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Published April 18, 2000
Volume 8, Number 4



Tri-Valley Business Council Envisions the Optimum Future for the Area in "Golden Valley" Plan


By Denise Howe
Special to Network



Golden ValleyThe quality of life in Pleasanton and the Tri-Valley is among the best in California, if not the world. Preserving that quality of life is an important goal going into the first years of the new century. How can that be achieved while allowing the continued economic development that has led to it in the first place? 

It's a question of the utmost importance to the community and fortunately, the community is addressing it. 

In October 1998, the Tri-Valley Business Council initiated a one-year process led by a 50-member team of community leaders and residents to define a shared vision and goals for the Tri-Valley region in the year 2010. The result is "The Golden Valley - A 2010 Vision for the Tri-Valley Region." According to the report, the Vision 2010 Project is ambitious but reasonable and optimistic while being realistic.

Goals for the Vision 
The basic goal of the vision report is to ensure that the region's urban core has a strong economy and vital communities, while preserving open space and enhancing agriculture beyond the core.

The 50-member leadership team that formed the plan was created from the areas of education, environment, business, development, government and the community from the cities of Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon and Danville. The team was co-chaired by Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, Tim Hunt of the Tri-Valley Herald, Danville City Councilmember Millie Greenberg, and Phil Wente of Wente Vineyards.

The Vision 2010 team recognized that area citizens enjoy a high quality of life, but that pressures from traffic congestion to air quality and housing affordability are growing. The group wanted to define a positive and achievable future based on the shared values of Tri-Valley residents. 

"We wanted the plan to be inclusionary and have the buy-in of the community," says Tom O'Malley, executive director of the Tri-Valley Business Council. "That's why we had so many people participate in developing the vision."

To that end, the committee developed a set of six environmental, social and economic goals to express that vision and a set of milestones to measure progress towards the goals. The six goals are: economic vitality, vital city centers and connected neighborhoods, a range of housing choices, enhanced regional mobility, educational opportunities, and regional collaboration to enhance open space, agriculture and environmental quality. Moving forward with the goals simultaneously is the objective.

A November Initiative
Plans for implementation of Vision 2010 will come up for public review as an initiative on the November 2000 ballot, with additional ballot initiatives to follow in the future. The ballot measures are a way to test ideas with the people of the Tri-Valley, and choose those that will best help reach the shared vision of the Golden Valley. 

The goals have already been tested with Tri-Valley residents through a 1999 public opinion poll and support was high. For instance, 78 percent of local residents say it is "very important" that the Tri-Valley be a place "where people can both live and work in the same region." Among local residents, 88 percent say that it is "very important" that the Tri-Valley be a place where open spaces are preserved." Other elements of the plan scored similarly. 

Land Use a Fundamental Goal
The report recommends that no less than 70 percent of the region remain in open space and agricultural land, and that no more than 30 percent of the region be used for urban development. 

O'Malley explains that the Vision plan would protect the urban boundaries by coming up with an economically feasible greenbelt, either through the growth of area vineyards or by introducing irrigated agriculture. 

"Everyone wants to see urban sprawl stopped but if you are truly going to try and stop urban sprawl then you have to have a way of making sure that when you set the boundaries that you seal them off," he explains.

To support the six goals as defined by the committee, several subcommittees were formed to evaluate the current conditions and needed improvements in a variety of categories: Education, Transportation, Open Space, Community Planning, Economic Vitality, and Implementation.

Education
The Education Planning Committee, co-chaired by consultant David Mertes and John Sugiyama, superintendent of Dublin Unified School District, researched elementary and high schools, community colleges, colleges and universities, continuing education, education reform, workforce readiness, business and education. Information was collected on public school capacity, student performance in elementary through high schools and student access to post-secondary education. 

The committee is developing recommendations for more effective education systems and collecting information on Tri-Valley educational opportunities, then determining gaps and shortfalls. It is also designing an electronic catalog and web site outlining area educational opportunities. 

Transportation
The Transportation committee, co-chaired by Chris Kinzel, TJKM Transportation Consultants, and Pete Snyder, BART director, took on roads and highways, transit and rail, regional mobility, telecommuting, bicycle and pedestrian trails. Commute times, freeway and street congestion and expansion of transportation choices were main issues. 

As part of the plan's implementation the committee will establish a transportation advocacy network to support priority projects of the Tri-Valley Transportation Council. Transportation statistics monitoring and reporting will be encouraged along with a call to action to resolve issues as they develop. Methods are being created to inform the business community and public about transportation issues and the need for advocacy.

Open Space
Mark Sweeney, CM Realty, Donna Flavetta, Elliston Vineyards, and Becky Dennis, Pleasanton City Councilmember co-chaired the Open Space Planning Committee which looked at agriculture, viticulture, parks, natural resource preservation, and environmental quality. The committee analyzed the acreage of permanently protected open space and highly productive agricultural land, and contemplated efficient use of land and resources, connected open space included trails, outdoor recreation uses and air quality. 

The committee is developing an accurate map of the 70/30 land use concept, and a broad outline of open space use zones including agriculture, grazing, vineyards, habitat, and parks and recreation. They are also developing a prioritized land easement purchasing strategy.

Community Planning
The Community Planning Committee examined city center and neighborhood plans, affordable housing, low-income housing, historical preservation, safety, health services, community services, arts and culture, recreation, and family environment was co-chaired by Jon Chapman of the East Bay Community Foundation and Frank Patitucci, president of ReloAction. They made inquiries into resident satisfaction with the region and neighborhoods, regional and neighborhood safety and connectedness, including access to community amenities such as stores, schools, parks, and restaurants and interactions among neighbors. They also looked into the concept of clustering of new jobs, housing and transit. 

The committee will present the plan for endorsement through public forums for political and community leaders. Working with local and regional planners and elected officials, zoning and development guidelines are being identified to ensure the most efficient use of urban land.

Local pilot projects for the types of recommended neighborhoods that serve as models are also being recognized. Information on housing availability and cost, including projects approved but not built is being developed. This will be compared with local workforce needs to identify gaps and develop recommendations.

Economic Vitality
Business clusters, attraction and retention of the workforce, tourism, business incubation, and infrastructure including water, wastewater, telecommunications, gas and electricity were the issues studied by the Economic Vitality Committee, co-chaired by Brad Hirst, Equity Enterprises; Otis Nostrand, owner of the Hop Yard; John Marchand, chemist, and Marty Inderbitzen, attorney . Examined were the issues of local jobs for residents, economic diversity, job quality and career opportunity, and whether the Tri-Valley was a good place to start a business. 

The committee is evaluating the business infrastructure to identify gaps and issues and to advocate to ensure infrastructure is available to meet the economic growth needs. Plans for an agricultural irrigation district, including a financing plan, are being developed. The committee will also be an advocate for growth of the wine, hospitality and tourism business cluster. 

Public Review and Implementation 
The Vision is being presented to the community through presentations in public meetings throughout the region, to communicate the process, obtain feedback, and gain commitment. Agreement on the Vision 2010 Plan is designed to involve everyone in the Tri-Valley Area: citizens, environmentalists, state and local government officials, businesses, county supervisors, city and town councils, planning staffs, developers, and the agricultural community. 

O'Malley said there are three important issues in implementing the Vision: working with the formula of 30 percent urban property and 70 percent open space; defining the open space in terms of elements such as trails, habitat, parks and recreation, and agriculture; and a means of financing the acquisition of open space land or easements. 

"If you are really serious about doing this, you have to have a way of collecting money to buy property or to pay someone who declares a parcel as permanent agriculture," he says. "Money would be put into an open space trust and used to buy land or easements." 

O'Malley explains that there are various methods being considered including development mitigation fees, a sales tax, or funding from large foundations that protect open space. The Open Space committee will develop a list of proposed open space use areas, as well as strategies for land and easement acquisition including financing and research grant opportunities. O'Malley believes that Gov. Gray Davis' budget surplus plan, which includes money for water plans in the state, may benefit the open space plan.

Coming Soon: Ballot Initiatives
The committees are actively working on their Year 2000 Action Plans. The primary goal is to place a measure on the November ballot that will establish a number of the elements of the plan as guidelines for government, including the proposed ratio of 30 percent urban to 70 percent open space or agricultural use. Other elements they hope to add include:
 

  • Creating an agricultural irrigation district which would enable conversion of land to more valuable agricultural crops, thereby helping ensure protection of agriculture from urban development. This requires a commitment to financing irrigation infrastructure and identifying water sources. 
  • Planning for the enhancement and protection of agriculture and open space through acquisition of lands and development rights. This requires financing and a comprehensive strategy for purchasing land or easements over a period of years. 
  • Development of plans and guidelines to ensure that future urban development is designed to create connected neighborhoods with a range of housing choices and vital city centers ­ minimizing traffic congestion by making it convenient for residents to use transit and other alternatives such as bicycle and pedestrian trails. Cities would be required to approve only development plans that meet these criteria.
  • Expediting transportation improvements to ease traffic congestion. This would require financing a set of key freeway (I-580, I-680 and Rte. 84 corridors) and road improvements, expanding transit (BART to Livermore, ACE expansion, express buses, etc.) and other travel alternatives. Also important would be the improved connection of Bay Area transit systems to enable more people to use automobile alternatives. 
  • Expansion and improvement of the business infrastructure to support the continuing vitality of the region's economy. This would require evaluation of and investment in current infrastructure, including implementation of a Technical Enterprise Center, which will help develop local spinoffs from our national laboratories.
  • Filling gaps in educational opportunities by making sure that all our children are prepared to succeed and that adults have access to continuing education. This will require a better understanding of the range of lifelong learning opportunities available in the region and focused efforts to address gaps. 

 

The Vision sets a high standard which is, according to the report, right where the residents of the Tri-Valley want it to be. In looking at the Golden Valley, the Vision 2010 report notes that the Tri-Valley combines the economic vitality of the Silicon Valley with the quality of life of the Napa Valley. It's a good combination to preserve. 

Hacienda Business Park members of the Tri-Valley Business Council are Roche Molecular Systems, Chicago Title, Diversified Personnel, GTE Wireless, Hewlett-Packard, Hexcel, Interim Career Consulting, Kaiser Permanente, MobileForce Technologies, PacketStream, Paychex, PeopleSoft, ProBusiness, Remedy Corporation, Robert Half International, Tanner Insurance Brokers, TJKM Transportation, Tri-Valley Herald, Transdyn Controls, and Valley Care Health System. 

Hacienda members on the board of directors include Steve Tanner, Tanner Insurance Brokers; Chris Kinzel, TJKM Transportation Consultants; Jim Ghielmetti, Signature Properties; and Marcy Feit, Valley Care Health System. 

For more information on the Tri-Valley Business Council or the Tri-Valley Vision 2010, contact the council at (925) 890-1892. There's also information online.
 
 



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