To accommodate everyone, Mayor Jerry Thorne, with his colleagues' backing, went ahead with a two-hour-long public hearing, and then continued it until the council's next meeting on April 16, with another public hearing and then a council vote planned then.
Measure PP, approved by voters in November 2008, restricts residential and commercial development on hillside lots with a 25% grade or more. Although similar restrictions had long been considered in Pleasanton, they were never made part of the city's General Plan, which governs land use issues. The 2008 referendum came after developers won council approval to build homes in the southeast hills, a project called Oak Grove, which recently was scuttled after a series of court rulings.
Although the 25% hillside protection rule is now in effect, the rush to write Measure PP in time for voter approval left many unanswered questions about the ordinance, which the city Planning Commission and council are now seeking to clarify.
These include how to measure the 25% slopes, starting with the top of the chimney of a proposed hillside home to a base some distance away, or from the proposed home's construction pad, which could be as much as 33 feet lower.
Should manufactured slopes, such as those built up by bulldozers moving dirt to create a hillside, be included?
Are streets and roads part of the restriction, meaning that roadways can't be built on slopes with 25% or more grades?
Many of the comments at Tuesday's council hearing dealt with the roadway issue. Former Councilwoman Kay Ayala, who successfully led the Measure PP referendum, said there was never any intent in the measure to include roads.
"The truth is, as a designer of the initiative, that the intent of Measure PP was to protect hillside development," she said. "Roads were never part of this measure. They're not structures."
Still, streets that would serve the proposed Lund Ranch II development near the Sycamore Heights community off Sunol Boulevard would have to traverse steep slopes to reach the homes planned there. The long-planned bypass road to the Callippe Preserve Golf Course also would be built on sloping land.
LaVerne Spotorno said she and her family had no notice of this hearing or the one before the Planning Commission although it could affect the family property in the hills above Alisal Street.
"There is no mention of roads in Measure PP, and we request that you not add this unnecessary restriction," she told the council.
The Planning Commission determined that roads are structures and therefore could not be built on hillside areas prohibited by Measure PP from development. The commission also recommended that a full inventory of ridgelines affected by Measure PP be made to provide early disclosure to property owners and applicants of hillside developments.
But Brian Dolan, director of Community Development, told the council that his planning staff doesn't agree with the Planning Commission's recommendations and urged the council to omit any restrictions for roads from the final Measure PP document. He also said an inventory would take considerable staff and engineering time and could be handled when and if developers file applications.
Some of the comments made at Tuesday's City Council meeting were:
"Junipero is in competition with Bernal. Thousands of cars come through there, many speeding. Don't want more cars coming through to go to Lund Ranch. Goes through much more dense development than Sycamore Creek Way, which should serve new development."
"PP was a citywide ordinance. A road is a structure. I don't understand how we can choose to make something in public use not a structure."
"Measure PP applies only to residential and commercial development on hillside lots, not to roads. Every homeowner signed off on making Sycamore Way a bypass road to the golf course."
"If you have to grade to build a road, you're talking about roads. If this policy goes into effect, it can only be amended by voters. Yet tonight I'm hearing about changes and amendments. What happened to the voters?"
"It's clear that a road is a structure. I appeal to your common sense that a road is a structure. The Planning Commission voted 5-0 that a road is a structure. The use of Sycamore Way as a route to the golf course has now changed because of Measure PP."
"I'm a design engineer specializing in the construction of bridges and roads. They're structures."
"Roads were very much a part of Measure PP. It was designed to affect Oak Grove before there were any homes. It was intended to affect construction of a road to that development. Voters who approved Measure PP thought the measure applied to anything to be built in the hills, including homes and roads."
"Instead of asking everyone who voted for PP, ask those who wrote the measure. They agree that there was never any intent to include roads."
The council meeting on April 16 will start at 7 p.m. in the Pleasanton Civic Center, 200 Old Bernal Ave.
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