Ayala told the City Council Tuesday night that the organization voted to join in her appeal at a Monday meeting where Councilman Matt Sullivan also asked for its support. Sullivan was not able to attend the meeting, Ayala said, but sent a letter endorsing the move.
"I will tell you that we were honored to have his support and we needed it at that meeting because, of course, the attorney for the developers was there armed with his own letters," Ayala said.
At issue is a decision by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch on Feb. 22. That decision ruled that petitions filed by Ayala and Save Pleasanton's Hills that sought a referendum aimed at overturning the council's 4-1 approval of the Oak Grove project late last year were invalid. Roesch ruled that signatures on the petitions were improperly obtained because those gathering the signatures did not carry all of the documents about Oak Grove as required by state law.
Ayala and her group immediately asked the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco to overturn Roesch's ruling. At a special meting on April 29, the council voted 3-2 against appealing the ruling, which went in its favor, or supporting the Ayala group financially in its efforts.
Councilwoman Cindy McGovern opposed the Oak Grove approval from the start. On April 29, Sullivan, who had voted in favor of the project, voted along with McGovern to authorize the city to also appeal the Roesch ruling or at least to hire outside legal counsel to advise the council on the ramifications of the ruling.
The majority prevailed, however, with Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and councilmembers Cheryl Cook-Kallio and Jerry Thorne voting to let the Roesch ruling stand.
Although Sullivan did not speak on the issue Tuesday, Ayala read his letter to the Sierra Club, which mirrored the councilman's public comments on April 29.
"I am very concerned by the direction this project has taken related to our citizens' ability to protect the environment and in shaping open space policy," Sullivan wrote. "I supported the process used to work toward compromise for the Oak Grove project and in the resulting project that zones 500 acres of public open space. However when the project referendum qualified for the ballot, a message was sent loud and clear to me that the City Council did not finish its work in gaining community buy-in for this project."
"When the developers' lawsuit was successful in overturning the referendum based on a technicality, it sent chills up my spine as I understood what this meant--not only to this situation but the implications for future grass roots efforts to protect the environment and our precious hillsides from development," the letter added. "I urge the Sierra Club to join the referendum proponents in appealing this case."
On April 29, Sullivan explained that while he had originally supported the project, the 5,000 signatures Ayala and her group obtained to overturn the council's vote "sent a message that maybe we didn't do our job all the way."
"The process itself was about empowering the citizens," Sullivan said. "I know we tried with people on all sides of the issue. We worked very hard to make that happen. But maybe we didn't finish the job."
"What we started out with four years ago was very difficult and a lot of people worked hard," he added. "But our job wasn't done; 5,000 people told us that."