Pleasanton Weekly

Column - October 28, 2011

Aging in Pleasanton

by Jeb Bing

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mong the hundreds of seniors at last week's groundbreaking festivities for Pleasanton's Stoneridge Creek retirement complex on Staples Ranch were Marge and Rudy Johnson, well-known in the city's nonprofit, public service and religious communities. The Johnsons first heard about the upscale retirement project being proposed by Continuing Life Communities from former Pleasanton school superintendent Bill James, then at a presentation the Carlsbad-based company made at the downtown Pleasanton Rotary Club, where Rudy is a member. With their two children caring for their own offspring in Boulder and Telluride, Colo., the Johnsons wanted to "age in place" (as it's called) without leaving Pleasanton and without becoming a burden to their son Kurt and daughter Kirsten and their families. Besides, Marge said, it's too windy in Boulder and too cold in Telluride.

So they made a $1,000 deposit on a 1,641-square-foot duet in the Villa section of Stoneridge Creek in March 2008, as CLC's plans began moving through the city's approval process. They expected it to be built by 2010 and that they'd be living there now.

But the wheels of development approvals have a way of taking a long time in Pleasanton and, as anxious as city officials said they were to get Stoneridge Creek under way, obstacles stood in the way. Alameda County owned the 124-acre Staples Ranch and wanted a final agreement on extending Stoneridge Drive to El Charro Road on the eastern edge of Staples, where it will connect to Jack London Boulevard on the Livermore side. Many in the nearby Mohr-Martin community, where the four-lane Stoneridge Drive now ends at the western edge of Staples, objected to the extension which they feared would invite cut-through traffic by I-580 commuters. Also, there was the question of protecting rare species of plant life and red-legged frogs, which required environmental studies. Public hearings, the threat of lawsuits and at least two City Council elections also stalled the permits CLC needed. By the time the council gave its final approval this summer, the wife of Troy Bourne, who had first brought the application, had delivered three of their children.

Marge Johnson, always an active get-the-job-done person, was frustrated and organized a group of seniors who also had placed deposits on Stoneridge Creek homes, with many of them investing 10% of the buying a "right to occupy" contract. A Stanford grad and Bay Area Realtor for 22 years, she had everyone don yellow shirts, which they wore to several meetings with the City Council where they called for a decision. The pressure worked and CLC finally got its development permit.

For the Johnsons and the nearly 100 who have move-in contracts, Stoneridge Creek answers the need for couples who are in the autumn of their lives with plans to stay active and involved in the community they love. Rudy Johnson is a retired Episcopal priest. Years of ministering to diverse congregations in Palo Alto, Hayward, Castro Valley and Berkeley have given him a broad-based outlook on culture. He helped gain public support for the Firehouse Arts Center and continues as a member of the Alameda County Arts Commission. Marge Johnson is still a member of the local chapter of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), where she served as president twice. Last Sunday, she joined the group in Sacramento to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Women's Suffrage Act, marking the day California became the sixth state to sign the Constitutional amendment. One of her many activities is with Book Buddies, a group of 20 who read to the young, as she did Tuesday morning at the Pleasanton Senior Center with a class of second graders from Hearst Elementary School.

As the delays in building Stoneridge Creek continued, the Johnsons looked at other options, including a church-run facility in Oakland. Fortunately, they had the time and good health to wait out the city approval process and can now look forward to moving into their new home in Pleasanton in early 2013. That gives them the chance to continue their friendships, social activities and volunteer work right here in town, which they can continue calling home.

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