Over three years ago, the property owner started work on a 98-unit plan, which was opposed by the adjacent Kottinger Ranch neighborhood. We have both campaigned against development in the hills and in support of affected neighborhoods. But instead of entering into yet another endless land-use battle, we thought there might be a better way: a collaborative process with the neighbors, the developer, and the city to see if agreement could be reached and these outcomes avoided. Our goals were threefold: empower the neighborhood to help shape the project, provide "finality" from future development, and create a model for the acquisition of public open space for the remaining developable properties in the southeast hills.
The result has been a resounding success! A consensus plan was facilitated by the city for a 51-unit project--half the size of the original--with the addition of $1 million in traffic mitigation fees for the neighborhood, and the dedication of a 497-acre public open space park. The plan then went through the normal Planning Commission and City Council public review process, input was sought throughout, additional issues identified, and adjustments were made. Regulatory agencies will evaluate habitat and mandate mitigation measures, or prohibit building on environmentally sensitive areas. No taxpayer monies will go to fund the open space park--the developer will deed the property to the city, will construct the trails and a staging area, pay the endowment to the easement-holder Tri Valley Conservancy, and the future HOA will be responsible for ongoing maintenance costs. For the units potentially most visible from the valley floor, one story limits, reduction in size, strict design guidelines, and plant and earth berm screening have been mandated. Finally, not one single house has been approved for this project--each will submit detailed plans and visual simulations to both the HOA Design Committee and the city for approval. The Planning Commission can choose to bring each to a public hearing, and any house can be appealed to the City Council for final decision. With these requirements and processes in place, the images presented by some project opponents of two- and three-story 12,000-square-foot white glowing "mega-mansions" sitting on barren hilltops are simply false.
Similar to what the city achieved with the Bernal property, Oak Grove provides nearly 500 acres of public open space in exchange for minimal development within the context of a collaborative neighborhood process and the support of four out of five councilmembers. With this success, the council has taken the first step in achieving a vision for a magnificent 2,000-acre natural park completely accessible to the public stretching from Shadow Cliffs to the Callippe Preserve Golf Course--forever protecting these hills from development. This is an important legacy that this generation can leave to future Pleasantonians.