Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - February 18, 2011

For slow growth advocates, times are changing

With the City Council's approval Tuesday night of a land use plan that will allow 840 more housing units in a high-density complex in Hacienda Business Park, Pleasanton's days of slow-to-no growth are over. The council's action came just in time to meet a March 1 deadline imposed by the Alameda County Superior Court and the Urban Habitat affordable housing organization to require Pleasanton to meet its current state housing obligation to provide more workforce/affordable homes. Tuesday's ordinance was given its first reading; the required second reading will come at the council's next meeting on March 1. That should satisfy the order of the court, which also declared Pleasanton's 29,000-unit housing cap illegal for being out of compliance with state mandates to provide more housing. The next mandate will require Pleasanton to add another 1,400 affordable and market rate housing units by 2014, an objective that the city's new Housing Element Task Force is now pursuing.

For a city that has long promoted itself as a model of orderly, carefully controlled growth, the turn-around in attitude by the City Council on Tuesday and its 25-member Hacienda Task Force is truly commendable. At first, the council and city staff fought the lawsuit brought by Urban Habitat and the state attorney general's office, then headed by now Gov. Jerry Brown. The task force already had been meeting to refine a proposal for a mixed-use development on three sites located within half a mile of the Pleasanton/Dublin BART station. They include 11 acres at the southeast corner of Owens Drive and Willow Road, owned by W. P. Carey; 8.2 acres at the north corner of Hacienda and Gibraltar drives, owned by BRE; and 12.4 acres south of Gibraltar Drive and between Hacienda Driver and Willow Road, owned by Roche Molecular Systems. A proposed land use change would allow residential development on the sites with a density of at least 30 units per acre with buildings up to six stories tall. The city's inclusionary zoning ordinance would require that at least 15% of the 950 housing units that could be built on the three sites be affordable to low and very-low households.

But that plan failed to convince Urban Habitat and Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch, who wanted the city to act faster and without the housing cap limits. So instead of leaving development decisions to the discretion of the court, the council chose to work with Urban Habitat and to spearhead the effort by the task force to prepare the plan approved Tuesday. The agreement cuts the number of units to be built to 840, increases the number of affordables to 50%, and includes a public park, retail and office units on the ground floors on some of the buildings and keeps the building heights to three but mostly two stories with extensive landscaping. BRE, now the primary developer, also agreed to include the Iron Horse Trail as part of its development plans. The development plan also will serve as a model for similar high-density housing projects Pleasanton will need to accommodate in the future, whether in Hacienda, the South Bay-owned acreage along I-680 or on quarry land in East Pleasanton that is yet to be developed.

It's clear, though, that with a projected 2.4 individuals per housing unit in BRE's complex, several thousand more people will soon be moving to Pleasanton. The city's slow-growth policies of the past are moving into the history books.

Comments

Posted by Not so fast, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 19, 2011 at 7:39 pm

"For a city that has long promoted itself as a model of orderly, carefully controlled growth, the turn-around in attitude by the City Council on Tuesday and its 25-member Hacienda Task Force is truly commendable."

Truly commendable? At least your editorial makes it clear whose side the Pleasanton Weekly is on--developers. Not that anyone should be surprised.

I don't think the City Council has a "turn-around in attitude," as you put it, but rather, took a pragmatic approach to resolve a legal dispute with Urban Habitat, rather than pursue costly litigation during tight economic times for all California municipalities.

I really don't understand this newspaper's continuous lobbying to transform Pleasanton into a big city. What for? What's wrong with being a small town? I think if you polled most residents, they'd say that's one of the big reasons they like living here--it's a small town, with less traffic, less crime, less grime, and generally friendlier people--all the attributes that small towns typically exemplify.

It's too bad that a judge, Jerry Brown, and some organization based in San Francisco have all denied the citizens of this city the right to self-determination. None of them even live here, nor do they really ever set foot in this town, yet they think they have the right to tell us how to run our town.

That's what started the American Revolution, by the way.

I'm sure you, the Weekly, can't wait to start taking all those ads for those 'high-density housing projects' after they're built.

Pleasanton as a nice small town is moving into the history books because of other people forcing us what to do, and that's a shame.

Enjoy the future big city you've encouraged over the years to create.


Posted by Hacienda condo owner, a resident of Siena
on Feb 20, 2011 at 12:35 pm

Myself and other people who own condos and houses in Hacienda have attended City meetings about this housing unit City Council action.

Apparently, b/c of the lawsuit, Pleasanton has to "zone" to let these units be built. But, property owners / developers at the meetings say that anything is unlikely to be built b/c of financing, oversupply of housing, bad market conditions, etc.

So, none of us are selling our homes to leave Hacienda; which we think is a great place to raise kids, as is all of Pleasanton.


Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Feb 20, 2011 at 4:41 pm

For those who are new to the subject, here is some background. State law demands that each community in its land use plans meet the housing element requirement that is codified in state law.

"Housing element law, enacted in 1969, mandates that local governments adequately plan to meet the existing and projected housing needs of all economic segments of the community. The law acknowledges that, in order for the private market to adequately address housing needs and demand, local governments must adopt land use plans and regulatory systems which provide opportunities for, and do not unduly constrain, housing development."

Web Link

Pleasanton has skirted this affordable housing law through its slow growth policies for a long time, and is currently under a court order to comply because it lost a lawsuit in this regard.

Therefore, one needs to change the state law (enacted in 1969) if you disagree and want a reversal. Or appeal the current ruling (which has not been chosen by the city).


Posted by Not so fast, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 21, 2011 at 9:42 am

Thanks, Frank. Good info, good post in response.

That said, let's change/rescind the law. Governor Jerry Brown has publicly stated he wants to give back power/control to counties and cities, so he shouldn't have any problem with leading that effort.

And by the way, I'd be real interested to find out what communities like, say, Alamo are doing to meet their obligations under this state housing element law.

That would be quite interesting, I'm sure.


Posted by Beth, a resident of Country Fair
on Feb 21, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Communities like Alamo don't produce the jobs that Pleasanton does, so they don't have the high housing number requirements that Pleasanton does. Abag focuses on the job/housing balance.


Posted by Mike, a resident of Birdland
on Feb 21, 2011 at 3:25 pm

This is a scam for the housing industry.

How can new construction be more affordable than our older properties condos and homes?
Only if they are built poorly, how can we be forced to allow slums? A 2bdrm townhouse in Pleasanton can be bought for under $200k, new construction cost more than that.

This and those who support it are fronts for the housing industry!

Would someone please tell me where all of these jobs are in Pleasanton?


Posted by Meghan, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Feb 23, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Mike, I'm curious, where in Pleasanton are these 2 bedroom, under $200k townhomes you speak of?...


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