Pleasanton Weekly

Cover Story - May 14, 2010

Ms. Measure D

Feisty former Councilwoman Kay Ayala fights Oak Grove housing/land grant plan

by Jeb Bing

Whether with her or not on the issues she supports, former Councilwoman Kay Ayala is a force to be reckoned with in Pleasanton politics.

The lifelong Californian who moved to Pleasanton in 1983 with her husband Dan and their two children became quickly involved in the schools they attended. At Amador Valley High School, she resuscitated a dormant parent-teacher organization and with the Boosters Club started the still popular Pigskin Roast that marks the start of the school's annual football season.

From then to today, when she is leading the "No on Measure D" campaign to block development in the southeast hills--a project known as Oak Grove--Ayala has been active in local politics, including serving two terms on the City Council (1996-2004). In 2004, she trailed Jennifer Hosterman in vying for the mayor's post and decided to "retire" from elective office. Friends, including hundreds who are supporting her anti-Measure D campaign, are urging her to try again.

Measure D, the referendum on the June 8 ballot, asks voters to decide if Jennifer and Frederick Lin should be allowed to build 51 custom homes on hillside lots at the end of Hearst Drive, above Kottinger Ranch. A Yes vote would allow them to proceed with their plan, which the City Council approved in 2007. A No vote would scuttle the project along with the Lins' developer agreement with the council to give 496 adjacent acres that they own to the city of Pleasanton.

Ayala, who learned about the project in 2006 as the proposal was moving through public hearings before the Housing and Planning commissions, has long fought hillside development.

As a member of the citizens' committee appointed by the late Mayor Ben Tarver, she worked with others to update the 1986 General Plan, eventually delivering a new version which became the 1996 plan. At the time, she helped insert language in the plan that the council should adopt an ordinance to ban development on hillside slopes greater than 25 percent.

A minority report by others on the General Plan committee refused to endorse the new plan because that requirement wasn't written into the 1996 document.

"I'll admit that I was duped into thinking that city staff would prepare that ordinance, but nothing happened," she said.

Two years ago, she pushed for voter approval of Measure PP, which won in the 2008 municipal election and is now a city law and also part of the new 2009 General Plan approved last year. It blocks development on steep hillsides.

But its passage may have come too late to affect Oak Grove, which ws approved by the City Council before Measure PP was adopted. If Measure D passes, opponents of the project are likely to seek a legal opinion on whether PP trumps the older approval.

As a member of the City Council, Ayala worked to wrest control of the 510-acre Bernal property from the city of San Francisco, which had owned the site since the 1930s. San Francisco had sought approvals from Pleasanton on different occasions for large housing developments there, ranging from more than 3,000 homes at one time to 1,600 with a golf course thrown in. Ayala consistently opposed the San Francisco plan on what she called the city's "field of dreams" as open space and a park.

In 1999, she backed a bond measure (Measure I) that would have provided $50 million to be used to buy much of the Bernal site. Campaigning for voter approval, she saw her measure lose by 3 percent age points from the 2/3rds majority vote required for approval.

"Still, that turnout of voters registered with San Francisco and started the process of considering other offers," Ayala said.

In 2000, Greenbriar Homes in collaboration with other developers bought the property from San Francisco for $126 million under an agreement that gave 318 acres to Pleasanton free of charge in return for permits to build 530 homes and apartments, which have since been constructed.

"The bond measure, although it failed by a narrow margin, convinced San Francisco officials that we would never approve the size of residential development they wanted on Bernal," Ayala said.

As a councilwoman, Ayala also battled the school board over its plan to rewrite the developer gift fee agreement Pleasanton had enjoyed during the building boom of the 1990s. The school board said it had a contract with Signature Properties to build a 10th elementary school in the Vineyard corridor--to be called Neal Elementary--that would serve Signature's Ruby Hill homeowners.

By reducing Signature's fees by $2 a square foot on new construction from what other developers had agreed to pay, the school board said Signature promised to build Neal at an estimated cost of $8.5-million and to cover any additional construction funds required.

Ayala disputed the agreement, arguing that the contract had too many loopholes. Others on the council disagreed and voted in favor of the school board's request to grant Signature the exemption.

Today, the school district still faces legal fees after an Alameda Court judge ruled the contract for Signature to build the school was invalid. Neal School was never built.

Ayala's main beef with the proposed Oak Grove project is with the extensive grading that is being proposed in the southeast hills to accommodate large homes that will be visible from miles away. In addition to the homes, homeowners below Oak Grove also could see large retaining walls "if this devastation is allowed to go through."

She said the project never gained the approval of the city's Planning Commission, yet was approved by the council. After that, she formed a citizens' group called "Save Pleasanton's Hills," collecting more than 3,800 signatures from registered voters to require a referendum to reverse the council's decision.

"We had just 30 days to collect enough signatures, and that was during Thanksgiving week in 2007," Ayala recalled. "I thought it would be difficult, but actually we found more people than usual at the stores and Farmers Market and met the deadline without a problem."

The referendum was tentatively set for early 2008.

Then the Lins filed suit in Superior Court to stop the County Registrar from certifying the signatures on the grounds that Ayala and her citizens' group failed to show voters enough of the development agreement documents before asking them to sign. Although Judge Frank Roesch of Superior Court sided with the Lins, the state Court of Appeal later reversed that decision, which meant the signatures could be approved and the referendum could be held.

On June 8, voters will finally have a chance to vote on a project that the Lins advanced six years ago and Ayala and her group have been battling for the last three years.


Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on May 14, 2010 at 8:13 am

The title of the article should be 'Ms. No on Measure D'

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 11:07 am

Where was she when this was being negotiated by Matt Sullivan and Jennifer Hosterman? Her main problem is the grading? She obviously has not done her homework since there is less grading there than in the Kottinger development right below it. All developments have grading and this was designed to leave Heritage trees standing. The grading proposed will limit the visibility of the homes and the dirt will be spread throughout the property rather than trucked off site or dumped.

This project is a win win for Pleasanton. Half the number of homes than originally planned and almost five hundred acres of open space in perpetuity that will provide protected habitat for endangered species.
In addition money to the city and to the schools.

Less we forget, this will also provide jobs in our city and we certainly could use that. The home sites are on less than 100 acres for 500 acres of open space!

It pays to see the location. If you can't take a tour, drive up there yourself. From First street go east on Bernal and take a right on Hearst. It dead ends at the property. It will become very clear what a good deal for Pleasanton this really is!

Posted by Joe, a resident of Downtown
on May 14, 2010 at 12:09 pm

The real truth behind the opposition to D is that the Kottinger people don't want it, just like they didn't want PG&E to run their upgrade through their neighborhood, so they sued and won and PG&E took the more expensive route and passed the charges on to, guess who, us. Since there is nobody to sue in this instance these people now want you, the voters, to believe their emotional lies.
The only way that development of that land can be stopped is by changing the General Plan or paying fair market value for it. Now we know the city can't afford it, but maybe all of the Kottinger residents can. This is the best deal, the next time the Lin's might opt for a Dublin-like project, and you know what that's going to look like.

Posted by Anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 1:53 pm

The land owner can come back to the city with a plan that complies with Measure PP.

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Measure PP does not define ridgeline or slope. The impartial analysis specifies that the references lack clarity. Anyone with any math skills know that where you start counting a slope will determine the % of the grade. Parts of PP was struck down by the housing cap litigation. MANY people thought they were voting on the ridge to the WEST.

In addition, Oak Grove was approved before PP and QQ. The land owner worked with the city, the council and stake holders to some up with this plan.

If you want clarity with this issue, read the documents, (the ordinance is in the ballot pamphlet). Better yet drive up there and look at it. You can't see it because Kottinger is in the way.

This is a good deal for the people of Pleasanton.

VOTE YES on Measure D.

Posted by YES ON D, a resident of Downtown
on May 14, 2010 at 3:02 pm

This project provides a park larger than the Bernal Property park and fewer homes than have been placed on the Bernal Property. Oak Grove is an even better deal for the citizens of Pleasanton. Voting no on D doesn't guarantee no homes will be built. If this is defeated 98 homes may be built and we could lose a 496 acre park, the largest in Pleasanton. Some of the grading that is being so roundly criticized was added to appease the public in order to lower the home site. Please respect private property rights and vote YES ON D.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 14, 2010 at 4:49 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Another comparison between Bernal and Oak Grove parks.

There's a plan for park development with Bernal but no funding sources for building it. The City has to find other ways to fund the plan. Great, we have the land, but no funds.

The trails and staging area development for Oak Grove will be funded and built by the developer.

Posted by Resident and Homeowner, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 5:28 pm

I cannot find anything wrong with voting YES on D.

I would rather have those homes built as planned, than having low income or high density houses built there. With the 51 homes, Pleasanton gets a lot of open space, something we may not have if something else is done with the land (it is PRIVATE land after all, and something will be done with it)

I think Steve B. is wrong to have an opinion against D on the PW. If I recall correctly, he used the argument about needing "starter" homes instead.... Kay Ayala has managed to get people behind her because she knows a lot of people, not necessarily because those people understand what the issue is. And there are quite a few renters with NO on D signs, wonder why?

YES on D.

Posted by Resident and Homeowner, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 5:31 pm

"I think Steve B. is wrong to have an opinion against D on the PW. If I recall correctly, he used the argument about needing "starter" homes instead..."

should read:

I think Steve B. is wrong to have an opinion against D on the PW. If I recall correctly, in the PAST he used the argument about needing "starter" homes instead...

Posted by local, a resident of Country Fair
on May 14, 2010 at 5:52 pm

The general plan defines a slope and ridge already; read it. We already have protections on the main Pleasanton ridge with the same terms. If PP can be thrown out on ridge protections, then the Pleasanton ridge protections will be thrown out also.

Also, don't give into the scare tactics. You will not see low-income homes there. And why would a developer want to do that on land which is going to have very expensive infrastructure. No high-density homes will ever be there either. If a Council is stupid enough to approve such a thing, there will be another referendum, followed by a council recall. 98 homes cannot go there with Measure PP so don't worry about that.

The developer for Oak Grove will have a staging area for a trail with 11 parking spaces (I believe), and a simple trail that goes nowhere. Not anything that is difficult or expensive to do. Comparing this with Bernal facilities is somebody grasping at straws to find some reason to justify this development.

On the Bernal plan, the city has already put in the trails; much more usable trails than what Oak Grove would have since more of our population can use it being it is flat. What we have not put in on the Bernal property is all the sports fields and cultural arts facilities. There is nothing like that in the hills of Oak Grove. All that terrain will allow is a simple trail.

Posted by Uhhmm, a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on May 14, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Whose land is Ms. Ayala standing on for that promo cover shot? The Lin's?

Posted by annonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 7:45 pm

The language in PP trumps whatever you think defines a ridgeline in the general plan. Because the general plan uses the same words to describe different things it is contradictory. (Surprise!)

The definition of ridgeline and slope needs clarification.

You have to see the property to understand. Go and look and it is clear the highest ridge is not where the lots are.

This piece of open space is part of a larger vision which will connect trails from Calipe to Shadowcliff. 90% of the land will be protected in perpetuity/ 90%!!!!!!!

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 14, 2010 at 8:09 pm

Stacey is a registered user.


And yet my point remains the same. The developer is funding the improvements for the Oak Grove park. Would that we could have had the same for Bernal. Is that the vision of the opposition to Oak Grove? That Pleasanton will somehow acquire the Oak Grove land without buying it and then we'll have no funding source to develop a public park there on our own?

Posted by local, a resident of Country Fair
on May 14, 2010 at 10:50 pm

At least the Bernal property did not have 100's of trees cut down or 62,000 truck loads of dirt being moved to accommodate homes.

If the developer wants to come back with a more environmentally friendly plan, I will look at it. If they don't, we have time. Once you bring out the bulldozers, there is nothing you can do to undo what they do.

Posted by letsgo, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 14, 2010 at 11:08 pm

Oh no, they are going to use bulldozers on the land! Look at all the places that bulldozers have been used, they all lay waste in ruins. Thank god no bulldozers were used in any other Pleasanton development. In fact, they should pass an ordinance banning all bulldozers from Pleasanton forever.

Posted by westsider, a resident of Foothill High School
on May 14, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Hey 'local.' How many truckloads of dirt have been moved off the Bernal property? Do you know? Or for that matter, how many truckloads of dirt were moved from Kottinger Ranch, where now you see so much hand-wringing and self-righteous 'no on d' signs?

And now you say "if the developer wants to come back with a more environmentally friendly plan I'll look at it." Are you kidding me? Is that a joke? THEY ALREADY DID THAT! Where were you when they met with neighbors, reduced to number and placement of homes, agreed to the bulldozing recommended by Matt Sullivan, and had public meetings over and over and over? Oh, you were too busy to bother going to those? I see.


It's good for our trails and parks, it's good for the schools, and it's the right thing to do.

Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on May 15, 2010 at 9:57 am

To 'local' - "At least the Bernal property did not have 100's of trees cut down or 62,000 truck loads of dirt being moved to accommodate homes."
Duh. Bernal was flat farmland. And they did use grading equipment for the work done to date.

Posted by Ann Pfaff-Doss, a resident of Val Vista
on May 16, 2010 at 5:16 pm

All you have to do is to take a tour of the property, as I did this afternoon, so see the obvious merits of the Oak Grove development.

The building sites are towards the front of the property and set low enough that only a handful of people living in that part of town will ever be able to see even the occasional top of a roof.

The park land is on rolling hills, above and toward the back of the property. It contains the best of the Valley views. This area is filled with hundreds of old oaks and wild flowers. I walked the length of the proposed main trail and it was easy going even for this 64 year old.

Vote yes on D. Vote yes on this beautiful park.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on May 19, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Pleasanton in the news! Web Link

Posted by Daniel R., a resident of Country Fair
on Jun 3, 2010 at 10:30 pm

I just watched the Council meeting on the local tv. Interesting. There's the Yee property on the Pleasanton Ridge and they want to build four huge mega mansions - Councilmember McGovern made the motion, and Councilmember Sullivan seconded the motion. Are those proposed homes on ridges?

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