Pleasanton seeks public's input on rezoning for affordable housing

Submitted by News Desk on Wed, 03/09/2011 - 2:57pm
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PLEASANTON -- Pleasanton officials want residents to help plan for nearly 2,000 new homes in town, with 80 percent or more for either low- or very low income households.

As part of a court settlement with Urban Habitat -- an organization that won a suit challenging the city's voter-approved housing cap limiting the number of homes here to 29,000 -- the city agreed to provide a housing plan update to the state by August. The update includes plans to accommodate 1,992 new units, of which 1,661 must be income-restricted.

In Alameda and Contra Costa counties, low-income housing is designated for families with a maximum annual income of a $72,240 for a family of four; families making up to $45,150 qualify as very low income.

If the city fails to meet is Aug. 16 deadline, it could face additional sanctions from the court, including loss of its power to issue building permits and to zone property.

The city established a housing element update task force in October. Over the past four months, it has developed a citywide list of 17 potential sites, with a combined 108 acres of land that could accommodate at least 30 housing units per acre. The city estimates it would have to rezone 70 acres to meet its requirement.

The first of three community workshops to seek public opinion on suitable sites will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Fairlands Elementary School, 4151 W. Las Positas Blvd.

Other workshops will be at 9 a.m. March 12 at the Pleasanton Senior Center, 5353 Sunol Blvd. and at 7 p.m. March 14 at Lydiksen Elementary School, 7700 Highland Oaks Dr.

"We are under a tight deadline with a lot of work to do," said council member Matt Sullivan, who is part of the 11-person task force. "It's a sensitive nature because we are trying to locate areas in the city to accommodate high density places."

Urban Habitat, a regional environmental justice organization sued the city in 2006 over its voter-approved housing cap, claiming it violated state law by preventing the city from providing enough affordable housing.

After a four-year court battle, an Alameda County Judge sided with Urban Habitat and ordered the city to drop its housing cap and to plan for its state-mandated share of housing that totals 3,277 housing units, including 2,524 affordable homes for the planning period that ends in 2014. Some of the units had already been planned, the 1,992 other units are now needed to meet the goal.

To avoid further legal action from Urban Habitat and legal costs, the city agreed to a settlement that included a list of 21 conditions, including $1.9 million in legal fees that the city agreed to pay to Urban Habitat. The city has complied with 17 of the 21 conditions and is working on the four remaining items, including the housing update.

Once the city plans for its affordable housing units, it will nearly double the number of low- and very low-income units in the city. According to the city's below-market rate housing inventory, it has 944 low- to very low-income city restricted units and another 236 units that are pending.

Some areas on the list for possible rezoning include three acres near the new BART station, 16 acres close to Stoneridge, 27 acres near Valley Avenue and Stanley Boulevard, 13 acres near a planned Safeway off Bernal Avenue and Interstate 680, 18 acres off West Las Positas Boulevard and eight acres near CarrAmerica Conference Center.

"We are hoping to find a good growth management technique and meet our growth and give the public a chance to see every thing we do," said council member Cindy McGovern. Along with Mayor Jennifer Hosterman. McGovern helped negotiate a settlement with Urban Habitat. "This impacts the community and we want to make sure as we go forward that we do it well."

Contact Robert Jordan at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/robjordan127.