Pleasanton Weekly

News - July 22, 2011

Council approves draft plan to rezone 105 acres for 'affordable' housing

After state review, only 60 acres likely to face development to satisfy court's order

by Jeb Bing

In a sweeping move, the Pleasanton City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to approve a preliminary plan to rezone 17 separate sites in Pleasanton totaling 105 acres for more than 3,000 "affordable" high-density housing units.

The draft of what's called the city's Housing Element will now be sent to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) for its review to determine if the council's action meets requirements being imposed on Pleasanton. Both the state and an Alameda County Superior Court judge have ruled that the city failed to keep pace with housing demands for low- to very-low and moderate income families based on state-approved measures by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), which determines the housing mix for local communities.

"The facts are that it's the state Legislature or ABAG that's now telling us how many housing units we have to have in Pleasanton," Councilman Jerry Thorne said. "We want to make sure we have local control over what is built here."

Tuesday's action approved a 2-inch-thick document of reports by the council-appointed Housing Element Task Force, an 11-member group that has held more than a year of community meetings, public hearings and studies in response to the Superior Court and state rulings to provide more affordable living accommodations. As part of those rulings, the city's 1996 voter-approved housing cap was determined to be illegal and was scuttled. The 3,200 new housing units would meet the new requirements imposed to "catch up" with the mixed-use type of housing Pleasanton should have been encouraging.

The draft plan approved Tuesday night follows the council's earlier approval of rezoning of three sites in the Hacienda Business Park to accommodate 840 apartments.

Tuesday night's action came after nearly two hours of discussion by both council members and the public. Those who addressed the council mainly voiced their opinions over specific sites the Housing Task Force recommended for high density housing. These included 10 acres in the Gateway Center between Valley Avenue and I-680, which would allow up to 300 new apartments behind where Safeway is building its new Lifestyle supermarket. Some said that would add too many new residents in an area already saturated with higher density housing than the rest of Pleasanton; others said the now-vacant site that is zoned for office buildings is suitable for even more high density housing.

Also controversial are the task force's recommendations for high density housing on a 16-acre site at the southeast corner of Stanley Boulevard and Bernal Avenue, across from McDonald's, and on the Kiewit site across Stanley on Valley Avenue, where 49 acres could be available for up to 300 high-density housing units.

Representatives of the Autumn Glen and Danbury Park communities said the task force recommendations would allow for too much additional housing in an area already congested by traffic and without close access to BART, the ACE train or other public transit.

Mayor Jennifer Hosterman said that although the task force recommendations will be sent to the state housing department for review, the council will revisit the proposals once that group comments on the plan.

It's expected that roughly 60 acres of the 105 acres suggested for rezoning will actually be rezoned for eventual development by affordable housing builders.

The state housing department has 60 days to review the council's recommendations, which must be submitted by Aug. 15. The council, to comply with state and court orders, must make a final decision and make the new Housing Element part of the city's General Plan by mid-January.

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