Nearly two years after halting east side planning amid the drought, council members were considering whether to make the effort a city goal again in the wake of a new residential development concept being promoted by East Pleasanton landowner Steve Dunn.
But after hearing from Dunn and residents on both sides of the argument during their work plan workshop Tuesday night, the council majority agreed the city shouldn't prioritize east side planning during 2017 and 2018.
"I want to take a breather awhile, see what the actual impact versus what the projected impacts were for all the high-density housing. So at this point for this two-year plan, I'm not going to be able to vote to put the east side back on the plan," Mayor Jerry Thorne said.
Three of Thorne's colleagues on the dais soon concurred, and the East Pleasanton Specific Plan was off the table for the council's 2017-2018 work plan. Councilman Arne Olson recused himself from the deliberations because he lives too close to the east side area.
The council came into the public workshop with a list of 105 potential projects and initiatives to consider for the new work plan, but a majority of the nearly three-dozen citizen speakers focused on whether to bring back east side planning.
The issue was up for work plan consideration because of public input; it wasn't included on the draft priority list generated by city staff before the meeting.
An East Pleasanton Specific Plan had been on the council's radar in the past, and the city formed a task force to lead the planning effort. But the council stopped the planning process and dissolved the task force during mid-2015 near the height of the drought and after complaints from residents opposed to further development because of the water supply and other concerns.
In recent months, landowner Dunn has publicly promoted a new development concept to bring more than 800 single-family homes -- along with parks, trails, transportation infrastructure, open space, proposed lake access and other amenities -- to land off Busch Road northeast of the Valley Avenue and Stanley Boulevard intersection.
He urged the council Tuesday to restart the city's east side planning effort.
"It's purely a concept; that's why we need the plan. We're not asking to build; we're asking to plan," said Dunn, who owns 320 acres in East Pleasanton.
Dunn contended the current concept for the site could solve issues around traffic, schools, public safety and new water use related to east side development.
Council members heard from residents in favor of and against adding east side planning to the priority list, with a slight majority of speakers in opposition.
"It's a waste of taxpayers' money. It's just too soon. Let our city and the developers take a rest. The drought is not over," resident Sandy Yamaoda said. "This project is not mandated ... it is optional."
In the end, council members opted against prioritizing east side planning for the next two years, but they didn't shut the door on consideration for future work plans.
More than 80 residents, plus another dozen or so city staff members, attended the workshop Tuesday evening, filling seats and lining the walls of the Remillard Conference Room at the city's Operations Services Department.
Another popular talking point during public comment was the recent reduction of eastbound Owens Drive from three lanes to one in front of a new four-story apartment building with ground-floor retail soon to be opened at Owens and Willow Road, across from the BART station.
After hearing complaints from residents and commuters about traffic delays because of the one-lane configuration, the council majority voted to add Owens Drive to the priority list Tuesday.
City staff was directed to start collecting new Owens Drive traffic data and looking at preliminary design options for restoring an eastbound lane, and then return to the council with a report in three to six months.
In all, the council finished the workshop Tuesday with nearly 100 projects and initiatives in its two-year work plan.
The items fell into top priority categories of the Bernal property, General Plan, fiscal sustainability, affordable housing, traffic circulation, economic development, youth programs, public safety, quality of life, environmental awareness, city services and organizational success.
The work plan will return to the council next week for final adoption.
City staff will then take the work plan and develop draft operating and capital improvement program budgets for prioritized projects and initiatives, set to be presented to the council in the spring, City Manager Nelson Fialho said.