Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - February 26, 2010


Taking a look at Oak Grove

Investors Jennifer and Frederic Lin bought 793 acres of ranchland in Pleasanton's southeast hills in 1979. They were told and the city's General Plan at the time confirmed that the property could be developed. So did the 1985, 1996 and the just-approved 2009 General Plans. Because the ranchland had state-imposed restrictions on when it could be taken out of its agriculture designation, the Lins sold 230 acres of their property to Westbrook Homes in 1985, which then built 215 homes in a development called Kottinger Ranch. But in approving the development, the City Council ruled that Westbrook could only build the first 50 homes until Bernal Avenue was completed, which Westbrook couldn't afford. So the Lins stepped in and completed the Bernal loop between Independence and Kottinger roads, selling property they owned where a future West Las Positas interchange at I-680 was planned to the North Pleasanton Improvement District for $1.5 million to cover the Bernal Avenue construction cost.

When the state agricultural restriction ended a few years later, the Lins decided to complete their development plans with a proposal for 98 homes and an 18-hole championship golf course. They would be built on the 562 acre parcel they still owned above the newly developed Kottinger Ranch. The City Council approved the plan but a citizens' group successfully challenged the action and, in a referendum, reversed the council's approval in an election that turned on several hundred votes. While the new residents of Kottinger Ranch opposed the expected heavy golf course traffic on Hearst Drive; many others in the city objected to the development plan that called for removing 3,000 of the Lins' site's 18,000 trees to clear land for the golf course.

Now the Lins are back with a revised plan called Oak Grove that calls for the development of 51 lots for new custom homes at the top of Hearst Drive and a gift to the city of 497 adjoining acres free of charge to the city of Pleasanton. The city has plans to use the land for trails, equestrian paths, a park and accessible public open space. The council again approved the Lins plan, with a development agreement attached that also has the city receiving $1 million in traffic-related funds, a new hillside firefighting vehicle and a requirement that the Lins must pay for building all the trails and other amenities in the parkland before the sixth home lot can be sold. Again, some residents of Kottinger Ranch object to the development as well as others such as former City Councilwoman Kay Ayala who objects to new homes in the southeast hills. After the council vote in late 2007, Ayala organized a citizens' coalition called "Save Pleasanton's Hills" and successfully collected enough signatures to force another referendum on the Lins' project. After two years of litigation by both parties, the referendum will now be on the June 8 state primary ballot, asking voters to decide if they want to allow or reject the Oak Grove plan.

Although the council approved Oak Grove in 2007, the issue goes back to 2004 when the Lins asked again to build 98 homes on their property, but without a golf course. They assumed that because their acreage is still shown in the new General Plan as accommodating up to 98 homes, their plan would win Pleasanton's approval. They even cut the number to 51 in a compromise with critics and threw in the 497 acres of adjoining land to sweeten the deal.

Now it's up to the voters to make the final call. Between now and then voters should read city Ordinance 1961 and the Oak Grove development agreement that's attached, available as one document on the city's Web site. The coming campaign over the Oak Grove measure will be heated; voters owe it to themselves to learn what the Oak Grove plan is all about.



Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2010 at 9:10 am

The Lins have made every concession asked of them. The plan has been reduced significantly from the original 98 homes plus an 18-hole golf course yet we as residents still get the benefits of 4967 acres of parks, trails and open space, as well as $2 million to our schools and $1 million for traffic improvements. It seems to me the benefits and fees pay for far more than the 51 homes will actually impact.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Feb 26, 2010 at 9:16 am

Stacey is a registered user.

"Between now and then voters should read city Ordinance 1961 and the Oak Grove development agreement that's attached, available as one document on the city's Web site."

That'd be both Ordinance 1961 and Ordinance 1962. The referendum seeks to rescind only Ordinance 1961. A "poison pill" put into it would also overturn Ordinance 1962, but the legality of it is questionable. The "poison pill" was thrown in by the Council to try to help the referendum proponents so they wouldn't have to referend both 1961 and 1962.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2010 at 10:40 am

Enough! Enough of the tale wagging the dog. Of course all development is NOT good. . .But this development went through a very public process. Many of the things we have in Pleasanton of because of the compromise between open space and development.

This is private property that was purchased under the expectation that some development would occur. All stake holders were included but none of the stake holders got everything they wanted. That is what a COMPROMISE is all about.

This is a political move that amounts to taking land that belongs to someone else. This development will bring money to the community, buffer our urban growth boundary, provide a continuity in the trail system, and provide tax dollars to our economy. The school impact is minimal with the 51 homes, especially compared with high density development but the money generated will be put to good use.

The people who don't want this have exaggerated the negative and misrepresented the process. The photos that were shown were photo shopped and the allegations about the council and the city are false. Ask yourself what motivates them? Ask yourself why a council member would work for four years to broker a deal, vote for it and then flip? Was it because homework wasn't done the previous 4 years or is it political? What does it mean when a whole community can be influenced by a few people who use false and misleading allegations to get their point across?

Of course, if you are approached and asked "Do you want to save the hills?" the answer is yes. We all want the hills saved. This is not a defined Ridgeline like the Pleasanton Ridge. It is rolling hills with home pads nestled in between, out of view. Go and walk the property. (ask first, it's private)

However, the real questions is, "Do you want to make decisions about your community based on the few disgruntled people who did not get their way in a very public process?"
Most of us don't have time to get all the facts. We rely on people we trust who have a vested interest to help us. What is motivating the city council to continue to support this project? The proponents would like you to think they are in the pocket of developers. To what end? For what benefit. WHY?

Posted by Jan Batcheller, a resident of Downtown
on Feb 26, 2010 at 12:31 pm

This editorial is a fair representation of the facts regarding Oak Grove. The Lin's have respected the process and compromised in order to make the neighbors happy. Pleasanton has required a great deal of these land owners. I hope voters will avoid the emotional rhetoric and stick to the facts. If they do, I sincerely believe that they will vote to let the Lin family build 51 homes. It is simply some of the most beautiful land in our region. I walked most of it many years ago with Jim Georgis. We will now once again be able to enjoy almost 500 acres as open space in perpetuity. What a wonderful deal for the citizens of Pleasanton! Thank you Lin family.

Posted by reader, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2010 at 6:30 pm

You are right that this decision was done by "people who have a vested interest". Just look at the campaign donations and you can see that the politicians have a vested interest in development so that they can finance their campaigns. The campaign contributions allow candidates to stay in office and for some to help them get to their next office in their career.

Another way of looking at it, do you think the developers contribute a lot of money to the campaigns because they want to help out all residents who want to run for office? No, they make investments in politicians so they can increase their profits.

The editorial makes it look like the developer is making financial contributions to the city for their fees. In reality, the fees, by law, go to pay for the impacts that development will make on the community. That is why they are called "impact fees".

Posted by Jack, a resident of Downtown
on Feb 26, 2010 at 9:34 pm

It's a two way street. Communities can take advantage of developers just as easy as developers can take advantage of communities! And this property is a perfect example. In Kottinger Hills the Lins were going to build for Pleasanton its first 18-hole public golf course. Instead, the project gets recalled, and the City of Pleasanton builds its own public golf course and spends over 40 milllion dollors in the process! That is a lot of money to pay for something we could have had for free...

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 26, 2010 at 10:05 pm

Wow, it is amazing why people think people run for city office. At the local level, it often costs money to be in office with all the things one should attend to stay in touch which is what is going on. Unless it is sponsored by the city or other government agency it comes out of the pocket of the office holder. Couple that with time away from family and rarely going out socially without having it turn political it is a wonder people even choose to do it. Let's not even think about the amount of prep work that is done, meetings with concerned citizens, committee meetings and regularly scheduled school board or council meetings and there is not much left. Most people who go into public office, certainly at the local level, do it because they believe in being part of the solution. No matter what the decision there are people who are unhappy and ready to hurl accusations at those who disagree.

IT is easy to hurl stones. it is hard to work toward solving the problem. You want someone else to do the work so you can complain about the result.

When did people here get so mean spirited? My political leaders don't agree with me so they must be bought? Four years of talks and compromises and they could have skipped to the chase and just donated a couple of hundred dollars? Wow, that's all I have to say.

Posted by Jack, a resident of Danbury Park
on Feb 26, 2010 at 11:48 pm

I agree, it is hard to wonder why citizens run for office. Perhaps it is the ego and power to make decisions. Yes, you will always have a few people that disagree with you, but when 60% of the population vote in favor of protection of the hills & ridges, that should also be a part of the decision making process.

It also takes a lot of effort to collect 5200 signatures in 30 days, in November. Walking up to folks in the parking lot, store front, high school football games, parades and downtown streets is not fun either. Why do it? There is no power, no ego. Just a goal to override a bad decision that certain council members will not rescind. Another decision where no one is listening to the voters as much as they are listening to the developers and park groups.

Posted by westsider, a resident of Foothill High School
on Feb 27, 2010 at 1:26 am

No ego Jack. Really?

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Feb 27, 2010 at 9:38 am

Certainly one question in a parking lot while someone is loading groceries trumps study and discussion. Most of those people wanted to see Oak Grove on the ballot.

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