Voting against the recommendation of city staff, the Pleasanton City Council sided with the planning commission during its Aug. 18 meeting and approved 4-1 amendments to the North Sycamore Specific Plan (NSSP) that will greenlight the development of a 3.28-acre lot adjacent to Bridle Creek and Sycamore Heights.
Councilmember Karla Brown made the motion to approve the project. Doing so, she thanked the property owners for allowing neighbors to use a walking trail that runs through the property. She said that the two additional homes that will be allowed by the amendments to the NSSP will fit in well with the area.
“With that, I can support (the proposal), and I hope others will, too,” she said.
The changes to the NSSP were central to the staff’s opposition to the plan. City staff brought the development proposal to the council along with a recommendation that the council adopt a resolution denying the proposed NSSP amendments, thus denying the development project – known as Sycamore Corner and designated public unit development (PUD) 135.
“As stated in the report, staff believes allowing an amendment to the specific plan to suit the project proposal would be inconsistent with the goals of the specific plan,” said Melinda Denis, planning and permit center manager.
City council, however, followed the lead of the planning commission, which approved the project earlier this year over the objections of city staff. The council voted 4-1 in the project’s favor with Councilmember Julie Testa providing the lone dissenting vote.
“I know some of the neighbors out there, and they’re all for this project,” Mayor Jerry Thorne said. “With all due respect to staff, I think the planning commission got this one right. So I’m going to support this project. I think it would look kind of odd to only have one house on that last lot over there, keeping in mind that the specific plan was done 28 years ago, and the situation out there has changed quite a bit.”
The five-lot development is located at 990 Sycamore Road, a site that currently contains a single-family home with a detached garage and two outbuildings. The site is presently zoned public unit development agriculture (PUD A) which requires a minimum lot size of one acre. An amendment to the NSSP is required to allow the subdivision of the property into five lots instead of the three that it could accommodate under the current zoning.
The staff report submitted to the city council stated, “Approval or denial of this NSSP amendment is the determining factor of this project.”
City staff opposed the plan in a presentation to the planning commission in January. The commission recommended changes, and it was brought back to the commission in May. City staff again opposed the plan, because it deviated from the adopted NSSP, and they recommended denying the plan. However, the commission voted 4-0 against the staff’s recommendation; it was approved. With the commission’s approval, the proposal advanced for review and consideration to the city council.
Proposals to develop this lot floated at least twice in the past. A plan similar to the current proposal was debated and approved with conditions by the city council in 1998. Conditions of the approval were not met at the time. The project’s approval expired in 2000.
The Bringhurst family, the lot’s current owners, acquired the property. Another five-lot proposal was put before the planning commission in 2006. It, too, never got off the ground.
“The planning commission heard the proposal at a work session item in March 2006,” said Denis during the council meeting. “The majority of the commission at the time supported the proposal including the specific plan amendment to increase the number of lots. Following the 2006 work session, no further action was taken by the applicant to pursue the development of the site until the current submittal in 2018.”
There are four NSSP amendments required by the latest proposal. A 1-acre portion of the lot intended to accommodate three home sites would be rezoned from agricultural (PUD A) to medium density residential (PUD MDR). One home site that retained the PUD A designation would be allowed to be less than 1 acre in size. Access to Sycamore Way would be granted, and a planned public trail would be realigned.
The Parks and Recreation Commission unanimously approved the proposed changes to the public trail during a May 9 meeting. Additionally, the developers promised a $100,000 contribution to the general fund for the construction of walking and biking improvements in the area.
“We have been trying to develop this land for over 20 years,” said Alaina Stewart, a representative of the Bringhurst family. “We would be most grateful for your vote tonight.”