Opponents of making land available for a 148,000-square-foot Costco membership store on Johnson Drive in Pleasanton have received certification from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters' Office of their petition to place an initiative on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot to block the store from being built.
The petition contained 6,396 signatures, but the registrar found that only 4,015 were verified signatures based on the city's voter rolls. That was still just enough to equal 10% of the 40,154 total registered voters in Pleasanton.
Promoted by the Citizens for Planned Growth coalition, the petition seeks to allow voters to consider a ban on retail stores over 50,000 square feet in the 40-acre area under consideration for land-use changes on the Johnson Drive site just south of the I-580/I-680 interchange. The property was former home to a Clorox research center, which was torn down after the company's research and development moved to a larger site nearby.
With relatively little change or investment in that area of the community, a plan was launched by the city to create a Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone to rezone the mostly industrially-zoned property for commercial purposes. That would allow for a wider, more modern range of uses
Led by Bill Wheeler, who owns Black Tie Transportation, which is located next to the site, petitioners opposed the rezoning, with their numbers growing at community meetings as Costco started being identified as the site developer. In fact, it was only recently that city leaders acknowledged Costco's interest.
Costco and two hotels that plan to build next door would generate $2.7 million a year in additional revenue for the city, or about 8% more than current receipts, according to Gerry Beaudin, the city's community development director. The new Costco store would be similar to its 160,000-square-foot store in Livermore, which is larger than the 140,000-square-foot store in Danville. The Pleasanton parking lot would be larger, with 12-16 gasoline pumps at the edge.
Black Tie and Valley Bible Church, which would be located in the 40-acre site to be rezoned, would be "grandfathered" in the plan and could "modestly" expand their facilities if interested. Johnson Drive would be widened to four lanes with no on-street parking spaces allowed between ClubSport and Stoneridge Drive. Black Tie employees who park their personal cars on Johnson Drive would have to find other spots.
Afraid that such a massive Costco and hotel development plan would seriously disrupt his business or force him to move elsewhere, Wheeler has made repetitive pleas at City Council and commission meetings and before business and civic groups to halt the rezoning.
"We have been asking the City Council since August of last year to allow Pleasanton citizens to vote on whether they want a big box store included in the Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone plans, and this is the council's chance to do just that," Wheeler said.
"We have determined that adding this initiative to the ballot for the Nov. 8 regular election, when we will be voting for national and local officeholders, will incur minimum costs, allow the citizens to decide this very important issue and eliminate the potential of a very costly election next spring," Wheeler explained.
"We are very grateful to all of the citizens and people who have helped us. We hope for a campaign run with dignity and integrity from both sides of the issue, which will represent the true character of our great city," he said.
Now that the Citizens for Planned Growth's Johnson Drive initiative petition -- submitted to the county registrar of voters on June 13 with 7,000 signatures collected -- has been certified, it is in the hands of city clerk Karen Diaz, who will ask the City Council to consider it at its meeting Tuesday night.
The council can accept the direction of Wheeler and his 7,000 petitioners and stop the rezoning effort. Or, more likely, it can call for a vote, pitting the city against the citizens committee. Up to now, only one council member, Karla Brown, has opposed the rezoning plan.
"We don't need a club retail (Costco) here," she said at a recent council meeting. "Something up to 50,000 square feet will pay (the taxes), and we won't have 12,000 cars using Johnson Drive."
In a notice to its supporters Tuesday, the citizens coalition's leaders urged everyone to attend next week's council meeting.
"The city may try to stall and prevent this from happening so please attend, as a strong presence is sadly needed to keep these development-friendly representatives honest."
The council meeting will begin at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Pleasanton Civic Center, 200 Old Bernal Ave.