Sacramento politicians, most from cities like San Francisco, have started to impose state requirements on local agencies. There’s already the regional housing goal that Gov. Gavin Newsom is threatening to add teeth to by withholding gas tax money designated for local streets.
And then there’s crazy legislation such as the law that allows BART to build high-density housing on its station sites without regard to the local community. It’s insane to have a transportation agency that arguably can’t conduct its core business venturing into the development game, but that’s allowed by state law approved last year.
Remember, the high-density housing on the narrowed Owens Drive in Hacienda Business Park across from the BART station is supposed to be matched by apartments in the BART parking lot across the street. There’s been no proposal from BART for that housing.
The Sacramento housing drive, coupled with the end of the drought, has elevated planning East Pleasanton to a top priority for the City Council. The council established its two-year priorities this week and notably planning for the last major undeveloped area in the city—its eastern gateway—is back on the front burner. It was suspended four years ago in the withering drought.
By moving ahead with planning, the city hopes to maintain control of that key area without being subjected to new state mandates. Planning the East area, even without state pressure, was a wise decision.
Priorities for the next two years also included monitoring regional and state housing legislation (62 bills are on Pleasanton’s list) as well as creating a framework to address redevelopment at Stoneridge mall. The Simon Property Group, the mall owner, already has submitted plans to redevelop the vacant Sears site with a different approach that the rest of the enclosed mall.
City leaders also have banded together with other Tri-Valley communities to slowdown or counter the CASA Compact, a 15-year emergency plan to sharply increase housing in the Bay Area. It was developed by a multi-stakeholder committee of business and labor leaders, housing advocates, politicians and other interests called the Committee to House the Bay Area. It was driven by Silicon Valley, Peninsula, San Francisco and Oakland interests and is supported by the mayors of the three cities as well as the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.
The plan, released last November, calls for protecting 300,000 units occupied by households paying more than 50 percent of their income for housing; preserving 30,000 affordable units; and producing 35,000 new units, driven by a bond issue and higher sales tax.
Notably missing from the group were representatives from smaller cities, whether in the East Bay or the South Bay.
Now Pleasanton, in collaboration with other Tri-Valley cities, is supporting a framework to counter some of the most onerous CASA proposals including the one for a regional housing agency. It singled out four other proposals as high concerns. By banding together over the county line, the five communities should have greater impact than one city going alone.
One concern cited is the requirement for high-density housing near transit stations—that could mean multi-story buildings near the ACE station at the fairgrounds, a move that would destroy that downtown neighborhood. In other areas, the Greenville Road station in Livermore or the two valley BART stations, high-density housing makes sense. Some already is targeted for around the downtown Livermore ACE station.
Proponents of the CASA Compact have recognized they missed hearing from smaller suburban communities and now have started to reach out. Local officials are exactly right when they argue that one-size fits all solutions will not fit in the diverse Bay Area.