As economy picks up, so does city spending | June 14, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Column - June 14, 2013

As economy picks up, so does city spending

by Jeb Bing

After a three-year hiatus, spending on municipal projects and improvements is back on the list of priorities for the Pleasanton City Council. At its June 4 meeting, the council approved a two-year work plan that includes millions of dollars of "high priority" projects, ending an austere capital improvements program that stopped after the $10 million Firehouse Arts Center was built in 2010.

With the economy improving and tax revenue picking up, the council's first project will be another phase of improvements to the city-owned Bernal Community Park, where $15 million lighted baseball fields and an adjoining children's play area were added, also in 2010. Now more will be spent on sports fields, some lighted, for soccer, lacrosse, junior football and, yes, more baseball diamonds. This time, the improvements, authorized as part of a voter referendum, will include a woodlands area, riparian habitat and landscaping along a meandering creek that runs through the site.

The project, when completed, will cost an estimated $15.8 million with part of the funding to come from a Bernal Community Park Reserve that the city government maintained during the recession when sales and property tax revenue tapered off. Another $810,000 would be available from a Capital Improvement Program reserve, also maintained by the city. City Manager Nelson Fialho said he expects to receive another $3.2 million from the East Bay Regional Park District through funds approved by voters when they passed the district's Measure W bond issue. That would still leave a funding gap of more than $5 million which could be raised through a combination of fee assessments for users of the sports fields, contributions from sports organizations, corporate sponsors and a community fundraiser similar to the one that raised more than $1 million for the Firehouse Arts Center.

Last year, the council approved a schematic plan for the second phase of the park which, 12 years after the land was given to the city by several developers in exchange for permits to build homes on the rest of the property, remains undeveloped except for the baseball fields.

Another costly project on the council's 22-page list of priorities is the redevelopment of senior living facilities at Kottinger Place and Pleasanton Gardens with new buildings and more apartments. These aging, subsidized, affordable homes for qualified older residents will be torn down in phases over the next two years and replaced with larger, upgraded apartment buildings that will accommodate nearly twice as many who live there now. The redevelopment proposal goes back 10 years and gained ground last year as the economy improved. A predevelopment agreement has now been granted to Foster City-based Mid-Peninsula Housing, the developer, owner and manager of more than 90 senior communities.

MidPen, as the company is called, has been meeting with the Kottinger Place Redevelopment Task Force to determine project priorities. MidPen is now preparing a site plan for a new Kottinger Place development between Kottinger Drive and Vineyard Avenue, and including the aging Regalia House that will also be razed. Current development estimates for the two sites range from $59 million to $62.8 million with a city contribution from its senior housing fund of $8.2 million.

New housing on both sites will be largely single story units with far more kitchen, bathroom and closet space than the units now have and with upgrades in electricity and plumbing, including air conditioning. Some of the buildings on what is now the Kottinger Place site will be two stories in height with a few rising to three stories, with elevators. When completed, the apartments will accommodate 189 tenants.

Some projects are already under way, including renovations at the Dolores Bengtson Aquatic Center, which should be completed this summer, and the extension of Stoneridge Drive to El Charro Road, which should open late this fall. The city is expanding Stoneridge at its intersection with Santa Rita Road to handle expected increases in traffic, and Alameda County is funding the construction of two new bridges over the arroyo, which will be completed by October.

At its recent priority-setting workshop, the council heard requests for other capital projects, including construction of a new public library, a youth center, Cultural Arts center and for major improvements to the city-owned Pioneer Cemetery and Alviso Adobe Community Park. But those projects remain on the wish list for now. As much as funding restrictions have eased on the public purse strings, the council and City Manager Fialho also made it clear that tight fiscal controls will remain in place.


Posted by Chris B, a resident of Bridle Creek
on Jun 14, 2013 at 12:44 am

Yes, improve Bernal Community Park for everyone. Let's get that Grand Meadow for walks and fields for active play.

Great priority ... Please let's not use taxpayer money to put in lawn and water at Pioneer Cemetery on Sunol that just benefits private people.

Posted by local, a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jun 14, 2013 at 2:03 am

I agree with you Chris on the cemetery. A bunch of guys purchased lots in the cemetery for REAL cheap and now they want the taxpayers to pay to have their cemetery with expansive lawns. Those people knew what they were getting when they purchased their plots. In fact, many (all?) of those people bought the plots from the Odd Fellows who owned the cemetery before the city saved the cemetery from complete ruin. They probably spent about $1,000 a plot at a 'fire sale' from the Odd Fellows who were ready to abandon things. I think the city and local service organizations have done a great job in making the cemetery look good. I have been there several times and think that it looks great now. Adding lawns to the cemetery now will only benefit a group of private people who got in and purchased their plots on the cheap.

Posted by Arnold, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2013 at 7:38 am

One would be remiss to not mention how the city has been less than honest about spending and revenue intake while bargaining with overpaid public workers. Three years of so-called austerity, and now they want to spend like drunken sailors. Well, these sailors have not been on the raging seas for quite some time. Had they their wits about them, rather than being tied to atrociously biased contracts with the new government class - public workers - they'd have noticed that the sea is fraught with giant swells of debt that are inevitably going to crash upon us like an enormous tsunami.

Posted by local, a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jun 14, 2013 at 11:43 am

I think it makes sense to put additional income into the underfunded benefits given to employees; especially the retiree medical. The CalPERS rates will be going up shortly and I wonder how that affects the ability to fund any capital projects for some time.

Ironically, the under funding of pensions is similar to the underpayment of plots at the cemetery. For pensions, the taxpayers are on the hook to pay for underfunded benefits. For the cemetery plots, those who bought plots at a way under cost price for a 'lawn cemetery' want the taxpayers to pay for their under funding.

I think the fair thing on the cemetery is to ask those who purchased lots to vote on creating an assessment district to fund an enhanced cemetery. If they want a lawn and the maintenance that goes along with it, they can pay for it (and any newly sold plots will have the same surcharge). I bet they would not want to do this if they had to pay for this out of their own pocket but they have no issue in telling the taxpayers to pay for it.

Posted by b, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Arnold, that cemetery is the ultimate symbol of austerity spending. You buy the cheap plan and you get dead grass. As with all things in life, you get what you pay for.

Posted by Byatch, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 15, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Wait, the economy is improving? For whom? Symantec just laid off 1700 employees, before that HP and Zynga. Who's kidding who? With all the occupants of this state collecting food stamps, unemployment, 'disability' pay, maybe this is what they meant by 'recovery' ..i.e. recovery taxpayers money to distribute to the non productive. Such is our state......

Posted by truth be told, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2013 at 2:48 am

(Post removed by Pleasanton Weekly Online staff for containing unverified or personal information.)

Posted by Frosted Over, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 17, 2013 at 8:47 am

Nowhere on the list of capital projects do I see fixing our crumbling streets! That should be a much higher priority than anything on the current list, especially things like riparian habitat for salamanders. Our existing streets should be repaired before we add new streets like the Stoneridge extension, add sports fields, and especially those capital projects certain Council members want for their "legacy".

Posted by ahhh the comments, a resident of Amador Estates
on Jun 17, 2013 at 9:48 am

I really enjoy the comments on the Weekly. Arnold, are you afraid of water? I would recommend taking a swim class at the Aquatic Center. Maybe once you can swim the water won't be so scary.

Posted by Rose, a resident of Parkside
on Jun 17, 2013 at 10:26 am

Speaking of crumbling streets - whoever the contractor was that the City hired for the last paving of Hopyard and other streets ripped off the taxpayers. We have never seen a more shoddy job - the surface is rougher (like a washboard) than it was before, and the surfacing is so thin - we would be surprised if it lasts a year. The line painting was smeared and really second rate. If anyone recalls seeing the equipment this contractor used - 1960s trucks and guys running down the road with the striper - we wouldn't wonder at the results. Willow between Las Positas and Owens is a nightmare - dips and bumps big enough to make someone lose control of car at the posted speed limit. Please! Buy us some quality with those hard-earned tax dollars.