Pleasanton Unified School District approached the city of Pleasanton about rezoning surplus school district property for housing. The staff from both entities worked together in good faith and sent it along to the Planning Commission. Further discussion ensued and the commission made a recommendation to the entire council.
The recommendation was thoughtful and considered the unique nature of downtown and other concerns anytime a development is proposed. The most important aspect of this proposal is the access of more affordable housing for teachers and other school district staff while creating much needed funds which will be used to the benefit of students. Usually these recommendations are tweaked, not ignored.
To most people's surprise the City Council in a 3-1 vote reduced the density so much as to make the development unviable. Using words that spoke about concern for the city's charming downtown and the worry about the increase in traffic they ignored the hard work of many. They refused to balance the benefits with the costs.
The three that voted to reduce the density also did so fully aware of AB 2295, which allows by right zoning of 30-40 units an acre for the purpose of teacher housing. The City Council would only be able to weigh in on the design guidelines. The council chose to reduce the density despite state law.
Does this sound familiar to anyone? A month after I was elected to the City Council in 2006, we were sued over our lack of affordable housing. For five long years the council fought the state on this issue.
We tried to create a united front but privately we were repeatedly told that we were on the wrong side of this, and we were now deciding how much money we wanted to throw in this hole we were digging. Two of us regularly sought solution after solution and were repeatedly voted down.
I couldn't understand why we continued down this long road that resulted in a multimillion-dollar settlement that left us with by right zoning. It was called a settlement. This is a misnomer. We lost and were forced to scramble to get what we could and get out without worse damage.
The current City Council is not paying attention. The school district worked with the city to come up with a development that would enhance the community, fill a need and realize a financial benefit. PUSD honored the collaboration process, compromised, and lowered the density to fit in with our community.
The majority of this council ignored their own staff and the Planning Commission and imposed density limits that will force PUSD to use state law AB 2295 to do what is fiscally responsible with excess school property. The City Council majority is forcing PUSD's hand. Is fighting a lawsuit how you want to use your hard-earned tax dollars?
Editor's note: Cheryl Cook-Kallio is a former member of the Pleasanton City Council and a retired public school teacher. She is currently serving her first term as the Tri-Valley's representative on the Alameda County Board of Education.