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City Council considering appeal, other options in response to court ruling against housing cap

With time running out on filing an appeal, negotiations are under way to reach settlement with affordable housing coalition

The Pleasanton City Council Tuesday night took under advisement options for responding to a Superior Court's ruling that it must reject a 29,000-unit housing cap ordinance approved by voters in 1996 and rezone enough land to accommodate more housing units now being required by the state.

In the meantime, the court order by Judge Frank Roesch barring the city from issuing any non-residential permits stands, a ruling that Brad Hirst of Pleasanton-based Equity Enterprises told the council is already sending a message to commercial developers that the city is "closed for business" when it comes to new business development.

The council has only a few weeks left to appeal Roesch's decision that ruled in favor of a lawsuit filed by Urban Habitat, an Oakland-based affordable housing advocacy organization. That lawsuit, which was also joined by State Attorney General Jerry Brown, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in the Nov. 2 General Election, successful y claimed that the housing cap violated state law.

Following a detailed review of the lawsuit and a historical perspective on the housing cap by the city's outside counsel Tom Brown and its Community Development Director Brian Dolan, the council heard from a number of speakers, including Hirst. Several, including former City Councilwoman Kay Ayala, urged the city to stay the course and appeal Roesch's decision. Former Councilman Stave Brozosky also recommended an appeal in a letter he sent to the council.

Others asked the city to negotiate a settlement with Urban Habitat that would allow Pleasanton to have a "floating cap" that would retain restrictions on market rate housing development while still allowing all of the higher-density and mostly affordable housing now being required by the state. The negotiations, which are already under way, would also settle at least two other pending lawsuits affecting the city's housing laws and its recently-approved General Plan.

Another option would be for the council to do nothing, allowing Roesch's ruling to stand. That could open the door to more development of affordable housing without much local control, allowing outside organizations, developers and the state to dictate what kinds of high-density apartment complexes could be built here.

In his extensive and often complex review of the Urban Habitat lawsuit, first filed in 2006, Brown said California's housing laws have changed significantly since the 1996 housing cap became law, with the state gradually grabbing more controls over city and county governments over how much new housing—particularly affordable or so-called workforce housing—communities such as Pleasanton must build.

The attorney general's complaint against Pleasanton focuses on that aspect of the city's housing cap, arguing that the city's General Plan encourages more jobs-generating business development while imposing a hard fix on how many homes and apartments can be built here to serve that workforce.

Because of pending lawsuits yet to be argued or settled, Brown limited his remarks to existing conditions, although he said an appeal of Roesch's ruling would likely not be accepted by the State Court of Appeal until those other lawsuits were settled.

He also said an appeal would add to the city's legal costs, which have already reached $500,000 to his law firm, not counting the hundreds of hours of staff time by the Pleasanton City Attorney and others on the Urban Habitat lawsuit.

An appeal could cost another $250,000 with the possibility that an unfavorable ruling could also require the city to pay all of the costs incurred by Urban Habitat, which could be substantially more than the city's own legal bill.

Mayor Jennifer Hosterman said the council will review Tuesday night's comments in closed session over the coming week and will hold another public meeting "in one or two weeks" to report on those discussions and the council's recommended action.

Comments

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Posted by SteveP
a resident of Parkside
on Apr 21, 2010 at 8:24 am

SteveP is a registered user.

Good for them. I hope that this ruling gets thrown out, or at the least, a less harmful solution is negotiated. It feels like extortion, but such is life in Calif. dealing with the likes of Jerry Brown and the Dem majority.


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Posted by Repleasnacrat
a resident of Stoneridge
on Apr 21, 2010 at 8:41 am

Instead of fighting or appealing the great “Urban Habitat/Jerry Brown” lawsuit, Pleasanton should embrace the idea of offering this type of housing to employees of the city first. Then offer it to teachers and the like that support our city services. Our crack city council and legal staff clearly exhibited the kinks in their armor in the lawsuit against the evil developer vs. school debacle lawsuit. I am not a proponent of subsidized housing in any sense, but in this whacked out state, it may be better to bet them to the punch than waste more dollars on these crazy lawsuits. There still enough “developable” land in that we could easily work some favorable deals for our faire city .


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Posted by SteveP
a resident of Parkside
on Apr 21, 2010 at 9:11 am

SteveP is a registered user.

Repleasnacrat, maybe you've hit on what could be negotiated as one possible solution, although the premise here is that WE have a problem.
Home ownership (last time I checked)is a priviledge, nor a right. Forcing the city to accommodate some socialist's version of equity, at the detriment to all current residents in the area, is a notion that should not pass without a fight.
Renting and commuting are still better options for those that cannot afford homes here, rather than paving over what's left of our unspoiled landscape.


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Posted by long time resident
a resident of Downtown
on Apr 21, 2010 at 9:59 am

Why would you offer the employees even more benefits? They already have a great salary, a retirement system that is incredible, and retireee medical. Also right now, our employees do not even qualify for the subsidized housing because even our lowest salaries are too much to qualify.

The state wants us to put in subsidized housing but they will not pay for it. Maybe we put a hold in all residential subsidized housing until the state gives us money to pay for it.

This whole jobs/housing balance is ridiculous at a city level; especially with multiple people working in a household. Unless you have the companies in Pleasanton purchase the homes and they rent them to employees as workforce housing, there is no control over the balance. The General Plan indicates that 70% of the residents of Pleasanton commute outside of Pleasanton for work. That emans for every 10 housed you add in Pleasanton, you will add 7 cars to the freeway. That does not sound like it is going to help anything. Even if you put the housing next to BART, you cannot make them take BART. Maybe we only approve apartments next to BART and do not have them put in any parking? I am sure that would go over well.

Also, something that has not been mentioned is the 29,000 housing cap was set because we do not have infrastructure for a higher amount. The school district already said that if the housing cap goes away, they do not know how they will absorb the additional students. The streets are already clogged. We are just getting out of a drought which shows us that we do not have unlimited water supplies. When is enough, enough?


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Posted by Repleasnacrat
a resident of Stoneridge Park
on Apr 21, 2010 at 10:07 am

SteveP
Any one that pays taxes knows we are correct in our assumption that subsidizing housing is a farce to the nth degree! It just seems to me that if this boondoggle is going to happen, at least make it a favorable program. I am empathetic to the plight of the support staff we require to run this city. But I have to tell you I have several neighbors that our "support" staff to various forms of federal and local government and school districts....and they aint livin' to shabby a life! Go check out the real estate in Mountain House. There is more affordable house per square foot there than in all of Oklahoma! "Habitats" lawsuit has nothing to do with pollution and affordable housing. They want in your pockets, plain and simple. And...they dont care about the flotsam they leave in their wake! I dont want you all to think that I am a "I got mine, let them eat cake" kinda person. We have worked harder than average to have what we have. It let me tell ya, it aint all that much! But I will be damned if I'm in any mood to share it with folks that want "taggers and gangbanger wanna be's" relocated to the burbs! Its time to work proactively and smart, and not through the arcane legal system.


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Posted by Repleasnacrat
a resident of Stoneridge
on Apr 21, 2010 at 10:17 am

Long Time
I agree with everything you say. It just seems to be a losing battle in this state of uniformed people. For those of you less informed, most cities in the tri-valley have done a pretty good job steering away from low income housing by building subsidized housing for senior citizens.Read what you want into that, but you wont seem many seniors tagging. I have seen one case of a senior with drooping pants, but he was in a wheelchair! The senior housing has been done on the QT and keeps most of the panacea/socialist folks at bay. I'm just saying its a loosing and expensive battle. We should at least do it economically and congruent to our existing quality of life! Beside, we will be there sooner than later. All the asinine taxes we/they have paid in a lifetime, we should get first stab at the senior housing!


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Posted by Bowler
a resident of Pleasanton Middle School
on Apr 21, 2010 at 1:11 pm

I made many of these same comments on a previous thread on the same topic, but maybe a few of them bare repeating.

Please remember that Pleasanton has not been ordered to build anything. We merely have to rezone to allow for the increased number of affordable units built sometime in the future by private or non-profit developers.

The term "affordable" is relative to the local housing market. In a town with so many million dollar homes, "affordable" can still mean over $650K. Affordable is not the same as "subsidized", which means direct government support for renters. In all probability these affordable units will be for-sale units, like most of Pleasanton neighborhoods.

Affordable housing is a category of home finance, not a category of people.

In Nov. 2009 the Pleasanton City Council allowed rezoning for a mixed-use development on three sites located in Hacienda Business Park close to the BART station. This was in direct response to the lawsuit filed by Urban Habitat and the state. The city knew they were going to lose, and hoped this vote would mitigate the severity of the final ruling. The city's current inclusionary zoning ordinance would require that at least 15 percent of the maximum 950 housing units that could be built on the three sites be affordable to low and very-low households.

The units dedicated as affordable will look no different than any other unit in the complex. The sewers are in place already, as is coverage by police and fire.


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Posted by Repleasnacrat
a resident of Downtown
on Apr 21, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Bowler
Sorry dude, the units are NOT subject to the zip code averages. The are priced according to THAT specific development. Do a little research as to what the income ceilings are for "affordable" homeowners actually is/are. I havent seen them in a couple of years, but I remember when Dublin started building the condos on the 580/tassajarra lots they were no where aligned with the prevailing RE values. Up to 3 people in a 1 bedroom unit with an combined income not to exceed $44k. 5 people in a 2 bedroom $53k. And it gets crazier as the unit size and bedrooms increase. While it all sounds nice to you, it seldom works well for 'hood. You are delusional if you dont think that 15% of the residence of a 950 unit building wont be destroyed in five years or LESS. With 140 units of low to very low income residence, I wouldnt give it 5 minutes. As to affordable housing being a finance category of homeownership, you have consumed way to much Kool-aid. You either work hard save your money and buy a house or NOT. See two categories. When are you going to understand that social engineering pertaining to equalizing neighborhoods has not, nor will it ever work.


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Posted by Bowler
a resident of Pleasanton Middle School
on Apr 21, 2010 at 3:23 pm

The numbers you shared are for below market rate rental apartments, not for-sale units. There are only 234 apartments in 3 developments in Pleasanton (pop. over 68,000) that are designated as BMR non-senior housing. To extrapolate from your example, a family of 5 in a 2 bedroom apartment would qualify with an income of $77,150. That is about the average middle school teacher salary in PUSD.

The city recently completed the sale of the last of the 7 BMR priced townhomes in the new Birch Terrace development on Vineyard Avenue and Birch Creek Drive near my home. The units look no different on the outside from the other townhouses in the development. The market rate units sold for +$600K. The BMR units sold for half that amount on average. And again a PUSD middle school teacher could qualify, hardly potential "taggers and gangbanger wanna be's" as Repleasnacrat labeled them.


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Posted by long time resident
a resident of Downtown
on Apr 21, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Bowler, you are wrong. ABAG tells the city how many subsidized (i.e., affordable) units to zone for. They have multiple classes for moderate, low, and very low. These numbers come from the Area Median Income (AMI) for Alameda and Contra Costa Counties; not Pleasanton. Moderate is 80% of AMI, Low is 60% of AMI, and Very-low is 50% of AMI.

Our teachers do not qualify because they make more than 80% of the area median income.


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Posted by Bowler
a resident of Pleasanton Middle School
on Apr 21, 2010 at 6:37 pm

The following link is to the city's 2009 applicable income limits and BMR rental maximums. Note that a 80% AMI for a family of 5 in Ptown is $77,150.
Web Link

The following link is the city's web page on affordable housing. Scroll down to the bottom and note the list of 3 developments which have a total of 234 BMR non-senior apartments. Regardless of who tells the city how many are required, this is have many we have.
Web Link

The following link is to a data base which lists the mid-range teacher salary at Pleasanton Middle School at $66,332 and the highest teacher salary at $80,000. From that one could easily assume that there are teachers there making $77,150, which makes them eligible for affordable housing.
Web Link

If you still feel I am wrong, please offer specifics.


Like this comment
Posted by Jason
a resident of Pleasanton Meadows
on Apr 22, 2010 at 7:13 pm

Government intervention is a great idea. The lawsuit doesn't go far enough. Lets:

- Tax all homeowners and create a fund for those who want to live here but can't afford it. Let's give the first free house to Sandra De Gregorio and make it a nice one (Ruby Hill or somewhere on the Ridge). She deserves it.

- USPS is going broke. If they scale back to 5 day delivery and close some obsolete post offices though, a lot of hard working folks will lose their jobs due to cost cuts. FedEx and UPS are raking it in so let's tax all of their packages to subsidize USPS - no cuts required!

- Who wants to stay at Motel 6 or Best Western when there are much nicer hotels in town? Tax rooms at the Rose Hotel, Marriott and Hilton so that folks who currently can't afford their rates can stay there in the future.

- Only rich people eat at Hap's. Let's tax every meal so that anyone who wants to eat there but can only afford Chile's will now have the chance.

- Private schools are so expensive. Let's tax private school tuition to create scholarships. Base them on want not on merit because everyone deserves to get what they want.

You get the idea. These are just a few ways that we can make this community better for everyone!


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Posted by westsider
a resident of Foothill High School
on Apr 22, 2010 at 7:20 pm

Geez Jason, don't give 'em any ideas!


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Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Good ideas Jason! I would like to drive a new Ferrari, yet I do not have the cash. I think CA should force Pleasanton to provide me with a subsidized Ferrari.


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Posted by letsgo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2010 at 1:39 pm

long time - it would seem reasonable that a city could and should limit the number of residents due to limited resources - in fact its seems like the only prudent thing to do. Instead, we keep building and building stresses all the systems and natural resources in cities all over the country.


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Posted by another long time resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 23, 2010 at 2:26 pm

I want my subsidized housing in Atherton, and a subsidized Ferrari. I don't pay any taxes now since I don't make enough money so that should entitle me to those things. Working hard to obtain those things is for stupid people. I am smart; make the government give them to me at my lower wage.

New slogan for California: "Welcome to the welfare state. No hard work necessary to receive what you want. You are entitled to everything."


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Posted by Nosy Neighbors
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Apr 23, 2010 at 8:14 pm

People, c'mon. Do you actually think that WHEN we finally allow the housing cap to be amended & green light this debacle that in the current state of both the general economy & especially the construction, building/finance sectors that this will ever see the light of day? Not a chance IMHO. No major builder will touch a designated "low income" housing development now or perhaps ever again & do you actually think that banks are lining up to hand out loans for something like this? Folks with FICO's slightly north of 800 right now are being held to tighter & more selective lending criteria than ever before so in the end, this "Potters Field" will end up being just another pipe dream drummed up by the do-gooders & socialist leaning loons that are still trying to figure out ways to waste & re-distribute our money.


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

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