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Residents speak up to council against rezoning Pleasanton school district office site for affordable housing

City sends Housing Element draft to state agency for review

The Pleasanton Unified School District headquarters site on Bernal Avenue, a majority of which the district plans to sell to a residential developer to recoup the costs of purchasing a new HQ site on West Las Positas Boulevard. (File photo by Jeremy Walsh)

Several Pleasanton residents voiced their concerns regarding the 2023-31 Housing Element site list including the Pleasanton Unified School District headquarters property for potential affordable housing during last week's City Council meeting.

For over a year, the city has been identifying 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 24 sites for inclusion in the environmental analysis.

The site location for the Donlon Elementary School field was officially taken off the list by city staff after PUSD Superintendent David Haglund asked the city to remove it following months of community members advocating to save the field.

But now, a new location has taken the public's interest -- the school district headquarters located on the edge of downtown Pleasanton at 4645 and 4665 Bernal Ave. About 10 acres of the office would be earmarked for rezoning as residential with a minimum of 81 new units and a maximum of 163, according to the Housing Element draft.

Many resident speakers said they felt that adding housing to downtown's historic neighborhoods would take away a sense of community.

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"Please do not rezone the property on First and Bernal for a tacky housing project," Pleasanton resident Lloyce Jaunkalnieis told the council on July 19. "I feel our historic district is small and everything can erode it a little bit more. Once taken away, you can't get it back."

As someone who has fought for historic preservation in Pleasanton before, Jaunkalnieis said that over the years it seems like the business side of downtown has been invading the historic east side. She said the district office rezoning would only add to that problem.

The city's Housing Element, which is revised every eight years, requires the council to identify adequate sites through the General Plan and zoning process for future residential development. According to the city report, the plan is projected to be ready for adoption by early 2023.

Last week's meeting was meant to help facilitate public comment following recent community engagement meetings over the past month so that the council could provide feedback before submitting the plan to the state's Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for review.

Apart from taking away the historic feel to downtown, one of the main reasons residents spoke out against the rezoning of the district office was traffic congestion.

Find out what's on the ballot in Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin.

Find out what's on the ballot in Pleasanton, Livermore and Dublin.

"We already have really bad traffic problems on Second Street. We already have a lack of parking on Second Street," Pleasanton resident Joseph Hernan said. "We're going to add additional housing; it's going to exacerbate problems that already exist."

Hernan said that while affordable housing growth is important, it should be done on a case-by-case basis depending on the city.

Brian Bourg, who has lived in his home in between First and Second streets for 48 years, said that the rezoning is going to increase the number of cars in the area, which in turn would increase traffic in an already crowded First Street.

He said the city needs to focus on ways to control and mitigate traffic in the area, not add to it.

"It's not necessary; it's not ecological," Bourg said. "We teach our students to reuse, reduce and recycle. If Pleasanton Unified develops it, it doesn't seem like they would be modeling that behavior."

Ahmad Sheikholeslami, assistant superintendent of business services for the school district, also spoke during the meeting to defend the district's decision to use the property for housing. He said that in order to help serve the needs of students and their families, it is important to relocate the district office to the new location that the district is looking to purchase.

The school board recently approved plans to move forward with that purchase project and plans to work with the city to carry out the rezoning so it can sell the Bernal property to help pay off the new office building.

Despite the public's comments, the council decided to follow the city staff's recommendation to proceed with the Housing Element update and send it to the state for review.

But Vice Mayor Valerie Arkin attempted to assure the public that the housing site list is still a work in progress and the city can decide to remove locations. She added that once the city receives the environmental impact review, staff will have a better idea on which sites the city should keep in the list.

"The PUSD project will move forward, but we're going to continue to work with Pleasanton Unified to see if we can't make this either a scaled-down project," Mayor Karla Brown said. "Let's see if we can work together to make something the neighborhood appreciates and can embrace, if we can't then we can look at other options like removing it off the list."

Arkin also asked city staff about what would happen if they decided to remove one of the sites before sending in for review -- to which Ellen Clark, the community development director for the city, said it would put the city just above the required amount of above-moderate housing units.

She added that while there is a surplus in the amount of required units, that surplus was meant to take into account any variables that come out of the reviews and or any future changes to the housing element draft.

"If additional sites were to fall off the list for various reasons … then we would certainly be at risk of having insufficient sites in the above-moderate without moving stuff around," Clark said. "The holistic review is the best way to do it, because then you understand what other moving parts and pieces might be in play to make a better decision about whether or not the site is necessary for the inventory."

City staff curated the list of potential housing sites using site selection criteria, and analyzed and assigned a rank and score for each site. After being approved by the housing and planning commissions, as well as community members, the housing inventory list was approved by the council in February.

As the meeting came to an end, Councilmember Julie Testa brought up a motion to discuss something that Hernan also touched on during his public comment -- wanting to join a coalition of cities to fight back via the courts against the state's housing growth mandates.

Testa said she was already uncomfortable with sending the Housing Element for review to the state and noted that it has been challenging working with all the new mandates, especially before getting the environmental impact review.

When she called for the motion to agendize the discussion to join the potential lawsuit and audit, City Attorney Dan Sodergren offered to bring more information on the recent case law developments surrounding that topic. He said if the council wanted to agendize the item for potential litigation, it would have to make a closed-meeting request during the next meeting in August.

While Testa did not want to wait too long to address the potential lawsuit, Arkin asked if there was a time constraint and because there wasn't she and the rest of the council agreed with Sodergren to wait until they got more information.

Hernan also questioned the "heavy handedness" of all the recent housing laws enacted by the state such as Senate Bill 330 and why the city isn't legally fighting the state back.

"The fact that we're going to lose local control of our own community. It's just beyond my ability to comprehend that that's actually happening to us, but it is. "If we don't fight it now, then all of these properties are going to get all of this additional housing shoved in there, that's going to be our future."

In March, Acting California State Auditor Michael Tilden issued a critique of HCD and its RHNA process. He claimed to have found "problems in the HCD methodology that may have inflated RHNA requirements by hundreds of thousands of housing units."

Brown asked city staff to clarify that the city wouldn't just be fighting SB 330, it would be fighting roughly 90 different assembly and senate bills that take away local city control over housing growth.

Another recommendation that staff pushed the city to support was accelerating the process to adopt a master plan for development of the Stoneridge Shopping Center properties.

The site, which is planned to include lower-income housing, has multiple owners that city staff said are showing interest in moving the project forward. Clark said the goal is to adopt a master plan for the mall and having somewhat of a framework before the Housing Element is adopted.

She added that staff are already working with a few consultants to draft up something to bring to the council for consideration in August. Staff are also recommending expanding the development of the large Kiewit properties with housing to explicitly reference the concept of cost-sharing for infrastructure in the East Pleasanton Specific Plan area.

The next steps for the housing plan will be waiting for HCD's review of the plan after staff submit the plan following last week's meeting.

Then, once city staff receive the department's review along with the environmental impact report that is currently being developed, they will hold more public meetings before re-submitting the plan to the housing and development department early next year.

Finally, the council and the Planning Commission will hold a last round of public hearings to consider adoption of the Housing Element around March or May next year.

Current site inventory list

Lester property

Stoneridge Shopping Center

Owens Drive sites (Motel 6 and Tommy T's)

Laborers Council

Signature Center

Hacienda Terrace

Muslim Community Center of the East Bay

Metro 580

Old Santa Rita area

Pimlico Drive area, north

St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church

Rheem Drive area

Tri-Vallev Inn

Valley Plaza

Black Avenue area

Boulder Court

Kiewit affordable housing site

Kiewit market-rate housing sites

Merritt property

Sunol Boulevard area

Sonoma Drive area

Pleasanton Unified School District headquarters

St. Augustine Catholic Church

PUSD's Vineyard Avenue property

Oracle property

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Residents speak up to council against rezoning Pleasanton school district office site for affordable housing

City sends Housing Element draft to state agency for review

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Jul 26, 2022, 5:12 am

Several Pleasanton residents voiced their concerns regarding the 2023-31 Housing Element site list including the Pleasanton Unified School District headquarters property for potential affordable housing during last week's City Council meeting.

For over a year, the city has been identifying 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 24 sites for inclusion in the environmental analysis.

The site location for the Donlon Elementary School field was officially taken off the list by city staff after PUSD Superintendent David Haglund asked the city to remove it following months of community members advocating to save the field.

But now, a new location has taken the public's interest -- the school district headquarters located on the edge of downtown Pleasanton at 4645 and 4665 Bernal Ave. About 10 acres of the office would be earmarked for rezoning as residential with a minimum of 81 new units and a maximum of 163, according to the Housing Element draft.

Many resident speakers said they felt that adding housing to downtown's historic neighborhoods would take away a sense of community.

"Please do not rezone the property on First and Bernal for a tacky housing project," Pleasanton resident Lloyce Jaunkalnieis told the council on July 19. "I feel our historic district is small and everything can erode it a little bit more. Once taken away, you can't get it back."

As someone who has fought for historic preservation in Pleasanton before, Jaunkalnieis said that over the years it seems like the business side of downtown has been invading the historic east side. She said the district office rezoning would only add to that problem.

The city's Housing Element, which is revised every eight years, requires the council to identify adequate sites through the General Plan and zoning process for future residential development. According to the city report, the plan is projected to be ready for adoption by early 2023.

Last week's meeting was meant to help facilitate public comment following recent community engagement meetings over the past month so that the council could provide feedback before submitting the plan to the state's Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for review.

Apart from taking away the historic feel to downtown, one of the main reasons residents spoke out against the rezoning of the district office was traffic congestion.

"We already have really bad traffic problems on Second Street. We already have a lack of parking on Second Street," Pleasanton resident Joseph Hernan said. "We're going to add additional housing; it's going to exacerbate problems that already exist."

Hernan said that while affordable housing growth is important, it should be done on a case-by-case basis depending on the city.

Brian Bourg, who has lived in his home in between First and Second streets for 48 years, said that the rezoning is going to increase the number of cars in the area, which in turn would increase traffic in an already crowded First Street.

He said the city needs to focus on ways to control and mitigate traffic in the area, not add to it.

"It's not necessary; it's not ecological," Bourg said. "We teach our students to reuse, reduce and recycle. If Pleasanton Unified develops it, it doesn't seem like they would be modeling that behavior."

Ahmad Sheikholeslami, assistant superintendent of business services for the school district, also spoke during the meeting to defend the district's decision to use the property for housing. He said that in order to help serve the needs of students and their families, it is important to relocate the district office to the new location that the district is looking to purchase.

The school board recently approved plans to move forward with that purchase project and plans to work with the city to carry out the rezoning so it can sell the Bernal property to help pay off the new office building.

Despite the public's comments, the council decided to follow the city staff's recommendation to proceed with the Housing Element update and send it to the state for review.

But Vice Mayor Valerie Arkin attempted to assure the public that the housing site list is still a work in progress and the city can decide to remove locations. She added that once the city receives the environmental impact review, staff will have a better idea on which sites the city should keep in the list.

"The PUSD project will move forward, but we're going to continue to work with Pleasanton Unified to see if we can't make this either a scaled-down project," Mayor Karla Brown said. "Let's see if we can work together to make something the neighborhood appreciates and can embrace, if we can't then we can look at other options like removing it off the list."

Arkin also asked city staff about what would happen if they decided to remove one of the sites before sending in for review -- to which Ellen Clark, the community development director for the city, said it would put the city just above the required amount of above-moderate housing units.

She added that while there is a surplus in the amount of required units, that surplus was meant to take into account any variables that come out of the reviews and or any future changes to the housing element draft.

"If additional sites were to fall off the list for various reasons … then we would certainly be at risk of having insufficient sites in the above-moderate without moving stuff around," Clark said. "The holistic review is the best way to do it, because then you understand what other moving parts and pieces might be in play to make a better decision about whether or not the site is necessary for the inventory."

City staff curated the list of potential housing sites using site selection criteria, and analyzed and assigned a rank and score for each site. After being approved by the housing and planning commissions, as well as community members, the housing inventory list was approved by the council in February.

As the meeting came to an end, Councilmember Julie Testa brought up a motion to discuss something that Hernan also touched on during his public comment -- wanting to join a coalition of cities to fight back via the courts against the state's housing growth mandates.

Testa said she was already uncomfortable with sending the Housing Element for review to the state and noted that it has been challenging working with all the new mandates, especially before getting the environmental impact review.

When she called for the motion to agendize the discussion to join the potential lawsuit and audit, City Attorney Dan Sodergren offered to bring more information on the recent case law developments surrounding that topic. He said if the council wanted to agendize the item for potential litigation, it would have to make a closed-meeting request during the next meeting in August.

While Testa did not want to wait too long to address the potential lawsuit, Arkin asked if there was a time constraint and because there wasn't she and the rest of the council agreed with Sodergren to wait until they got more information.

Hernan also questioned the "heavy handedness" of all the recent housing laws enacted by the state such as Senate Bill 330 and why the city isn't legally fighting the state back.

"The fact that we're going to lose local control of our own community. It's just beyond my ability to comprehend that that's actually happening to us, but it is. "If we don't fight it now, then all of these properties are going to get all of this additional housing shoved in there, that's going to be our future."

In March, Acting California State Auditor Michael Tilden issued a critique of HCD and its RHNA process. He claimed to have found "problems in the HCD methodology that may have inflated RHNA requirements by hundreds of thousands of housing units."

Brown asked city staff to clarify that the city wouldn't just be fighting SB 330, it would be fighting roughly 90 different assembly and senate bills that take away local city control over housing growth.

Another recommendation that staff pushed the city to support was accelerating the process to adopt a master plan for development of the Stoneridge Shopping Center properties.

The site, which is planned to include lower-income housing, has multiple owners that city staff said are showing interest in moving the project forward. Clark said the goal is to adopt a master plan for the mall and having somewhat of a framework before the Housing Element is adopted.

She added that staff are already working with a few consultants to draft up something to bring to the council for consideration in August. Staff are also recommending expanding the development of the large Kiewit properties with housing to explicitly reference the concept of cost-sharing for infrastructure in the East Pleasanton Specific Plan area.

The next steps for the housing plan will be waiting for HCD's review of the plan after staff submit the plan following last week's meeting.

Then, once city staff receive the department's review along with the environmental impact report that is currently being developed, they will hold more public meetings before re-submitting the plan to the housing and development department early next year.

Finally, the council and the Planning Commission will hold a last round of public hearings to consider adoption of the Housing Element around March or May next year.

Current site inventory list

Lester property

Stoneridge Shopping Center

Owens Drive sites (Motel 6 and Tommy T's)

Laborers Council

Signature Center

Hacienda Terrace

Muslim Community Center of the East Bay

Metro 580

Old Santa Rita area

Pimlico Drive area, north

St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church

Rheem Drive area

Tri-Vallev Inn

Valley Plaza

Black Avenue area

Boulder Court

Kiewit affordable housing site

Kiewit market-rate housing sites

Merritt property

Sunol Boulevard area

Sonoma Drive area

Pleasanton Unified School District headquarters

St. Augustine Catholic Church

PUSD's Vineyard Avenue property

Oracle property

Comments

Carol Withers
Registered user
Jensen Tract
on Jul 26, 2022 at 9:29 am
Carol Withers, Jensen Tract
Registered user
on Jul 26, 2022 at 9:29 am

Bernal would be a good spot for affordable housing. Raleys and Safeway near by plus 2 gas stations. Bus stops and freeway are close and so is Senior Center. And walking distance to downtown. Pleasanton hasn’t ever built anything “tacky.”


Frustrated Voter
Registered user
Birdland
on Jul 26, 2022 at 9:38 am
Frustrated Voter, Birdland
Registered user
on Jul 26, 2022 at 9:38 am

I am not in any way defending this proposed project for the current school district property, or any other sites on the list. I just wanted to point out that “lower income” encompasses most of your new public school and all daycare teachers. Lower income does not equate to drug runners, just working folks making not much money.


John B
Registered user
Foothill High School
on Jul 26, 2022 at 10:47 am
John B, Foothill High School
Registered user
on Jul 26, 2022 at 10:47 am

Housing is a silicon valley problem. Every town in silicon valley approved large offices with out even thinking, where does the employees/people live. Net result short of homes. Every city council in bay area is scratching their heads to meet RHNA. RHNA is very methodical and I believe Ellen also attended these meetings and discussed. Haven't seen any support coming from any of the other cities to reduce RHNA numbers. Today people are buying houses in Tracy, Lathrop etc, adding to the pollution and traffic, which by far, out weighs local traffic and pollution. Interesting problem in cities, young/middle aged people are not showing up in the city councils and asking for more housing. There is no one representing these folks. With so many rules, regulations in building a house, builders will be very reluctant to build more. Unlike prior Housing elements, HCD learned the drama of paper plans(most of them unviable) presented by Cities and they are going to come back to add more, if development was not done this time. This is required, which other wise cities produce BS housing plans. In my view Ellen was right, some of these unviable plans may fall off from the housing element. In fact they should be planning more. City completely ignored small housing projects, say 10 or 15 units, spread over all of Pleasanton. Small projects generally are more viable than large projects. My hope is to see middle housing more, where a three bed room apt/condo/house for a family to buy around ~500k. I do not see any such goals from the city.


Pleasanton Parent
Registered user
Pleasanton Meadows
on Jul 26, 2022 at 11:12 am
Pleasanton Parent, Pleasanton Meadows
Registered user
on Jul 26, 2022 at 11:12 am

Generally this makes sense, but holistically I take issue with mandates on housing but save water. Schools are overcrowded and we need bond money but bring more people in…..

No. Build infrastructure to support the growth. No infrastructure, no housing. It’s a reasonable and responsible requirement. Gov works for us. We say, they do. Not the other way around


Apples
Registered user
Castlewood
on Jul 26, 2022 at 12:37 pm
Apples, Castlewood
Registered user
on Jul 26, 2022 at 12:37 pm

I like the idea of PUSD having a larger space. No problem with that. But I think the issue is more for the aging population in Pleasanton. There's Stoneridge Creek for the wealthy. Then there's the Ridgeview Commons-have to meet their criteria, and Kottinger. Nothing really in-between. If you want to stay in Pleasanton that makes it difficult.


Nils Erickson
Registered user
Pleasanton Heights
on Jul 26, 2022 at 5:23 pm
Nils Erickson, Pleasanton Heights
Registered user
on Jul 26, 2022 at 5:23 pm

That corner is a great location for higher density, lower income housing. People have to live somewhere, and Pleasanton needs to step up and provide space for that development. I didn't read a single complaint in the article that had any real merit. Just people that don't want development near their houses. I'm sympathetic, but housing needs to get built and having high density walkable to shopping and downtown is a real win.


Joe V
Registered user
Birdland
on Jul 26, 2022 at 10:50 pm
Joe V, Birdland
Registered user
on Jul 26, 2022 at 10:50 pm

Some of the affordable housing should be allocated for teachers in the PSD.


V
Registered user
Laguna Oaks
on Aug 1, 2022 at 12:38 pm
V, Laguna Oaks
Registered user
on Aug 1, 2022 at 12:38 pm

This is absolutely critical. Without low income more housing how will our young people, teachers, and public servants be able to afford to live in a town like Pleasanton.

What is the point of having great schools, if our well educated young people can't return after college? They will end up helping other communities thrive and grow, while Pleasanton shrinks.


Jan Batcheller
Registered user
Downtown
on Aug 3, 2022 at 11:24 am
Jan Batcheller, Downtown
Registered user
on Aug 3, 2022 at 11:24 am

The corner of Bernal and 1st Street is a great place for housing. It can enhance the character of Downtown and provide more shoppers for the retail sector. It is close to public transportation.


Erlinda
Registered user
Danbury Park
on Aug 3, 2022 at 3:47 pm
Erlinda , Danbury Park
Registered user
on Aug 3, 2022 at 3:47 pm

I agree, this is Pleasanton and it must house our Pleasanton teachers doesn’t matter what school they are teaching here. They teach our children, it’s just right to give them more salary and more benefits.
We take care of those people who takes care of our families. Make sense to me.


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