City OKs new Housing Element
Action ends 7-year legal battle that cost $3.9 million
The Pleasanton City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday night to add a new Housing Element commitment to the city's General Plan, a move that ended seven years of debate, lawsuits and confrontation with state authorities and an affordable housing coalition.
The council's action also closes a contentious period dating back to 2001 when the state notified Pleasanton that its housing element was out of date and no longer in compliance with state law, which could open the city to lawsuits by those believing they were disenfranchised in obtaining the housing they needed here.
"All of this is now over," said City Manager Nelson Fialho. "The state HCD (California Department of Housing and Community Development) advised us that once we approve this new housing element, with the changes it recommended, our General Plan will again be certified. That means we will be in full compliance with state guidelines and will no longer be a target of lawsuits."
Tuesday night's action came after the council rezoned ample acreage throughout the city to satisfy state and court-ordered requirements to provide more housing for low-to-moderate income families. That included sites in Hacienda Business Park where BRE, a nationally known developer of affordable housing, will soon start construction of high density, high rise apartment buildings to accommodate at least 650 families.
The council also recently rezoned another nine sites totaling 75 acres for similar developments, although no builders have yet applied for permits to develop those parcels.
Although relief has finally came to council members, commissioners, task force participants and city staff that the years of planning and negotiations are finally over, the action came far too late to avoid costly litigation and determination by HCD to more closely monitor new developments in Pleasanton.
Since the city was served with its first lawsuit in 2005, its litigation costs have soared from $293,350 in 2009, $2,776,142 in 2010, $186,733 last year to $658,514 this year. Because the city lost in defending those suits, it also had to pay Urban Habitat, the affordable housing coalition that filed the suit, its legal fees as well.
"The total payment for all litigation and legal fees was $3.9 million," Fialho said, adding that the fees do not include staff or in-house times spent by the city attorneys involved in the seven year legal efforts.
Councilwoman Cindy McGovern cast the lone vote against the Housing Element measure, citing her concern over the increased oversight state authorities will now have over local zoning and development issues.