The Mike Bloomberg syndrome | April 5, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - April 5, 2013

The Mike Bloomberg syndrome

Developers of a large apartment complex to be built on part of the California Center office land won the Pleasanton Planning Commission's approval last week, but not without unprecedented criticism from both an alternate member of the commission and the chairman of the city's Housing Commission. It was the second time Mark English and his Pleasant Partners group had presented detailed plans for a development at West Las Positas and Rosewood drives that will have 305 apartments in two, three and four-story buildings and a two-building retail center at the corner. The project will be built on some of the lush grassland on the West Las Positas side of California Center (formerly CarrAmerica), also utilizing much of the adjacent parking lot. The office center is only half-filled, but part of the new plan also calls for construction of a 7,500-square-foot new surface parking area and a parking garage on the I-580 side of the center when there's enough demand from new tenants.

Although the five-member Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the project and send the proposal to the City Council later this month for its consideration, demands made of the developer during the hearing by Mark Posson seemed clearly out of line, considering his responsibility as an alternate on the commission. It was almost as if New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg was in the room with his frequent nanny-ism calls for smaller soda drink sizes, no salt on restaurant tables and other City Hall-dictated demands. Posson insisted that the project developer install only energy-efficient appliances in the apartments, add photovoltaic panels in every apartment and solar-powered water heaters whether the apartment buildings have solar collectors on rooftops or not.

Next came John Casey, chairman of the Housing Commission and former Councilwoman Becky Dennis, an affordable housing advocate, to ask that the commission take the proposed multi-million-dollar complex off the table until the developer would agree to add more subsidized apartments for low to very low income tenants. Casey said his commission had rejected the proposed development plan because only 36 of the 305 units would have "affordable" classifications, with only 10 of those to be rented to those with very low incomes. In a city that he said is desperately in need of more affordable housing, the Pleasant Partners project is woefully short of what the Housing Commission says should be its goal.

Fortunately, the five regular Planning Commissioners rejected both arguments and voted to approve the project. They pointed out that the commission's job is to deal with land use issues, to make sure projects meet city codes and the American Disability Act requirements, but not to micro-manage how apartment units should be furnished. With the recent court decision outlawing inclusionary zoning requirements that cities have used to enforce in projects such as the one Pleasant Partners is proposing, the best city leaders can hope for are developers that agree to provide a reasonable number of those units, as this developer has done. To do otherwise not only invites lawsuits, which Pleasanton has too often faced, but also discourages builders from coming here with first-class development plans as Pleasant Partners has done.


Posted by Fred M, a resident of Heritage Valley
on Apr 10, 2013 at 7:08 am

Can anyone tell me why these units, which are originally listed as AFFORDABLE and are High Density, must ALSO have below market (rent controlled) units? The developer will have less money for parks and amenities. The other apartment renters will be responsible for paying a portion of their neighbor's rent. And finally, how many people do we want in Pleasanton that can't really afford to live here?

This exceeds state requirements for our city's regional housing numbers, and it exceeds what can be legally required by the city- as part of the Palmer Case law. Our City government needs to listen to the voters, not bleeding heart liberals that want Pleasanton and East Pleasanton to be filled with below market rate-high density apartments.

If you want to help your kids move to Pleasanton, then you should help them, not their neighbors or other people that live here.

Posted by member, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 10, 2013 at 4:23 pm

How can our children afford to live here? Have you seen how other countries are buying up the property? If a garage in bird land was up for sale, there would be multiple offers! Why are our banks holding back on loaning? Other banks (other countries) have easy credit. Look around... Its rare for a local to land a home here.

Posted by Fred M, a resident of Heritage Valley
on Apr 10, 2013 at 10:53 pm

If people with money can afford to purchase a home, then we do not need subsidized housing any more. It should be a thing of the past.