At a time when developers are eying every available site in Pleasanton to build larger and taller residences, Todd Deutscher of Catalyst Development Partners deserves credit for taking a different approach.
Last Tuesday, he won the City Council's approval -- and praise -- for helping the city provide more housing downtown while also preserving a bit of its history. Instead of seizing the opportunity to build 21 new homes on lots that he owns on St. John Street just a block from downtown stores and restaurants, he'll build only 10 and keep the 116-year-old house on the site.
At first, Deutscher wanted to buy and demolish a home on Pleasanton Avenue and move the vacant but still heritage St. John Street house there. When that deal failed, he redesigned his property development plan to accommodate the old but stylish house, moving it to a prominent position in his new development, upgrading and refurbishing it for buyers who like that century old lifestyle and wrapping his 10 new homes around it.
The move preserves the character and development traditions of the downtown while also improving its residential diversity and viability. It also meets the guidelines of the city's downtown specific plan by retaining the small-town scale and physical character of the downtown through the implementation of appropriate land use and development standards.
The home, still at 536 St. John St., is in one of five "heritage neighborhoods" that are identified in the specific plan that lists architecturally preserved homes built before 1942. Constructed in 1900, the single-story house features a front porch common to homes in that era and was renovated in 1930, still meeting the requirements for the California Register of Historic Homes. An auxiliary building that was not part of the original home will be torn down.
Two of the 10 new townhomes will be next to the 1900 house, facing onto a driveway off St. John Street. The others will face the drive, three across from the old home and the others at the end of the private driveway.
Deutscher agreed to design them with architectural features found in other exiting buildings along St. John Street. They will feature brown and light gray earth-tone colors that will complement the historic home and other residences in the neighborhood.
Deutscher's development plan to build 11 fewer townhomes than his property's zoning allows and to move, refurbish and upgrade the historic home at considerable expense to his firm brought praise from the council. "Good job," said Councilman Arne Olson. "We're happy that you are saving an historic home."
Councilwoman Kathy Narum agreed. "The current zoning would have allowed him to build 21 homes on the site with parking for 43 cars. This makes for a great improvement to this historic neighborhood."