The judge had issued a tentative ruling in advance of last Friday's court hearing on legal disputes involving Jennifer Lin and her brother Frederic who own the hilltop land above Kottinger Ranch they want to develop. The tenative ruling also went against former City Councilwoman Kay Ayala and her Save Pleasanton's Hills citizens' group that is trying to stop it.
Roesch delayed his ruling last Friday at the downtown Oakland courthouse after attorneys for the Ayala group showed him 14 pounds of materials that the Lins' attorneys said the group should have carried while seeking signatures on a proposed referendum to overturn the Oak Grove project.
Roesch said he hoped to render a final decision in the next few weeks.
In the previous tentative ruling, Roesch had agreed with the Lins' argument that the signature-gathering effort by Ayala's group was "non-compliant" with the law's requirement that groups seeking a referendum provide those signing their petition to show all documents related to the issue. Roesch said that didn't happen, thereby nullifying the effort.
If the judge were to render a permanent ruling, the Lins, who already have the approval of the Pleasanton City Council to proceed with their project, could start the development. He would also likely ask the Ayala group's Palo Alto lawyers to suggest another remedy. They could ask for another 30 days to conduct a signature-gathering effort again with all of the data Roesch said they should have displayed. Legal analysts say that is unlikely, since the law states that petitioners seeking to overturn a City Council decision have 30 days from that action, a deadline that Ayala's group met by obtaining more than 4,000 signatures, but also a deadline that has long passed.
Of course, Ayala's organization could appeal Roesch's decision, if it goes against them, an action that would delay an outcome for a few months to a year or more. Legal costs for an appeal could also reach $40,000 to $60,000, which Ayala's group might have to pay upfront but could recover from the Lins if the citizens' coalition wins on appeal.
At its meeting Feb. 19, the City Council agreed to schedule hearings on all issues relating to the Oak Grove development if Roesch denied the Lins' petition for a permanent ruling to throw out the Ayala's referendum petition. If he had proceeded with his tentative ruling, the council discussion won't be necessary since the Lins have all they need from the council to proceed with plans to create 51 large luxury home sites in the hills at the end of Hearst Drive in Kottinger Hills.
As part of the development agreement with the council, the Lins also will turn over 456 acres of wooded open space that they own adjacent to the 77-acre housing development. City and community leaders, in land use discussions that have gone on for nearly four years, plan to preserve the open space that they will be given free of charge and eventually connect it to other land parcels along the southeast hills from the Callippe Preserve Golf Course to the Shadow Cliffs Regional Park on Stanley Boulevard.
As part of their agreement, the Lins also agreed to pay the costs of building public trails, equestrian paths, picnic areas and a staging area to be reached by way of Hearst Drive for visitors to the new parkland.