What a difference a recession makesThe Pleasanton City Council, which just a few years ago built its priorities on multi-million-dollar capital improvement projects such as the Callippe Preserve municipal golf course, lighted baseball fields on Bernal Community Park, a renovated Veterans Memorial Building and, most recently, the Firehouse Arts Center, agreed last week to a less costly but still ambitious priority plan for the next two years. As recently as 2004, when city revenues approached the $100 million mark, and with continued record high property and sales tax receipts, the city's fast-paced spending programs added more new facilities and services to all parts of Pleasanton, including the Alviso Adobe Community Park, Marilyn Kane Trail, restoration of Kottinger Creek, realignment of Vineyard Avenue, a new Gingerbread Preschool, a new fire station on Bernal Avenue across from the Fairgrounds, the widening of the Bernal Avenue bridge over the Arroyo del Valle, and a BMX competition bike facility at the Shadow Cliffs Regional Park.
Last Thursday, with municipal tax revenue down and a current fiscal year budget that has dropped to $86 million, the council became more cautious in terms of spending, and much more focused on mission, services and projects that aren't capital intensive. This is good because many of the 60-plus work plan items on the new priority list are among those that benefit the community but too often are postponed or neglected in the shadow of the multi-million-dollar projects we've been focused on. That doesn't mean the council has sidetracked consideration of a proposed $70 million new library or the completion of sports fields and community park amenities on Bernal. Those improvements remain on the new priority list but will have to wait until the recession is over before they can be completed.
The council's 10 goals and objectives beyond Bernal are:
Implementation of the General Plan. Pleasanton must complete a Climate Action Plan and meet a jobs-housing balance both to fulfill its recently adopted General Plan and to meet state requirements. That means completing the Housing Element that shows the city has rezoned enough acreage to accommodate workforce and affordable housing targets. This effort will also mark the start of developing an East Side Specific Plan to cover future development on quarry lands and other industrial sites north of Valley Avenue at Stanley Boulevard.
Fiscal Sustainability. Once the Housing Element plan is accepted by the state, a long-term fiscal analysis will get under way to make sure the city's maintenance and service levels stay at their current high levels both for those now living in Pleasanton as well as the more than 3,000 who will move into the new housing that will be built to accommodate them.
Affordable Housing. With land now rezoned in the Hacienda Business Park for high density housing and more sites to be rezoned by year's end to satisfy a court order, Pleasanton planners will next be working with developers who want to build on these sites to make sure they meet Pleasanton standards and will adequately serve the young couples and singles who move here. That will include retail sites and possibly new schools to meet the needs of these new communities.
Among other City Council priorities for 2011-12 are measures that it believes will continue enhancing Pleasanton's quality of life, including enlarging Lions Wayside Park and new parks on Staples Ranch, working with the Pleasanton Heritage Association to establish preservation guidelines, and developing business incentives and nighttime entertainment allowance in accord with new proposals by the Pleasanton Downtown Association.
The council's decision to pull back on major capital improvement programs to focus on strategic planning for current and future needs is welcome news for taxpayers who see neighboring cities running out of money and cutting back on services. So far, fiscal prudence has kept Pleasanton in a strong financial position that the City Council's action continues, at least for the next two years.