Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - December 16, 2011

Houses, houses, houses

Housing issues continue to dominate the Planning Commission and City Council agendas as we close out 2011, but sometimes a simple one-on-one chat between a developer and a community activist can bring results that make us all proud. Such is the case with the approval Donato Builders received in a hard-fought development petition to build 13 affordable cluster homes on old Stanley Boulevard (between Main and First streets) that also involved tearing down a 1908 bungalow on the half-acre site at 4189 Old Stanley Blvd. Councilman Matt Sullivan and Linda Garbarino of the Pleasanton Heritage Association opposed the measure because, they said, there just aren't many 100 year old houses left in the city and this one should be preserved.

In a spirit of cooperation not often seen when preservationists and developers clash, Donato's Tom Martin and Garbarino met again after the council's vote favoring the demolition and agreed that sometimes old things are worth saving. It's not clear how it will happen or who will provide the land, but Martin and his firm will move the house to another site early next year before starting construction on the new homes. Councilman Jerry Thorne, who had supported tearing the house down, told Martin and Garbarino that they have his promise -- and no doubt Sullivan's -- to help find a place for one of the city's oldest homes.

There was more good news for Ponderosa Homes, which also won planning and City Council approval to build 31 homes on a 19.5 acre site along Trenery Drive and Martin Avenue. That's four more than originally allowed for the site, but these homes will be much smaller and finally will be built as Ponderosa sees the local housing market improving.

Not so happy, though, are neighbors next to a house at 205 Neal St., where Realtor Dave Cunningham and Architect Charles Huff want to add more space on the first and second floors. Their first plan also lacked appeal for the Planning Commission because of what planners called a "boxy" look. So the two came back with a more stylish design and less intrusive side yard that won the commission's OK, but still didn't please the neighbors, who have now appealed the decision. Cunningham and Huff will now have to make their case all over again to the City Council on Jan. 10.

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