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January 06, 2006

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Publication Date: Friday, January 06, 2006

City leaders push for more open space, less southeast side housing City leaders push for more open space, less southeast side housing (January 06, 2006)

2,000-acre conservancy could trim developers' plans for 289 homes

by Jeb Bing

Major land use changes are under consideration that would swap many of the 200 custom homes planned on Pleasanton's southeast side for up to 2,000 acres of public open space while also saving the limited number of homes and apartments that can be built here for more affordable housing.

Initiated by Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and Councilman Matt Sullivan, the effort affects housing plans by the Lin family in the proposed Oak Grove development and Greenbriar Homes in its two proposed developments at Lund Ranch 2 off Sycamore Creek Way and the flatlands owned by Al Spotorno along Alisal Street.

"The idea is to look at these three projects and see if there's a way to satisfy the concerns of the neighbors, the economic needs of the developers and our goal in placing 2,000 acres of still undeveloped land in an open space conservancy forever," Sullivan said. "Everyone has agreed to talk about this plan, which is a start."

Discussions are already under way among city representatives, Oak Grove developers and the Kottinger Ranch Homeowners Association, which is opposed to the Lin family's plan to build 98 $1-million-plus homes at the end of Hearst Drive, above Kottinger Ranch. It's also seen as a means of saving housing units as the city nears its 29,000 housing cap limit for more affordable homes and apartments.

The Lins have already revised their plan so that most of the 562-acre Oak Grove community would be reserved as open space. Kottinger Ranch homeowners don't want anything built on the hills above their neighborhood, and some elected officials, including Sullivan, believe the Lin plan, even with its proposed open space, would place too many large homes on the hilltop.

Similar discussions are planned with Greenbriar Homes and Al Spotorno for the Lund Ranch 2 and Alisal Street developments. Neighbors of those planned developments, including several from Greenbriar's Bridle Creek development on Sycamore Creek Road and in the unincorporated Happy Valley community, object both to the size and the number of the proposed developments.

"The idea here is to look at these areas as a whole and see if there's a way to come up with a plan that satisfies neighbors from impact of development on their existing neighborhoods, minimizes the impacts on the environment, environmentally and would help the developers and landowners to meet their needs from an economic return standpoint," Sullivan said.

"We want to bring all of these people together and see if we can come up with a plan that would satisfy all of those concerned the best we can and, in return, hopefully protect the whole area from the east side of Pleasanton to Highway 84 from future development," he added.

Sullivan and others have been meeting with representatives of the Tri-Valley Conservancy to determine if land trust grants are available to help set up the southeast side acreage as a conservancy.

"We've talked to people who have put these types of deals together in other places in California, including Sonoma County that has done much of this," he said. "It would be similar to the South Livermore Plan (which restricts development in the wine country)."

"Personally, I want a very small number of houses to go up into those hills and create this open space that will be protected from development in perpetuity," Sullivan said. "This would minimize the impact on neighbors who don't want these homes. It would also give us more units under housing cap to play with for more affordable housing, such as what we are considering in the Hacienda Business Park. Basically, it would allow us to transfer housing density from the hills to a more infill type situation in the business park."

The proposed 2,000-acre conservancy would extend from Callippe Preserve on the city's far southeast side to Shadow Cliffs Regional Park on Stanley Boulevard. It would include trails in the Vineyard Corridor and then up and over the Oak Grove area through Lund Ranch 2 and the Spotorno property.

"It's an ambitious project but it's also a no-risk opportunity," he added. "The alternative is to engage in a series of land use battles between developers and neighbors and others that could stretch on forever. It's a great opportunity and hopefully we can make something happen."

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