Former President of Kottinger Ranch HOA Speaks Out Around Town, posted by Bing Hadley, a resident of the Kottinger Ranch neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2010 at 2:28 pm
The debate over Measure D has created a rather polarized response in parts of Pleasanton. Since I was part of the group of people that crafted the compromise proposal in its earliest form before it was sent to the Pleasanton City Council for consideration, I will summarize the debate as I see it from my unique vantage point.
My perspective comes both as a resident of Hearst Drive (highly impacted by the proposed Oak Grove project) and later as the President of the Kottinger Ranch Homeowners Association 2002-2008. When I moved to Pleasanton in 1994, I was aware that the Lin Family’s proposed “Kottinger Hills” project had been approved in 1992 by the Pleasanton City Council and subsequently recalled via a city vote in 1993. Kottinger Hills was slated to be an 86-home community with an 18-hole golf course. One of the biggest objections people had was that large amounts of earth would be moved to create the golf course, causing serious environment and visual concerns.
Thus, we moved in to our current home with the naďve thought that nothing would be developed in the hills east of the Kottinger Ranch neighborhood. We were disappointed to discover in 1996 that a new proposal for 98 homes without a golf course for this same 562 acre parcel was included in the Pleasanton General Plan update. This was the beginning of a discovery process that unfolded for me over the next ten years.
The Lin Family bought the property for Kottinger Ranch and the now-proposed Oak Grove development in the late 1970s. At the time of purchase, they had the right and the intention to develop the land. The Kottinger Ranch development started in the 1980s and continued in earnest through the late 1990s; a few homes have been built on available parcels since that time. The Lins planned to continue their development efforts in 1992 with the approval of Kottinger Hills when community activism halted those plans.
The new Lin Family development plan included in the 1996 General Plan update didn’t feel like reality until Family representatives approached Kottinger Ranch in 2003 to disclose the specific details. While it was a rather terse meeting, it was the beginning of what became difficult yet constructive dialog between the Lins and KR. The City was aware of the contention between the two groups and wanted to see if we would work together to reach a compromise that both parties could live with.
To officially represent Kottinger Ranch in these discussions, the KRHOA Board of Directors voted to empower the ‘Growth Containment’ committee made up of volunteer homeowners (including me) who would negotiate the issues with the Lin representatives. While we were officially empowered by the Board, we still felt a responsibility to get guidance from our constituency. Going into this process, there were some major issues to be negotiated. Here is a partial list:
-The final number of homes
-Permanent easements to ensure that Hearst would never be extended beyond Oak Grove with no connectors that would create cut-through traffic
-Significant traffic calming measures on Hearst Drive to slow and reduce traffic while protecting school-aged children who walk to Vintage Hills School on Concord Avenue (which intersects Hearst Drive in KR).
-Oak Grove homes to have acceptable site-lines and displacement back from KR to maintain separation and privacy.
Kottinger Ranch homeowners received updates on a periodic basis regarding the progress of the negotiations. In late 2005, the City sponsored facilitator Arlene Willits to help lead the process between the Lins and KR. The issues were clear, the process was well-defined, and all interested parties had access to the people involved.
Our committee felt an obligation to negotiate in good faith, only following the wishes of our neighbors. Going in, we felt the latitude to compromise to a total home count of 30 without further input from the homeowners. When we realized that the compromise would never settle at 30 homes, we conducted 2 meetings with homeowners to gather inputs and explain our position. One meeting included 45 people in my home and another was over 60 people at the PMS Library. Via a straw vote, we received latitude to negotiate up to 45 homes and ultimately settled with the Lins at 51 plus some other benefits. While both sides fought tenaciously, the process was fair, open, and appropriate to reach a reasonable compromise.
It is still a disappointment to me that Hearst Drive became the only access point to the Oak Grove property as a result of other City planning decisions made regarding adjacent properties that limited the access points the Lin’s 562 acre parcel. However, that is how compromise happens: you win some points and you lose others.
What does Pleasanton get?
-Fifty-one homes instead of 98
-Almost 500 acres of open space made available to the citizens as a park with trails
-Money towards schools and road improvements that include traffic mitigation measures on Hearst Drive
Closure is a major point. With the change in the housing cap law, a more ambitious plan could be submitted for this same property. The current proposal does a reasonable job limiting the home count with no further development when the remaining land becomes a park.
More importantly, the Lin Family has property rights. Through proper legal means, those development rights have been delayed; however, these rights won’t be delayed forever. They proposed 86 homes with a golf course and were denied. They improved the plan by removing the golf course and pursuing a more environmentally acceptable plan with 98 homes. In good faith, they negotiated with an adjacent group of homeowners to whom they had no legal obligation and settled at a far smaller number of homes. If they are denied again, they will have a reasonable case in court to claim that their property rights were taken. If they were to win a judgment against the City of Pleasanton for taking their rights, a wide-range estimate of Pleasanton’s financial exposure is $20M to $60M. I arrived at these numbers in the following fashion: the 51 lots will be sold in the range of $2M on average; thus, the Lins’ gross revenue on the project is over $100M. They have improvements to add to the land (roads, water, power, sewage, etc) that may cost $30M-$50M. Their profit on the project could be in the range of $50M. From there, a settlement becomes another compromise. Still, even a $20M judgment against the City of Pleasanton is unbearable during these times but it represents a possible reality.
To be frank, I am not thrilled with this project or the way it landed on the General Plan. However, it is a safe & reasonable compromise for the City of Pleasanton that provides access to the hills for all via the park & trail system, some funding for traffic issues and schools, and closure on a contentious issue that has long divided this community.
Posted by m, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2010 at 4:26 pm
As I mentioned in a previous post ... if I were the "Keep It In Family" strategist team for the Lin's I would want this measure to be defeated. There is no way that they can lose in the future. The Lin's will tromp on the City six-ways from Sunday because ... well ... they tried every conceivable way to make it work ... after a certain point ... "my turn" and it's no holds barred. The Lin's would have every conceivable right to do what was in their best interest to exploit the future situations. But, with that being said ... I am still confused.
Posted by Becky Dennis, a resident of the Foxborough Estates neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2010 at 5:03 pm
Bing - I really appreciate the leadership and spirit of compromise you brought to the negotiations. As you correctly point out, all sides "gave back" to reach closure. At the KRHOA's request, trails advocates gave up all KR trailhead staging areas but one, and also agreed to greatly reduced parking.We too felt glad to have closure,in spite of some disappointments. But I think the outcome of protecting 90%, almost 500 acres, of these oak woodlands in public ownership and with a conservation easement is something we can all feel good about today, and future generations will increasingly appreciate. That's why I'm voting YES on D.
Posted by Stacey, a resident of the Amberwood/Wood Meadows neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2010 at 5:20 pm Stacey is a member (registered user) of PleasantonWeekly.com
Thank you for the history!
I'd like to point out that "just compensation" is fair market value of the property as-is, not the speculative value of what it would be worth with improvements. So the actual exposure to Pleasanton in a lawsuit over "taking" could be much lower.
Posted by sickofit, a resident of the Amador Estates neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2010 at 7:06 pm
Perhaps I have but it smacks of last minute hit pieces...like the kind that sank Tom Pico's run for Assembly. I have no idea if it is true or not - but with the developer spending over $500,000 according to the most recent filing, I am suspicious of everything. It reads just too much like a PR piece by the developer.
We keep hearing how the 'neighborhoods' supported this project. Only, when I hear that the Kottinger Ranch Home Owners Association has officially endorsed this 'version' of events, will I be convinced.
Posted by Kathleen Hart-Hinek, a resident of the Kottinger Ranch neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2010 at 7:23 pm
Sickofit-Bing is a neighbor of mine and I can vouch for his involvement in this project. He worked tirelessly seeking a compromise that would be good for the City of Pleasanton. As a resident of Kottinger Ranch, I appreciate his efforts at helping put together a plan that is good for PLEASANTON. Nice history, too, Bing.
Posted by neighbor, a resident of the Kottinger Ranch neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2010 at 9:19 pm
While Bing did a good job in starting the negotiations with the developer, he did not represent the Kottinger Hills Homeowners Association. The plan that was negotiated was never voted on by the homeowners board.
Also, the City Council did not do the job that was required of the General Plan in coming up with a ridgeline protection ordinance. That should have been done before the Council even took up a vote on this project. Since the Council did not do their job, the residents took the matters in their own hands and put Measure PP on the ballot in the last election to do the protections that the Council should have done prior to considering one of the larger potential projects on the ridgeline. Measure PP was approved by a large majority of the voters. The Oak Grove plan is not consistent with Measure PP and should therefore be voted down and a new plan submitted that is consistent with Measure PP. If the Council did their job in coming up with the ridgeline protections that were required in the General Plan, we would not be in the situation we are in today.
I am voting No on D as I feel the Council should not have approved this development without the ridgeline protection ordinance in place, and now that we have the protection, voted on by the residents, it does not comply. The environmental impact report for this project was even denied by the Planning Commission and the Planning Commission was not allowed to even review and vote on the complete development plan. The City Council has done so much wrong on this project.
Posted by justwondering, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Jun 6, 2010 at 9:48 pm
I'm a bit confused here--Kay served on the City Council for 8 years. If this was so important to her, why did she not at least attempt to pass a ridgeline proetction ordinace? And yes, I've heard her explaination but frankly it doesn't hold water. It just makes no sense to me that all of the sudden ridgeline protection becomes important to her after she is no longer on the Council when she could have had the most affect.
Measure D does protect the tallest ridge on the parcel. If one took the time to be informed and tour the property, its clear that the highest ridge is part of the vast near 500 acres the City will receive. And the land will be held in a conservation easement so that some politician later on can't get the bright idea to develop it. The No on D ads etc have been so misleading with how they show the ridges and implying that the houses will be on the highest ridge.
BTW,I looked at the latest campaign finance report for No on D and I don't get a few things. First, how can you pay your bills and have a negative balance in the account? No bank would allow that of a political committee and if they did, certainly fees and interest would be charged but I didn't see that reported. Also, didn't see an expense for the t-shirts that Kay said they were selling. Also, the cost for the large signs doesn't seem to be listed. So who's paying for this stuff or at least agreeing to take care of it once the election is held? Doesn't seem like the entire story is being reported on the finaces for Kay's group.
Posted by Not a NIMBY, a resident of the Kottinger Ranch neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2010 at 12:03 am
Many of us knew full well that the Lin Family had plans to develop their entire property ... well beyond the point where all our houses were built. It is unconscienable that some of our neighbors would oppose this developmen. If not for the Lin's we would not be living in our beautiful homes today. I personally support this development, knowing that I will have full access to nearly 500 acres of open space for hiking, biking, etc.
Posted by disgusted, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2010 at 7:58 am
Thanks for your well-crafted letter, Bing.
I'm truly disgusted by the selfish, greedy people in Pleasanton who oppose this measure. Really, as Bing points out, would you rather the Lins sue the city? If this fails, I almost hope they do. It's horribly sad that so many are so gung ho to restrict the personal property rights of others.
Posted by Not a NIMBY either, a resident of the Kottinger Ranch neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2010 at 8:41 am
This looks just like a PR letter written as a last-ditch effort to help the developer. I was part of all those meetings and have been from many years ago when Jennifer Hosterman sat with the KR residents and said, "Over my dead body will they build homes in those hills!" We all supported her first run for mayor on that assumption.
Bing is mis-spoken when he says he represented the neighborhood. At the very contentious meeting at his house (included Vintage Hills neighbors) the attendees overwhelmingly asked for support from Bing and our City Council representative for no homes on ridgetops, fewer homes that were not built on steep slopes, alternative entrances to Vineyard (which is less populated and wouldn't affect Vintage Hills school traffic), fire danger access, any many other issues.
What we got was future "closed door" meetings between Bing,and 2 other neighbors (one who just sold his current KR ridgetop custom home a month ago) and the Lins that ended up in 51 mega-mansions built on ridges, huge quantities of dirt cut off the top of the hills, speed bumps as traffic mitigations, and building on slopes that the majority of Pleasanton residents voted against!!!
No more inviting neighborhood input, because it didn't support what the Lins wanted.
Bing DID NOT represent the KR or Vintage Hills neighborhoods. Take a drive around the area and see how many support NO on Measure D. To claim it was supported by neighbors is ridiculous. Most of the neighbors supporting it are friends of the Lin's lawyer, developers, real estate agents, and construction company owners who live in the neighborhood. I wonder why??
The Lins sued to stop the referendum and LOST. They are stopping at NOTHING to build these HUGE homes, because of the money they can make selling them. Over $160 million, conservatively!! Its easy for them to keep writing checks for almost $400,000 on this campaign compared to only $6000 spent on the grassroots group (comprised primarily of residents from outside KR)if they stand to profit so well from this building of large homes.
No one is talking about the taxes and maintenance of this fake park, either. Guess who gets stuck with that forever...the citizens of Pleasanton. Guess who will get to use it? Everyone from every city in the East Bay and beyond.
How sad that our hills and view lines are for sale to a slick snake-oil sales pitch made to the City. Regardless of where I lived in Pleasanton I would fight this desecration of our hilltops. These hills deserve the same protection as the Pleasanton Ridge hilltops, and to be built upon based on what the citizens said LOUD AND CLEARLY what they voted on with PP and QQ!! The whole democratic process is being railroaded by a wealthy family from another area who has bamboozled Bing and three of our City Council members. Let freedom ring? I guess not! We are voting NO on MEASURE D.
Posted by Sharrell Michelotti, a resident of the Oak Hill neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2010 at 9:08 am
Thank you for recommending YES on MEASURE D (the 51 unit Oak Grove Project) and for the excellent Editorial which explained the history of the project and process that got us to this June 8 election. Your Editorial served as well as a reality check for residents to consider before voting. As you pointed out, the future of residentially zoned land is tenuous given the present lawsuit regarding the housing cap and Pleasanton's non-compliant housing element.
Having served on both the Planning Commission (Reviewed both Kottinger Ranch and the first proposal for this property) and City Council, I truly appreciated your opinion and insight regarding this proposal which would guarantee in perpetuity 496 acres of open space owned by the City of Pleasanton, with completed trails and staging areas for the public to enjoy. The reduced 51-home proposal that requires design review of every home, will give the City control to ensure the least visual impacts possible. As you pointed out, the four-year City/neighborhood directed planning process resulted in a 4-1 City Council approval. With that process and approval, the Lins agreed to the payment of additional City Fees and the dedication of land, as well as a signed "Gift Agreement” with the Pleasanton Schools for facilities. I agree with your view that this opportunity will most likely not come our way again.
I join you in urging Pleasanton residents to take advantage of this opportunity and VOTE YES on MEASURE D in order to preserve for our residents 90% of the open space that is now privately owned by the Lin family and put to rest a very contentious issue in our "Community of Character".
Posted by lovemy neighborhood, a resident of the Kottinger Ranch neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2010 at 9:27 am
Thanks Bing for your factual review of the situation. Please ignore the narrow minds of some of the "No" residents who accuse you of being a paid pawn of the Lin's and describing your info as a "last minute hit piece". There are many of us good "No" people who are against the proposal but do not go around making wild accusations. I, for one, was not aware of all you and others did to arrive at a consensus. When I think about it I guess I have to admit that I am a NIMBY and my major objection has been that I do not want more homes, people, cars, etc. messing up my neighborhood. Selfish...yes...but honest. I have already sent in my absentee ballot and voted "No".
P.S. I noticed that "Realtors" were included on the list of the bad guys supporting the Lin's. Just to clarify...our "No" Co-Chair is a Realtor!
Posted by Glad I moved out of Pleasanton, a resident of the Kottinger Ranch neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2010 at 9:51 am
I can't wait to see what the Lin Family does should they not win this fight... what they will do the city and what they will eventually do with the land. You can NOT take someones private property rights away when this property has always been available for development...how do you think KR was built in the first place. Also everyone one of the homeowners in this development from the time they were being built was notified of FUTURE potential building and at that time I believe they said there could be 500 homes built and everyone still purchased their homes. If you are the second, third or fourth owner and this was not disclosed they you should consider going after the previous owner or REALTOR'S if you did not have any knowledge of this proposed building but that is a case by case situation all I know is that since the KR project was built the Lin Family has ALWAYS had a right to build so after giving 500 acres to the city and reducing their profit considerably let them build or watch out what could happen in a court hearing.
Posted by resident, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2010 at 10:09 am
If this gets turned down, the next version will have to include all of the below-market housing that has never been built and was the subject of the housing cap lawsuit. You will truly enjoy having "the projects" block your views of the ridgeline.
Posted by Nosy Neighbors, a resident of the Pleasanton Heights neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2010 at 10:11 am
Mr. Hadley, thank you for putting forward the most concise & accurate history of & future scenario for the Oak Grove development. At some point in time the eventual legal rights of the property owners, the Lin's will be validated & we will have some form of residential housing built in the area. Measure D represents the least invasive, environmentally neutral & altruistic civic grant to the city of Pleasanton. As I have already mailed in my absentee ballot I can count another "Yes" vote already placed. My great hope for the rest of our town is that the fence sitters come to realize the huge benefits from the 500 acre open space, the 55 tastefully designed (& most likely heavily scrutinized) homes & most importantly that the rights of private property owners cannot continue to be impeded. The legal system will eventually catch up with us if we continue to thumb our noses at the law & THAT my friends will be a more bitter pill than anything that has yet to be proposed to swallow.
Posted by Jocelyn Combs, a resident of the Pleasanton Valley neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2010 at 10:19 am
Thanks Bing. I appreciate your letter. I was in the room negotiating with him and others who crafted the best project for Pleasanton. I represented Eastern and Southern Alameda County, including Pleasanton, for 11 years on the board of the East Bay Regional Park District. That experience taught me a lot about open space. You can leave it alone and not have access. You can buy it all (if you can) and pay for access. Or you can negotiate and get the best deal at no cost. Which is what happened in this case. Yes on D!
Posted by A KR Resident, a resident of the Kottinger Ranch neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2010 at 10:21 am
I was present at the meetings Bing is talking about. We did not authorize him to agree to all the points he is talking about. He and the others were outsmarted by the Lin family representatives.They were able to achieve very little for the residents. The Board never agreed with him. So for him to state that he negotiated as the President of the KRHOA is wrong. The president can act only if he has the majority support of the board. In fact he quit after this fiasco.The fact that he is writing this at the last moment shows his bias towards this development.
When we talk about the Lin family's property rights it is misleading to say that they can come and sue the city. No one has any absolute right. For them to develop this property they have to go through a due process. The process includes the right of citizens to vote on this proposal.They need to come up with a plan which is acceptable to the citizens. This is as good as saying that I have a right to build a 20,000 sq ft house on a 5000 sq ft lot and if not allowed then I can sue the city. No I have to abide by the rules.
Anyway the citizens of this great city will have the final say tomorrow.
Posted by anonymous, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2010 at 11:20 am
Short of NO development there is nothing that some of the people of KR would be pleased with. What did they get? No golf course, Hearst does not connect but dead ends in Oak Grove, almost half the number of homes.They knew that the same developer that created KR would some day develop the Oak Grove. Look at what a lovely job the developer did with the KR property.
What does the rest of Pleasanton get? Fewer homes and 500 acres of open space accessible to all of Pleasanton. Four time the amount of traffic fees, tax dollars going to the schools and to the city and 20 affordable housing units somewhere else in Pleasanton. This is a good deal. The property is PRIVATELY owned and will be developed. There will be houses there.
Posted by Jon Harvey, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2010 at 11:31 am
Thanks, Bing. I hoped you would eventually get up the nerve to write or speak about the process you were so involved in. It has really taken on a life of its own since the meetings/negotiations and hearings!
Posted by Bryan Moran, a resident of the Pleasanton Heights neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2010 at 1:31 pm
To have riches and good fortune forcibly thrust upon you is a lovely problem to have. America may be in the middle of the second Great Depression; meanwhile one of Pleasanton’s most pressing issues is how to best limit the number of multi-million dollar homes that will be built. Molehills become mountains. Let us put in proper perspective what Measure D is about; approval of a compromise plan that benefits everyone the most and harms all the least. Measure D failing to pass does not end it, simply is negotiated yet again which may or may not be a good thing for the public. The current plan is a very good one in light of all the facts, I look forward to a 500 acre park that I can have access to, additional revenue for the city, extremely low density, high value, housing that helps Pleasanton remain a desirable community far into the future.
Posted by Lou Astbury, a resident of the Kottinger Ranch neighborhood, on Jun 7, 2010 at 2:12 pm
I was on the original ‘Growth Containment’ committee from Kottinger Ranch. We actively worked to get other neighborhoods involved in the process. We were not empowered by the Board to make commitments.
At some point, some of us were no longer invited to closed door meetings with the developer. Only one original member was on this new committee. Two new negotiators, all from Kottinger Ranch, made it a group of three individuals. When I asked one of them what happened to the original ‘Growth Containment’ committee, he advised that he did not know but Mayor Hosterman (with close ties to the developer) had asked him to be part of the three member team negotiating with Lim representatives. Two meetings from that point were held openly to Kottinger Ranch residents (not including surrounding neighborhoods). Each time the negotators made concessions beyond what was approved in a straw vote. The three individuals certainly felt they had a good compromise, but it was never endorsed by the Home Owners Association or surrounding neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the entire process, despite some hard work, was tainted and did not represent a consensus plan.
Posted by Great Point, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Jun 8, 2010 at 8:47 am
In addition to your great point Kitty! I'll add that while the no camp likes to throw out $'s paid to support this plan, they fail to ever expose who is actually providing the money for their side of the argument. I can't wait to be able to hike the new trails!!!!!!!
Posted by Chuck Wiedel, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Jun 8, 2010 at 4:42 pm
Thank You, Bing, for your very accurate summary of the earlier years of this needless controversy. While I was NOT a part of what you described, I have followed this issue from the beginning, as at one time, I did have a deposit on a new home in KR. We made other decisions later, but I have always thought it is a nice neighborhood, except when it comes to the "blinders" that have come on in recent years. And, I know that what you describe is VERY accurate, and I thank you. I do wish you had come out a bit earlier -- it might have opened a few more eyes. I recall that a previous writer suggested that Hearst Dr. be changed to NIMBY Drive; Although it's not funny, it has some merit, I fear.
Today is election day, and I have supported Measure "D". Should it fail, it will be a true loss to MY beloved hometown, Pleasanton. But, those with tunnel vision cannot seem to see that. What we will then get, of course, remains to be seen, but you can be certain that it won't be a good as what is on the table now, and it WILL be more expensive!!
Posted by Call me NIMBY, a resident of the Mission Park neighborhood, on Jun 8, 2010 at 6:16 pm
I don't have all the fancy book-learning of the Kottinger Ranch crowd so I don't know about negotiations and electioneering. When it came right down to it, I felt I was being asked to vote on if I wanted 51 more $2 Million dollar homes on ridge tops in Pleasanton. I don't, so I voted NO.
Posted by Afraid Lims will sue me, a resident of the Downtown neighborhood, on Jun 8, 2010 at 10:33 pm
Hey great point. Maybe some of us against Measure D don't want our name in print because the Lim family will sue individual citizens that oppose their plans like they have already done. I am against the Lim family's attempt to intimidate individuals pursuing their rights. What is your excuse for not using your name?
I voted No because the Lim development machine (sleazy lawyers, charter properties,etc.) is basically bad news.