Now that the Pleasanton City Council has rezoned land for affordable housing in response to a successful law suit by Urban Habitat and then-state Attorney General Jerry Brown, the question remains: will any of it be built?
The legal action challenged the city’s 29,000-unit cap on housing that was approved in 1996. It was a law suit in waiting from the time the City Council put it on the ballot and voters approved it. The state requires communities to develop plans to meet their regional share of housing and Pleasanton had been harvesting jobs and retail tax revenue while approving upscale housing. There was a huge gap for workforce or housing for folks with lower incomes.
More than 20 years ago, when the city almost no higher density housing projects, four projects were approved and built that today are successful apartment complexes. These ranged in density from 20 to 30 units per acre. Somehow, the addition of those apartments did not prevent Pleasanton from continuing as a highly desirable place to live.
The new rezoning allows 30 to 40 units per acre, an appropriate increase in density given what housing values are today versus 20 years ago—even with the downward price adjustments driven by the popping of the housing bubble.
If builders can actually find that the densities and land prices pencil out so there’s potential profit, then we will see the apartments built.
It’s hardly a doomsday for Pleasanton—it’s a recognition that the policy of welcoming those who could afford to buy their way in while banking tax money—does not meet the test of the law.
As a more than 50-year resident of the city, I can remember when Pleasanton had one high school (built in the 1920s), no shopping center (you had to travel to Hayward or Concord if you needed to buy a suit), and one car dealership. The city has grown and evolved and remains a great place to live.
I suspect, moving forward, it will remain just that—albeit a place where some folks of more modest incomes may have a place to live.