For more than 150 years, the Spotorno family has owned its ranch east of Alisal Street on the Sycamore-Happy Valley loop south of Pleasanton.
The family, under its late patriarch Al Spotorno, has been trying to develop a portion of the property literally for decades.
It looked like they may have a better use for their land—other than running cattle and sheep—in the 1990s when the city of Pleasanton and its golf committee was pushing hard for a municipal golf course. Roger Manning, a real estate investor, offered the city the land free at the intersection of Alisal and Happy Valley roads in exchange for development approval of lots along the golf course.
It seemed like a win-win deal for the city, golfers and potentially the Spotorno family because residents living along Sycamore Valley and Alisal wanted nothing to do with golf course traffic. A bypass road, connecting through the Spotorno land, was proposed from Sycamore Creek to the golf course that would have opened up the development.
Instead, Sycamore Creek ends in a fence and there’s no bypass. What was a line on the map for the bypass road turned out to be unbuildable because of the geotechnical state of the land. So, golfers take Sycamore to Alisal, golf course residents can use Happy Valley to reach Interstate 680 (a much preferred route during the pre-pandemic southbound rush hour) and the Spotorno family was frustrated.
A subsequent development effort failed to gain traction and Al passed in 2018 at the age of 92. He’s lived on the ranch for nearly 70 years. The family ownership dates to 1867.
Last month, the development saga finally may have come to an end when the City Council voted 4-0, with Councilman Jack Balch recusing himself, to approve a 22-unit development with an additional dwelling unit on each parcel. Give the size of the lots and the need for each home to undergo a design review (a lesson likely learned by the eclectic home design and colors along the golf course across the street.
The family trust enlisted a developer to process the project and develop it. The family trust will retain ownership of much of the land in the hills.
Should the development finally proceed, it will mark the end of a more than 30-year process by what used to be known as the “city of planned progress.” For the last many years, I have swapped process for progress and then you look at what elected and hired officials have done to long-time families during the “process.”