"This is the first step toward a community-wide campaign to stop this petition drive in its tracks," said David Bouchard, president and CEO of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce. "Our goal is to do whatever is necessary to make sure this petition doesn't qualify for the ballot."
The petition is called the "Open Space, Park Land, and Green Belt Initiative" and is sponsored by Anne Fox, who is chairwoman of the Pleasanton Planning Commission, Matt Morrison, a tax research specialist and Bimal Sangari, a resident of a neighborhood near St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church who spoke out against the church's recent expansion plan, which was approved.
The three, along with former Planning Commission Chairman Brian Arkin, want the undeveloped Staples Ranch to be preserved for parks and open space.
"It is the intent of this initiative to amend the Aug. 6, 1996 General Plan to protect any undeveloped public lands within the (Pleasanton) Urban Growth Boundary (UGB) larger than 25 acres from development and urban sprawl," the proponents of the Open Space initiative reads. The initiative also seeks to provide a permanent green belt between Pleasanton and Livermore on publicly owned land.
City Attorney Michael Roush said the initiative proponents had met the guidelines set by law and could now start collecting signatures. At least 3,500 signatures from registered voters in Pleasanton are needed for the measure to qualify for the ballot. Those favoring the measure have six months to collect the signatures, with their goal to have the measure ready for a vote early next year.
Although 3,500 signatures would qualify the ballot on the basis of 10 percent of those who voted in the last election in Pleasanton, those who have submitted similar initiatives previously said at least another 1,000 signatures would probably be needed to meet the requirements.
"We had 4,500 signatures for the Bernal measure several years ago, and just squeaked through the county Registrar's office, which checks the names, addresses and voter registrations," said Councilman Jerry Thorne. "You always have some people who sign "Mickey Mouse" or whatever and you don't catch all those names."
Thorne criticized the "Open Space" initiative effort. He said its backers are using the measure to keep Stoneridge Drive from being extended to El Charro Road and Livermore, as the City Council recently agreed to do.
"But Staples Ranch is unincorporated, not a part of Pleasanton, and so this group's anti-development move could backfire" he told a Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce audience at their meeting Wednesday. "I think the residents of Stoneridge Drive who oppose that extension might not like it if they awake one morning to see a city of Livermore sign where the Stoneridge Drive barricade stands now at the Pleasanton city limits. This land could be annexed to Livermore."
Land use planners say Pleasanton could be at a disadvantage if the proposed "Open Space" measure gains voter approval and development by Pleasanton stops. Both Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty and Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena are on the board of LAFCO, the Local Agency Formation Commission, which is in charge of annexations. Their colleague, Mayor Janet Lockhart of Dublin, chairs the commission. Pleasanton has no representation.
The "Do Not Sign" campaign is signed by school board members, former council members, chamber members, civic leaders and business people. More names will be added within the coming week, Bouchard said.
The group says that by blocking planned development on Staples Ranch, where an auto mall and senior retirement community are planned, the city could lose as much as $5 million in lost tax revenue. Opportunities to develop other land parcels also would be blocked if the measure passes, with Livermore reaping any development gains that the county most likely would approve.
But Matt Morrison of the "Open Space" initiative said the intent of his group's initiative is to preserve public lands for open space and park land, which could include sports fields and sports facilities.
He said the backers of his initiative plan to launch their campaign next week to collect the signatures needed to put their measure on a ballot.
"We've been waiting for schools to close for the summer before starting our drive," he said.