Pleasanton Weekly

News - March 4, 2011

Council OKs Iron Horse Trail extension, high-density housing in Hacienda

Bright yellow sidewalk ramps will meet ADA requirements

by Jeb Bing

From deciding to keep the bright yellow colors on sidewalk ramps for the handicapped to giving final approval to land use changes for an 850-unit housing project, the Pleasanton City Council dealt with a number of disparate issues Tuesday night.

There was even some drama in an otherwise routine two-hour meeting as Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and Councilman Matt Sullivan sparred over a request by anti-war veteran Fred Norman to address the council a second time in his long-standing bid to have council members tell the public whether they support U.S. military actions in Iraq and Afghanistan, oppose them or are indifferent.

Hosterman said one time to the rostrum in the public comment section of the council's agenda was enough; Sullivan said it was his right as a councilman to invite Norman back a second time. Norman got his wish, returned to again ask that the council take a stand, but council members again showed that a majority of them did not want to engage in a discussion on the country's military agenda.

Most significant in Tuesday night's meeting was the council's action to ratify plans by the East Bay Regional Park District to close a 1.6 mile missing gap of the Iron Horse Trail in Pleasanton to give joggers, bicyclists and others a direct path to the BART station at Hacienda from where the trail ends at Valley Avenue and Busch Road. Once completed in 2012, the trail will link Pleasanton to the whole regional trail system, extending far into Contra Costa County.

The trail extension will be fully funded by the Park District thanks to $4 million in regional and federal grants.

The council also gave final approval to land use changes in the Hacienda Business Park that will allow for construction of a high density, 840-unit housing project with half the units to serve those with low to moderate incomes. A complex of two- and three-story buildings is planned on the 32-acre site, which is owned by W.P. Carey, Roche and BRE. The three sites are located along Hacienda, Gibraltar and Owens drives close to the Pleasanton BART station with nearby access to I-580.

The council's rezoning of the properties came in response to a ruling by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch last August in favor of suits brought by Urban Habitat and then state Attorney General Jerry Brown. Roesch declared the city's 29,000-unit housing cap approved by voters in 1996 in violation of state mandates for affordable and market rate housing requirements imposed by the Bay Area Association of Governments. In addition to scuttling the cap, he ordered Pleasanton to come up with a plan to meet its current housing numbers requirements by March 1, and to add another 1,400 units by 2014.

Along with Tuesday night's action, which met the court-ordered March 1 housing numbers deadline, the council also authorized a second payment of $900,000 to Urban Habitat to cover its legal fees in the litigation. With the payment, Pleasanton's obligation to pay $1.8 million to Urban Habitat has now been completed.

Much of the council discussion focused on the bright yellow color of the truncated-domed curb ramps being installed throughout the city as part of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) guidelines.

Daniel Smith, director of Operations Services for Pleasanton, said his department has installed 600 of the ramps so far, with another 3,800 to be placed to meet the ADA requirements. The ramps cost $600 each to purchase and install.

"The only complaints we've had so far are from those who think the color is too bright," Smith said. "But it's the contrast that's important to those with visual disabilities and yellow is the last color you recognize if your eyesight deteriorates."

He won the council's approval to continue installing the yellow ramps although some on the council urged him to consider a brick red or other less flashy color when ramps are installed on downtown streets.

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