With 22,000 members in Pleasanton, it's no surprise that Costco Wholesale wants to build a store here to relieve the overcrowded conditions it has at its stores in Danville and Livermore.
With a potential sales- and property-tax base in the millions of dollars, it's no secret that Pleasanton city leaders would welcome the membership-only warehouse club.
It's also no secret that a study now underway to create the city's first economic development zone on Johnson Drive could provide the impetus to bring Costco to northwest Pleasanton.
Costco recently signed a letter of intent to acquire the 40-acre Johnson Drive site from Nearon Enterprises, which bought the property after Clorox moved its research center to a new corporate campus nearby. The Clorox research center that was on Johnson Drive was torn down, and the property, the oldest industrial-zoned acreage in Pleasanton, is now mostly empty.
The goal of the Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone -- known more easily as JDEDZ -- is to transform acreage into a thriving commercial corridor that capitalizes on its location at the intersection of the I-680 and I-580 freeways.
Although no one in local government officially acknowledges that Costco is a leading -- if not the only -- candidate for developing the property, there's been plenty of talk before meetings of the Planning Commission and City Council by a lobbying group opposed to the store.
Bill Wheeler, president and CEO of Black Tie Transportation, has been most vociferous in urging both groups to reject a Costco store, even though Costco has not filed a bid to build one here. Wheeler's office and large garage that houses many of his limousines and buses at 7080 Commerce Drive borders on the Nearon-owned site. He contends that the two-lane Johnson Drive is too congested now to accommodate the traffic a Costco store would attract.
His associates, including the owner of a nearby Shell station where he fuels his cars and the manager of the DoubleTree hotel where Black Tie parks some of its vehicles, have joined him at the podium at council and commission meetings, arguing that Costco would also hurt gas stations and local businesses that sell merchandise and services Costco offers.
So far, none of Costco's 22,000 members has appeared before city or business organizations supporting a Costco store, but that could change.
Once the JDEDZ planning, with an environmental impact report, is completed with a fiscal, traffic and economic analysis, the proposal will first be heard at a joint workshop meeting of planners and the council, probably in late February. If it's decided to proceed, then both groups will hold public hearings to consider creating the economic development zone.
The rezoning plan calls for widening Johnson Drive to four lanes, probably taking away on-street parking that now serves Black Tie employees.
The sharp turn on Johnson Drive near Stoneridge Drive would be straightened, Stoneridge would be widened at Johnson Drive and a dual on-ramp would be built for traffic heading north on the I-680 on-ramp.
Only then, after the development zone is created and improvements identified, would Nearon be able to close a deal with Costco.
The store, like any other applicant for a building permit, would have to go before the Planning Commission and City Council on its own to seek approval. With opposition likely, Costco's bid may closely resemble the controversial application by Wal-Mart to build a neighborhood grocery store on Santa Rita Road.
In the end, hundreds of residents turned out to support Wal-Mart to add a much-needed grocery at that location; 22,000 Costco members would be likely to do the same.