Ayala gets OK to move forward
Proposed initiative could trim affordable, other housing plans
City Attorney Michael Roush certified an initiative measure Wednesday that allows former Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Kay Ayala to move forward on seeking voter approval to reduce the number of housing units left to build under the city's voter-mandated housing cap of 29,000 units.
City planners estimate that Pleasanton already has about 27,500 homes and apartments in place or approved for development. Ayala's initiative could add another 400-500 units by requiring exempted senior and assisted living units to be put back into the numbers bank. Also to be added could be so-called "granny" units, those second units that are on single family home lots but, up to now, not included as units qualifying toward the housing cap.
Apartments and living units already exempted include the 100 at Ridge View Commons and up to 400 that the city would like to exempt that are planned for an independent and assisted living development on Staples Ranch.
Immediately affected are plans for several hundred new apartments and town homes in Hacienda Business Park and at the West BART station now under construction. Approval of those plans could be delayed pending resolution of the Ayala initiative. With the clock now running following Roush's certification, Ayala and co-sponsor Karla Brown-Belcher of Kottinger Ranch have up to six months to obtain signatures on their petition from 10 percent of those who voted in the November 2006 election, or 3,600.
Ayala filed her initiative request last week with City Clerk Karen Diaz, and Ayala then announced her move at the Oct. 16 City Council meeting. Called "Save Pleasanton's Hills & Housing Cap," Ayala emphasized that its initial purpose is to force the city to ban all housing starts near hills designated as ridgeland and on slopes greater than 25 percent. The same language is also contained in the 1996 General Plan, which Ayala helped write, but no ordinance to enforce the measure has even been introduced.
Both the Planning Commission and City Council have considered proposals to disallow building on slopes steeper than 25 percent, but again no action has yet been taken.
Both Ayala and Brown-Belcher, who is vice chairwoman of the Kottinger Ranch homeowners Association, vigorously opposed the 51-home Oak Grove development that the council voted 4-1 to approve. The second reading of that approval ordinance, which will make the action official, was postponed last week by Councilwoman Cindy McGovern. It is scheduled to be acted on at the council's next meeting on Nov. 6.
Opponents of the Oak Grove project, which includes a donation by the developers of 496 acres of hilltop land above Kottinger Ranch to the city of Pleasanton for open space, parkland and trails, could seek a referendum to overturn the council's vote. To do so, they would need to obtain signatures from the same 10 percent of last year's voters, but would have only 30 days from the council's approval of the Oak Grove project on Nov. 4 to force the referendum.
Only if voters reverse the council's decision in a referendum, would the Oak Grove project go back to the drawing board. If the Ayala-Brown-Belcher initiative qualifies for the ballot box and voters later approve it, it could take effect before Oak Grove is reconsidered.
Otherwise, the 25 percent slope rule is expected to have little effect on future construction, since most major projects still planned are on flat-land. Only smaller home building projects in individual parcels along the west side of Foothill Road might exceed the 25 percent slope limit, and those projects of 10 or fewer homes are exempted both by the Ayala initiative and proposals before the council.
It's the housing cap rules that the "Hills & housing Cap" initiative could affect future development in Pleasanton, particularly plans to build more affordable housing. By demanding that many of the exempted units now be reclassified as adding toward the housing cap number, Ayala would tighten the cap still further. The city already is under fire by affordable housing advocates and the state that claim the housing cap is illegal. One group has filed a suit to throw out the housing cap, but it could be several years, if ever, before that suit reaches the courts.