Much of public service (and professional work and personal life, for that matter) is spent balancing conflicting priorities.
Pleasanton City Council faced another interesting case study on this road last month, a debate centered on new housing and coveted parking in the town centre.
Owner Wassim Naguib applied to the city for permission to build a new two-story home behind the existing dental office building at the front of his property at 218 Ray St., but the majority of the Planning Commission has denied his request for a design review because he wanted to pay a venue in-charge to the city in exchange for not providing additional on-site parking space for commercial use required by municipal code.
So he called.
The parcel is located at the southeast end of downtown between Main and First streets, approximately where Walnut Drive meets Ray Street. It comprises Pleasanton Dublin Dental Center in a converted house to the front, with ample parking to the rear.
The city actually approved an earlier proposal for a two-unit apartment at the back of the parcel in 2002, including a tentative deal for four parking spaces, but the project was never built and the approvals lapsed. . The specific downtown plan has also been updated since then.
Naguib’s project calls for the construction on part of the private parking lot of a new two-storey house of 1,069 square feet as well as a carport for two vehicles for the residence.
The proposal conforms to relevant municipal development standards in its current area for items such as setbacks, number of units, no net loss of commercial space, architectural compatibility, building height and ratio floor space – all aspects except parking.
City code requires 12 parking spaces for the redevelopment, 10 for the dentist’s office and two for the house. (It’s actually 9.72 required by the city’s calculation methodology, so round up.) But the building plan would leave only nine spots for the dental lot.
The applicant proposed to add a car lift to park a third vehicle for the house, but the problem is the number of parking spaces for commercial use – the logic being that planners would not want a customer or a dentist employee occupies a public parking space.
City rules give discretion to allow alternatives in certain situations, such as parking gaps, agreements with nearby lots, and replacement fees. In this case, Naguib wanted to pay nearly $22,000 to the city, instead of building this 10th place, to be used for future public parking projects.
The Planning Commission rejected the application in a 3-2 vote on January 12, primarily due to majority opposition to the in-place parking fee in favor of priority to required on-site parking.
City staff actually disagreed and recommended that council uphold Naguib’s appeal and approve the project as proposed. They backed replacement costs as part of their support for the whole project, including that the new home would be designed for green energy and be located close to downtown and the ACE station.
This question is a flashpoint in California these days. Housing advocates balk that parking is a deal-breaker for new residences, but business owners and customers in a commercial area like downtown Pleasanton are pushing to protect public parking as a valuable resource. .
For many downtown, the loss of a single parking space on a recurring or permanent basis must be avoided at all costs.
I’m a rule follower, in general. What’s the point of spending all your time making regulations and policies if you’re just not going to follow them? That said, I also recognize the real value to local governments of acceptable deviations or allowances under policy or practice on a case-by-case basis.
I don’t rush to the “this sets a precedent” camp every time because an exception allowed in one situation doesn’t have to be the rule in another. It’s certainly a fair point to make though.
I’m also aware that a debate like this happens when the city or council unnecessarily micromanages a project. To that I would go back to my mindset: they have these rules in the books, so they should very well be prepared to enforce them. In addition, a detailed discussion of the points of an appeal is best for all parties involved.
That’s exactly what the council accomplished by committing to an hour-long hearing on March 1.
“It was really hard for me to believe it’s only 1,000 square feet, almost…and all the missing was half a parking space,” Naguib told the council. “Our immediate neighbors support the project.”
He pointed out that the current lot rarely, if ever, reaches the nine-car level now, and he offered to open the dentist’s parking lot for public parking on weekends.
“We’re not trying to make the problem worse; in fact, we’re trying to solve it,” Naguib said. “I don’t see the problem, the big big big problem. We’ve been discussing (this project) for two years now.”
Council member Jack Balch was a clear supporter of the project, in part for his approach to the parking issue.
“The concept that he’s ‘half a point’ short and buys a full replacement if we let him, but he’s got the bonus (car lift spot), I think the impacts are going to be pretty minimal. And we’re coming to terms with whether that’s also a solution for our downtown parking lot,” Balch said. “These elevators are everywhere, they really are.
Councilor Julie Testa called it a “beautiful project”, but expressed a deeper concern about downtown parking.
“Our priority for this area must be to protect the retail vibrancy, and adding an additional parking load in our downtown area which is already overcrowded with parking, doesn’t seem appropriate,” she said. declared. “And we want to be consistent. We want to know that we don’t approve projects that don’t provide the necessary parking.”
Vice Mayor Valerie Arkin feared a car lift would be used downtown, for safety reasons, but the majority persuaded her.
In the end, the board tried to create a balance from the podium, unanimously supporting the call and approving the project, but with some new conditions.
They asked the owner to make a deal with a nearby non-residential property (within 300 feet) for a commercial location. They also stipulated that the residential carport must be cleared of storage space so that two cars could still park there, and they stated that the car lift is optional.
A final new condition of approval moved the Saturday construction start time to 9 a.m. (from 8 a.m. previously).
“Congratulations. Good luck with your project,” Mayor Karla Brown said after the vote.
As an update, since the hearing took place over a month ago, city spokeswoman Barbara Harb told me on Tuesday that Naguib has not disputed any of the news. conditions to date and continues to search for a parking space to use on a nearby lot.
Ultimately, occupancy of the home will be subject to obtaining a conditional use permit from the city, as well as other permissions under the law.
Editor’s note: Jeremy Walsh has been editor of the Pleasanton Weekly since February 2017.