Home Depot’s hot hand in Pleasanton, California is going to cool off for some months. This week, local residents poured some cold water all over the giant retailer’s plans, forcing city officials to back away from the table — at least for a while. The Tri Valley Herald reports that when city officials received a barrage of unhappy emails from local citizens questioning the preliminary approval on May 15th of a second Home Depot, the City Council agreed to put the project on ice for a few months. The City Council voted to take a break — as recommended by the City Manager — after many residents questioned the accuracy and completeness of the information used by the council to reach its decision. The application by developer Regency Centers for a 200,000-s.f. shopping center anchored by Home Depot, was going to its final vote earlier this week. “In the spirit of open and honest communication, I pulled the item,” the City Manager told the newspaper. “It is important that we pause the approval process to deal with perceptions and concerns surrounding this project, and to explain the facts.” The citizen’s group, Stop Pleasanton Gridlock (SPG), a grass-roots group aimed at improving traffic conditions in town, embarked on a letter and e-mail writing effort following the council’s 4-1 approval of the shopping center. The citizens charge that the city has not deal with its worsening traffic congestion, which has also put pedestrians at risk. Several incidents of children being hit either walking or on bikes have occurred in the worst congested areas. “Compounding the problem,” the group says, “is the approval of future development projects that will immediately impact” the city, including the Home Depot /Longs Plaza project, in its last stage of approval. SPG asked the four council members to overturn their decision or at least take a few months to get a better understanding of the impacts. “Based on the information we have seen so far, we are concerned about the traffic, economic and fiscal impacts of adding a second Home Depot in Pleasanton, at this location,” the group said. Councilman Matt Sullivan, who originally voted against the project, supported the citizen effort to delay a final vote, to give more time to study its impacts, including the effect on small, locally owned businesses. Sulllivan asked that an economic impact study be done. The city has told Home Depot that their delivery trucks will have to avoid certain residential streets in order to reach the interstate highway. But SPG says this truck route cannot be enforced, and that the city needs to first put in place a mechanism for assure how they will deal with violators. The city manager has indicated that the additional review called for by citizens could take two to three more months to complete.
Home Depot promised city council members that the retailer would pay for some of the traffic improvements needed to accommodate their new store. Mayor Jennifer Hosterman was one of those who voted to support Home Depot, but she agrees now that more information may be needed. “Unfortunately, a lot of misinformation went out to the public,” she said. “This will give us the opportunity to go back and look at the misinformation and make sure everyone understands what the true facts are, and look at our assumptions that led to the decision that we made and make sure that decision was credible.” But the city manager has indicated that he sees no problem with the original data, and notes that a fiscal impact study was done by Home Depot. The manager said the city might do a wider economic impact study, since the one conducted by Home Depot is likely to reflect the bias of the developer who paid for it. A full study will need to look at the municipal costs to protect this facility, and to deal with the increased traffic problems and crime. In the town of Reading, Massachusetts, Sprawl-Busters reported that Home Depot last year named a town police officer as the company’s “employee of the year” because the town cop was constantly up at Home Depot dealing with criminal activity. Such time comes at a great expense to the local community. Readers who would like to keep Home Depot out of Pleasanton, can call Mayor Hosterman at 925-931-5001, or email her at [email protected] Tell the Mayor: “One Home Depot in Pleasanton is one more than enough. Look carefully at the city costs this huge store will bring, and the losses to the local business economy.”