We call it an "opportunity" because the 1,000-2,200 housing units being considered for the east side site, many of them in the state-required mid- to lower-income category, could fill the state's demand to 2030 and beyond. That means that, with Hacienda Business Park filling up fast to meet RHNA's and the already court-ordered requirements, those units would not have to be built in existing Pleasanton neighborhoods.
Granted, few want to see our established neighborhoods "disturbed" by high-rise, high density apartment houses in the various empty lots around town where these "in-fill" projects could be built. But Pleasanton, facing demands also being made of other California cities, has no choice. The city argued unsuccessfully in court against RHNA and Urban Habitat, an Oakland-based affordable housing coalition, that its 1996 housing cap of 29,000 units blocked any more housing here. After spending $3.5 million defending the cap, Pleasanton lost and the court gave Urban Habitat and the state the authority to impose housing numbers determined by ABAG. In response, 75 acres of vacant land, mostly in Hacienda, have been rezoned and four major developments are under way or nearly approved for more than 2,000 units in high density projects.
The East Side task force was formed to consider the best uses of the property Legacy wants to develop. In its "check-in" last month with the City Council, the task force suggested six land use options. The two-hour-long public meeting with many making comments showed this is fast becoming a controversial process. Few want to see 2,200 housing units built on the east side, but many agreed that might be a proposal to carry forward for a costly, probably year-long environmental review. Planners can always downsize from an approved EIR but to add housing numbers to one requires another review.
There was also concern over the Pleasanton school district's bid that the task force include a school site. Some suggested that a new school, if the district can ever afford to build one, would best be located in Hacienda Business Park where more housing will soon be built. Objections also were made that the task force plans include developments outside of the voter-approved urban growth boundary. That's true but it was pointed out that the 100 acres outside that boundary would consist mostly of the Zone 7 lakes with some commercial development also possible, including the relocation of Pleasanton Garbage Service's recycling center on Busch Road. That could be allowed under the General Plan with City Council approval.
With the long list of suggestions and objections, the task force will now resume its planning efforts with a target date of completing its plan in 2014. That'll be none too soon for Pleasanton, which will face a whole new set of RHNA housing numbers in December next year. Those will be state required new housing orders that the city can ill afford to ignore again.