http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2013/08/16/good-news-for-pleasanton-seniors


Pleasanton Weekly

Column - August 16, 2013

Good news for Pleasanton seniors

by Jeb Bing

Pleasanton City Manager Nelson Fialho had good news to report this week that the Kottinger Place Redevelopment Task Force has approved a revised site plan for rebuilding Kottinger Place and Pleasanton Gardens. These two aging, subsidized affordable housing developments for qualified older residents will be torn down in phases and replaced with larger, upgraded apartment buildings that will house approximately 180 units, almost twice as many as are there now.

The task force's site plan approval is long overdue. It was 10 years ago that the discussions began over what to do with the half-century old housing units that lacked both adequate space, air conditioning and utilities for tenants. Complicating decisions is the fact that Kottinger Place is a U.S. Housing and Urban Development public housing project, and Pleasanton Gardens, located across Kottinger Drive, while also constructed with HUD funding, has been run as a nonprofit corporation. With most of the neighborhood concerns settled through collaboration and compromise, the city Planning Department will receive the full development application in late October following the City Council's approval of the new site plan, expected next month.

Upgrading, rebuilding or selling off the properties has been on the council's priority list for the last decade, but other priorities took precedence and then the 2007-10 recession curbed capital funds needed to undertake the project. Then, in a late hour vote by the five-member council just before the 2012 municipal election that saw a new mayor and two new council members elected, the "old" council moved the Kottinger Place/Pleasanton Gardens renewal project forward as kind of a final legacy. It approved a predevelopment analysis report, giving exclusive negotiating rights to Foster City-based Mid-Peninsula Housing, the developer, owner and manager of more than 90 properties with 25% senior communities.

MidPen, as the company is called, quickly called a meeting with the redevelopment task force to determine project priorities, and the momentum to move forward with the project has gained speed ever since. The result is this new site plan for a Kottinger Place development between Kottinger Drive and Vineyard Avenue, and including the aging Regalia House, which will also be razed. Current development estimates for the two sites range from $59 million to $62.8 million with a city contribution from its senior housing fund of $8.2 million.

New housing on both sites will be largely single story units with far more kitchen, bathroom and closet space than the units now have and with upgrades in electricity and plumbing, including air conditioning. Some of the buildings on what is now the Kottinger Place site will be two stories in height with a few rising to three stories, with elevators. When completed, the apartments will accommodate 180 tenants. The two sites will likely share a common name, yet to be decided, and be jointly managed under the auspices of the city. Social service aides and other senior-focused services will be housed in the new facility. Tenants, who range in age well into their 90s, will be able to stay in place during the reconstruction or move to temporary housing nearby at the developer's cost.

The new plan for rebuilding the two senior facilities is mercifully different and better than earlier proposals that called for closing Pleasanton Gardens and selling the site and building a multi-story, high density apartment building to replace the cottages at Kottinger Place. And, time is of the essence. Currently, there are 75 on the waiting list at Pleasanton Gardens. Demand for the subsidized housing is so high and turnover so relatively low, that even the waiting lists for these two complexes are only opened every several years, typically for a single day.

Even with the site plan approval, the long wait may not be over. Fialho said that after the council's final OK, the Planning Department will need to review the full development application, review the architecture, initiate federal environmental review and coordinate with HUD the approval and disposition agreements for the projects. That means that HUD has to approve the demolition of Kottinger Place, which can be a lengthy process.

For 40 years, Kottinger Place and Pleasanton Gardens have provided homes for senior residents with their campuses located less than a block from Cole's market on First Street and only a long block farther from downtown Pleasanton. "My grandmother was at Kottinger Place for many years and she loved it," former Mayor Jennifer Hosterman said. "What we've had there is truly amazing. And as for how long it's taken to develop a final plan, well, that's 'the Pleasanton Way.'"

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