City Council Urged to Place Initiative on Ballot

From the Independent Newspaper, June 23, 2016:

The petition drive to place an initiative on the ballot to limit the size of retail stores in the proposed Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone (JDEDZ) has gathered over 7,000 signatures from Pleasanton voters. Needed to qualify the measure were 4,017 signatures.

The initiative was submitted to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters and Pleasanton City Clerk on June 13th for signature verification.

At Tuesday’s city council meeting, speakers urged the council to place the initiative on the November 8, 2016 general election ballot. They noted that the issue should be decided by the voters as quickly as possible. They also pointed out that holding the vote in November would cost the city much less than it would if the vote were delayed until Spring 2017.

Friday, August 12 is the deadline to place an item on the ballot.

Bill Wheeler, head of Citizens for Planned Growth (CFPG), sponsors of the initiative, referred to the initiative as polarizing. “I’ve heard great arguments on both sides. I hope the council will let the process proceed and not make it a political issue. Place it on the ballot. By doing so, we will find out what citizens really want.”

The City Clerk has completed her count of the signatures and sent the petitions to the Registrar of Voters. There are 30 days allowed to verify the signatures. The initiative will then be submitted to the City Council at either a July or August meeting. The council can vote to place the initiative on the ballot or vote to adopt it. The council could also request a report from staff of the impacts of the measure on the city; then, the council would take one of the previous actions.

The Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone (JDEDZ) involves a proposed change to existing land-use policies and regulations for 40 acres of and (including 20 acres left vacant by Clorox’s departure) that primarily front Johnson Drive, near Interstate 680 and Stoneridge Drive.

Of the 30 residents who spoke during an April 12 workshop, three-quarters were opposed to the rezoning that would allow Costco or other big-box retailers to locate there. The main concerns related to traffic and pollution.

The Johnson Drive Initiative, sponsored by CFPG, calls for a limit of 50,000 square feet on any retail store wanting to be a part of the JDEDZ. When placed on the November ballot, it will ask citizens to vote “yes” if they want to see a limit on the size of any retailer in the JDEDZ, or “no” if they do not. If the “yes” vote prevails, a large Big Box store such as Costco (averaging 140,000 to 160,000 square feet) could not be included in the JDEDZ plans.

“We have heard a lot of comments from Pleasanton citizens about Costco in the JDEDZ—mostly against the Big Box, but also some for it,” said Wheeler. “Now it is up to the City Council to approve putting the measure on the ballot and give everyone the opportunity to express their opinions on this important issue through their votes. We are confident that this will easily be accomplished in the time frame we have until the election.”

Wheeler added, “We want to thank the team members of Citizens for Planned Growth who worked so tirelessly to gather the signatures from Pleasanton voters. They did a great job in a short amount of time.

“And we want to thank the citizens of Pleasanton who, during this busy political season, took the time to learn about our initiative and joined the effort to get their voices heard.”

The Pleasanton Planning Commission has been discussing the Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone since 2014. The idea of including a Costco and Costco Gas Station was introduced in 2015. Since then, opposition to the plan has developed. According to members of CFPG, the organization CFPG was formed to formalize actions necessary to make this particular zoning change process more responsive to the will of the public.

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