Protesters oppose East Side planning

200 jam city meeting, but don't like what they hear

Nearly 200 crowded into the Pleasanton City Council chamber two weeks ago to hear about proposed land-use plans for the city's East Side.

Most did not like what they heard.

Planning Commissioner Herb Ritter led the two-hour discussion with members of the city's planning, engineering and traffic staff at his side. They answered questions and at times took some verbal abuse from the many of the 24 speakers, most of them denouncing a proposal by the East Pleasanton Specific Plan task force to continue the planning effort.

The task force, its members appointed by the City Council, has been meeting for more than two years to determine possible uses of a 1,110-acre site east of Valley Avenue that extends north of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to the Livermore city limits. Mostly vacant except for Pleasanton Garbage Company's recycling plant, the site has been called "Pleasanton's last frontier."

Without expanding the city's boundaries, it represents the largest vacant property in the city suitable for development.

The purpose of the Specific Plan is to guide and coordinate the basic land-use pattern, development and design, roadways and other public infrastructure, environmental protection, financing and implementation requirements for development of the area. Currently, the land is zoned for light industrial development.

The meeting on April 29 was the last in a series held in several Pleasanton neighborhoods over the past two months. It was also the final public meeting in advance of a City Council discussion next Tuesday about whether to continue the planning process in light of the current water shortages in the state.

But it wasn't just the drought that brought people out to object to developing the East Side property, although that headed the list.

Increased traffic congestion, too many apartment buildings, crowded schools and what some said is a deteriorating quality of life caused by the city's population growth also were reasons given for wanting the East Side planning process stopped. One speaker, dressed in a baseball uniform, said sports fields are already too crowded and the added youths who would come from the proposed development would worsen the situation.

Another speaker balanced a giant cardboard-backed map of the East Side on the lectern as he spoke. Yet another fired questions one after another at several members of the city planning staff, smiling as they stumbled over his questions about how many people both live and work in Pleasanton. Then he answered the question himself.

Bill Sherwood asked if El Charro Road would still be extended from I-580 to Stanley Boulevard if the East Side is not developed. It could be, was the answer, although it was money from East Side developers that is intended to fund the roadway.

One speaker pointed out that it's today's 70,000 population that has enabled Pleasanton to build its parks, sports fields, schools and a library. But enough is enough, he added.

Another accused the city of demanding that residents reduce their water consumption while proceeding with a plan that will use more water and make developers rich.

Another questioned the task force's figures that the new apartments and homes on the proposed East Side development would have 1.1 children per household. She said Dublin is finding it's more like three children per new household.

"Do the math," she said. "That could mean 9,000 more students in our crowded schools."

As the crowd filed out after two hours of debate, Ritter reminded them of the City Council's public hearing this coming Tuesday.

"We'll be back," one of the speakers responded. "All of us and more."

The council meeting will start at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Civic Center, 200 Old Bernal Ave.

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