest on the individual sites that are near our homes, but it was not conclusive."
"I guess my point is that in the interest of just being conservative and wanting to make a decision that would be cautious in the city's best interest, I am choosing to recuse myself from even that one site because the FPPC certainly was not conclusive on that," Testa said.
More than a year after the city started identifying suitable sites for future rezoning and housing development to meet the state-mandated Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) of 5,965 new units, the list has been narrowed to 28 sites for inclusion in the environmental analysis.
Several prominent sites on the inventory are marked for high-density development, including the Stoneridge Shopping Center, Stanford Health Care-ValleyCare, Hacienda Terrace, Metro 580 and SteelWave sites. Sites that are designated low to medium density on the list include a property owned by the PUSD in southeastern Pleasanton on Vineyard Avenue, as well as the Lester site. Both Valley and Mission plazas are also listed on the site inventory.
Prior to adoption of the final Housing Element next year, staff said the council "has the ability and discretion to decide the final list of sites to include in the inventory" and "could include more sites than strictly necessary to meet the RHNA."
According to staff, "many cities are opting to include this type of 'buffer' of additional sites capacity, particularly in light of the more stringent no net loss' provisions of state law'."
"Pleasanton could choose to either include a built-in 'buffer' of extra residential zoning capacity among the sites identified and adopted as part of the Housing Element; or to create a list of potential additional sites that are not included in the Housing Element at the time of adoption, but eligible to be considered at a future date for rezoning if needed," staff said.
By including those sites in the California Environmental Quality Act analysis, and vetting them as "conceptually suitable for housing," staff said "this back up list will simplify the process of selecting future sites in the event that additional rezonings are needed to address not net loss."
Certain sites were asked to be added or removed from the inventory list during Tuesday's public hearing, particularly the SteelWave, and Valley and Mission plaza sites. One resident said he wants to preserve the "small-town feel" and multiple small businesses in both shopping centers, while former councilmember Becky Dennis said the sites are in an already walkable area.
"I think it could use refreshment, even if you put it at the very end of the development timeline of the Housing Element," Dennis said. "I think that would give eight years to plan it and involve the neighborhood in making sure it has the businesses they want."
Dennis also said she liked the Kewitt and Boulder Court sites "because it's near the new Amazon facility, and I think the city could possibly interest Amazon in partnering with the city to create nonprofit managed housing there for the workforce."
"As far as SteelWave is concerned, if housing is allowed," Dennis said the council should disallow retail and office space from being added because "it's a loser from the point of view of climate action, and puts us in the hole as far as emissions are concerned."
Steve Dunn, representative for the SteelWave site, said developing the area would add mixed-use with various densities and community benefits such as completion of the Iron Horse Regional Trail.
"We like this obviously to be an informed decision," Dunn said. "This provides the council more flexibility and opportunity by studying the site and then making that educated decision."
Several residents asked to remove the Tri-Valley Inn from the list -- which they said was included and then removed during the last housing cycle for having "too many units for such a piece of property" -- and to keep the site zoned commercial. Similar requests were also made to omit the Donlon property from the housing site inventory list, in an effort to preserve open space for students.
Mayor Karla Brown told the Weekly on Wednesday that a special meeting to vote on the final Housing Element site inventory list has been scheduled for Tuesday (Feb. 8), starting 6:00 p.m.