The city started planning with a citizens’ group in 2012 and then suspended the process amid concerns during the drought in 2014. Four members of the prior City Council established it as a top priority in 2019 when Ponderosa Homes, as the lead developer, brought forth conceptual plans for the parcel that included more than 500 units of affordable housing, active adult housing and even a school site.
Ponderosa had agreements with Liongate Investment Group, which owned an industrially zoned parcel off east, as well as Kiewit that owns 50 acres at the corner of Busch Road and Valley Avenue. A planning agreement for that land sat in City Hall for months in 2020 until the council elections saw a slow-growth minority take control.
Liongate executed its option to end the agreement and sold its land to Amazon in September 2021, a move that sadly Mayor Karla Brown applauded. Amazon had no immediate plans for the land, but it would be a good site for either a major warehouse or a last-mile warehouse. Either option would mean lots more truck and van traffic on Pleasanton streets. Warehouses are necessary, but belong in appropriate sites and do little for well-paid employment and the tax base. The Isabel Avenue/Highway 84 corridor in Livermore as well as the Vasco Road corridor in east Livermore are ideal, near major highways and away from neighborhoods.
This month Kiewit sold its parcel to Square Mile Capital for $69.5 million as reported by the East Bay Times. The current zoning is for industrial uses. The Ponderosa draft plan called for housing on that site. Jeff Schroder, Ponderosa’s vice-president, remains convinced that it will still end up in housing.
He wrote in an email, “ Our deal with Kiewit included both industrial and residential options. The original offer came in from Amazon not long after they closed on the Lionsgate parcel. They then assigned the contract to a development firm they do other projects with.
“We participated in this deal so it worked out well for us and very well for Kiewit. I think they realized that this site is going to be a housing site but closed on it because it's a great investment. Not sure if we will be involved again but would be happy to assist them.”
Any planning on that site was delayed by the council because it wanted to complete the update on the housing element of the General Plan as required by state law. Pleasanton is required to show zoning for nearly 6,000 units over the next 8-year planning cycle. That’s a heavy lift and the city is taking comment on the draft plan through Sunday on its website. It meant a two-year delay.
As the land sales demonstrate, the broad plan is dead. That’s truly unfortunate. Depending upon how the land uses evolve, it’s doubtful that the city can raise the millions for necessary infrastructure ($25 million for just the connection at El Charro Road and Stanley Boulevard that must go under the railroad lines. Connecting I-580 to Stanley Boulevard will take hundreds if not thousands of daily trips off Valley Avenue.
In an earlier time, with different leadership, city leaders, staff and developers master planned North Pleasanton with the infrastructure necessary to accommodate four business parks, new housing and retail centers.
The opportunity existed for a similar effort in East Pleasanton that now is dead. Leadership, staff and elected, blew it big time on this one.