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By Tim Hunt

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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Finally an anchor tenant in Vintage Hills center

Uploaded: May 16, 2013
The opening of the New Leaf Community Market Wednesday is a tribute to the incredible patience of the owners of the Vintage Hills Shopping Center at Bernal and Vineyard avenues.
The anchor position, once occupied by Flair and Romley's markets, has been vacant since the 1990s. The building was much too small for chain supermarkets and tucked into a neighborhood, instead of located on major thoroughfares. For comparison, see how well the new Safeway at Bernal and Interstate 680 has done since it opened to say nothing about all of the other retailers and restaurants there.
Supermarket chains looked at sites on Stanley Boulevard across from the McDonalds on Bernal that now will likely will higher density housing with a small retail center.
How New Leaf will fare is an open question—the organic approach should resonate with some Pleasanton residents and it is quite a bit closer for Ruby Hill residents. How it competes on price and quality with Safeway, Raley's, the new Wal-Mart community grocery that will open later this year on Santa Rita Road, Fresh Express(which is struggling as a chain) and Trader Joes—not to mention Sprouts in Dublin—will determine its success. The neighborhood should be delighted—they've been driving across town for literally decades if they want more than a quart of milk.
Various city councils have rejected development plans for the property over the about 20 years of vacancy. The current owners rehabilitated the center a few years ago and have waited patiently for land the missing anchor tenant.
A bit more good news: with the guidance of city finance director Emily Wagner, the Pleasanton City Council made an obvious call this month. They approved borrowing funds from various reserve accounts to pay off the debt on the certificates of participation (bonds) that the city issued to pay for the very expensive Callippe Preserve golf course 10 years ago.
The bonds totaled about $28 million and were used to construct the golf course, buy the use of land surrounding it to protect the endangered butterfly and to refinance bonds that were used for the Senior Center.
By paying off the bonds almost 20 years early, the city saves $10.7 million in interest payments and appropriately leverages the reserve accounts. Interest rates are so low currently that those reserve accounts that are currently earning about 1 percent. The bonds were paying 4.6 percent interest. The reserve accounts can be repaid in 13 years.
All-in-all, a no-brainer.

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