Frequently Asked Questions

WHAT IS THE DOWNTOWN SPECIFIC PLAN and where’s the plan area?

The Downtown Specific Plan, adopted in 2002, is the governing long-range planning document for Downtown Pleasanton, and helps shape what Downtown looks like and how it functions. A key purpose of the current plan is to improve upon the commercial and residential viability of the Downtown while preserving the traditions of its small town character and scale. To do so, the Plan includes policies related to land use, mobility, design, infrastructure and the environment. It contains text, diagrams, and photographs that communicate the vision of the Plan and how it will be implemented.

The Plan covers an area of approximately 300 acres – generally bounded by Bernal Avenue to the south, Pleasanton and Rose Avenues to the west, Arroyo del Valle and the Union Pacific Railroad right-of-way to the north, and a block or two beyond First Street to the east. The Downtown area includes both residential neighborhoods as well as the commercial area on Main Street, Peters Avenue, First Street and connecting side streets.  There are over 1,200 housing units and a population of more than 3,000 people in Downtown, along with about 500 mostly small businesses (see data table below). 


The Downtown Specific Plan Update offers a special opportunity to help shape the future of Downtown Pleasanton – including Downtown’s economic vitality, transportation network, parks, and historic character. The existing Downtown Specific Plan has helped to create an active and charming commercial core along Main Street. However, based on feedback from the community and elected officials, the Plan could benefit from an update that would strengthen the physical characteristics that make Downtown great, better respond to market conditions, and incorporate other planning efforts recently undertaken by the City. For instance, the Civic Center Master Plan may provide opportunities for the introduction of new uses and revitalization of the area currently occupied by City Hall and other City facilities. Additionally, in some parts of Downtown Pleasanton, there are vacant lots that have the potential to be developed into new uses that, with careful planning, could benefit the area. Other parts of Downtown Pleasanton could benefit from improvements to sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and pedestrian crossings that create better conditions for walking and cycling.

HOW Is the community involved in the specific Plan update?

 A ten-member Task Force (comprising City Council members, Planning Commissioners, members of the Pleasanton Downtown Association, a member of the Economic Vitality Committee, and at-large residents) is leading the Specific Plan Update and will recommend a preferred plan to City Council.  The Task Force will be seeking input from the larger Pleasanton community at the Task Force meetings, through Community Workshops and “pop-up” meetings (like the one held on March 11, 2017 at the Farmers’ Market), surveys, the project website ( and social media.  The City strongly encourages you to contribute your thoughts and opinions about the future of Downtown. Please check the project website for information on the Specific Plan Update project, upcoming meetings and events. 

What decisions have been made so far?

The Specific Plan Update is just getting started, community input is being collected, and no decisions have been made regarding any physical changes to Downtown.  The Specific Plan Update planning process is likely to take 18 months or more and the Task Force held its first meeting in January 2017.  The Task Force will work through several steps to get to a recommended plan: 

  1. Issue Identification and Vision – what are the concerns that the Plan should address and what is the vision for Downtown in the future?
  2. Existing Conditions, Issues, and Options – background information and options related to existing development and design, existing streetscape, policies affecting the downtown, and existing economic conditions. 
  3. Alternatives Refinement, Financial and Fiscal Analysis – different options for addressing the identified issues will be analyzed to determine how closely they align with the preferred future vision for the Downtown.  
  4. Draft Specific Plan and Public Review – the Task Force will make a recommendation on a Draft Specific Plan and formal public review of the plan will start. 
  5. Specific Plan Adoption – public hearings at the Planning Commission and City Council prior to adoption of the updated Specific Plan. 


Three background reports have been prepared early in the Specific Plan process in order to help Task Force members and the public reach a common understanding about existing conditions in the Specific Plan area and to start looking at options for the future.  These background reports have been prepared by subject area experts and will provide information on existing land uses, infrastructure, and economic conditions that will influence future development in the Downtown.  However, it is important to understand that these reports represent a technical assessment of existing conditions, and are one component of the multitude of considerations when planning for the future of Downtown.  Other important considerations that will shape the updated Downtown Specific Plan include the Task Force’s vision for Downtown, community values, and public input. 

The information in these reports will help the Task Force and the public understand how regulations and market forces will influence future development, and what options are realistic given these considerations.  However, this information will not dictate any particular Specific Plan outcome; that decision will be up to the community and City Council. 

The reports, subject areas, and authors are:

  • Land Use, Community Design and Development Potential: this report describes Downtown’s existing land use patterns, regulatory framework, urban form, and potential for new development. It seeks to identify issues and opportunities within the Downtown area, so that the community may better envision potential directions for future development, and gain an understanding of how regulations affect the Downtown.  This report has been prepared by Dyett & Bhatia, Urban and Regional Planners in conjunction with Urban Field Studio, a design firm. 
  • Downtown Pleasanton Market Analysis:  this report evaluates the economic and market conditions affecting various land use categories within Pleasanton’s Downtown Specific Plan Area.  It focuses on the market prospects for retail and related commercial development (e.g., movie theater, hotel), office, and residential uses of various mixes and types within the Specific Plan area.   This report has been prepared by EPS, Economic and Planning Systems, subject matter experts in real estate economics and public finance. 
  • Streetscape and Mobility Analysis: this memo focuses on the existing conditions of the Downtown area and is organized into two categories: (1) mobility/accessibility which looks at circulation patterns for all Downtown users, including drivers, public transit riders, bicyclists, pedestrians and those with mobility issues. It also considers how the street and pedestrian network supports the movements of people to and around Downtown; and (2) streetscape/aesthetics which reviews the existing streetscape conditions and evaluates how the aesthetics and the presentation of the Downtown can be improved to be more vibrant and distinctive.   This report has been prepared by Callander and Associates, Landscape Architects. 

What are the fiscal impacts of various land uses?

After adoption of the General Plan in 2009 and the updated Housing Element in 2012, the City secured the services of Economic Planning Systems, Inc. to prepare a report that evaluates the fiscal impacts on the City’s General Fund budget of the City’s growth policies through buildout of the City.  This 2014 report is available online here, and key points regarding the fiscal impacts of various land uses are summarized as follows:

  • Commercial uses result in positive fiscal impacts on the City’s General Fund, with retail uses generating the highest fiscal benefits to the City’s General Fund due to generating both sales tax and property tax revenues, followed by industrial/warehouse, research and development, and office use. 
  • For-sale housing units provide fiscal advantages for the City (due to property tax revenues), while multi-family rental housing will likely result in fiscal shortfalls.  However, these potentially negative impacts could be mitigated if multi-family rental housing accommodates a demographic that is down-sizing (e.g. empty nesters) and sell their existing single-family homes (thereby increasing property tax revenues). 
  • Local-serving retail is assumed to be supported primarily by household spending, and growth in this area of retail sales will be highly dependent on the growth in household incomes through the development of new housing units.  Without this new housing development, newly developed local-serving retail will shift a portion of sales from existing local-retail sales and will not result in an overall growth in retail sales.   
  • Infill development, both residential and commercial, typically provides more advantageous fiscal outcomes due to lower public service costs relative to outlying areas. 
  • New growth will comprise less than 25 percent of the City’s development at buildout.  As a result, the City’s fiscal health will be more affected by the performance of existing development and established areas within the City. 

How is the downtown specific plan update related to the civic center master plan? 

In order to better serve Pleasanton residents and to expand a very busy library, the Civic Center Master Plan was prepared in 2016 with the objective of identifying a preferred option for developing a new library and administration building on the Bernal Property (generally south of Bernal Avenue and west of the railroad tracks).  Redeveloping the existing civic center site was also identified as an alternative.  In November, 2016, the City Council accepted the Civic Center/Library Master Plan, which includes a preferred concept that would relocate the existing library and administration buildings located in Downtown Pleasanton, potentially vacating the existing civic center property for future development.  The City Council has directed staff to move forward with the Draft Master Plan with the understanding that additional public hearings and a public vote (to amend the Bernal Property Phase II Specific Plan) will be required for adoption.

If and when the Civic Center moves to the Bernal Property, the existing Civic Center site would be available for redevelopment.  Because the existing Civic Center site is located prominently at the southern gateway to Downtown Pleasanton, future uses in the area will need to be carefully planned to ensure they enrich and integrate well with the entirety of Downtown.  A central component of the Task Force’s work will be reimagining the land uses on the existing Civic Center site. At this time, no decision about the future of the existing Civic Center site has been made, and community input is being collected regarding preferences for the site.

Will the Pleasanton Unified School District Site be included in the plan area?

The Pleasanton Unified School District (PUSD) administrative office site located at Bernal Avenue and First Street is not currently located in the plan area, and the PUSD Board decided at its February 28, 2017 meeting to not be included in the plan area as part of this update. 

Will new housing be added to the downtown?

The Task Force will be reviewing and discussing images from other Downtowns as it starts to formulate a vision for the future of Downtown.  The existing Downtown Specific Plan has helped to create an active and charming commercial core along Main Street and it is likely that future development will reflect a similar character and scale.  The Task Force will also be looking at the potential evolution of sites that are vacant or may be transitioning to other uses (including the existing Civic Center site).  New uses could include additional commercial development, new market-rate and affordable housing, and open space or other amenities. Because the Plan Area includes existing residential areas, and residents are an important component of economic vitality is most downtowns, it is likely that some new housing in key locations will be an option explored by the Task Force. Any housing options are likely to be low-scale and compatible with the existing character of Downtown. All discussions of options for future development will be held at Task Force or other public meetings and we encourage the public to check the project website for information about meetings and events. 


This Specific Plan is a tool for the systematic implementation of the City of Pleasanton General Plan. Specific plans typically cover smaller geographic areas than general plans, therefore allowing for more in-depth policies to achieve the goals of the planning area. A specific plan is a standalone document, separate from the general plan, and can be adopted by resolution or as an ordinance.

As required by State law, a specific plan must be consistent with the adopted general plan of the jurisdiction in which it is located. In turn, all new public works projects and zoning regulations must be consistent with the specific plan. Thus, it is crucial that the Downtown Specific Plan be consistent with the City’s General Plan, and other recent planning efforts, including the Downtown Hospitality Guidelines and the Historic Resource Survey. The Plan should also be consistent with the Civic Center Master Plan and the Downtown Parking Strategy and Implementation Plan, when they are adopted. Following the adoption of the Specific Plan, the City of Pleasanton Zoning Ordinance must be amended to reflect any changes. 

Downtown Pleasanton Data

2002 Specific Plan                      January 2017

1,250                                                 1,265

475                                                   520

775                                                   745

3,325                                                  3,488

484                                                     641

2,250                                                  Not Available


Housing Units

Single Family

Multi Family

Estimated Population



Downtown Pleasanton Planning Area Map

Downtown Pleasanton Planning Area Map

How can I get involved?

We encourage you to contribute your thoughts and opinions about the future of Downtown! Resident and business input will be sought in all phases of development of the Specific Plan. Please visit the project website ( to learn about upcoming opportunities and events. You may also contact us directly through the website with your thoughts and questions.