Three candidates are running for the two seats on the Pleasanton City Council. In November, voters will choose from among incumbents Karla Brown and Jerry Pentin and Planning Commission Chairman Herb Ritter.
The Independent interviewed each on issues related to growth, including the growth rate, urban growth boundary and water. Candidates were also asked about the civic center and downtown specific plan update.
The interviews are in alphabetical order.
Karla Brown is running for re-election because she believes there needs to be diversity on the council. "My two opponents are like minded. I bring a different point of view. I am an advocate for slow growth, policies that have helped build our award winning city."
She wants to look at the impacts of the 1800 units coming online to see how the city is affected by a large step-up in growth. She would like to slow things down until the city deals with infrastructure needs such as schools, traffic, water and a new library.
The city has to zone land to meet regional housing needs allocation (RHNA) numbers. "Thirty units to the acre is a significant impact on neighborhoods and on traffic," she commented.
In looking back over the past year, Brown is proud of the historic preservation ordinance that protects 88 homes in the downtown. She was a leader in prohibiting smoking at all downtown events.
Her one decision that she would relook at is approving three story homes in the Gateway area. "People don't like them," she observed.
Brown voted against proceeding with the eastside plan on numerous occasions. She pointed out, "One thousand residents came out in opposition to the process. They wanted the area reserved for the future. It may not be needed to meet RHNA numbers."
One of the provisions of a proposed eastside plan would have moved the urban growth boundary (UGB) to include 100 acres. "I saw no reason to move it. The UGB was put in place by a voter initiative. It must be respected."
Brown has remained neutral on the Costco initiative. "I will support what the citizens decide this November." She did note that she believes a dangerous precedent would be set of growth not paying for its full impact were Costco to move forward. She refers to traffic mitigation, where Costco would loan the city money to pay for a portion of the improvements. The city would pay back the loan through a sales tax rebate. "They need to pay full impact fees up-front, as everyone else does."
Brown likes citizens to be involved. While various task forces and ad hoc committees may take awhile to come up with recommendations, it is worth the effort to do everything right.
As for moving the civic center to the Bernal property, Brown is not sure about moving city hall and police building. However, she wants to move at least the library. It is half the size it should be. "Residents value education. Reading and education go hand-in-hand. With school libraries open fewer hours, students now use the main library as a place to come and study."
A task force will look at updating the downtown specific plan. Brown believes the downtown is one of the things that makes the city special with its small town feel. "I'm a little concerned. There is a need to be judicious in how the specific plan will be updated." The highest value for the civic center site is residential. She does not want to see 3 bedroom, 2 bath townhomes fill the land. If there is to be residential, she would prefer mixed use with housing on the second floor and retail on the ground floor.
She supports the county's affordable housing bond, citing the need for more such housing in California. She likes the fact that it provides for such things as down payment assistance.
Brown serves on the Livermore Amador Valley Transit Authority. She believes that promoting the use of buses will help to alleviate traffic. She pointed to the new routes that take people more quickly to destinations such as BART and Las Positas College. They are increasing ridership. In addition, Las Positas students can ride free, boarding a bus at ACE or BART, to reach the campus.
Finishing the improvements to Highway 84 will help to stop cut-through traffic in Pleasanton, added Brown.
Building a purple pipe network to use recycled water for irrigation has helped to save 10% of water use. That has met the state mandate.
She is a supporter of AB2480, which would improve the watershed to enhance collection of run-off in the Sierras. If the plan were to be approved, it would be possible to capture more quality water without harming the environment, she noted.
Brown concluded, "I am a voice of the majority that wants to slow down growth to give the city time to catch its breath in order to retain the quality of life we enjoy."
Jerry Pentin is seeking his second term on the council. He previously served on the Parks and Recreation and Planning Commissions.
"I think I have served the city well. I have the experience and knowledge concerning the city and its needs."
He says that while there issues that need work, Pentin described Pleasanton as a city with few problems.
Traffic and the need for affordable housing are among the issues that need to be addressed. Schools should be considered when looking at the impacts of growth. However, the city does not decided if schools can handle growth; it is up to the school board. He pointed out that a developer must have sign-off from the district before the city will issue occupancy permits.
Pentin sees water as an ongoing issue. The eastside planning was stopped because of the drought. "I disagree with the state removing restrictions on water use. We haven't gotten out of the drought nor have we replenished the groundwater. I think an opportunity was missed in not continuing water reduction mandates."
He said of the growth rate that the city had to rezone nine properties as part of a lawsuit settlement. Because of development agreements that went with the approvals, the housing is being built at the same time. "If you look at the council's work, outside of those properties, Pleasanton has been a no growth city. The growth management limits growth to 235 permits per year. We are now at 100 for 2016," according to Pentin.
He added that traffic issues aren't all the result of approvals. Half of the housing approved in Pleasanton over the last 15 years is senior housing. The problem is that Pleasanton is a huge pass-through city. To deal with that he sees highway 84 improvements and extending BART to ACE as keys to cutting down on traffic through Pleasanton.
Pentin opposes the Costco initiative. He called it a premature effort. No decisions had been made on the Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone. Decisions could have been used to mitigate the impacts of club retail (Costco). "I am not afraid of people making a decision. However, the impacts are not fully vetted."
Interpreting Measure PP, the ridgelands protection initiative, has been an issue because the measure was not written in a way that is clear said Pentin. As the governing body, the council interprets the meaning. He points out that even those who supported the initiative, disagree on the interpretation of its provisions. He said he would have preferred to see the issue of whether or not a road is a structure challenged in court so the matter could be decided.
Pentin doesn't see restarting the eastside planning any time soon. However, waiting until RHNA requires a plan is not good for the city.
There are 400 developable acres on the eastside, not all are within the UGB. He would not support moving the urban growth boundary. In determining whether or not voters should be asked if they want to move the UGB, Pentin said he would have to see the plan. Any plan would have to provide a great deal of benefit for the city.
Pentin pointed out that in the city's general plan there is a stipulation regarding the eastside. A previous council and planning commission have allowed for and anticipated growth in the eastside that might require moving the UGB to facilitate necessary development. Program 22.6 states: Reevaluate Urban Growth Boundary locations in Pleasanton as such time as comprehensive land-use designation changes are considered for re-claimed quarry lands.
On the eastside Pentin would like to work with developers to build such housing that would include condos or small houses. "Helping a developer's bottom line is not my concern. "
He supports the county's affordable housing bond measure.
In the downtown, as part of the specific plan update, Pentin noted there is a need to look at historic resources, hospitality, art and parking. All are very important to the downtown.
The civic center will be studied as part of the update. He would support keeping the uses at the current site if there were no way to finance the move. Pentin would then look at including the adjacent 5 acres belonging to San Francisco and start over.
Parking is very important to downtown. There is parking. However, people don't want to walk. He believes that completing the plans to create parking along the Alameda County Transportation Corridor in the downtown should move forward. Pentin, a rider, also supports the idea of bike corrals to encourage riding bicycles to come downtown.
Herb Ritter seeks to move up to the city council following in the footsteps of four of the current members who all served on the Park and Recreation and Planning Commissions before running for a council seats.
A 26 year resident, Ritter has served as a board member of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce, a ValleyCare Foundation trustee, and past president of Pleasanton North Rotary. He believes his activism has provided him with a different perspective on issues. In making decisions, he said he would listen to multiple sides, not just people who are the most vocal.
He sees development as a regional issue. When the economy is good, there is growth. "We have to manage it in a way to balance jobs and housing."
He supports the Pleasanton school bond, because he believes in supporting elected officials. The school board placed the bond on the ballot, he notes. He particularly likes the idea of a citizens oversight committee to watch spending.
Ritter said that the city and school district work well together. He pointed to the shared use of fields and tennis courts as an example. It is not up to the city to determine the need for additional schools.
The Costco initiative should have been delayed until all of the facts were known. "I do not favor the initiative. I believe it would force the city to create a plan that may not work. Until Costco is approved, the city would have had some leverage when it comes to mitigation requirements."
Measure PP, another city initiative, put in place provisions to protect the ridgelands. However, Ritter notes that there were no clear definitions as to what constitutes a structure.
The city is embarking on a an update of the downtown specific plan and looking at moving civic center uses to the Bernal property. Ritter will represent the planning commission on the task force, unless elected to the council. His goal is to work towards economic vitality through smart commercial zoning and enhancement of the historic area. He favors having open space, not compact, tall buildings. "We have to keep the historic feeling. I like the fact that 88 historic homes have been preserved." He also likes the Firehouse Arts Center and what it brings to the downtown.
He thinks the city is moving too fast in deciding on the future of the civic center. He said that it is important to determine what the current site should be used for before deciding to move the uses to the Bernal property. He stated that moving the library as the most urgent benefit for residents. He would not favor a bond measure to pay to move the civic center uses.
When it comes to parking, he said there are locations along Main Street where it could be possible to work with current businesses to provide parking, perhaps small parking garages.
Ritter would not support moving the UGB. However, he said that the eastside is one area in Pleasanton where the potential to move the UGB is built into the general plan. "Any proposal to move the UGB would have to go to a vote. If we don't have to move the UGB, I would not want to do so."
He likes the idea of trails and open space. As a bike rider, he supports providing options to get people out of their cars. The city has added 70 miles of connecting trails. "We have a lot more to do. We need to plan. The city has been able to obtain grants by having a plan in place."
Extending BART to ACE at Greenville in Livermore and improving Highway 84 will contribute to the effort to get people out of their cars, he added.
He supports integrating affordable units as part of a development. "We are at a spot when we don't want the developers to pay an in-lieu fee. We want units to be built."
Ritter isn't sure about the county's affordable housing measure. "We do need affordability for police, fire, teachers and nurses. However, I would need to know more about how Pleasanton will get its funds."
With regard to water, Ritter is very proud that the final leg of the 10.6 mile purple pipe recycled water backbone system is nearing completion. This was a 17.4 million dollar infrastructure project largely funded through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and CA Prop 1 Water bond of 2014. Pleasanton received a roughly $12 million low-interest loan and an approximately $5 million grant to deliver more than 450 million gallons of recycled water to use as irrigation. As funding or grants become available, Pleasanton needs to continue the process, he explained.
In addition, Ritter likes the Automated water meter infrastructure upgrade project. This will allow residents and commercial businesses to get real time data on their water usage. "I am in favor of encouraging our residents to conserve even if we have to implement fines should the drought become worse. As new projects are proposed, designs for drought tolerant landscaping and systems should be strongly encouraged prior to any approvals."