Housing plan process worked | July 15, 2011 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |


Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - July 15, 2011

Housing plan process worked

The City Council is expected to wrap up more than a year of community meetings, public hearings and studies Tuesday night by approving a draft Housing Element that could lead to more than 3,000 new housing units being built in Pleasanton to meet the state and court-ordered requirement for more affordable living accommodations. Tuesday's final draft by the council-appointed Housing Element Task Force lists about 100 acres of available properties throughout the city where these high-density, mostly multi-family complexes could be placed. The plan follows the council's approval earlier this year of a high-density complex in the Hacienda Business Park that will accommodate 840 apartments.

Besides the 11-member volunteer task force, city staff and members of the city's Housing Commission and Planning Commission have already signed off on the plan that now goes before the council. Although some tweaking of the final draft is expected, the council is likely to approve sending the plan to the state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for review. HCD then has 60 days to comment on the plan and send it back to Pleasanton for modification and final action. To satisfy a deadline imposed by the Alameda County Superior Court and the Urban Habitat affordable housing organization, the council is expected to approve the Housing Element as part of the city's General Plan in December, rezoning approximately 60 of the 100 acres for eventual development.

The city won't build any housing but the council's action will make the properties available to developers interested in developing housing that has a heavy emphasis on affordability for low- to very-low- to moderate-income families. Depending on recommendations from the HCD and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), which parcels out housing requirements among local communities based on population growth and diversity, Pleasanton could be asked to add more affordable and market rate housing within the next few years.

What's especially notable about the housing plan going before the City Council on Tuesday is the civility and positive attitudes of those involved in a process that required many hours and months of nighttime meetings. Under the direction of Planning Manager Janice Stern, task force members held nine meetings, three community workshops and heard from and analyzed comments from scores of housing experts and hundreds more from the general public. Attendance on the part of task force members and city staff was remarkably consistent, not always the case when meetings -- public or private -- seem to go on for ever, often into the late evening hours, with much repetition as the purpose and objectives were spelled out from one community meeting to the next.

Pleasanton has long promoted itself as a model of orderly, deliberative government. Both with the equally long Hacienda Task Force meetings earlier and the meetings of the Housing Element Task Force since last fall, the process worked as intended. Everyone had their say, all points, comments and emails were considered, and there were no complaints that one neighborhood or other public group was bypassed. Pleasanton leaders and volunteers who joined in this effort deserve praise for their work along every step of the way. Few liked the pressure of the court, state or outside organizations dictating to our community how much housing we must build, but with the rules in place, nevertheless, the work was done, timelines met and we proved that the public process that has always been an important and integral part of Pleasanton's decision-making, worked. Congratulations to all who made this happen.