Pleasanton Weekly

News - December 9, 2011

City leaders give 'thumbs up' to affordable apartment plan

Properties set for rezoning could hold 2,300 units in high-density apartment complexes

by Jeb Bing

The Pleasanton Planning Commission and City Council wrapped up more than a year of community meetings, public hearings and studies Tuesday night on a plan that will rezone 73 acres of available sites throughout the city for high-density affordable and market rate housing.

In a two-hour "workshop" meeting held in a crowded council chamber, the five commissioners and council members indicated their support of a housing element task force and staff recommendation for specific sites where the new apartments could be built.

The sites will be rezoned to accommodate 1,884 apartment units at a ratio of 30 units per acre, with 400 more at 40 units per acre. Most apartment structures in Pleasanton are in the range of 20-25 units per acre.

The proposal now goes to the Planning Commission for a final public hearing and vote next Wednesday, and then back to the City Council for action at a rescheduled meeting on Jan. 4.

The zoning changes to allow high-density housing come in response to state and court-ordered requirements that Pleasanton provide more housing for low- to very-low income tenants along with more moderately priced housing. The action follows a court ruling that declared the city's 1996 housing cap of allowing no more than 29,000 homes and apartments here to be illegal.

After an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of a suit by Urban Habitat, an affordable housing coalition, the City Council chose to accept the ruling and rezone enough acreage to meet the court order as well as state requirements imposed by the state's Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). Both groups had charged the city with using the housing cap as a means of discouraging developers from building more affordable housing here.

The council created an 11-member task force that included city staff, planners and interested volunteers. The task force held numerous meetings during the year, making its final recommendations Tuesday night.

The city won't build any of the housing, but the council's final approval of the land use changes expected at its January meeting will make the properties available to developers interested in developing housing that will have a heavy emphasis on affordability for low-income families. With more than 800 additional affordable housing units recently approved in the Hacienda Business Park, the rezoned land will accommodate more than 3,000 units.

Brian Dolan, director of community development in Pleasanton, said the task force and his staff sent a list of proposed sites on 111 acres to HCD in November for its consideration. The proposed sites appeared to be acceptable to the agency. In the latest revision, Dolan and his staff trimmed the number to just 73 acres, which will meet the current affordable housing requirements.

By court order, the sites must be rezoned and ready for consideration by interested developers by the end of January.

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