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Editorial: Crucial time for downtowns across Tri-Valley

 

A downtown has an important and unique role in a community's economic and social development. Downtowns are historically the epicenter -- the heart -- of a community and the hub of commercial, cultural and civic activities.

Community leaders and residents here understand this, which is why this is a critical time for downtowns in the Tri-Valley.

In Pleasanton, a task force has worked 2-1/2 years to update the city's Downtown Specific Plan, looking to preserve the historic character and enhance the economic vitality of the area. The planning, though, hit a snag late last month when the task force majority voted to reject the City Council's review and direction on several key policy issues.

It cast a shadow over the final meeting as some task force members said they were "being asked to rubber-stamp the council's plan, not ours," and lamenting that they haven't been "able to deliver what the people want." The debate heads to the Planning Commission next Wednesday for review and input, and will then be advanced to the council for final consideration in August or September.

Contentious downtown planning is not limited to Pleasanton.

Neighboring Livermore has been waiting for the completion of its downtown planning for 17 years. Now elected officials and community leaders who have literally spent years collaborating on a plan are again battling a minority group who are aiming to put an initiative on the ballot, delaying the plan again after a similar attempt in 2018.

This group and the one from 2018 are coincidentally backed by the publisher of The Independent newspaper. At issue is the location of a hotel -- elected officials, community leaders and merchants want the hotel next to the Bankhead Theater; the opposition groups want a park there and the hotel located on the west side of South Livermore Avenue.

We feel this issue has already been voted on. While seeking re-election as mayor in 2018, John Marchand voiced strong support for the downtown plan. He won with more than three-quarters of the votes. Another downtown plan supporter, Trish Munro, was elected to the council for the first time. Incumbent Councilman Bob Woerner, also a backer of the plan, received more votes than both of the remaining candidates combined.

Even with its enviable downtown, Danville also has its challenges, including lack of parking. A new parking lot with a price-tag of roughly $9.2 million just opened, providing an additional 131 spaces, but finding a parking place is still a problem during busy times.

Meanwhile, knowing the value of a downtown, San Ramon and Dublin are moving forward with creating true downtowns for their communities.

San Ramon's City Center opened last year and appears to be well-received; it is packed on a daily basis. There is more in store for this area off Bollinger Canyon, and we look forward to seeing the next phase developed.

The Dublin City Council has a Downtown Specific Plan, augmented by a "streetscape plan" approved in 2017. As Pleasanton, Livermore and San Ramon have done, Dublin is seeking input and feedback from residents.

Our downtowns are the heart of our communities, and their vitality is imperative to the economy of each city or town, and the Tri-Valley as a whole. So let's not delay the reinvigorating and reimagining of our downtowns.

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