The City Council voted 4-1 to give final approval to the Oak Grove project Tuesday, which will allow the landowners to build 51 estate homes in the hills atop Kottinger Ranch as part of an agreement for them to give nearly 500 adjacent acres to the city of Pleasanton for trails and other public amenities.
Opponents vowed to overturn the hotly contested measure and launched a drive Wednesday to collect more than the 3,500 signatures needed to place a referendum on a future ballot to seek voter approval to stop the development.
The council's vote came at the end of a two-hour discussion, one of a number of public hearings on Oak Grove over the past year. There were actually two issues voted on: One was a planned unit development (PUD) allowing 51 home sites on 77 acres at the end of Hearst Drive in Kottinger Ranch. Owned by Jennifer, Frederic and Kevin Lin, the property will be subdivided into large lots capable of holding homes from 8,000 to 12,000 square feet. The second measure was a development agreement which commits the Lins to give the rest of their property--496 acres---to the city.
Preliminary plans considered by the city Parks and Recreation Commission, city officials and the council call for creating public trails and equestrian paths on the hilltop land with public access from Hearst Drive to a staging area that will include a parking lot, rest rooms and even a water trough for horses. The Lins will pay for the trails and the amenities as well as contribute $1 million to the city for traffic lights and other needs deemed necessary to handle the additional traffic through Kottinger Ranch.
"I am proud of the process that created Oak Grove," Mayor Jennifer Hosterman said. "This PUD allows the city to get something spectacular for the community: a gift of 496 acres of open space preserved in perpetuity."
Three others joined Hosterman in approving the project: Council members Matt Sullivan, Jerry Thorne and Cheryl Cook-Kallio.
However, Councilwoman Cindy McGovern voted against the proposal, arguing that she is concerned that there won't be adequate access to the 51 homes in the event of a hillside fire or other emergency. She also opposes the large size of the proposed homes that she believes will be visible from other parts of Pleasanton.
"I think the trade-off on this is too great," McGovern said, referring to the developer agreement to allow the homes in exchange for the 496-acre land grant to Pleasanton.
"More people will be looking at the ridges (those homes will be on) than walking them," she added. "I don't want this to be my legacy 10 or 20 years from now when people look up and see those homes and think that I was a part of that."
McGovern also has put her name on the opposition's petition to gain signatures to qualify a referendum for a public vote. The referendum, advanced by former Councilwoman Kay Ayala, claims that Oak Grove will include three-story, 45-feet-tall, 12,500-square-foot homes that she calls "mega-mansions."
Others who have signed the anti-Oak Grove petition include school board member and former councilman Steve Brozosky, Planning Commission Chairwoman Anne Fox and Karla Brown-Belcher, vice president of the Kottinger Ranch Homeowners Association.
The group, which plans to seek as many as 4,000 signatures to meet the requirement of 10 percent of the number of voters who cast ballots in last November's municipal election, will have teams in place at Farmers Market tomorrow. They have 30 days from 12:01 a.m. Wednesday to collect the signatures from Pleasanton registered voters. If their petition is qualified by the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, the referendum to overturn the Oak Grove approval would likely appear on the election primary ballot next June.
Those favoring the Oak Grove project also launched their own campaign Wednesday, asking registered voters not to sign the opposition's petition. Organized as "Keep Our Park," the group is headed by local businessman Jerry Pentin, who also serves on the city's Parks and Recreation Commission. The list of supporters of the "do not sign" efforts includes former mayors Tom Pico and Bob Philcox, Councilman Jerry Thorne, and former Councilwomen Becky Dennis and Sharrell Michelotti.
"We had a process where we spent 3-1/2 yrs where we worked with neighbors, the city, developers and others," said Councilman Matt Sullivan in voting to approve the Oak Grove project. "This will create tremendous amenities for the community with good protections. I think we have controls in place to minimize or reduce these houses from being in sight from most of the city."
"I know that not everyone agrees and I support the right of citizens to call for a referendum to overturn the City Council's decision," he added. "I've done it myself. The rhetoric is already flying. The only thing I ask is that both sides present their information accurately."
Tuesday night's action was actually the second time a Pleasanton City Council has approved a development in the Kottinger Hills. In 1992, a council approved plans by the Lin family to build more than 100 homes along with an 18-hole championship golf course. Homeowners in Kottinger Ranch, which had just been built by the Lins, objected to the potential traffic problems and were successful in overturning that decision in a referendum in 1993.
Two years ago, the Lin family submitted a revised development plan for their property, this time for 98 homes but without a golf course. Aware of strong opposition again, their representatives James Tong and Marty Inderbitzen initiated a series of meetings with the neighborhood, city officials and others in the public, eventually reaching a compromise which the Lins accepted to reduce the number of homes to 51, although much larger ones than originally planned, and to give the 496 acres to the city.
In reaching the compromise, advocates of the compromise plan noted that it would help Hosterman and Sullivan in their quest for similar developer agreements so that a 2,000-acre swath of open space could be created along the southeast hills of the city--from the Callippe Preserve Golf Course to Shadows Cliffs Regional Park--that would restrict additional housing developments at the city's edge.
For more information on the advantages and drawbacks to the Oak Grove development, visit the Web sites of the two citizen's groups: www.keepourpark.org and www.savepleasantonhills.com.