Council Sends Old Stanley Development Proposal Back to Planning Commission

Submitted by News Desk on Thu, 12/16/2010 - 12:17pm
With dozens of residents speaking out on Dec. 7 against a project to build 14 homes on Old Stanley Boulevard, the City Council unanimously voted to kick back the proposal to the Planning Commission for further discussion and possible changes.

The project first came to the Planning Commission in May 2008 and was approved 4-1 in September.  

Many residents opposed the proposal because of concerns about parking, traffic, density and historical preservation.

The project calls for building 14 two-story homes on a 1.17-acre lot across the street from the Pleasanton Mobile Home Park and bordering the Union Pacific Railroad.

The proposal would raze a house built in 1908, as well as shrubs and trees, including some designated "heritage-sized" trees. In exchange, the developer would pay fees into the city's tree fund and plant replacements.

According to the city staff report, the project would blend in with "downtown's character" and the impacts on neighbors would be lessened by the modest size of the houses.

The project applicant, Danny DiDonato of Donato Builders, Inc, said at the Dec. 7 meeting that he worked to create a plan within the city's guidelines and was visibly upset at some of the objections.

Of the trees, he said, "They're not in good health ... and coming to the end" of their lifespan.

"If they were on a school ground or any other place, they're going to have to be removed," he said.

During the public comments sections, Linda Garbarino from the Pleasanton Historic Association disagreed with DiDonato, saying that the trees on the property can be saved with pruning.

She said getting rid of the trees as well as the home would be a lost opportunity for the city to maintain the area's vintage ambiance.

"These trees are over 100 years old and would enhance any carefully planned, less dense development," Garbarino? said.

Traffic and lack of parking also were big issues for residents. The proposal allows for two-car garages for the houses. But residents say most people park on the street and pack the crowded thoroughfare.

Planning Commissioner Jennifer Pearce, the loan dissenter to the project, said she took issue with the proposal because it barely misses a city requirement for developers to provide affordable housing units in projects with 15 or more units.

"It takes everything from the city and gives nothing back," she said.

On the other hand, supporters of the project say it would bring much-needed jobs and development to the city.

"I feel this is a good project, consistent with what's happened in the Stanley Boulevard corridor and it stands to provide local construction jobs throughout completion," said James Ellison, who owns a plumbing company.

Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and Cheryl Cook-Kallio said they liked the appearance of the proposal.

Hosterman said her preference would be that no trees are felled but that the structure, as well the "fallen apart, misshapen" trees on the property should be replaced.

Hosterman said the structure has been referred to as a "tear-down" and a "cute buanglow," but that an expert found that it did not fit the designation requirements for a historic site.

"[Old Stanley] is a hodgepodge neighborhood, because of that it's very quaint," she said.

Matt Sullivan disagreed with destroying the house and said the city could require the developer to maintain and build around the structure as a required amenity.

"We're losing these houses one at a time, we have to be careful about this," he said.

Sullivan said the time is right to look into a "historic building guidelines" for the Old Stanley Boulevard area.

Cook-Kallio agreed with some kind of historic building guideline, but said that it would be unfair for the applicant to "change the rules in the middle of the game."

It was pointed out at the meeting that the issues raised with this proposal will probably come up again as Pleasanton continues to grow and especially with the city racing to meet its state-mandated affordable housing requirements as part of the Urban Habitat settlement.

At one point during the meeting, the discussion became heated.

In response to concerns raised by Cook-Kallio and Councilman Jerry Thorne that the project is now reaching three years of talks, Sullivan said fast tracking developments was not "how the public process works." He said residents show up at workshops but are ignored so they have to show up at City Council meetings.

"We should embrace it, developers don't like it, the chamber doesn't like it, but we're in a different business," he said.

Thorne responded that implying he has no "appreciation for the public process is nonsense," and that he only hoped it would be more streamlined.

Councilwoman Cindy McGovern helped diffuse the argument by saying both sides had made exaggerated statements.

Councilmembers suggested the Planning Commission look into a larger play area for children, have the city arborist, Mike Fulford, analyze the trees within the property, and that the developer gain more energy-efficiency points.