I grew up in Pleasanton, intrinsically aware of the bubble I was so privileged to call home. Unfortunately, this suburban utopia, renowned for its serene landscape, aesthetic downtown, quality schools and quaint charm, is slowly and steadily losing its competitive edge.
Pleasanton's desirability has been frequently noted. Most prominently, perhaps, was a 2014 USA Today article that ranked Pleasanton as the fourth best city to live in across the U.S. More recently, however, a complacency from both residents and elected leaders alike has placed Pleasanton's bright future in peril.
As cities like Livermore, Danville and Dublin invest in local decision making, innovation, and education, Pleasanton continues to lag behind.
You don't have to look far back to recall a time when Livermore's downtown lacked mass appeal, charm and commerce. Today, however, Livermorium Park, the Lizzie Fountain and the entire stretch of Sycamore-lined First Street is bustling with residents and visitors who are attracted to the influx of businesses and fun-filled attractions.
Remember even more recently when Dublin's "downtown" was nothing more than a vision in the minds of city planners. Today, their elected leaders have taken action creating "the Village" where novel restaurants and vibrant designs are working hard to make something out of nothing.
Downtown is certainly not the only area where Pleasanton has waned.
Housing growth and expansion are intrinsic in the DNA of all California cities. The only variable is each municipality's approach. Places like Danville have shown leadership and complied with state mandates of SB 35 and the like. Because of this, their new housing developments are being built to retain Danville's aesthetic and charm through the direct input and oversight of local leaders who are limiting new construction to three stories.
Here at home, however, some of our leaders stand in the way of any development, to the point they are excluded from the process and five-story housing complexes now tower over I-580. Our unsubstantiated satisfaction and complacency extend not only to housing, but our award-winning schools.
PUSD has put forth three recent bond measures to secure capital improvements and investments for our students' learning environments. Two of the three have narrowly passed with Measure M ultimately failing in 2020.
In fact, PUSD's pre-Measure-I bond tax rates were $43.50 compared to San Ramon Valley's $75 and Dublin's $196.40. It's no wonder that Pleasanton Unified ranks 33rd in California whereas DUSD and SRVUSD rank 27th and 22nd, respectively, according to publicschoolreview.com.
It's not surprising that when a community supports its schools, their ranking tends to improve. With median home prices in Tri-Valley communities lower than our own, it is not difficult to predict that the notoriety and desirability of Pleasanton schools could soon fade.
From a lack of innovation downtown and relinquishing of local housing control, to ignoring the needs of our students and teachers, we must stop resting on our laurels and city name to keep us competitive in the East Bay.
It's critical we elect leaders who prioritize education, innovation and forward-thinking progress with an emphasis on local decision-making rather than voting based merely on incumbency or a name that aligns with one's own identity.
Stand up, Pleasanton, and don't let complacency deteriorate our city's legendary ethos. Attend City Council Meetings, vote and hold your leaders accountable.
Editor's note: Derek Dressler is a born-and-raised Pleasantonian who served as a student board member for PUSD and was the ASB president for Foothill High School. Outside of his scholastic achievements, Dressler is an Eagle Scout and currently attends the University of Pittsburgh majoring in political science and legal studies.