Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - June 4, 2010

Yes on Measure D

Approval of voter referendum Measure D on the local ballots in Tuesday's statewide primary election would give landowners Jennifer and Frederic Lin the right to build 51 custom homes on property they have owned in Pleasanton's southeast hills since 1977 while granting the rest of their land - nearly 500 acres - to the city for a park, hiking trails and open space in perpetuity. We think it's a good deal, probably the best we will ever see from the Lins, who have followed city guidelines every step of the way since first proposing their latest plan four years ago. Denied an earlier bid in 1993 to build an 86-home development along with an 18-hole golf course in a similar referendum, the Lins sat tight before coming back with a 98-home development, but without the golf course. Meeting stiff opposition again, the Lins worked with Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and Councilman Matt Sullivan in downsizing their bid to just 51 homes and agreeing to give the city 496 acres. For Sullivan and Hosterman, this met their interest in creating a 2,000-acre green belt along the southeast hills from Callippe Preserve Golf Course on the west to Shadow Cliffs Regional Park on the east. The Lins even agreed to construct the part of the regional trail that would run through the new public land along with a staging area in the hills above Kottinger Ranch that would provide parking for 11 cars, a place for horse trailers and restrooms. Staging areas are already in place on other sections of the regional trail at Shadow Cliffs and Callippe, and at least two more are planned in yet-to-be-developed land adjacent to Oak Grove.

Opposition to Oak Grove didn't surface until shortly before the City Council approved the plan in late 2007. It was triggered in part by a decision by the city Planning Commission not to consider an Environmental Impact Review of the proposal, which its members said needed more study. The council, whose members along with city staff had worked with the Lins and their representatives to bring the land grant proposal and reduced number of homes to a vote, disagreed and gave the Lins the go-ahead. Former City Councilwoman Kay Ayala led a Thanksgiving week effort that was successful in collecting enough signatures to force a referendum on the council's vote. Attorneys for the Lins, believing many of the signatures had been coerced without adequate information, sued to block the referendum. They were unsuccessful both in the Court of Appeal and also on the public relations front where their actions incensed many, including Councilman Sullivan, who had initially supported the Oak Grove plan; he viewed the legal move as a violation of citizens' rights to vote on land disputes such as Oak Grove.

If the question was whether to accept a gift of 496 acres of open space in perpetuity, there'd likely be no opposition, although Councilwoman Cindy McGovern, who has opposed this deal from the start, insists that the city has no money earmarked to manage and maintain the parkland. The 51 proposed luxury homes, especially in a city that needs more affordable, workforce housing near transit centers, add a new pothole on the road to wrapping up the Lins engagement in Pleasanton. Still, with the city under orders to strip itself of a 29,000-unit housing cap and both an affordable housing coalition and Attorney General Jerry Brown (who is the Democratic Party candidate for governor) highly critical of Pleasanton's housing policies, this is no time to leave more than 600 acres of residentially zoned land uncommitted in the southeast hills. The Lins have done what was asked of them. They own the land. It's unlikely they'll be so generous the next time around. We urge a Yes vote on Measure D on Tuesday.


Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jun 4, 2010 at 10:18 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Mr. Sullivan advertises himself as a champion of direct democracy and a citizen's right to vote on everything. One has to wonder then why he voted against placing Measure D on the ballot.

Posted by long time resident, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2010 at 11:58 am

If you listed to him, you would see it was because measure PP was overwhelmingly approved by the voters to protect the ridelines and Oak Grove was not consistent with it. Essentially, the people had spoken. Plus this developer was threatening citizens who were collecting signatures by suing them and he wanted to send a message that this would not be tolerated, same as what the Council did for the Busch property referendum where the Council rescinded the approval after what that developer did.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jun 4, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Oh I heard the excuse. In other words, direct democracy is great until you don't agree with the issue.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jun 4, 2010 at 1:44 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

And if you recall, the judge threw out the accusation that the Lins' suit was a SLAPP lawsuit.

Posted by long time resident, a resident of Birdland
on Jun 4, 2010 at 2:58 pm

That judge also threw out the case but the appeals court, in a unanimous decision, overturned the judge. SLAPP or not, suing the people who collected the signatures is a threatening act, especially since the ENTIRE ordinance was carried along with each signature sheet.

We had direct democracy, it was measure PP. So for you, I guess it is an excuse if you don't agree with the issue.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jun 4, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Yet Measure D is not Measure PP. Measure PP had nothing about placing 500 acres into a conservation easement. Direct democracy doesn't end with one vote.

Posted by No Lose Situation, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2010 at 6:16 pm

If I were the Lin's business strategist, I would tell them to sit tight, let the vote turn out as it may and if it loses, well then, wait for a few years. Money will be tight, education is losing money hand over fist, and people will want new homes to pay the property taxes that go directly into the school district's bank account. A park increases expenses for the city, homes increase revenue for the city and schools. In fact the Lin's should be out there promoting a NO on D. 51 homes is a break-even proposition for the Lin's (assuming that they are gazillionaires regardless how you cut the pie). 100 homes would make the city more money and the Lin's more money. We lose the birds, but gain the dough. We are looking a gift-horse in the mouth. But, more houses means more money. Think about what I'm saying and tell me your don't agree.

Posted by Sharon M., a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jun 4, 2010 at 9:04 pm

I think you are right - heck, if the people don't approve this measure, the Lin family could build a 4 story affordable housing complex at the end of Hearst. That would fit right in with the City's need to satisfy the current lawsuits regarding the housing cap.

Posted by letsgo, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2010 at 9:30 pm

But honestly, what do our city officials do if everything goes to a public vote? We elect people to make informed decisions in out best interest. Yet, that doesn't seem to happen as everything has to go to a public vote. Honestly, how many people that vote have really read ANY of the actual ballot initiative? People have an initial reaction or talk to friends and vote without ever knowing any of the details. We elect people to actually read a learn all these details (of course that is grand expectation). California wonders how everything go screwed up? How it went from the greatest state to a bankrupt laughing stock of the US and we can all point to ballot initiatives as one main culprit.

Posted by Larry, a resident of Danbury Park
on Jun 4, 2010 at 9:47 pm

How many of the elected officials read the full plan also? Not all of them...

The reason we have so many ballot initiatives is the elected officials are not doing their job. They used to represent the people but now they need the money so desperately for re-election that they do what it takes to get the money. The money comes from the special interests, not the average voter. My $50 donation to a campaign compared to a special interesting giving tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. No comparison.

Posted by letsgo, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 4, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Larry - agreed! That's what needs to be fixed. I have no idea how it could be fixed, because as you said, its all about the money and its very hard to get around that.

Posted by Sharrell Michelotti, a resident of Oak Hill
on Jun 7, 2010 at 11:50 pm

Thank you, Jeb, for recommending YES on MEASURE D (the 51 unit Oak Grove Project) and for the excellent Editorial which explained the history of the project and process that got us to this June 8 election. Your Editorial served as well as a reality check for residents to consider before voting. As you pointed out, the future of residentially zoned land is tenuous given the present lawsuit regarding the housing cap and Pleasanton's non-compliant housing element.

Having served on both the Planning Commission (Reviewed both Kottinger Ranch and the first proposal for this property) and City Council, I truly appreciated your opinion and insight regarding this proposal which would guarantee in perpetuity 496 acres of open space owned by the City of Pleasanton, with completed trails and staging areas for the public to enjoy. The reduced 51-home proposal that requires design review of every home, will give the City control to ensure the least visual impacts possible. As you pointed out, the four-year City/neighborhood directed planning process resulted in a 4-1 City Council approval. With that process and approval, the Lins agreed to the payment of additional City Fees and the dedication of land, as well as a signed "Gift Agreement" with the Pleasanton Schools for facilities. I agree with your view that this opportunity will most likely not come our way again.

I join you in urging Pleasanton residents to take advantage of this opportunity and VOTE YES on MEASURE D in order to preserve for our residents 90% of the open space that is now privately owned by the Lin family and put to rest a very contentious issue in our "Community of Character".

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