With a number of candidates for mayor and City Council campaigning in support of actions being advanced by the Save Pleasanton's Hills coalition, it's fair to ask if this new citizens' group could become a major political force in Pleasanton. It wouldn't be the first time that a political team put together a partisan ticket in Pleasanton, which generally favors non-partisan candidates and elections. Back in 1976, three candidates for the City Council ran as a team and were soundly defeated, although no one remembers if it was because of their political organization or voter dissatisfaction with the position their ticket took. Many here remember the Dream Team of former mayors Ben Tarver and Tom Pico and councilwoman and one-time mayoral candidate Becky Dennis. Tarver was elected mayor in 1992, Pico was elected to the council, and then the two of them supported Dennis in a special council election in 1993 to gain majority control of the council. The Dream Team's goal was to slow the rapid--some said uncontrolled--residential growth of the 1980s and to also organize neighborhoods so that what one group didn't like, others would come to its aid in the form of a referendum or strong opposition before the council. For the most part, the plan worked. Growth has slowed and continues to shrink as the city nears buildout, and, as we've seen with projects ranging from Applied Biosystems' difficulties in obtaining approval for its projects or Home Depot's failure to gain council support for a second store, neighborhoods pitted against neighborhoods often rules the decision-making process.
The Save Pleasanton's Hills coalition and the 5,000 signatures former Councilwoman Kay Ayala and other sponsors have collected for two of its actions so far speak well to the group's organizing efforts. It's not easy to talk 5,000 people into signing petitions. Whether they knew fully what they were signing or not, many of them may take ownership of the group they are now supporting. Certainly there's been strong opposition by the coalition to the City Council's approval of Oak Grove, a 51-home residential project atop Kottinger Ranch that is also accompanied by a gift by the developers of 500 acres of wooded terrain free of charge to the city of Pleasanton. After a Superior Court judge ruled that the coalition's signature gathering efforts were improper, Save Pleasanton's Hills is appealing that decision in the state Court of Appeal. In the meantime, the coalition has been successful in obtaining another 5,000 signatures (many could be the same names) to place an initiative on the Nov. 4 ballot that would block most development on steep hillsides and ridgelines. The City Council, frustrated that the coalition's measure could cause future development and open space acquisition problems, has placed a competing measure on the same ballot.
Although no one has cited the Save Pleasanton's Hills coalition as a political team, similar to the Dream Team of 16 years ago, its strong supporters include four who have taken out candidate's papers, but have not yet filed, to challenge Mayor Jennifer Hosterman for the city's top elected post. They include Steve Brozosky, Anne Fox, Greg O'Connor and Mary Roberts. For reelection to the council, incumbents Matt Sullivan and Cindy McGovern are also supporters of the Kay Ayala coalition. Two aren't: Hosterman and local businessman Jerry Pentin, who filed last Friday to run for City Council. Certainly with 5,000 register voters having signed both of the coalition's petitions that could be a formidable start to assembling strong voter support group to win at the ballot box.
We hope not. Partisan politics play a major role in larger cities. Here, those who sit on the City Council are elected at large, are supposed to represent the whole community and impartially represent various factions to give each a fair hearing. Even the Dream Team didn't last, although its slow-growth policies had a lasting impact. Tarver, after leaving office eight years later, moved out of town. Pico, once determined to stop--not just slow--growth is now a consultant to developers, including those planning to build Oak Grove. Dennis is today the city's most visible and influential advocate of building more affordable housing. Once the Nov. 4 election and the Court of Appeal's decision come and go, we hope Save Pleasanton's Hills will also morph into a broad-based citizens' group that works more amicably with the City Council and its commissions, whoever those representatives may be.