The Pleasanton City Council has scheduled a special meeting Thursday to review a lawsuit filed by landowners of 562 acres in the city's southeast hills who are seekng a court order to allow them to develop 51 large lots on a part of their property for custom homes.
Jennifer and Frederic Lin argue in their suit that a referendum last June 8 that was supposed to have scuttled their development plans only concerned Ordinance No. 1961, which was a Planned Unit Development (PUD) plan for how the lots would be placed, not the project approval which was specified in Ordinance No. 1962, which also was approved by the City Council.
At Thursday's meetng, council members wil gather behind closed doors to discuss the lawsuit and also hear an analysis by City Attorney Jonathan Lowell. The options for the council appear to be to take no action and let the Lins proceed with the development or to vigorously defend the results of the referendum and that is applied to both ordinances dealing with the Lins' project, called Oak Grove.
Before moving into a closed session, the council will hear public comments on the lawsuit starting at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held in the council chambersd in the Civic Center, 200 Old Bernal Ave.
Although Pleasanton voters sided with opponents of the development last June 8 in a referendum that overturned the council's approval of the project on Nov. 2, 2007, the Lins claim that the council, as part of its action in 2007, approved both ordinances but that the referendum only dealt one.
By failing to include Ordinance 1962 in their referendum, the Save Pleasanton Hills citizens' group headed by former Councilwoman Kay Ayala missed its opportunity to referend the council's 4-1 vote that allowed the development, the Lins' lawsuit claims.
If the council decides to defend the city against the Lins' suit, it will likely argue that Ordinance 1961 and Ordinance 1962 were inseparable, that a "poison pill" provision was inserted into the language of both ordinances that in effect makes one invalid if the other is declared invalid.
But in their lawsuit, the Lins, through their attorney Andrew B. Sabey of the San Francisco law firm of Cox, Castle & Nicholson LLP, argue that the poison pill language was only included in the text of the ordinances and was not "a condition or term in the actual Development Agreement."
"The Development Agreement is an integrated contract and makes no reference to the 'poison pill' language whatsoever," Sabey states in the lawsuit.
"The city has ordered the PUD referendum petition to be placed on the ballot for the June 8, 2010 regular election," Sabey continues in his Development Agreement brief filed the same date. "The referendum, if successful, would set aside the PUD Ordinance. Setting aside the PUD Ordinance will give rise to a claim, already informally asserted by proponents of the PUD Referendum Petition, that referendum will also have the effect of setting aside the Development Agreement even though the Development Agreement itself was not referended and should remain in full force and effect regardless of the outcome of the PUD Referendum Petition."
"Thus," Sabey adds, "the pending PUD Referendum Petition presents a circumstance requiring the city to acknowledge, protect and reaffirm the Development Agreement and the vested rights it confers in favor of the Lins."
If the City Council decides to defend the city against the Lins' claim, the first hearings in Superior Court are expected to start in late spring or summer of 2011.