The Pleasanton City Council finalized priority projects in its two-year work plan at a workshop on March 12. Councilmembers reviewed a draft work plan created by them last December.

The council was set to approve the final work plan at the March 19 council meeting, after The Independent's deadline.

One project that remained unsettled following the workshop involved the Merritt property development on Foothill Road. The vote at the workshop was 2 to 2 to move it to the "B" list from a "C" designation. Mayor Jerry Thorne was absent from the workshop. Councilmembers Karla Brown and Julie Testa supported retaining the lower ranking, while Jerry Pentin and Kathy Narum felt it merited a higher ranking.

During the two hour plus public comment period, the majority of those who spoke concerning the Merritt property asked the council to move the development higher on the priority list. The main support came from bicyclists who wanted the safety improvements for Foothill Road that the developer would build as part of the project. The road is considered a hazard for bike riders.

Foothill residents argued that adding more cars would increase traffic, making the area less safe. Tom and Robin Neal said that there is already gridlock traffic twice a day. They also noted that the area includes habitat that supports wildlife.

Jim Summers, the owner, said that the 46-acre project would fit the character of the surrounding properties. He asked that it be moved to the "A" list.

Other issues receiving comment during the public hearing included use of pesticides on public lands, a need to renovate the Amador Theater, restart of the planning process for east Pleasanton, climate change, lighted sand volleyball courts, the Bernal community farm, other bicycle and pedestrian safety projects, and a ban on single use plastics. There was also a request to make the Energy and Environment Committee a permanent commission.

Samantha Brown, surrounded by 20 to 30 supporters, asked the council to look at the use of toxic chemicals in parks and other public lands. She noted there were new products on the market that are safer. She suggested a pilot park project as a testing ground for less toxic alternatives. "We care deeply about our health and want to protect future generations."

The Amador Theater's fire escape needs to be replaced. The balcony has been closed for safety reasons. Speakers noted that the closure has reduced the capacity from 610 to 370 seats. The space is inadequate for music programs.

One speaker suggested that there is a need for a larger new performing arts facility to accommodate the large programs at the high schools.

Those supporting the restart of the eastside planning process noted that Ponderosa Homes would provide affordable housing. They said that Ponderosa would set aside homes for seniors, veterans and hopefully active duty military leaving a long-lasting legacy for Pleasanton. Many said planning the area now would give the city control over the area, rather than waiting for state legislation that could result in a plan that does not fit with the city. Others mentioned that Alameda County could proceed with development in an area zoned for housing located in the county within the urban growth boundary.

Jeff Schrader from Ponderosa Homes told the council, "We are eager to work with the community to complete the Eastside Specific Plan.”

A large contingent of bicycle riders asked the council to up the priority on three projects aimed at making roads safer in Pleasanton. The bicycle/pedestrian master plan identifies projects to increase safety: Foothill Road, West Las Positas and Santa Rita Road.

Others requested the addition of new projects, such as lighted sand volleyball courts, a cultural appreciation park, and a skate park. All were added.

Master gardeners wanted the council to allow them to begin preparing the soil on the proposed Bernal farm site for future use. Lou Asbury said that doing the site work would give the park a head start.

A single use plastic ban received support from all councilmembers. Staff will identify single use plastics that could be banned and come back to the council for a policy decision.

The "A" list includes those projects or programs that are to be completed, or for which a substantial milestone will be reached in the coming fiscal year. There are 47 items on the list including the following: restart the East Pleasanton planning process; monitor and coordinate the city's response to various CASA proposals through the State Legislative cycle, and inform and educate the public regarding outcomes; design the West Las Positas Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements; assess issues concerning the Amador Theater; consider an inclusionary/All Access Playground; develop framework, recommendations and implementation plan to reduce homelessness in Pleasanton; work on Climate Action Plan 2.0; and expand Pesticide Posting Pilot Project, making available a list of pesticides used.

Priority B: The projects or programs are not necessarily less important than "Priority A", but they are reflective of the fact that many of the City's objectives are long-term by nature, or are sequenced to be completed with the same staff resources after current "A" priorities are completed, or in some cases, they are priorities that cannot be fully funded in a single year.

They include design Phase I of Bernal Community Farm; add a Culture Art Walk; consider smoking restrictions for multi-family ownership residences (town homes and condominiums) to address health effects of second hand smoke.

Priority C: These projects or programs include other initiatives to be worked into the schedule as capacity permits: Merritt Property; design of the Santa Rita Road Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements; consideration of extension of the Committee on Energy and the Environment for an additional two-year term.

Priority D: Not recommended at this time: design the Foothill Road Bicycle and Pedestrian Improvements; add new lighted basketball courts at the Bernal Community Park and add new outdoor Pickleball Courts.