This puts the council members, whether in favor of Oak Grove or opposed, in a dilemma. If Ordinance 1962 rules, they have to decide if it's worth what could be millions of dollars in legal fees to fight the claim in hopes that the courts eventually will rule that both ordinances were paired together. It was thought at the time the two ordinances were inseparable with a "poison pill" clause that rules that if one was declared invalid, the other one would be voided, too. That will no doubt be the argument City Attorney Jonathan Lowell discusses with the council behind closed doors early next month when a decision is made on how to respond to the Lins' lawsuit.
The suit comes at a difficult time for the council. Next Tuesday, it will sign a settlement agreement with two affordable housing coalitions that successfully battled the city in the courts over its 1996 housing cap law, which has now been declared illegal. As part of the settlement, the city will pay the coalitions $1.9 million in legal fees after already paying its own outside legal counsel Tom Brown $500,000 for defending the city over a three-year period.
Earlier, the city negotiated a costly settlement with the Guggenheim Corp. over the council's refusal to allow Daniel Guggenheim his bid to convert the 204-unit Vineyard Villa mobile home park from rental units to condominiums. Guggenheim had sued Pleasanton for $29 million in damages. The council reversed its decision after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that a similar action by the city of Goleta constituted "a taking of the Guggenheims' Rancho Mobile Home Park property" in that city.
If City Attorney Lowell and other legal advisors determine that the Lins are right, that Ordinance 1962 was not part of last June's referendum, it would seem foolhardy and costly to try to prove otherwise. Those opposed to Oak Grove at any cost have to look at their mistake in not clearly adding both ordinances to the Measure D referendum petition and ask if it's worth the risk of duking it out to the final bell where the courts could rule that the Lins can develop Oak Grove anyhow with Pleasanton taxpayers footing all of the legal costs.