Taxpayers: Here we go again
It's too early to know just how far two costly attorneys -- one from San Francisco and another from Oakland -- plan to take their threats of litigation against the city of Pleasanton over the hillside protection ordinance called Measure PP, but their yet-to-be identified (presumably) Pleasanton clients want to delay and substantially change the measure before it becomes law. Lawsuits over the ordinance and the demand that Measure PP undergo a review under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, will no doubt be costly for taxpayers who have already paid millions of dollars in court costs, attorney fees and penalties over land use legal decisions and settlements.
Tuesday, the City Council postponed until at least June 4 a second and final reading of the Measure PP ordinance, which would have buttoned up scores of public hearings, community meetings and workshop discussions since Measure PP was adopted by voters in November 2008. The delay came at the advice of City Attorney Jonathan Lowell and City Manager Nelson Fialho after they received letters from environmental attorney Stuart Flashman of Oakland and Kristina Lawson, representing the San Francisco law firm of Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. It's not clear who Lawson's Pleasanton clients are, although Flashman states that he represents "The Ridge & Hillside Protection Association," which he said is an unincorporated association of Pleasanton residents and taxpayers. Basically, both law firms object to the Measure PP ordinance because it "attempts to modify the (voter-approved) measure without a vote of the people of Pleasanton."
Fialho and Lowell argue that a legal analysis of the Measure PP initiative before it went to voters determined that citizen initiatives, such as Measure PP, are not subject to a CEQA evaluation. Flashman counters, however, that so many changes have been made to the measure since the 2008 vote that a full environmental review is needed, and he's prepared to go to court to force that review. This could be another lengthy suit that, win or lose, Pleasanton taxpayers will pay for.
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