Pleasanton Weekly

News - December 30, 2011

City Council to vote Wednesday on high-density housing plan

New zoning changes would set aside 73 acres for affordable housing developers

by Jeb Bing

The Pleasanton City Council will hold back-to-back meetings starting next Wednesday to consider and likely approve a detailed plan to rezone 73 acres of available properties in various parts of the city to allow the construction of more than 2,000 apartments in two- and three-story buildings. Because of New Year's holiday schedules, the City Council has moved its regular Tuesday night meeting for this week to Wednesday, Jan. 4. The second meeting will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 10. Faced with court and state housing authorities' orders to provide more affordable and so-called workforce housing, the council will review the rezoning plan approved two weeks ago by the city's Planning Commission.

Both groups met earlier in an informal "workshop" setting to iron out any differences in the voluminous plan for rezoning nine sites for development. After some tweaking of that plan based on public comments, the city's planning staff made final changes to the plan, which the Planning Commission then approved.

Next Wednesday, the council is expected to approve a first reading of an ordinance that would officially rezone the sites for high-density housing. It has then scheduled a special meeting the following Tuesday, Jan. 10, to ratify the ordinance with a second reading. The public then has 30 days to file any legal objections before the final document becomes part of the city's General Plan and is filed with both the Alameda Superior Court and the state.

The city, itself, will not build any housing, but the rezoning enables developers to have an easier time obtaining permits for multi-family, two- and three-story developments on the properties.

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 actions by both the City Council and Planning Commission follow 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 rather than appeal it after its legal counsel said it was unlikely the city would prevail in taking the ruling to the state Court of Appeal.

The state attorney general's office, then headed by now-Governor Jerry Brown, sided with Urban Habitat in demanding that Pleasanton provide more housing for those in the lower income brackets.

The city's early recommendation to rezone more sites to allow more than 100 acres for affordable housing was acknowledged by the state's Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) without change. That plan exceeded the court-ordered requirements, so the planning staff and the Planning Commission reduced the actual rezoned acreage to 73 acres.

Even that is at least 200 units more than HCD and Urban Habitat want, but city staff and the commission agreed to keep the extra units in the plan in case one or more of the building sites proves unsuitable for the large apartment complexes.

Although the commission voted 5-0 to approve the Environmental Impact Report that endorses the rezonings, Commissioner Chairwoman Kathy Narum cast the lone dissenting vote on the total number of units, arguing that there was no reason to add 200.

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

In a separate action, BRE, a national affordable housing developer, recently gained the city's preliminary approval of a plan it submitted to build more than 800 units in the Hacienda Business Park.

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