Pleasanton Weekly

Column - April 23, 2010

If it's Tuesday, it must be another Oak Grove debate

by Jeb Bing

Over the last couple of years, a regular contingent of opponents to the proposed 51-home development above Kottinger Ranch have taken an hour of their time--and many others--speaking at the start of City Council's meetings, which usually are held the first and third Tuesdays of the month. I haven't kept detailed records but I would guess that 30 or more hours of the council's meeting segments that are designated for public comments have dealt with the Oak Grove issue since 2007, when the council voted to approve the project. Of course, it's anyone's right--Oak Grove opponents or not--to address the council, but since the subject usually isn't on the night's agenda, those sitting on the council can't respond even though criticism directed at them can be bitter.

Last Tuesday night, 12 speakers spent another hour talking about Measure D, the June 8 referendum that asks voters to allow the development (Vote Yes) or to deny it (Vote No). Several had signs, some photographs, at least one showed Google maps of the hills between Pleasanton and Mt. Hamilton to prove his point that part of the 476 acres being given to the city as part of the Oak Grove package are beyond the city's Urban Growth Boundaries and therefore protected open space already. But the maps were fuzzy and television viewers couldn't see them on Channel 29. TV30, the community television system, broadcasts City Council meetings on Channel 29. This is really the reason Oak Grove opponents keep going to council meetings, to gain viewers' support and financial contributions. It's not clear how many voters watch TV29. I suspect those that do long ago decided how they will vote on Measure D. When the Oak Grove folks start rehashing their arguments as they did Tuesday night, it's likely many viewers surfed for other channels. If they did, they missed the more critical arguments that followed on how the council should respond to a Superior Court ruling that declared the city's 29,000-unit housing cap illegal.

Promoted in advance in this newspaper and on the city's website, the discussion centered on presentations by Attorney Tom Brown, an outside legal counsel to Pleasanton who has represented the city in its defense of the housing cap, and Brian Dolan, the city's director of Community Development. Both spoke - Tom Brown for well over 30 minutes - followed by a host of others who patiently waited through the near-90-minutes of Oak Grove banter. By the time the housing issue came up, it was already too late in the evening for such critical issues to be aired.

This isn't the first time that important issues facing the city have had to wait until late in the evening to get the council's attention. Usually, though, long discussions are part of "agendized" items, meaning that notice has been given of the scheduled discussion and all members of the council can chime in. By speaking at the start of the meeting, the Oak Grove crowd can say its piece, blaming the council's approval of the project on developer funds given to Mayor Jennifer Hosterman or council members Cheryl Cook-Kallio or Jerry Thorne. They don't mention council members Cindy McGovern or Matt Sullivan, who may also have some developer "blood money" in their campaign war chests but are also the two votes on the council that oppose Oak Grove. Comments against Hosterman and Cook-Kallio often get nasty, causing the two to grimace and stir in their seats, but whose tongues are silenced by City Attorney Jonathan Lowell.

I recall former Mayor Tom Pico gently admonishing a fellow council member who got openly angry when a Happy Valley property owner called Pico a Nazi. That speaker had the right to say what he wants or thinks, Pico said, as long as he keeps his remarks to three minutes. Tuesday night, many speakers went on for five minutes or longer. Since Hosterman can't respond to nasty comments directed at her or others, at least she could pound the gavel with more force when those three minutes are up.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 23, 2010 at 8:24 am

Stacey is a registered user.

"but are also the two votes on the council that oppose Oak Grove. "


Mr. Sullivan voted FOR Oak Grove. His current opposition wasn't on the project itself, but on supporting people to referend it.

Posted by Lance, a resident of Birdland
on Apr 23, 2010 at 8:49 am

Forgive me for applying some common sense here, but why not just move "meeting open to the public" to the end of the agenda?

Posted by justwondering, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2010 at 11:22 am

Lance, that would be too logical. If the Mayor or Council even suggested such an idea, Kay and her minions would be screaming that they were trying to stifle the public's voice. Of course, its clear that they're using 'meeting open to the public' to attack the Mayor and Council members knowing full well that they can't respond from the dias since its not on the agenda. What Kay doesn't understand is how mean she comes off while speaking and is actually hurting her cause as people understand the council can't respond to her statements.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Downtown
on Apr 23, 2010 at 2:21 pm

If meeting to the public was at the end, then the mayor and some council members could not have their friends come and talk about the wars, and have that be seen by the public.

There has probably been more time talking about the wars at the Council, where they are not a part of the decision, than talking about Oak Grove.

Posted by Karen, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 23, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Yes, they come and talk and 2 council members and the Mayor stopped listening a long time ago. Yet Cheryl says she is interested in building a community?!

Posted by iwastheretoo, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2010 at 5:32 pm

Pretty hard to listen when you're attacked personally, called a liar, etc. and yet not allowed to respond or defend one's self. Frankly, i have trouble listening to meeting open to the public because of the personal attacks--it really undermines the credibility of the speakers

Its amazing that they talk about campaign funds the Mayor and 2 council people received to 'buy their vote" yet don't talk about the money that Councilwomen McGovern received from the Hearst Dr, Gray Fox Cirle, etc. folks living adjacent to the Oak Grove property--over $2000 in the last election. Why isn't her no vote on Oak Grove questioned relative to the campaign donations received?

Posted by Patriot, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2010 at 9:34 pm

This is a truly silly issue. Anyone who has spent any significant time or energy opposing this measure should really step back and take a look at how they are spending their time.

Has anyone ever presented any reason not to let them build these houses? Save the hill? From having houses on it?

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 23, 2010 at 11:09 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

It's all politics. If you're not doing it, your opponents are. Sad, but that's the trend these days.

Posted by joe blow, a resident of Downtown
on Apr 24, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Just drive through Kottinger Ranch and see all of the "No on D" signs on the lawns of people who live on a ridge top or on fill from those same ridge tops. It is so rediculous.

Posted by Joe, a resident of Danbury Park
on Apr 25, 2010 at 11:56 pm

I don't live there, but the mayor and her 2 buddies said over and over that they Kottinger Hills people were in favor of this development. Someone is not telling the truth.

Posted by Karen, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 25, 2010 at 11:59 pm

Sounds like Jeb is getting cranker than before. Are these meetings keeping him up past his bedtime?

Please shorten the diatribe next time. Thanks.

Posted by Kim, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2010 at 6:06 am

We should make decisions based on the whole city. I would like a private park in my backyard too. However, the best thing to do for the city would be to give the entire population access to a public park!!!!

Posted by Karen, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 26, 2010 at 8:55 am

Jeb and others.... Open to the Public is one time where all 5 council members can hear a citizen's take on topics in the city or country. Due to the Brown Act, a citizen can't just get the 5 of them together and talk things through.

I have found that developers and other factions can sit down with them one on one and have their voices heard on topics like housing, stores coming to town, etc.. An average citizen (not a paid lobbyist) working out of the area, does not have time to meet with each one. This is the time to talk BEFORE they make up their minds.

Keep our First Amendment rights alive!

And Jeb, cool you jets and take a chill pill for awhile. Better yet, tape it and skip the beginning few minutes.

Posted by justwondering, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 26, 2010 at 11:46 am

Karen, I think Jeb's point is to shorten your diatribes during meeting open to the public. Have you watched the archived web cast when you're speaking and noticed any eye rolling? Use the time for a meaningfull issue not as an opportunity to try and embarrass/attack the Mayor and council members you don't like. They have been elected to represent us, and give enourmous amounts of their time in service. Maybe a little civility would help.

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