News

Court to rule early next year on validity of Pleasanton housing cap

Judge questions legality of housing cap although suit is about building affordable homes

In a three-hour hearing in Alameda County Superior Court Friday, Judge Frank Roesch sparred repeatedly with Pleasanton's legal representative Tom Brown over the city's 29,000-unit housing cap before taking a suit under advisement that claims the cap is illegal.

Roesch, in hearing arguments by representatives of Urban Habitat, an affordable housing advocacy group, and a representative of State Attorney General Jerry Brown, whose office joined in the suit, indicated that he believes the cap violates state law

Brown insisted that Urban Habitat's suit is not about the validity of the housing cap, but whether Pleasanton has used the cap to bar development of workforce and affordable housing that the state insists it should allow.

"We've met every requirement placed on us by the state under the Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA)," Brown said. "At no time has the city ever rejected a development plan because of the housing cap."

Still, Roesch argued, Pleasanton, which has more than 2,700 apartment and housing units already built or approved, could not meet RENA's requirement that it add another 3,277 units as Urban Habitat claims the state is requiring by 2014.

"That's a hypothetic argument," Brown answered. "No one's asking to build those units in Pleasanton."

But Roesch persisted, asking Brown how the city would respond if a developer asked today to build that many units. He said the City Council would have to turn down the request based on the fact that the housing cap was imposed in 1996 in a referendum approved by a majority of Pleasanton voters. Legally, it can be removed only by another vote or by a court decision declaring the cap illegal.

Brown said Roesch and Urban Habitat can't use speculation as the basis of deciding the validity of the housing cap. The city is not in violation of the housing numbers so far imposed by the state and there's plenty of time before 2014 for the council to ask voters to change the limit.

City officials already have discussed asking voters to revise the housing cap ordinance to put it more in line with RENA's requirements. Such a measure could allow that the cap be adjusted every seven years to satisfy state housing numbers.

Curiously, neither Richard Marcantonio, the lead attorney for Urban Habitat or his assistant Atty. Christopher Mooney, cited Pleasanton's urban growth management policy that limits building permits to 350 a year. Although that number of permits hasn't been used for most of the decade, even if a developer was to seek to build 3,277 units, it would take years to receive building permits--housing cap or not.

Roesch said he will rule on Urban Habitat's suit within the next 90 days.

Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Kafka-esque
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 21, 2009 at 8:24 am

People of Pleasanton, you vill obey! Your Fuhr...er I mean, leaders have spoken, your will, local legislature & wishes do not matter to us, only your strict obedience to the state & the general well being of the citizenry!

...we are soooooo screwed.


Like this comment
Posted by John Z.
a resident of Dublin
on Dec 21, 2009 at 8:58 am

Pleasanton voters have already declared that they want a housing cap. It's ridiculous for the County, State, or some other agency to try and tell Pleasanton that they have to build or else. It should be up to the city's residents whether or not they want to build.

It is clear why cities like Alamo refuse to incorporate - they don't want to be subjected to the same strong-arm tactics that are being used against Pleasanton and other Tri-Valley cities.


Like this comment
Posted by Jay
a resident of Danbury Park
on Dec 21, 2009 at 9:33 am

Two thumbs up to the above.


Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 21, 2009 at 9:44 am

Stacey is a registered user.

Well, there's the little matter of State law regardless of what some majority of voters in a municipality desire.

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Sirena
a resident of Val Vista
on Dec 21, 2009 at 10:12 am

I agree with John Z. The majority of people in Pleasanton don't want to expand. Soon the valley is going to look like Oakland to San Jose. One big strech of land with houses and buildings. You can't tell where one city starts and stops. I don't think 580 can handle more traffic during commute time, so why build more apts/homes?


Like this comment
Posted by The Other Mary
a resident of Pleasanton Valley
on Dec 21, 2009 at 12:08 pm

According to data on the City of Pleasanton website, there were over 4,600 apartments built or in process by January of 2002.

Web Link


Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 21, 2009 at 4:01 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Web Link

"Defenders of the housing element requirement tend to argue that
local governments that comply with the law, by demonstrating adequate
plans, enable more housing to be built....
Using Census data on the number of housing units in each city, I
find no detectable relationship between housing element compliance and
the percentage increase in housing across these communities during the
1990s. Thus, for all the potential merits and benefits of housing element
compliance, one must look to other factors to explain why some cities
experience rapid housing development and other cities experience little.
The analysis suggests that a city’s demographic characteristics, its
position in the urban hierarchy, and its physical capacity to
accommodate new buildings are better predictors of housing growth."


Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 21, 2009 at 4:03 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

"The results imply that cities with
compliant housing elements are willing to substitute multifamily (more
affordable) units for a share of single-family units. Nevertheless, it is
striking that one can detect no measurable relationship between
compliance and overall housing production."


Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 21, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

"California’s housing element requirement
has often gone against the grain of local policymaking because it asks
cities to plan for the needs of the wider region, not just the needs of
current city residents. Indeed, the philosophy behind fair-share housing
policy is that the so-called police power of local governments to regulate land use should be directed toward the general welfare of the region, not just the general welfare of the specific locality."


Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 21, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

BTW, Jeb, RHNA not RENA.


Like this comment
Posted by Justin
a resident of Mohr Park
on Dec 21, 2009 at 8:39 pm

Jerry Brown has joined in the lawsuit against our city regarding this issue. Please remember this during the next Governor's election. The state "borrows" our tax revenue then sues us.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Dec 21, 2009 at 9:21 pm

I do not get it. Why should the court decide what happens in Pleasanton when voters have already decided. It's not like we have a housing shortage. The other thing I don't get is that why in the world does every city in California have to build out every square inch of open land. Look at the mess in Dublin which is right over the highway from Pleasanton.....why do we need to have something like that! We should not be strong-armed into building beyond the housing cap that was voted in years ago. There is no reason to cover every piece of land that exists. There is plenty of housing available in Dublin, San Ramon, and Livermore if there isn't enough in Pleasanton. Say NO to Jerry Brown. Vote NO for Jerry Brown. Tell Jerry Brown to stay focused on his own job and leave Pleasanton alone. He doesn't live here and he doesn't live here. If he wants more affordable housing - tell him to build it in his own back yard.


Like this comment
Posted by Karen
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Dec 22, 2009 at 9:52 am

Since he was the mayor of Oakland, he must live there. Perhaps he wants some of this troubled criminal/citizens to jump on BART and move out here. Less crime in Oakland for his neighborhood and the low or low-low income houses for his ex-Oakland citizens.


Like this comment
Posted by Mike
a resident of Val Vista
on Dec 22, 2009 at 10:41 am

Good point, why does every inch of land have to be covered with homes and apartments. Dublin looks like a mess from the freeway and driving in Dublin doesn't make sense. There are homes and business all mixed up together. All those enviromentilist should be concerned, but they are first to complain about low housing. To answer Stacey's question in English, regarding why some cities have rapid growth and some don't is that Pleasanton is concerned about the safety, beauty and the economy of Pleasanton, unlike some cities in the East Bay. No reason to run our city like a socialist.


Like this comment
Posted by Jim
a resident of Del Prado
on Dec 22, 2009 at 12:16 pm

How is building more houses going to help highway congestion? Right now, about 60%-70% of the people who live in Pleasanton work outside of Pleasanton. If we add more houses, more people will be on the freeway.

I am concerned that Judge Roesch is the judge for this case. He is the same judge that stopped the citizens of Pleasanton from putting the referendum on the ballot regarding the Lin Oak Grove development, and he was overturned on an appeal. I wonder how objective he is with land-use planning or if he would go against the citizens of Pleasanton since his last case was appealed and overturned unanimously by the appeal court.

I am also concerned that our current city council is giving directions to our attorney on this suit (the city attorney works for the council; not the citizens). A majority of the council members would like for the housing cap to go away so I wonder how hard they will fight for the citizens here. The council will be doing some arm-waving to make it appear that they are fighting the suit and if it is successful they will tell the citizens "sorry but the judge told us we had to remove the housing cap (snicker, snicker)." I wish there was a way that citizens could really see what is going on in closed session about this case since it is a case about the housing cap that the citizens voted for. If guess if we loose the case the only thing we can do is vote off council members in favor of development as they will build and build till we look like Dublin.


Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Dec 22, 2009 at 12:59 pm

I think the point is that if Pleasanton does not support sufficient population (according to state rules), it promotes development farther out and therefore increases traffic on the freeways (this is just one reason for this). And, actually, many environmentalists very much favor increased housing and density (including mixing up businesses and housing) as that promotes less use of the automobile to get between houses and basic services like markets. Like it or not, Pleasanton is no longer "out in the country", but is basically a San Francisco suburb. Smart development doesn't have to destroy the quality of life Pleasanton enjoys (and the contrast with Dublin is obvious). Small towns are great, but there aren't enough small towns to go around.


Like this comment
Posted by fyi
a resident of Birdland
on Dec 22, 2009 at 2:50 pm

RHNA has to do with the balance between jobs in Pleasanton and housing.


Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 22, 2009 at 9:19 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

John wrote: "environmentalists very much favor increased housing and density (including mixing up businesses and housing)"

Then they failed in Dublin. You have to use a car to get between the high density housing and the local grocery store, etc. The development there isn't very pedestrian friendly or mixed. We can do smart growth here in Pleasanton right in Hacienda and it won't be ugly or messed up like they did in Dublin.

Mike wrote: "To answer Stacey's question"

It was actually a question from the web link. In the case of Dublin, all that land between Tassajara and Dougherty used to be Camp Parks. I don't know the details, but it was annexed into Dublin. So Dublin suddenly found itself with a vast expanse of land and went nuts. That's why they had rapid expansion. We didn't have that in Pleasanton. It'd be like if one day we woke up and all the gravel pits between Ruby Hill and I-580 were filled in and that was now Pleasanton land.


Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 22, 2009 at 9:20 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

... So the point is that Dublin's rapid development wasn't caused by some State law on planning for housing.


Like this comment
Posted by John Z.
a resident of Dublin
on Dec 22, 2009 at 10:10 pm

In response to Stacey's comment, Dublin's rapid development has been (and will continue to be) caused by many factors including a) the opportunity for developers to receive their just rewards for investing in the community and b) pressure from State and local agencies to build x number of affordable housing units. The only way that private developers can make mixed-income development pencil out is to build high and close together.

The state and local agencies are very subtle in that they don't tell cities that they need to build x number of affordable homes directly. They say that cities need to add a certain number of homes and then they say that if you want to build those homes, then x% need to be affordable. Fortunately, there are credits for the developers to help off-set the ongoing expenses of having affordable housing.

More transparency would be helpful so that voters know exactly what they are voting for with the housing cap.


Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 22, 2009 at 10:33 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

John Z.,

It is even more subtle than that! The State assigns a number to these quasi-governmental agencies, like ABAG (the Association of Bay Area Governments) where we have quasi-representation, who then dole out the local numbers. But really, the numbers aren't the number of units cities have to build, they're only the number they have to plan for.


Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 22, 2009 at 10:34 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

I'm not positive, but I think Pleasanton didn't even have quasi-representation on the relevant ABAG committee until Janet Lockhart retired.


Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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