Oak Grove backers charge opponents with deception
Senator Dianne Feinstein says quote used was not about Pleasanton issue
Supporters of the Oak Grove plan say they'll fight to give Pleasanton an open, honest debate on the issue over building 51 homes in the southeast hills above Kottinger Ranch, a project that would also give 496 acres of open space to the city free of charge.
A citizens' coalition called Keep Our Park charged that opponents misled local voters by using incorrect and inaccurate information in their bid to qualify a ballot measure against the Oak Grove project.
Last week, another citizens' group--Save Pleasanton's Hills--submitted 5,225 signatures from voters registered in Pleasanton on a petition calling for a referendum to overturn the City Council's approval of the Oak Grove project last month. If 3,672 of those signatures are certified by the Alameda County Registrar, the council will have to decide within 30 days whether to rescind its vote allowing the Oak Grove project or let the issue be decided at the ballot box, probably at the time of the June 3 California primary.
"Using false and misleading information to hastily gather signatures from citizens who are rushing to do their holiday shopping shouldn't override the four years of open and honest public debate that led to the City Council's approval of this project," said Jerry Pentin, chairman of the Keep Our Park committee.
"Pleasanton residents deserve a fair examination of the issue. We'll wait to see if the signatures that opponents gathered are valid and we'll fight to ensure they don't employ the same deceptive tactics during a campaign," Pentin emphasized.
Pentin said that among the most serious distortions and incorrect information that opponents of the Oak Grove project used during their signature-gathering campaign was to "falsely imply the endorsement of U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein in a newspaper ad in the Pleasanton Weekly."
Senator Feinstein sent a letter to Mayor Jennifer Hosterman denouncing the ad, which she said falsely attributed a quote to her.
"The advertisement states that I said: 'Local officials should start using zoning laws to keep residents from living in fire-prone areas,'" Feinstein wrote. "In fact, this was not a direct quote from me but was paraphrased from an Oct. 24 Associated Press report on remarks I made in the U.S. Senate on the Southern California wildfires."
"Let me be clear," Feinstein added. "I am not familiar with the Oak Grove development, and I have taken no position on this issue."
Pentin said Save Pleasanton's Hills, headed by former councilwoman Kay Ayala group, also stated that the East Bay Regional Parks District criticized the project.
"The East Bay Regional Parks District has never commented on the approved 496-acre Oak Grove park plan," Pentin said. "In addition, a majority of members of the Pleasanton Parks and Recreation Commission and most local environmentalists strongly support the new park."
Other claims by the Save Pleasanton's Hills group that Pentin said were false are:
* Its claim that the plan calls for eliminating 1,000 trees. In fact, he countered, the plan calls for removing only 58 of 12,000 trees on the entire property and replacing them with 400 new trees, a net gain of 340 trees.
* Its statement that the Oak Grove plan automatically allows construction of new homes on the property, even referring to specific sizes. Not a single home has been approved and no homes can be built without review and approval by the city, Pentin said.
The Oak Grove project was approved by the council early last month in a 4-1 vote that followed four years of public meetings and hearings. In addition to the almost 500 acres of open space and parkland the city received as part of the plan, the number of homes allowed in the project was reduced from 98 to 51.
"It's easy to get someone to agree to sign a petition, if not all of the facts are in front of the voters before they sign it," Pentin said. "People like to vote on things. We look forward to being able to continue to conduct an open and honest informational campaign. We challenge the opponents to do the same."