Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - June 4, 2010

Guest Opinion: These community leaders urge a No vote on Measure D

The natural contours of our southeast hills are a priceless asset to our community. If we allow the hilltops to be graded, removing up to 43 feet off the tops, this asset is gone forever. Tell the developer of Oak Grove to come back with a development plan that complies with Measure PP with no grading of 25 percent or greater slopes and no development within 100 feet of a ridgeline. Save our southeast hills for all future generations of our community. Vote No on Measure D.

Your No vote on Oak Grove means much more than protecting our hills. It says that representative democracy is alive in Pleasanton, and that business and development interests, obscenely large campaign contributions, and compliant politicians will not rule the day. We need to take back our government from these special interests and return it to the people where it belongs. You voted for new hillside protections with Measure PP. If you want that to mean anything, then vote No on Oak Grove and force the developer to return with a plan that meets your demands.

I support property owner rights, if they follow Pleasanton's General Plan 2005-25, containing ridgeline protection. Oak Grove does not comply with important elements of our current Plan. The old 1996 General Plan directed the City Council to create a hillside protection ordinance; they did not. Without specific protections, a few council members made up their own rules, and approved Oak Grove. Outraged citizens mobilized, gathered signatures to referend, and were sued (by the developer). Why? Because Oak Grove is not "Planned Progress." Ask for a non-ridgeline plan that follows current law. Vote No on D.

Oak Grove will not be helping our schools; in fact the developer is not paying anything to our schools. The claimed $2 million to the schools, which we would not see for about 10 years, are impact fees paid by future homeowners toward additional facilities for the additional students that will attend our schools. These fees do not go toward teachers, programs or books. The developer is falsely trying to convince you that this development will help our school budget problems. While the schools have financial difficulties, this development does nothing to help our current situation.

I've worked on campaigns in Pleasanton since the 1980s. The money spent in the last three years by the developer of Oak Grove is unprecedented, nearly $1 million. He wants to build on our ridgelines at any cost. He hired a retired mayor as consultant for the project. He sued our city and our citizens to prevent this public vote. He continues to contribute thousands of dollars to the mayor and two City Council members, who voted for Oak Grove. Please send the message, "Our ridges are not for sale," by voting No on D.

Kay Ayala Co-Chair No on D Pleasanton City Council (1996-2004)


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jun 4, 2010 at 10:12 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Ten 12,500 square foot homes (not including other potential buildings like car ports, cabanas, in-law units, etc.) built on top of ridges complies with Measure PP.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jun 4, 2010 at 10:19 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Just to be more clear, voting no on D does not guarantee no homes on top of ridges.

Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on Jun 4, 2010 at 10:28 am

Bottom Line? Vote YES on D to convert almost 500 acres of private ridgeland to public ownership and preservation. And to minimize the development to 51 homes.

Posted by long time resident, a resident of Birdland
on Jun 4, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Stacey, how much is the Oak Grove developer paying you??????

Ten 12,500 square foot homes proposed would still have to go through the planning process and council approval, just like every other home in Pleasanton. Measure PP specifies that the Council has no latitude in approving something like this Oak Grove project in the future but if it conforms to measure PP with nothing on the ridgeline, or less than 10 homes, they have the power to approve (subject to referendum by the people). Measure PP does not give a property owner to develop whatever they want, as long as it is less then 10 houses.

Your lies are way out of control Stacey.

If people want a development that is consistent with the ridgeline protections they approved in the last election, they should vote NO on Measure D and let the developer come back with a project that meets the protections set in place. That landowner will still give the rest of the open space away as it will have no development potential and will be a liability to maintain and taxes would have to be paid on it. This land owner consortium, from out of the country, does not care about the land, only the money to be made from it.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jun 4, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Long time resident,

I never wrote that the 10 unit exemption gives a property owner the right to develop whatever they want. That's your assumption.

The 51 homes from Measure D also have to go through the regular planning process and are subject to future approval. Are you assuming that this process would prevent ridgetop homes if the proposal meets the 10 unit exemption? And how exactly so?

Oh, because it could be subject to referendum? The point of the process that brought about the current 51 home/500 acre park plan was to prevent such endless land use battles and lock in the permanent protection of a large block of the southeast hills.

This property is zoned residential and lies within both City Limits and the Urban Growth Boundary. There's no reason to believe that this developer would come up with a future proposal that did not include large ridgetop homes. The economics don't justify such a development. Who would honestly buy a really expensive hillside home that didn't have some sort of view? It is disingenuous to think that such a choice piece of land for the higher end of the real estate market would be developed with smaller homes sitting on hillsides with no view.

Posted by long time resident, a resident of Birdland
on Jun 4, 2010 at 3:05 pm

So you are saying that the city, and the citizens, should guarantee a large profit to the land owners. That is the case if you are saying they have to destroy the ridgeline in order for them to make millions of more dollars (they already profited from Kottinger Ranch, your development (Wood Meadows was Lin property somebody told me), the Dublin hills, and much of the Livermore Valley).

Remember, if they build less homes without all the miles of grading, the infrastructure cost will go down. That will help the bottom line. But it should not be economics that says we will look the other way if somebody you feel is entitled to make money while destroying the ridgelines.

There must be a lot of profit in this piece of land for this development or the land owner would not be spending close to $1M in this campaign and the campaign to prevent people from collecting signatures.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jun 4, 2010 at 3:34 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Not at all. Put your mind into that of the property owner for one second. You're a land speculator and a particular property you own is zoned for rural residential, is within the voter-approved urban growth boundary, and is within city limits. The community, which once was a cow-town bedroom community known for its desperado downtown, has now become rather affluent and a "destination". Nearby hillside and ridgetop neighborhoods (Kottinger Ranch, Gray Eagle, Ruby Hill) are exclusive. What would you want to build? Exclusive estates or a few little homes on the hillsides with no view?

With that in mind, how can anything much different be expected from future proposals?

(BTW, I guess you didn't know that the original developer of my neighborhood went bankrupt.)

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jun 4, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Measure PP, Urban Growth Boundaries, Zoning: all are legislative means of trying to protect land. The best and most permanent method is the conservation easement because it isn't subject to the whims of the day, but "runs with the land".

Don't want any more proposals from the Lins that involve large homes or grading? Don't want any piece of dirt touched on the property? Buy it.

Posted by long time resident, a resident of Birdland
on Jun 4, 2010 at 6:09 pm

Measure PP is consistent with what was done some time ago to protect the main Pleasanton Ridge and it has served the area well.

One of the problems with Oak Grove is the conservation easements were not completely spelled out. It is possible the way it is written for the easement to be held by the City. If the City has the easement, future politicians can release the easement and develop more.

Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2010 at 6:45 pm

What happens if D fails? Will something else be built there? If so, what? I do not know whether to vote yes or no, and knowing what would happen with those hills if D fails would help me make a decision. Anyone knows?

Posted by anonymous, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2010 at 6:46 pm

Not true. The easement is held in perpetuity and is part of a larger plan to surround the city on three sides with a green belt of trails and protected open space.

Posted by Jennifer Hosterman, Mayor, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jun 4, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Dear Resident,

Your question is at the crux of this debate. We have an opportunity afforded us, through negotiations spanning years, including myself and my fellow Councilmember, Matt Sullivan, to allow a development plan which includes no more than 51 homesites (yes, they'll be big - the price of the land is such that anyone who buys a lot will likely wanat to build a huge home) - in trade for almost 500 acres of open space for the People of Pleasanton, forever. The flip side? We say no, and the land owners either sue the City for a "taking" of their property rights, or they simply process an application through the City planning department which calls for what is already approved in the General Plan (you can read it online) for almost twice as many huge homes, spread over the entire piece of property, with no requirements for tree removal or grading, and totally within their rights, as property owners.

It's clear to me - this is a sound compromise for the property owner and for the people of Pleasanton. And, this gives me the opportunity to get two other land owners in our SE hills to come up with a similar plan - if I can achieve, with Council support, development agreements that result in fewer mansions, with up to 2,000 acres of open space spanning from Calippe Preserve to Shadow Cliffs - I will leave office with a big smile!

I hope you agree - Yes on Measure D!

Yours in service,


Posted by Missing ?, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2010 at 9:53 pm

Did I miss the list of "community leaders" who are NO votes ???

Posted by Larry, a resident of Danbury Park
on Jun 4, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Don't mislead the public, Jennifer. The General Plan gives NO entitlements to any land owner and all development goes through a public process. Now with measure PP, there is no way they will be able to put that many homes, even 50 homes, and being compliant. I know you campaigned hard against ridgeline protections but the voters by a large margin wanted it.

The mailers you keep sending me on this project tell a lot. Signed by you and just below it "Paid for by the Lin Family". It shows that you, and the office, are paid for by the Lin family. You already reported quite a bit of money from the developers for your campaign last year, with no election even. Can't wait to see the reporting from the next reporting period.

If this project is so good, why have they spent about $400,000 on the campaign, plus a lot more in trying to prevent people from signing the referendum? If this were a great project, it would sell itself.

I say Vote NO on Measure D and let the land owner come back with a plan that respects the ridgeline ordinance the voters approved.

Posted by Really?, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2010 at 10:05 pm

You see Kay, I see you as the special interest groups that you write about. You gathered 5,000 signatures and feel that you have the entire city on your side. How you can write "I support property owner rights" and then say "Our ridges are not for sale" is puzzling. We don't own them, the Lins do. What have you done to respect this?

Bottom line is, I don't trust you or believe anything you have said. You fight against the schools, then campaign against property owners rights on their campuses, you derail the political process in Pleasanton, then say it's the fault of the government.

Representative democracy is alive in Pleasanton, and I plan to exercise that right on Tuesday as I vote YES on D and protect our rights from your special interests.

Posted by letsgo, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2010 at 10:09 pm

The city should just buy the land at fair market value and protect all the ridges. Sure we will all have to pay an extremely large tax bill but that shouldn't be a problem if everyone really wants to protect the ridgeline. A think another ballot initiative is in order.

Posted by scooder, a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Jun 5, 2010 at 12:58 pm

You don't destroy something to protect it. You leave it alone for a start, then find ways to forever keep it that way. Protected.

Bulldozing virgin hills, destroying wildlife habitat (and the animals caught in the development massacre), cutting pads for massive homes, filling natural contours and depressions, chopping down historic trees, trenching for an laying utilities, introducing landscape chemicals to stormwater runoff, etc., etc., is not how you "protect" the ridge.

Here's how you protect it: KEEP IT IN ITS CURRENT STATE.

As a 5th generation resident, here, and a member of a heritage family, I'm extremely upset how greed (and that's what it boils down to, really) dictates permanent changes to a place where my roots sink as deep as anyone's, and likely deeper than most. If the Lin's are feeling so philanthropic, let them donate the land to the City or EBRPD, or sell it to them at a reduced rate. They know how to take advantage of such business "losses", right?

But "donating" undevelopable land that really only represents a tax liability to the developer is like me "donating" the pile of trash I have in my garage. It's an empty gesture. Just like the Yes on D campaign.

Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on Jun 5, 2010 at 1:10 pm

To 'scooder' - that trash in your garage only has value if someone is willing to take it. The City of Pleasanton is willing to take the 500 acres of ridgetop lands to do exactly what you keep it in its current state.
So please explain if the place where you live required a 'pad', destroying any vegetation, trenching for utilities, etc.
YES on D protects 500 acres of ridgetop land. YES on D.

Posted by scooder, a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Jun 5, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Let's stay on point, shall we?

Yes on D destroys the ridge. The "donated" land is located primarilly in steep valleys that cannot be developed.

Posted by Dark Corners of Town, a resident of Country Fair
on Jun 5, 2010 at 3:12 pm

To 'scooder' - OK, since you seem to know what you are talking about.
What is the elevation of the highest lot in Oak Grove?
What is the elevation of the highest point of the 500 acre planned park?
What is the height of the existing water tower (on Oak Grove land) that services Kottinger Ranch? Is it higher or lower than the highest Oak Grove lot?
Since you are the one who raised the issue of pads, vegetation and trenching, isn't 'staying on point' fair game to ask you about your pad, and the destroyed vegetation and trenching required for it? Now you don't want to use that as an issue?
In the end, the highest lands and ridgetops of Oak Grove are going to be protected from development with the passage of Measure D. Yes on D.

Posted by local, a resident of Jensen Tract
on Jun 5, 2010 at 7:01 pm

The city documents state the development is along the top of the ridgeline. Vote No on D to protect the ridgeline. Let the developer come back with a plan that complies with the ridgeline protection that myself and a majority of Pleasanton voters approved less than a year ago.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jun 5, 2010 at 7:24 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

scooder wrote: "Here's how you protect it: KEEP IT IN ITS CURRENT STATE."

That's not a method of protection. That's a goal. You need to buy the land and place all of it in a conservation easement to achieve that goal. Unfortunately the Oak Grove opponents are trying to achieve that goal by bad legislative means: i.e., Measure PP. It won't work. Perhaps instead of putting Measure PP on the ballot they could have put a bond on the ballot to buy the land. Do you think Pleasanton voters are more apt to vote for "protect the hills" or "fund a bond"?

Since we've got a chance NOW with Measure D that ensures that 90% of the property gets kept in its current state, I'd rather take that bird in the hand than hope for the two in the bush.

Posted by local, a resident of Jensen Tract
on Jun 5, 2010 at 9:18 pm

Stacey, I assume you feel that the protections we did on the main Pleasanton Ridge did not work?

I feel the protections we voted on for the main Pleasanton Ridge worked out great, and PP does the same for the Southeast ridge. I voted Yes on PP and I continue to protect the ridges with No on D.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jun 6, 2010 at 8:08 am

Stacey is a registered user.

You know well that the Pleasanton Ridge is not protected only by legislation like PP. We bought land there. Buy Oak Grove.

Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jun 6, 2010 at 8:49 am

To those who signed this guest opinion: two of you live on acreage off Foothill and Vineyard in the hills. Both are also former school board members and understand well that the developer or home builders will pay the fees--there is no false claim about any student growth being mitigated. By the way, you also know the facilities fees get paid whether the homes generate school aged children or not. For the "representative democracy," in this case it is attempted theft of rights after this same councilman worked on the compromise. For the million dollars said to have been spent by the landowner--the choice was fight or give up. Certainly having them give up would have been your preference. And you neglect to mention how much is being spent or who is paying the costs for the no campaign. I don't think any of these people are credible on this topic. Please vote Yes on D. Protect this landowner's rights and your own with a yes vote. Your yes vote also provides all of us access to thIs area and will link it to other protected space.

Posted by local, a resident of Jensen Tract
on Jun 6, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Stacey, you are wrong, again. The Pleasanton Ridge is protected by legislation by the voters. The City did not buy the land there.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jun 6, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

I'm not wrong. You're wrong. The Pleasanton Ridge protections are the result of a long process of land acquisition that still continues to this day. It wasn't protected by a single election. Pleasanton's city government had negotiations with Hayward's city government after the so-called Hayward Hotel was created to come to the agreement to not approve homes overlooking Pleasanton like that. Then later, in 1988, Measure AA provided funds to EBRPD so that they could purchase land up there. In 1990, the Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park was created. The voters only approved the Pleasanton Ridgelands Plan in 1993 which directs the County to work with local cities and EBRPD to preserve the open space there. EBRPD recently purchased more land to expand the ridgelands park and recently we approved Measure WW to continue to provide funds to purchase land to expand the parks.

Those lands are not protected by legislation. They're acquired by public purchase.

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