I'm writing in response to the March 22 column written by Jeb Bing titled, "Downtown Planning: Are developers making the decisions?"
The Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce appreciates Mr. Bing writing about this very important subject of updating our Downtown Specific Plan (DSP). It was also good to see Planning Commissioner Nancy Allen's comments about the recent task force meeting that was held on Feb. 25.
Unfortunately, Mr. Bing did not include comments from those that supported the changes that were agreed to by a majority of the DSP Task Force.
Overall, the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce supports keeping building heights at 40 feet, limiting residential units to the second story on Main Street, allowing residential on the back side of downtown commercial buildings, more parking in the downtown core and the "Right to do Business" ordinance, among other things.
It is also essential that the DSP include a provision that allows our City Council the ability to balance competing policies, and approve projects that are in "substantial performance" to the adopted plans -- not exact consistency.
Lastly, we believe there has been ample time and opportunity for public comment due to the fact the DSP update process started well over two years ago. The DSP must give downtown businesses, landowners and developers clear and consistent direction that supports increasing the vitality of our downtown core, not preservation and the status quo.
-- Steve Van Dorn
CEO, Chamber of Commerce
DSP update must represent citizens' interests
Thank you, Jeb Bing, for the enlightening column (last week). You confirm the concerns of many residents, a planning process that does not represent the interests of citizens but is controlled by developers/lobbyists.
A Feb. 5 memo from the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce (PCC) to Gerry Beaudin (director, Pleasanton Community Development Department) outlines the chamber's objections to the task force work of more than two years.
From Page 1 of the PCC Memo: "Overall, we feel that the DSPD's Vision Statement emphasizes preservation and status quo to the detriment of needed vitality." Continuing: "We do not believe the DSPD is ready for adoption and needs to be revised to incorporate encouragement for vitality."
The memo pushes for more and higher density residential housing downtown -- "we do not agree that ground floor residential should not be permitted behind commercial buildings" (Page 2).
Note: The proposed DSP update already adds 370 residential units!
"Our downtown character and building height is important but should be considered mutually exclusive of each another (sic)" (Page 3). PCC comments on parking, streetscape design, floor area ratio, etc., seem more in making Pleasanton like Walnut Creek than with preservation of our historic downtown.
Thank you to Nancy Allen (planning commissioner) for her helpful comments and warnings. Overall, the process/results/diversion of the task force remind me of the Ridge Committee that I served on years ago.
Finally, as Jeb Bing discusses, rezoning of the Barone property (for residential use) should not be done by a task force.
-- George Reid
Does Swalwell represent our district?
When our region sent Eric Swalwell to Congress in 2012, there was hope that he would be able to cut through the partisan divide and get important things done. That's our kind of district -- innovative, pragmatic and non-ideological. He had a productive first term.
In his second term, Nancy Pelosi offered him co-chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. This is a powerful party position (e.g., deciding committee assignments and divvying up DCCC lobbyist cash). Eric's ascension as a party apparatchik cost him his ability to defy the Dem leadership when party interests come before the national interest.
In his new role, Swalwell became a regular TV spokesperson for the Trump-Russia conspiracy theory. You would think a former prosecutor would be more finely attuned to standards of evidence.
Now, his "Trump acting as an agent of the Russian government" accusation is crumbling in the face of Bill Barr's spot-on summary of Mueller: The Russians made several attempts to cozy up to Trump's organization, but they were all rebuffed.
What's next? A walk back of his unfounded treason accusation? A pivot? Doubling down as a Dem infowarrior? Swalwell's hyperventilations on Fox are now an embarrassment, and it's hoped the media scorn heaped on him won't mention the cities he represents.
We're looking for the old Swalwell to represent us in Washington. Does that guy even exist anymore?
-- Pierre Bierre
In the recent Feb. 25 Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) meeting, we were sorely disappointed to observe multiple critical departures by the DSP Task Force and city staff from public survey input (e.g. potential south Main Street/Bernal public space and building height and retail/residential mix preferences).
We were also sadly surprised by sudden decision flips from the published draft environmental impact report (EIR) positions, thus raising building heights above the public preference; offering zoning changes outside of the established, standard city rezoning application process (e.g, Barone's, and the extensive "multi-use residential allowed" designations); and shrinking the retail footprint by allowing ground-floor residential behind 50 feet of commercial (e.g. TrueValue would be reduced by two-thirds).
Such city staff and DSP Task Force behavior unfortunately suggests hidden development agendas, all dependent on the relocation of the Civic Center, the public library and the police station, the creation of new streets and a publicly subsidized hotel supposed "town square."
Given the large and irreversible changes to Pleasanton's Main Street and greater downtown plan area, we must, together, find creative ways to re-engage our larger public, beyond business and developers, to review DSP elements and vision for the future.
We respectfully urge the DSP Task Force and the City Council to postpone any voting until after effective public town hall meetings have been attended.
-- Diane and Fran
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