By Tim Hunt
A man tackling a tough missionUploaded: Feb 28, 2017
Steve Dunn is a man on a difficult mission—convincing the City Council that it should make planning East Pleasanton a priority.
Planning for the area has been sidelined for about two years since the City Council heeded calls from the public to halt because of the drought. He described it to the Pleasanton Men’s Club as being on the 2-yardline, first the goal, and then the clock ran out. Since that action, his firm, Steelwave has moved forward with a plan for its 320 acres while the task force’s plan has been shelved.
Because the task force work was never accepted by the City Council, Dunn said that the planning staff has been instructed not to meet with him about the project. To get the process moving, he needs to get at least three council members to agree that planning the eastside should happen now.
Making it more challenging is that his firm does not control the available land so it will be a single parcel plan instead of one that addresses all the heavy industry properties east of Valley Business Park. If the world were perfect, his firm or another would have control to plan all the land.
His strategy is direct: reach out to the community. They have a website with a video outlining the broad aspects of the plan with support from chamber chief Scott Raty, former chamber president and businesswoman Jan Batchelor and developer and commercial broker Mark Sweeney (who was involved in Hacienda Business Park). He is taking any meeting he can arrange with community members (70-plus to date) and is now running advertisements in this paper urging that the area be planned by Pleasanton.
His challenge is there’s no urgency to move because the city’s housing element complies with state requirements. To provide council members with some encouragement, he is starting to build allies among current residents.
He is talking with the Rage and Ballistic United soccer clubs about a potential facility and has engaged with the Pleasanton Garbage Co. owners about moving the transfer station east onto a parcel outside of the urban growth boundary.
The big carrots for current residents are infrastructure. The transportation key is connecting El Charro Road from Interstate 580 to Stanley Boulevard. That would substantially reduce eastbound commute traffic at Santa Rita Road/Valley Avenue as well as Stanley. People living along Valley Avenue also would celebrate. That’s estimated at a $60 million project.
The second big infrastructure piece is an elementary school on the site. The developer would contribute the land and then build the school—a turnkey project for the school district.
There are some interesting wrinkles with the school. The bond issue passed by voters last November included $35 million for an elementary school. The district owns a site on Vineyard Avenue a mile from Ruby Hill and trustees recently directed the staff to evaluate building a school there.
There’s also the demographer’s report that the showed no need for a new elementary school—the student population is predicted to drop (the numbers do not include the Steelwave land because it is not currently in the planning process). There is a bubble of students going through the high schools.
The bottom line: doubtful need for elementary school on Vineyard and a possible need for a school surrounded by 889 units on the Steelwave land. The Busch Road location will have better access than the Vineyard site.
The current plan has elements designed to make it more acceptable:
• The total units were reduced 15 percent from the task force plan.
• The infrastructure cost of $120 million is privately financed by buyers of the new homes.
• Builders would retrofit older homes with new fixtures and toilets to offset water use in the new homes.
• The plan includes access to a lake (an abandoned gravel pit) as well as 26 acres of park space and 12 miles of trails.
• It also will include senior housing that will reduce traffic.
• The village center will include a hall, a swimming pool, soccer field and tennis court open to all.
You can learn more about the ambitious plan at www.progressplanned.info
NOTE: As one who has lived here since Pleasanton lived its motto as the city of planned progress and has evolved into the city of process, process, process (witness task forces for any planning) good luck.