Pleasanton Weekly

News - February 19, 2010

Council places Oak Grove referendum on June 8 ballot

Voters to decide if 51-home hilltop project can be built

by Jeb Bing

Pleasanton voters will be asked to decide in June if the developers of a 51-custom home project at the end of Hearst Drive and atop Kottinger Ranch can proceed with their plans that the City Council approved more than two years ago.

The council, after three hours of deliberation Tuesday, voted 3-2 to send the proposal by developers Jennifer Lin and her brother Frederic to voters in a special referendum now scheduled during the statewide primary on June 8. The referendum, asking if the Oak Grove project should be approved, will be the only local issue on a ballot that will include political party nominees for governor, State Assembly, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

Voting to place the Oak Grove issue on the ballot were Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and councilmembers Cheryl Cook-Kallio and Jerry Thorne. Opposed were councilmembers Cindy McGovern and Matt Sullivan, who asked the council to vote to rescind its approval of the project based on petitions signed by as many as 5,000 registered voters in 2007 in opposition to Oak Grove. On that request, the council also voted down the Sullivan-McGovern bid 3-2.

The Lins, who acquired the hillside acreage in 1979 and developed Kottinger Ranch, at one time proposed an 18-hole public golf course and 98 homes on the hilltop site. That was rejected by voters in an earlier referendum. The current plan surfaced in the mid-1990s as a 98-home development without a golf course. In negotiations with city officials and staff, as well as civic organizations and the Kottinger Ranch Homeowners Association, the number of homes was whittled down to 51 with an agreement that 497 adjoining acres of the Lins' property would be given free of charge to the city of Pleasanton for trails, public parks, equestrian pathways and open space.

It was that proposal that the council approved in a 4-1 vote in late 2007, with only McGovern opposed.

Former Councilwoman Kay Ayala then formed the "Save Pleasanton's Hills" citizens' coalition and during the Thanksgiving holiday period in 2007 and obtained enough signatures to force a referendum to reverse the council's decision. Lawsuits by the Lins and countersuits by the citizens' coalition followed, with Ayala's group finally prevailing late last year. Last Tuesday, the council took up the issue again and made its decision to let the voters decide the outcome.

At times, Tuesday's meeting was cantankerous with several opponents of Oak Grove accusing Hosterman of favoring the project because its developers and associates had contributed to her election campaign. Lee Fulton called the Lins' offer of a land grant to the city a "bribe" and urged the council to ignore it and kill the project.

Noting that the June balloting would cost the city up to $79,000, Ayala called the referendum a waste of taxpayers' money since enough voters had already signed her petitions to likely vote the Oak Grove proposal down. Along with Sullivan and McGovern, she asked that if a referendum was going to be placed on a ballot, that it be considered in the General Election on Nov. 2. The three said that would give Oak Grove opponents more time to prepare their arguments for voting down the measure.

By placing the referendum on the June 8 ballot, the deadline for preparing direct arguments is now March 15, with rebuttal arguments due by March 25.

Sullivan said those dates place pressure on the citizens' group to prepare voter information on the issue, giving an "unfair" advantage to the Oak Grove developers who have ample funds to print literature, send mailers and otherwise promote their development.

"If this goes in June, that's a huge advantage to the developer who has the staff and money to pump into the election, far outweighing what the citizens can do," Sullivan said. "Also, more people will be voting in November. That's the time to have it."

But Thorne disagreed.

"The November ballot will be chocked full of issues and candidates," he said. "If we want voters to focus on the facts of this issue, we don't want to mix this referendum with all of the state issues that voters will face on the November ballot."

Cook-Kallio, in supporting the June date for the referendum, also noted that municipal elections for the mayoral and two council positions will occur in November. By placing Oak Grove on the June ballot, it will keep the controversial issue out of those campaigns.


Posted by Tony F., a resident of Foothill Farms
on Mar 14, 2010 at 10:47 am

I think we should pollute all our surrounding hills with nothing but homes! Maybe we can get a bribe from each land owner! Dublin has already decorated there hills with beautiful homes throughout! If we play our cards right, we can have our hills looking like Castro Valleys by 2015! Let`s pollute our hills with costume homes!!!!!!Now is the time, especially with the exceptionally high demand for more houses we have right now! Yes on Oak Grove!

Posted by hmmm, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 14, 2010 at 11:20 am

Tony F. how long have you lived in Pleasanton? Wasn't Foothill Farms once open space? The Oak Grove issue is really "not in my neighborhood". Over the years the Lins have done everything the city has asked of them. This project is a win for the people of Pleasanton, the city and schools. We who have just come to Pleasanton have to think, what if the "old timers" wanted to keep Pleasanton a small rural city? In my opinion this is a well thought out development and is not going to make our city look like Dublin or Castro Valley.

Posted by long time resident, a resident of Birdland
on Mar 14, 2010 at 6:59 pm

We just voted in the last election to not have houses at the tops of those ridges. What is the city council thinking? I don't think they are listening to the voters.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 14, 2010 at 9:04 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

We didn't vote to not have houses on the tops of those ridges. We voted to not have more than 10 houses per parcel on the tops of those ridges.

Posted by Jerry, a resident of Oak Hill
on Mar 15, 2010 at 1:15 am

If I remember correctly, Foothill Farms wasn't "open space" where the general public could go for whatever activity. It was private property, used as a cow pasture...

Is a private property cow pasture designated as "open space"???

Posted by Joe Q Public, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2010 at 8:53 am

Dear hmmm,

Money for schools is IMPACT fee money. That means more student cost more money - and the developer fees will help pay for the extra burden of those students. Money for traffic is IMPACT fees, more cars more wear and tear on our streets. Money for a new firetruck for the scaling up steep hills - again IMPACT fee $ to protect those house in the dry grass and oak woodlands. Don't be fooled by their propaganda.

Also, from what I hear, the school money won't come until a house is sold! Not streets and building pads - but a real buyer of a real house up on the hills.

Speaking of house sales, I saw a house for sale in Ruby Hill. It was 12,000 sq. ft and the asking price -- are you ready-- $7,500,000!! That is why the developer is going to write big checks to have 51 houses that cost many, many millions. Follow the money, and who is going to get it.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 15, 2010 at 9:46 am

Stacey is a registered user.

How many students will this development bring to PUSD? How many cars will this development bring to our streets? How large are these impact fees in proportion to these impacts to our schools and streets?

Posted by fact checker, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2010 at 10:05 am

According to the new demographic report for Pleasanton Unified the number of students attending Pleasanton schools is going down not up. The amount that Oak Grove will generate far outweighs the impact the students those homes will generate. Last I checked you do need students in order to keep schools open.

The proponents of the referendum have done an excellent job distorting the facts. The council approved (4-1) lots and design guideline for homes nestled between the hills, not right on top. ANYONE can appeal any home design. It was approved PRIOR to PP and QQ after four years of talks and public meetings.

If the developers choose to exercise their option for ten lots of estate homes then they could lop off the tops of the hills. PP and QQ allows for that. Then we get huge homes right on top with none of the benefits the current Oak Grove plan allows, like the 497 acres of open space in perpetuity that acts like a buffer from encroachment from the south. This is a HUGE gift to the citizens of Pleasanton. And it helps create a buffer of open space around the south part of PLeasanton.

This is an area that was and is designated as residential in the General Plan. Look at the motivation of the people who want you to vote against this development. The guy that banked rolled it has a lot right on TOP of the RIDGE overlooking the development. His motivation isn't to save YOU from hilltop homes but to protect his own property.

Others live on the side of hills now and some just don't want to have development because they believe they are entitled to a cul-de-sac because they were there first.

This is a well thought our project that involved many people in the discussion including people from the neighborhood below. It is true that there were a few who disagreed. They got signatures by approaching people and saying don't you want to vote on this?

Now we are going to have a vote. PLEASE be informed and weigh the negatives with the benefits not just to the city but to the school district. This is planned growth that is allowed by the voter approved General Plan. See what you can see of those hills from anywhere in Pleasanton.

Posted by Billie, a resident of Mohr Park
on Mar 15, 2010 at 10:21 am

"ANYONE can appeal any home design."

So true "fact checker"! However, Councilmember Thorne, a strong proponent of the Oak Grove development, has said that if re-elected he "wants to hike the fees charged to anyone who appeals decisions by city commissions" . . . "most of which he thinks are politically motivated and unnecessary". (PW Column "Thorne launches re-election bid" - Friday, February 19, 2010).

If that happens, appeals could be priced right out of the average citizen's pocketbook.

Posted by fact checker, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2010 at 11:52 am


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 15, 2010 at 11:58 am

Stacey is a registered user.


How is that an argument against Oak Grove? If you're so worried about that then perhaps the answer is to approve homes NOW instead of waiting until the appeal process is "priced right out".

I'd be more concerned with the latest demographic report from PUSD. Districts LOSE MONEY when the student population decreases.

Posted by Billie, a resident of Mohr Park
on Mar 15, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Gee Stacey, I don't think I made an argument either for or against Oak Grove. I was just commenting on "fact checker"'s statement regarding anyone being able to appeal a project, and how that might look in the future should Councilmember Thorne be re-elected.

I just received, as I'm sure all registered voters in Pleasanton did, a letter from the Lin family outlining their position on Oak Grove, as well as the financial and land benefits they have agreed to with this project. The benefits they've agreed to provide are more than the 496 acres of ridgeline park and include a one time fee of $2M to PUSD and $1M in traffic fees.

That said, I'm still, as "fact checker" noted, weighing the negatives with the benefits and have not yet made up my mind on how I will vote in June.

Posted by Joe Q Public, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Dear fact checker;

Your attack on a handful of people who collected 5200 signatures to put Oak Grove on the ballot, makes me angry. If you can't discuss the FACTs without attacking the people, perhaps you should just log off for good.

Posted by HotSam, a resident of Southeast Pleasanton
on Mar 15, 2010 at 5:03 pm

We too received the Lin letter outlining their position on Oak Grove. As far as I know, and correct me if I'm mistaken, the Lins live in Taiwan, and their only interest in Pleasanton (and the Tri-Valley) is getting their properties developed however they can. See what a great job they did with East Dublin. Given that they live in Taiwan, it seems somewhat disingenuous to use phrases such as "supporting our schools" and so on, as they did in their letter. "Your schools" would have been more accurate.

Posted by fact checker, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2010 at 5:08 pm

I was talking about the original proponents and their motivation. I was approached and some of what was happening was intimidation. I am sorry that you are angry. I just want to people to look at the information. My experience with the signature gatherers was not pleasant and when I asked porobbing questions I was either blown off or, in one case yelled at. I know there are some that are not in that category. I am dismayed when people use scare tactics and untruths to get people to sign something. That was my experience with those who appraoched me.

Posted by resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2010 at 5:22 pm

While I agree that this discussion started before PP and QQ were in place, I think it is fair to say that without the discourse this proposed project has caused, those initiatives would never have been proposed.

I am still very uninformed and undecided about the merits and/or drawbacks of this proposal. I see that the Lin family (and marketing firm) have initiated a campaign this week to win approval. I look forward to more information from both sides of discussion. I did send back some questions via email to the Lin group. It will be interesting to see how (or if) they respond.

Posted by MainStreetDiva, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Mar 15, 2010 at 7:13 pm

MainStreetDiva is a registered user.

Hmmm. We did NOT receive a letter from the Lin family. When did this arrive? And, yes, before you ask, we are registered voters.

We live in Vintage Hills and would be very minimally impacted by Oak Grove. Perhaps that is why we were not on the mailing list from the Lins? Because they did not send it to the adjacent neighborhoods?

Posted by iwastheretoo, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 15, 2010 at 8:40 pm


With regard to approval of actual homes in Oak Grove, Condition #26 of the Conditions of Approval states that upon action of the Zoning Administration, both approval and denial, the Planning Commission will be notified and provided with a set of plans and conditions of approval for the home in question. That means that there will be 6 people automatically reviewing each home either approved or denied in Oak Grove; similiar to what is done in Mariposa Ranch as an example.

The Weekly only reported half of Thorne's comments regarding appeals. He did say that he favors raising the cost of an appeal, similar to what is done in a lot of cities in the area but he ALSO said that he would support refunding the appeal fee if the appeal is successful. Big difference--he's trying to eliminate the appeals that are done to stall something or done for political reasons. I have heard some of the Planning Commissioners support this approach as well.

Posted by Billie, a resident of Mohr Park
on Mar 16, 2010 at 10:34 am

Thanks for the clarification on Thorne's remarks! I still think he's blowing political smoke because of his position on Oak Grove.

Why? It's unfortunate, but not all issues are resolved through the planning process. When I watch the Council meetings, it seems to me that most of the appeals brought before the Council are from individuals, neighbors of a home or business, that have a real issue with whatever is being built or constructed. Normally they have tried and been unable to resolve their issue during the planning process. I could be wrong, but I don't believe that these kinds of appeals are done for political reasons, nor do I think that most appellant's appeals are frivolous and brought just to harass the other party (of course, there's always the occasional long-term neighbor v neighbor dispute). In my opinion, raising the fees will only keep the little guy, or gal, from the appeals process and will not hinder those going after the big projects. There always seems to be money for the big ones . . .

and so, since I really don't want to hijack this thread for a side issue, that's it for me and my opinions on this one. Thanks again for the clarification.

Posted by Diana, a resident of Hart Middle School
on Mar 16, 2010 at 3:19 pm

Fact checker your facts are wack!!!

The last PUSD demographer report shows a slow down but sitll an increase of student and it said PUSD needs one maybe two more elementary schools. Our schools are all so seriously over crowded there really is no room for any new students.

Posted by How?, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 19, 2010 at 7:16 am

The court struck Pleasanton's housing cap - how does this affect Oak Grove?

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Mar 19, 2010 at 8:27 am

Stacey is a registered user.

It doesn't.

Posted by Dan Doerr, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Mar 21, 2010 at 10:02 am

Kay Ayala was looking for a cause to stay in front of the public eye so that she can run again in the future.

She chose Oak Grove and has screwed this whole city as a result. Even if they end up giving us the park, and just building the 51 homes (200' below any ridgeline) we will still have lost because of the money spent on lawsuits and the delay in getting our park.

Cindy McGovern - Kay Ayala's bff - herself LIVES ON A RIDGELINE.

So what is this all about? Politics. It's our tough luck that Kay Ayala wants to be in the news.

Posted by Jerry, a resident of Oak Hill
on Mar 21, 2010 at 9:26 pm

What office does she intend to run for??? Or is this just another slam at Ms. Ayala. I'd bet on the latter...

How has she "screwed this whole city" since she didn't initate the lawsuits and what money has the City of Pleasanton spent on lawsuits? If I'm not mistaken, the city opted out of the lawsuits. They wouldn't even allow the City Attorney to inform the judge he(the city attorney)thought he had provided all necessary paperwork...

As to "our park" - You best be a cow or mountain goat if you expect to traverse the hillsides that make up the better part of "your park". Why do you think the Lin's are proposing "donating" this piece of worthless land(development wise)to the city. Could it be because it is to steep for development and to get it off their tax rolls???

Posted by Joe, a resident of Danbury Park
on Mar 21, 2010 at 11:25 pm

Dan, stop reading the hype - or are you creating it? I have only seen one data source of 200' from the top of a ridge and it is not true. There have been tons of data showing the ridges are cut off! If you and the developer are trying to show that some houses are 200' below the highest point, that is misleading and erroneous.

FACT-- 43' cut off some of the ridges to put mega mansions on top of the cut area.

FACT-- this developer tried to put 98 homes + a golf course on these same hills and no one would vote/go for it.

Are you a fool spreading or believing false information? If so, get educated before you spread anymore misleading info.

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