After nearly a decade of planning, the Pleasanton City Council unanimously approved a 360-unit multi-family housing project to be developed at the Stoneridge Shopping Center during its March 21 council meeting.
The 5-1/2-story, mixed-use apartment complex and parking structure project is expected to break ground in late 2023 and will take about two and a half years to complete.
"I think it's going to be a good fit, building wise," Mayor Karla Brown said during the council meeting. "This is a commercial area of town. There's development all around Stoneridge Mall Road … so it will fit well in a multi-story area. I think it'll be one of the most attractive buildings in the area."
Approved by the Planning Commission during its Feb. 22 meeting, the project would total approximately 618,370 square feet in size and 65 feet in height.
The complex, which would be located on the southeast corner of the shopping center, would be built across 6 acres located between the mall, the new 10x Genomics campus project to the south across Stoneridge Mall Road and offices to the east across Stoneridge Mall Road.
It will offer for-rent apartments, including 58 below market rate units, as part of the city's Inclusionary Zoning Ordinance (IZO). The ordinance requires all new multi-family residential projects of 15 units or more to provide at least 15% of the project's total units at prices that are affordable to very low- and/or low-income households.
"I appreciate the 58 low income units, maybe for some teachers in our community who are looking to stay and these are rental apartments," Brown said. "So 58 low Income units will fit well within our community to supply low income housing -- workforce housing -- which we are in desperate need of."
The project is not a part of Pleasanton's current sixth Housing Element cycle as the project actually dates back to January 2012 when the council at the time approved the rezoning of nine sites throughout the city for high-density multifamily development in order to meet its 2015-2023 Regional Housing Needs Allocation.
Since then it has gone to the Planning Commission three times -- twice in 2019 and again in 2020 before coming back last March with a final design plan. Originally, the project was going to build close to 500 units at the site before city staff proposed a mixed-use plan that brought the number of units down to the current 360.
"I think it's a more attractive designed project than a lot of those around the BART lines and corridors and so I also think it's a more attractive project than what we saw a few years ago," Vice Mayor Jack Balch said. "I think the articulation looks well and I really think the overall design breaks it up."
The units will be "wrapped" around an internal five-level parking structure and residents would have access to two ground-level outdoor courtyard-style spaces, which include a mix of common use outdoor space and recreational uses and one common use roof-top deck area.
In addition, the 2012 design guidelines require a minimum of 10% of the affordable units to be three bedrooms, a minimum of 35% of the units to be two bedrooms and the remaining units to be one bedroom or studios.
The project's parking structure would consist of 473 surface and parking structure vehicle spaces. Seven of the spaces would be surface level and 466 spaces would be located within the parking structure.
While the project will take away 800 spaces from the Stoneridge Mall itself, staff pointed out that there will still be around 475 spaces.
Additionally, the project proposes a total of 230 long- and short-term bicycle spaces.
"The predominance of the building's ground level activity and most of the prominent architectural features are oriented toward the south and east to create a strong street presence and highly functional network of vehicular and pedestrian connections along both segments of Stoneridge Mall Road," said senior planner Eric Luchini.
The applicant behind the project is Simon Property Group, which owns roughly 60% of the parcels at the shopping center.
"This is obviously a very important project for us. It's the first of many that we hope to do at Stoneridge Mall," said Scott Travis, vice president of development at Simon Property Group. "It's the first opportunity for us to turn a community center that's inward focused to one that is outward focused and embraces the community around us and brings them all to the corner, to the street front, instead of being surrounded by a sea of parking lot, which is I think the next evolution of malls across the nation."
According to staff, the project is consistent with the land use allowed for and zoned at the site and would be consistent with all applicable objective standards from the 2012 Housing Site Development Standards and Design Guidelines except for two standards. Staff had requested waivers for both of those standards pursuant to State Housing Density Bonus law, which the council also approved during Tuesday's meeting.
"Under state law and the city's municipal code, the city must provide for increases in residential density known as density bonuses, and provide incentives or concessions … and development standards for housing developments that provide a specified percentage of affordable units," Luchini said. "Controlling state law also establishes varying amounts of density bonus and incentives or concessions depending on the percentage of affordable units and the range of affordability provided by a project. In this case, the project is proposing to provide 24% of the proposed base units to be restricted for low income households, which would allow for a 50% density bonus and results in a project density of approximately 60 units per acre."
In regards to tree removal and landscape, the project plans include removing 105 of the 169 total existing trees on the site, 27 of which are heritage trees. However, it also includes plans to plant 162 new trees, the majority of which would be 24 inch box size.
As for the amenities, the project will include two publicly available outdoor plazas and two private shared-use recreation areas for its residents including a swimming pool, barbeque areas, children’s play area and shaded landscape.
This is the first housing development to be approved on the Stoneridge Shopping Center property as the city recently zoned more housing at the site as part of its 2023-31 Housing Element.
Because various property owners within the shopping center expressed a desire to completely redevelop the entire area, council asked staff to work on an early-stage development plan. The Stoneridge Mall Framework was developed in August and finalized in January.
"Although this project is not subject to the requirements of the mall framework, we did, based on an ask from the Planning Commission, provide a little bit of analysis of conformance with the framework and staff did not find any reason why this project would conflict or impede implementation of the framework," community development director Ellen Clark said.
"The question was really asked I think a bit more broadly by the planning commission was, you know, does approving this project get in the way of accomplishing what we set out to do as part of the framework effort and the answer, in staff's evaluation, was no," Clark added.
"So it provides, for example, right of way for the multi-use path that was envisioned as part of the framework," Clark explained. "There's room around this project to connect to adjacent buildings. It does provide that sort of pedestrian scale and feel around the building edges, pedestrian connectivity, gathering spaces. So, in many ways it does fulfill its objectives, although we didn't, as I say, evaluate it point by point to the new objective standards."
But while the majority of the dais did show their support for the project, there were still some worries as to things like traffic, which was Councilmember Jeff Nibert's main concern.
"I know the framework that we just completed and approved in January dealt quite extensively with the traffic situation, and I know that analysis that was done there incorporated this project as an input or a set of assumptions," Nibert said. "Some people just worry and that's just one thing I worry about."
But city traffic engineer Mike Tassano reassured Nibert by stating that this project has been in the city's model for the 10 years that it has been in the works.
"The new developments that are going on, we evaluated those," Tassano said. "We have a number of improvements and I think if you look at the history of what we've done through the mall, and the improvements that you see in place now … that improved our traffic circulation. That was something that we identified."
He mentioned that while he does have some worries regarding the evening peak traffic hours with the BART station and office workers leaving the area, he believes the city can address those issues with better street markings.
Councilmember Julie Testa also expressed that while she has no real issues with this particular project, she is concerned about the overreach from the state and how state laws limit how much the city could change to the project in terms of height or setbacks.
"I think it's important for our community to really start understanding how significant the overreach by the state in mandating our community and what we believe fits," Testa said.
"I'm not even talking about this project. I think I support that we're looking at re-envisioning the mall," Testa continued. "I believe it's an appropriate location for residential and creating a new walkable village there. There are some things that I am not really crazy about this project, but I don't really see that we have the discretion to do changes so I just really want our community to be paying attention."
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