PLEASANTON —The iconic Barone’s Restaurant is going out of business after more than 25 years as a Pleasanton mainstay.
The planning commission recently told the owners of the restaurant to incorporate additional commercial space in their conversion plans for the downtown establishment or risk losing support for the proposal.
The commission reviewed the project during a March 24 work session where the applicant, Robson Homes, initially proposed two options for the 475 and 493 St. John St. locations.
Both plans call for the preservation of the Barone family residence and the demolition of the existing restaurant and surrounding structures on the property. The first plan called for 10 detached single-family, two-story homes and seven second-story accessory dwelling units (ADUs) above detached garages. The second proposal included nine detached two-story, single-family homes with five ADUs above detached garages, along with a commercial building and parking lot. The plot covers a total of 2.3 acres.
“I believe this project site is appropriate for mixed-use with a strong commercial presence or potential commercial-use only,” said Vice Chair Nancy Allen. “As nice as the designs are, and they are beautiful, both of those projects are primarily a residential project, and I believe it doesn’t serve our community well; (it) doesn’t enhance our downtown and is inconsistent with our intent in zoning.”
During the adoption process of the Downtown Specific Plan in 2019, the city council said that the initial Barone plan to redevelop the property for residential use was not desirable, although still a consideration. However, the planning commission argued during the workshop that the project was neither in keeping with residents wishes, adhering to the original input from the city council regarding commercial use, nor in keeping with the Downtown Specific Plan.
Richard Yee, with Robson Homes, contended the mixed-use plan brought before the commission was in keeping with the Downtown Specific Plan and consistent with criteria outlined for the redevelopment of the property.
“Specifically, our plan retains the existing Barone residence, preserves the small-town character of downtown ... provides no net loss of commercial space and provides sufficient on-site parking,” said Yee.
He added that new residents and tenants would support the existing commercial core and that affordable housing would also be provided along with the ADUs.
However, a united planning commission argued that the plan needed less residential and more commercial space.
“This site is 2.3 acres and is part of the core of downtown, and as such I think we should be looking at an all-commercial use ... to be consistent with what the residents are asking for and in keeping with the Downtown Specific Plan,” said Commissioner Greg O’Conner.
Not all residents agreed with his assessment.
“Joe Barone looks out his front door, and all he sees are dozens of brand-new houses towering over Peters and St. John streets,” wrote one resident on social media. “... And then, he wants to tuck 10 attractive-looking houses between St. John and Arroyo, and he gets told ‘no?’ Doesn’t seem fair ... doesn’t seem right.”
In the end, the commission said mixed-use commercial space should encompass the property looking out on St. John Street, with residential units, if any, on the second floor or behind the property. Yee said Homes has heard the commission and is committed to coming back to the table with the requests of the city.