If you like large cities, stay here | June 24, 2011 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |


Pleasanton Weekly

Column - June 24, 2011

If you like large cities, stay here

by Jeb Bing

For those of us who like living in a large metropolitan area that's probably going to get much more crowded, Pleasanton and the Tri-Valley are the places to stay. Consider this: Only a year ago, Pleasanton had a cap of 29,000 on housing units that could be built here, a restriction approved overwhelmingly by voters in 1996. Last year, a Superior Court judge agreed with an affordable housing coalition and the state that the law meant too few homes could be provided at prices the growing workforce here could afford and tossed out the housing cap. Now, Pleasanton is rushing to complete land use zoning changes that will accommodate more than 3,000 new homes and apartments to meet the court's and state's deadline at year's end.

But 3,000 more housing units appear to be only the tip of an iceberg of additional housing needs for Pleasanton and the Bay Area. A recent report prepared for the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission suggests that this region is anticipated to grow by more than 2 million people, from about 7,350,000 today in the Bay Area to about 9,430,000 by the year 2035. This population growth would require around 902,000 new housing units with Alameda, Contra Costa and Santa Clara counties taking the lion's share of growth. Pleasanton, with a recent census showing our population has now crossed the 70,000-threshold mark, could see its housing stock grow by nearly 10,000 according to the "Initial Vision Scenario" (IVS) from ABAG and the MTC. Allowing for just three occupants per additional household, we'll hit the 100,000 mark, a big leap for a city whose leaders just a couple of City Councils ago advocated no-to-slow growth as the town neared 50,000.

Our city's current number of 24,034 apartments and homes would increase by 32.9% to 33,819 if these two agencies and the state's Regional Housing Need Allocation agency have their way, and the court's ruling to nix the housing cap indicates they will. That would amount to a growth in housing units of 9,785 by 2035, or a 40.7% increase according to the IVS report. Percentage-wise, that's on par with a number of other Bay Area cities, even less than many, but it's the numbers that count since size matters. Livermore, who will have to add 12,138 new housing units, will see a 42.3% growth to a 2035 total of 40,801 homes, whereas much smaller -- yet faster-growing -- Dublin will see the number of its homes and apartments increasing by a whopping 107% to 32,216 units, up nearly 17,000 from today's 15,572. San Ramon also will see continued growth, adding 36,682 homes to its current stock of 22,061 for a 66.3% gain by 2035. But smaller Danville appears to get a break in this housing frenzy, being asked by ABAG, the MTC, the state's Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) formula and the its Housing and Community Development agency (HCD) to boost the town's housing stock by only 8% to 17,920.

The Bay Area's large cities of San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and Fremont will still be the top four by a wide margin in 2035 with San Jose growing by another 43% to pass the 1 million population mark and stay well ahead of San Francisco. Santa Clara County, in fact, is projected to add another 254,000 housing units by 2035, a 41.3% increase that is far above the other eight counties that are part of the IVS report. Besides Santa Clara, the counties IVS counts as being part of the Bay Area are Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Solano and Sonoma. Altogether, ABAG and the MTC want to see these nine counties growing by 33.8% -- or 903,000 more homes and apartments -- to a housing total of 3.6 million.

The housing scenario is coupled with major increases in total jobs in much of the region, with Santa Clara County and, notably, the city of San Jose leading the pack. By 2035, San Jose should see the number of jobs climbing 73% from today's estimated 343,000 to 593,219, a gain of more than a quarter-million jobs. Santa Clara County overall can expect a 44% jobs gain to 1.2 million. Major increases in the jobs sector are also projected for Contra Costa County (38.6%), Alameda County (37%), San Mateo County (37%) and San Francisco (31%).

Pleasanton officials are quick to point out that many issues (obstacles) stand in the way of ABAG and the MTC's effort to achieve its household and jobs gains, including transportation, sewer and school capacities. These agencies agree that Initial Vision Scenario, prepared to meet a 2008 state law requiring a 25-year plan for a "Sustainable Communities Strategy," is just a start. Public hearings are planned to better define the plan and its blueprint for future city and county growth.

Clarification: In the June 10 column about Pleasanton's summer events, I should have written that the Pleasanton Downtown Association is partnering with the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce, the city of Pleasanton and the Pleasanton Weekly to launch ShopPleasanton.com, an online directory of nearly all businesses in Pleasanton that has special offers and coupons, restaurant menus, photos, maps, event announcements and more. The partnership aspect wasn't clearly defined.