http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2007/11/16/letters-to-the-editor


Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - November 16, 2007

Letters to the Editor

Recognition for Pat Belding deserved

Dear Editor,

So glad to see the recognition and honor Pat Belding received by being awarded the Alameda County Human Relations Commission Distinguished Service Award by the Board of Supervisors of Alameda County. The commendation from the board stated: "The Alameda County Board of Supervisors in the state of California does hereby comment and recognize your exemplary service and leadership on behalf of the resident of District One and Alameda County, and Supervisor Scott Haggerty wishes you continued success in all future endeavors."

I want to especially thank the Pleasanton Weekly and Editor Jeb Bing for the special "Around Pleasanton" column ("Pat Belding keeps on pushing for more affordable homes here," Oct. 5, Around Pleasanton, page 3) enumerating many of Pat Belding's contributions to our county and the Tri-Valley community. Her diligent efforts to work for affordable housing for needy residents, her work to coordinate volunteers to build Habitat for Humanity houses, and to provide visits and ministry to Santa Rita Jail inmates make her a most worthy recipient of the Distinguished Service Award.

Dave Melander

Pleasanton

Time to move ahead with Oak Grove

Dear Editor,

I am concerned by current "ballot-box planning" efforts in Pleasanton because they could wind up posting "Private Property: No Trespassing" signs on open space in our southeast hills.

You cannot get a better model for limiting hillside development and maximizing public open space than Oak Grove. The neighbors, City Council, and open space advocates pushed the landowner to dedicate nearly 500 acres as a city nature park, build miles of trails and place deed restrictions on the new public park to preserve the hillsides in perpetuity.

While a new hillside ordinance sounds like it offers the city more control, it does exactly the opposite. Regulations and ordinances are not as secure as park dedications and conservation easements. There could never be a law that required private property owners to give away their open space, or to open private land to the public for recreational use.

On the west side of our city, numerous developments have led to miles of dedicated public trails and parklands. Oak Grove is the biggest and best dedication so far--for its size, for its proximity to residents, and for its unique habitat and views. Oak Grove carries out the Trails Master Plan with miles of local trails, a staging area and a major link in the regional trail system that will eventually connect our region's magnificent wild areas from Sunol through Callippe Preserve towards Shadow Cliffs and the Iron HorseTrail.

The City Council is pushing for additional dedications so that we can have a greenbelt at our southern boundary with a regional trail running through it. I support this. The first step toward opening the southeast to all residents is to move ahead with Oak Grove.

Kurt Kummer

(Editor's note: Kurt Kummer is a Parks & Recreation Commissioner)

Sign the Oak Grove referendum

Dear Editor,

Simple facts:

1. Pleasanton voted in the early '90s to prohibit ridgeline development on our western ridges. If you sign the initiative, you will have the opportunity to vote on prohibiting ridgeline development on our southern hills.

2. If you sign the referendum, you will have the opportunity to vote on overturning the City Council's approval of Oak Grove, which allows up to 12,500-square-foot houses on our southern ridges.

Visit www.SavePleasantonsHills.com for more information. We need 4,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. Please call 462-5446 to help.

Kay Ayala

Pleasanton

(Editor's note: Kay Ayala is a former member of the Pleasanton City Council)

Initiatives deserve to go on ballot

Dear Editor,

What attracted me to Pleasanton over 25 years ago was the involvement the community has in the planning of the city. In other communities people have given up and assume that the politics is too strong therefore their opinions do not make a difference.

In Pleasanton we are privileged that concerned citizens have taken major issues to the ballot. That has helped shape our community and has resulted in the beautiful Pleasanton ridgeline, a housing cap to control growth, a large Bernal park preserved for our children, to name a few.

When issues go on the ballot, this community has serious discussions during the election, and the majority wins.

What I do not understand is that recently there have been very aggressive actions by groups to stop people from signing initiatives to qualify for the ballot. Why would they not want to have these items qualify for the ballot? Do they think that the community is not educated enough to make an informed decision? Do they feel the community would differ from their opinions and their only savior is to not let the people vote on it?

I encourage you to get involved and sign petitions that you feel are worthwhile discussions to have in the community. If you do not wish to sign, that is fine, but please respect the rights of others to practice democracy and collect signatures.

Take ownership in your community. You make a difference.

Steve Brozosky

(Editor's note: Steve Brozosky is a former City Councilman and currently is a member of the Pleasanton school board)

Act now and sign Oak Grove referendum

Dear Editor,

We must act now to stop our pro-growth City Council from destroying our agricultural open space throughout our town and allowing a property owner from outside the U.S.A. to make tens of millions of dollars by destroying our southern hills.

They want to cut-off the tops of our hills and build a mile-long street lined with mega-mansions up to 12,500 square feet overlooking our town. Actually these should be called palaces because in addition to the main houses (up to12,500 square feet and three stories tall), they can have super large garages and auxiliary structures (like second homes). This will be visible to the whole city.

The so-called parkland the city is getting in return from the developer amounts to nothing more than a few trails on the hillsides of these palaces. Our taxpayer money would be used to maintain their hills. Please ignore the developer money asking you to do nothing. Please sign our referendum and companion initiative to have a citywide vote at the next election so we can all decide what is best for Pleasanton.

Brian Arkin

(Editor's note: Brian Arkin is a former Planning Commissioner and also served as its chairman)

No one is king of the hill

Dear Editor,

As an individual expressing my individual views, I wanted to point out in "Ayala gets OK to move forward," you indicated that no action for ridgeline protection has been taken by the Planning Commission and City Council. Actually, the Planning Commission has taken action numerous times, but has been overruled by the mayor/City Council.

Since 2004, the Planning Commission has taken action to protect the hills, but its recommendations were rejected not once, but three times, by a City Council majority who favors ridgetop development. It also tried to discuss the possibility of the San Juan Capistrano ridgeline ordinance being a model for Pleasanton, but it was not successful in agendizing this discussion for its own Commission meeting. City staff, in an unusual move, even deleted the reference to a ridgeline ordinance in the city's General Plan.

Coincidentally perhaps, around 2004, a major campaign donor's (yes, the same developer as the Dublin 21-story condominium project) proposal for luxury homes on top of the southeast hills was submitted to this city.

Like Pleasanton, San Juan Capistrano is a picturesque town. While neighboring cities have adopted ordinances to protect their magnificent hills threatened by encroaching luxury subdivisions (e.g., Save Fremont Hills), in Pleasanton it has been an "uphill" battle. One of the reasons for San Juan Capistrano's beauty is a citywide ordinance that forbids building on ridgelines or sightlines. The rolling hills remain unfettered, and no one is king of the hill. Not even major donors.

Anne Fox

(Editor's note: Anne Fox is chairwoman of the Pleasanton Planning Commission)

Energy should be spent on permit process

Dear Editor,

The city manager, developer, and community have worked together on a plan that has won near unanimous support on the City Council. Why does the council support the Oak Grove project? Because they gave the developer and city manager direction to work with the community and they did just that.

At this stage, our energy is better directed at watch-dogging the permitting process through the various local and federal agencies to ensure environmental issues (clean water, wildlife habitat, etc.) are resolved or properly mitigated.

In addition, the open space is worth more than 496 acres and protection of the urban growth boundary; it is the keystone property in the Pleasanton southeast hills to help spawn the remaining connections between the Vineyard Corridor and the Callippe Preserve.

The proposed referendum will not only take away the park and undo all of the work that has been done to achieve a reasonably balanced solution, it makes a very wild assumption that another cast of characters will somehow arrive at a better solution in the future. I am not willing to take that risk and will not support the referendum. Please research the issue before signing the petition or just don't sign it.

Jon Harvey

Pleasanton

Signatures bring city closer to losing 500-acre park

Dear Editor,

Watch out Pleasanton. Solicitors for two more ill-conceived ballot measures have hit the streets. Before you sign their documents, please consider their unintended consequences.

Reversing the approval of 51 homes and a 498-acre park at Oak Grove will actually:

* increase the number of units permitted from 51 to 98

* give away ownership of 498 acres of park land

* eliminate permanent protection of the open space and views in Pleasanton's southeast hills

These seemingly sincere petitioners are passionate about their cause, but woefully ignorant of land use and property rights law. Nonetheless, they get signatures by appealing to residents' desire to save open space.

For instance, while showing pictures of what look like office buildings on a hill (definitely not approved for Oak Grove) they hastened to assure me that Pleasanton would still get to keep the park if their ballot measures were successful. They explained their strategy to pass laws that will make it impossible to develop the property, thus forcing the property owner to give all their land to Pleasanton in order to avoid having to pay taxes on their now worthless property. This is both unlikely and illegal.

Far from saving open space, their petitioning jeopardizes over 15 years of work by environmental, open space, and trails advocates to protect our southeast hills. Every signature they collect brings Pleasanton closer to losing a 500 acre park and permanently reducing the amount of development allowed at Oak Grove.

For further information, visit www.keepourpark.org.

Becky Dennis

(Editor's note: Becky Dennis is a former City Councilwoman)

See the good in Oak Grove park

Dear Editor,

What a gift to Pleasanton! Over 475 acres of dedicated park that we don't have to build or finance! The City Council voted 4-1 for this compromise of 51 homes (not the 98 that the entitlement is for on the property), for all this acreage of built park.

It has gone through an extensive review process, fully open to the public, if we chose to participate. The city and Council are working hard to finance the Bernal property, an unnecessary step for this park. Trails, open space, a boundary between Pleasanton and Livermore are such positive benefits. All these homes will have to go through an extensive planning and permitting process with the city. You can bet these will be highly scrutinized homes so that they don't look like the ones jutting from the cliffs in Oakland, however built in a style like Mayor Hosterman likes--timeless, "green," and elegant.

Pleasanton voters, see the good in this park, don't sign the referendum being passed around town. Better yet! Ask how we got to this when the City Council meets.

Janice Phalen

Pleasanton

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