Changes passed over the last few years could dramatically change density, particularly near transit hubs. A previous law cleared the way for homeowners to easily add second dwelling units to their properties with minimal control by local governments.
That likely will have some impact here in the valley, but with relatively large suburban lots in many of the older subdivisions, the only discernable impact likely will be parking on the street.
Not so for the transit hubs. Pleasanton has planned for an apartment complex at the terminal BART station since 2012. That’s why there’s an apartment complex across the street and Owens Drive was dramatically narrowed. Owens originally was designed as one of the main east-west thoroughfares in Hacienda Business Park, but never carried the traffic load that Stoneridge Drive did, thus the narrowing with the apartments fronting on the street as well as another complex nearby.
For some reason, BART has never initiated any development for its Pleasanton parking lot. The agency has been notably slow to swap surface parking out for residential development and parking structures across the system.
The change in state law will increase the density 2 ½ times on that site. Currently, it’s zoned for 30 units per acre, the density that is common on new apartment complexes across Pleasanton.
Pleasanton Planning Director Ellen Clark wrote in an email that AB 2923 established a minimum density of 75 units per acre on BART-owned properties. “Local jurisdictions were given a deadline of July 31, 2022 to adopt conforming development standards for these sites, or otherwise be subject to BART’s zoning minimums as a “default.”
She went on to say that Pleasanton has not adopted the new zoning yet, but plans to do so when it updates the Housing Element of the General Plan next spring.
She estimated that buildings would be 5 to 7 stories tall depending upon the size of the apartments, the site, parking and other considerations. Given the location in a transit hub, it would be surprising if a developer planned to accommodate an average even one parking spot per unit. The challenge is that there are few amenities to make it a walkable community—for instance a grocery store. The Walmart in Hacienda is several long blocks away and offers food, but the nearest market is Lucky on the opposite side of the business park.
That density may well work on the BART line. For comparison, the apartments under construction next to the West Dublin BART station by Avalon are 65 units to the acre.
What’s a concern for Pleasanton officials and potentially Livermore officials as well is the ACE line. Livermore can probably do fine with higher density at the Greenville ACE station that doesn’t have other residential nearby. Depending upon the design, it may or may not work effectively at the downtown station near the Bankhead Theater.
For Pleasanton, any significant development in the ACE lot across from the fairgrounds will dramatically shift the nature of that neighborhood. The city already is dealing with a project not tied to AB 2923 for a small site near the ACE station that it has little to no control over.
This is one to watch that the council and city staff will have little more than input, instead of control, should it move forward.