Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - November 1, 2013

East Side plan under review

Pleasanton planners and the East Pleasanton Specific Plan task force submitted data this week to start the year-long environmental review of a possible development of 400 acres of mostly vacant land east of Valley Avenue and adjacent to the Union Pacific Railroad tracks and Stanley Boulevard. For now, the work of the task force, which has held regular meetings since last October, is on hold awaiting the outcome of the Environmental Impact Report and related studies that will take place in the coming months.

The EIR will analyze the environmental impact of eight separate proposals, from building 2,279 new homes and apartments on the site, to building only 1,000, to building none. Zero development is among the options under consideration. To undertake the study, the city will hire a number of consultants to determine the impact each of the eight options would have on Pleasanton. These will include a geologist, biologist, traffic analysts and geotechnical professionals who will look at the entire 1,000-acre site. Much of it is owned by Zone 7 and consists of lakes and water retention basins. No more than 400 of the acreage appears to be suitable for development.

These studies will focus on possible smog, traffic congestion, water quality, transportation and other concerns typical in a large development project such as this one that would include retail and industrial uses as well as housing. The development, as proposed, would include public parks and open space and trails. The Pleasanton school district has asked planners to require developers to donate land for a new elementary school, and then to build the school, which would cost developers as much as $40 million and the school district an estimated $1 million in annual operating costs.

During the coming months, an economic analysis will be made by representatives of Economic & Planning Systems, Inc., a Berkeley firm, whose findings will accompany the final EIR. Major infrastructure improvements suggested by members of the East Pleasanton Specific Plan task force, planners, council members, the school district and others call for nearly $100 million in "goodies," including the new school and $18 million to construct an undercrossing beneath the Union Pacific tracks to connect El Charro Road to Stanley Boulevard. Bridges over the Arroyo Mocho and other construction requirements to extend El Charro from the newly-extended Stoneridge Drive would cost $10 million. Proposed parks and trails to serve the east side development could cost another $35 million.

Even though Pleasanton needs additional high-density housing to meet future state requirements, it's unclear if any developer or group of developers could afford the infrastructure improvements the city and school district seem to be demanding. Potential builders could just walk away, leaving the 400 acres much as they are today, empty.

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