Members of the Pleasanton Planning Commission spent the first few minutes of their meeting earlier this month voicing approval of a multimillion-dollar 36-home development planned in the Valley Trails community, before then carrying on for the next four hours over plans by the developer to also build a public restroom in the neighboring Valley Trails Community Park free-of-charge.
In the end, as the clock approached midnight, the commission voted 3-2 to approve the development plan by Ponderosa Homes, moving the proposed project forward for consideration by the City Council next week.
Let's hope the council makes quick work of the project, sparing the 85 Valley Trails homeowners who will likely crowd into the council chamber again after their agonizingly late night of unnecessary debate April 12 before the Planning Commission.
Ponderosa plans to tear down the financially troubled Evangelical Free Church of Pleasanton in the Valley Trails community and replace it with 36 new single-family homes on the 9-acre site. It will also build a private clubhouse for its new development, making it available to all 498 Valley Trails homeowners for scheduled once-a-month events.
Key to the plan will be a public restroom in the adjacent 6.1-acre neighborhood park, which Ponderosa will build free-of-charge along with a five-year maintenance agreement. Jeff Schroeder, Ponderosa's senior vice president, said the restroom was a priority mentioned by Valley Trails homeowners when he met with them at two meetings to describe his 36-home proposal.
Of the 21 speakers at the April 12 meeting, only one -- former councilwoman Kay Ayala -- sought a delay in voting on the Ponderosa plan until the Pleasanton school district had a chance to determine if it wants the site. The school board, which years ago sold off the site, said again April 18 that it's not interested.
The hours-long debate over the public restroom made no sense. The Valley Trails community wants it; city staff favors it; Ponderosa will pay for it.
Some of the commissioners were concerned that none of the city's 33 neighborhood parks, like Valley Trails', have restrooms except for the new Stoneridge Creek Neighborhood Park, which also has tennis courts. The city's larger "community" parks -- Bernal, Lions Wayside, Creekside and Delucchi -- all have public restrooms.
Planning Commissioner Nancy Allen, who along with Commissioner Greg O'Connor voted against the Ponderosa development plan, summed up her reasoning:
"I don't think taxpayers should be burdened with maintaining restrooms in neighborhood parks," Allen said. "I'm concerned about the costs over the years, as well as with security and graffiti."
Commissioner Herb Ritter disagreed, pointing out that annual property taxes from the 36 new Ponderosa homes will likely exceed $74,000 on a site that now produces no tax revenue. Enough, he believes, to relieve the city of unbudgeted costs for the Valley Trails Park restroom as well as provide relief when needed for those using the park.