High density housing complex won't have 'that Pleasanton look'
City's largest affordable project earns preliminary OK from planners
Agreeing that a new affordable housing project won't have "that Pleasanton look," city planning commissioners nevertheless gave their thumbs up Monday to what is likely to be the city's highest density residential housing complex ever.
BRE properties of San Francisco plan to build a mixed-use, high density residential and commercial development in Hacienda Business Park that will have more than 500 apartments, and approximately 5,700 square feet of retail space on the buildings' ground floors.
The project will include eight apartment houses and two "mixed-use" buildings with 255 residential units on one site bordering on Owens Drive with another 10 buildings housing 247 residential units on a second site extending north from the intersection of Gibraltar and Hacienda drives.
Some of the planned four-story buildings look even taller because of their architecturally stark, multi-colored designs and large, overhanging roof caps. The four-story buildings will include elevator service, although no elevators will be placed in the three-story buildings.
In addition to the apartment and mixed-use buildings, two additional structures are proposed: a 3,380-square-foot club/fitness center and a smaller leasing office.
Brian Dolan, director of Planning and Community Services, told the city Planning Commission that the BRE designs "reflect the residential area already in the (business) park," although some commissioners didn't agree.
"This (project) looks different," said Commissioner Phil Blank. "While I think the 'Pleasanton look' is an important concept, this is something that should be different. It's like when you go to Disney World and see the different places with different themes. This will differentiate what we're trying to create here from the Pleasanton look."
Commissioners Jerry Pentin and Jennifer Pearce agreed, adding that the three- and four-story charcoal, blue and gold-colored buildings should have more of an "industrial look" because they're part of a transit oriented development that is close to the BART East station.
Added Planning Commission chairwoman Kathy Narum: "It sure doesn't look like Pleasanton, but I'm comfortable with the plans."
Monday's workshop meeting was the first time the Planning Commission had a detailed look at the specific site and building designs from BRE, which hopes to start construction in early 2012. BRE will make changes suggested by city staff and the commission and return in mid-November with a final plan for the Planning Commission to consider and vote on.
That action will then be considered by the City Council at a meeting in December.
Monday's presentation ended more than a year of community meetings by the Hacienda task force to consider the types of structures and placement of affordable housing units that the City Council allowed in 2009 when it rezoned vacant land in the Hacienda Business Park to accommodate more housing for mid- to lower-income tenants.
Although separate from the proposed new zoning changes to accommodate even more affordable housing as required by state and court orders, the Hacienda high density complex will add to the city's inventory of this type of housing.
The density of the proposed Hacienda complex is estimated at 30.29 dwelling units per acre, consistent with the standards established for the Hacienda site but significantly more than other apartment complexes in Pleasanton.
At first in its year-long planning process, BRE resisted committing ground floor units with 40-foot depths for retail uses to serve the complex, such as a beauty salon, dry cleaners or coffee shop. BRE said its survey showed an abundance of those kinds of retailers already doing business nearby and that it was unlikely more would want to open at the BRE complex.
Eventually, BRE relented, agreeing to start out with 30-foot-deep residential units in those first floor spaces and eventually converting them into retail space when needed.
A drawback, said BRE's Irwin Yau, is that those units will have 30-foot depths that could be converted into retail space. But planners said most retailers would need at least 40-foot depths and it was also pointed out that these temporary apartments would only have windows at the front, making them less attractive to renters.
Unlike many large high-density apartment complexes, the new Hacienda development will have no internal streets. Driveways off the major bordering streets will offer the only access to parking spaces in the middle of the complexes.
Open space also will be limited. BRE has set aside a .55-acre site in one area, about the same size as Veterans Park on Peters Avenue in downtown Pleasanton. A pool, playground and other recreational areas also will be provided for residents.
Besides the tall concrete and glass structures lining Gibraltar, Owens and other Hacienda streets, a drive-by look at the structures will show mostly garage doors much like the San Francisco Marina district. To meet the city's off-street parking requirements, BRE will build many of the apartments over ground-floor garages.