Pleasanton Weekly

News - August 12, 2011

Planning Commission OKs 13 homes on Stanley site

103-year-old bungalow will be torn down

by Dolores Fox Ciardelli

The Planning Commission approved a 13-home development plan for 1.17 acres on Old Stanley Boulevard at its July 13 meeting, after residents weighed in about demolishing a craftsman-style bungalow on the property and other concerns.

Although the vote was unanimous, Commissioner Jennifer Pearce noted that she was against tearing down the bungalow.

"I'm disappointed we couldn't save the house but under the current (Downtown Specific Plan) those guidelines have been satisfied," she said. "An expert came in and said it's not a historic house."

Plans were submitted in July 2009 by Donato Builders Inc. for approval of a project with 14 homes at 4171 and 4189 Stanley Blvd, a short distance from Santa Rita Road. After a Planning Commission workshop and direction from its members and the City Council, the application was again before the commission with plans that called for one less house.

The site is between a commercial business, Windowology, to the west, and a single home and the Del Valle Manor townhomes to the east. The property backs up the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.

Several aspects of the proposed development raised questions:

* Trees that need to be removed.

* Whether the project should include a tot lot.

* The 1908 bungalow at the front of the property.

* Blocking a neighbor's solar panels.

* Noise from the railroad tracks.

City Landscape Architect Mike Fulford reported on the condition of the trees planned for removal in the development. All 22 trees on the property were inspected in January 2009 by a consulting arborist and rated in respect to their health and their value, Fulford told the commission.

"Three of those trees, and I think these are the trees that are creating the sticky issue here, are the prominent deodar cedar trees located in front of the property," he said.

He said that the three, which are highly visible heritage trees, all were in moderate to good condition in January 2009.

"Perhaps a year after that, one of those trees suffered a pretty catastrophic branch failure," Fulford said, "which is not uncommon."

The tree is in bad structural condition, he said, and is a significant threat to public safety; he recommended its removal. With proper pruning the other two could be saved, he added.

Paul Martin, representing the builders, spoke to the tot lot question.

"Our issue is not that we're against children in the subdivision," Martin said. "But there are two things: One, there's a rash of litigation across the country regarding tot lot equipment. We don't want that further liability. Also my experience is sometimes a tot lot is used, sometimes it's not."

The Planning Commission agreed that the developer could create the common area without a tot lot until 11 of the homes were sold. Then they are to discuss it with the homeowners group.

Christine Bourg, representing the Pleasanton Heritage Association, said its members have concerns about missed opportunities to save historic homes.

"Stanley Boulevard has continued to deteriorate since the first home was demolished there and a high density development was put in," Bourg said. "Eventually property values are affected."

"If the bungalow is gone, why couldn't the architecture of the new buildings reflect this architecture?" she asked.

There is no record of the home's original occupants but Abrama and Rose Regalia moved in around 1920, according to the staff report. He operated a bakery on Main Street and later worked as a janitor at Amador Valley High. Sometime between 1967 and 1978, ownership of the house was transferred to the current owners, Robert and Carol Molinaro.

Under city staff direction, the trees in the development will be chosen and planted so they do not interfere with the neighbor's photovoltaic panels. Commissioners also said it is important to ensure that buyers of the homes are made aware of the noise and vibration caused by Union Pacific Railroad.

"I think it's a better project than it was when we sent it to council and that was my hope," Commissioner Pearce said, along with expressing her feelings about losing the bungalow. "I'm gratified that we've saved two additional trees but disappointed we couldn't save more trees."

She added that this is a very good site for affordable homes that are within walking distance of downtown, which she has always wanted.

"I don't think it's a battle on saving houses," said Commissioner Chairwoman Kathy Narum, adding, "I wish more trees could be saved but at least we've saved a couple." She stated at the work session that the historic integrity of this section of Stanley Boulevard was already gone, and that the city should focus on preserving the older residential neighborhoods with many large historic homes.

The new houses, all two stories, will range in size from 1,599 square feet to 1,920 square feet, and each will have a two-car garage. A 20-foot-wide private street will go into the development from Stanley Boulevard.

Since the homes are smaller than 2,000 square feet, they are not required to comply with the city's Green Building Ordinance, but some green building measures are being incorporated into the project.

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