News


City Council votes to negotiate settlement on court-ordered housing cap ban

By working with cap-opponents, city hopes to still maintain limited growth policy

The Pleasanton City Council Tuesday night unanimously agreed to negotiate a settlement with opponents of the city's 29,000-unit housing cap who won a court decision last month that found the cap in violation of state law.

In his ruling, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch told Pleasanton officials to remove any reference to the housing cap from its General Plan and other documents. He gave the city 120 days to comply or file an appeal of his ruling.

By negotiating a settlement, the council hopes to avoid costly future litigation or to simply accept the ruling that could open the city up to more involvement on land use issues by the state.

The negotiations, which have already been under way on an informal basis, will start with Urban Habitat, an Oakland-based affordable housing advocacy organization that first filed the suit in 2006. Council members would like to keep some limits on housing development while still agreeing to Urban Habitat's insistence that it allow for sufficient residentially-zoned land to meet state housing requirements.

If satisfactory, the negotiations with Urban Habitat and then with State Atty. Gen Jerry Brown, whose office joined in the Urban Habitat suit, could also settle at least two other related lawsuits.

Tuesday night's council decision authorizes City Attorney Jonathan P. Lowell, City Manager Nelson Fialho and a City Council subcommittee consisting of Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and Councilwoman Cindy McGovern "to pursue settlement negotiations with the Urban Habitat plaintiffs and the Attorney General, reserving the right to pursue other options in the event settlement negotiations are not successful."

Today, Lowell said that the city has until early July to respond to Roesch on how it intends to proceed or to accept his decision.

"We think we'll find much earlier than that if we can reach a negotiated settlement," Lowell said.

The housing cap was approved in 1996 by 80 percent of those who voted on the special measure. At the time, the cap was considered necessary to stop runaway residential growth that could exceed the capabilities of the city's sewer, water and street systems to handle.

The need to act quickly on Roesch's decision, even ahead of the 120-day deadline, is being forced by another ruling Roesch handed down that bars Pleasanton from issuing any commercial building improvement or new commercial construction permits until the city gets rid of the housing cap.

At its last meeting, the City Council heard from Brad Hirst of Pleasanton-based Equity Enterprises. He told the council that the ruling has already sent a message to commercial developers that the Pleasanton is "closed for business" when it comes to new business development.

Comments

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Posted by tennessee jed
a resident of Jensen Tract
on Apr 28, 2010 at 4:00 pm

we voted the first housing cap into law...i hope we get to vote on what ever compromise is agreed to...but i wont hold my breath...


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Posted by Jessica
a resident of Birdland
on Apr 28, 2010 at 4:41 pm

I love how the organization that filed is in Oakland. There's a reason we pay high property taxes - we don't want to turn into Oakland!! I am so sick of this "advocacy groups" telling communities what they have to do. Affordable housing is ridiculous. You live where you can afford to live. There are plenty of places to rent if you can't. Take ownership for yourself for once people!


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Posted by Mao
a resident of Downtown
on Apr 28, 2010 at 11:16 pm

"At the time, the cap was considered necessary to stop runaway residential growth that could exceed the capabilities of the city's sewer, water and street systems to handle".

It is self-evident that residential growth can never exceed water and sewer capabilities. No water or sewer? No occupancy permit. No occupancy permit? No developer would ever build the home in the first place.

So, $500,000 of City money later, why was this stupid cap thing necessary?????


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Posted by Steve
a resident of Sycamore Heights
on Apr 29, 2010 at 6:19 am

With the Council's historic support for additional development, asking them to negotiate a settlement on the housing cap is like asking a fox to protect the hen house. Until we replace the current members of the Board with those who are more attuned to the desires of the citizens of Pleasanton, don't expect an outcome other than what Greenbrier and other developers want to see.


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Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Apr 29, 2010 at 7:44 am

When did Pleasanton achieve "above the law" status?


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Posted by Janice
a resident of Mission Park
on Apr 29, 2010 at 8:39 am

We can't change how we got to this point. Let's just move ahead in the best way for Pleasanton. I'm glad the council was unanimous in their decision on how to move forward. No campaigning that blames the other guy!


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Posted by iwastheretoo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2010 at 8:42 am

Mao, check your facts. Councilwoman McGovern is one of the two council members involved in the negotiating. She has been consistently anything but supportive of development.

In my mind, the Council had to defend the original lawsuit given the voter imposed housing cap. But we lost and attorneys are advising that we would not have much of a chance on appeal. It sounds like the City Council has learned from the Neal School litigation and is not going to pursue costly appeals after being advised they don't have a high chance of succes.

Other communities seem to have strategies for managing their growth without a hard housing cap. We're just going to have to determine how some of them do it, and of the different ways, which one is best suited to Pleasanton. Sounds like so far the Council is getting this one right!


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Posted by SteveP
a resident of Parkside
on Apr 29, 2010 at 8:50 am

SteveP is a registered user.

Great post, Jessica....I totally agree.

Jack, what do you hope to accomplish, other than being the lone voice of capitulation?


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Posted by Kathy
a resident of Country Fair
on Apr 29, 2010 at 9:11 am

Why didn't the courts take into consideration that we are not on an island? There are lots of areas around us that have more affordable housing like Dublin, Livermore and Mtn. House. My first job, I communted from San Jose to Mtn. View. I did not like it, but I never dreamed Mtn. View HAD to give me a low income house!


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Posted by Tim
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2010 at 10:21 am

Lets put some apartment complexes out by Ruby Hill


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Posted by Ngo Loon
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2010 at 10:35 am

Remember this is being foisted upon Pleasanton by left-wing loons, the most notable of which is Gov. Moonbeam, now acting as the loony Attorney General. In November, we have to get out the vote to make sure that idiot doesn't get back into office. If you are a younger person, you owe it to yourself to do a little research on just how badly he screwed up the state when he was Governor the first time. Go visit the place in the California Capitol building where they have the portraits of the former Governors. Moonbeam had his done so that he looked like Bozo the Clown (seriously!). It seems he was right on one thing - his self image.


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Posted by sknywench
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Apr 29, 2010 at 10:35 am

sknywench is a registered user.

Mao gets it. The infrastructure of sewer and water capacity will determine ultimate build-out and not a voter mandated housing cap. If our elected officials who spent money to defend the legal challenge to date did not know that already, they are either incapable or I suspect just pandering to the uninformed public who elected them. Like it or not, its the law and the City has allowed a third party to be in control. The Council should have rezoned years ago to avoid all this wasted money and effort. And McGovern finally got smart and voted to negotiate a settlement. Look at the millions the School District threw away on a lawsuit over the Neal Elementary School which she advocated while on the School Board. Too bad she didnt smarten up alittle eaerlier


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Posted by Pete
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2010 at 10:43 am

iwastheretoo," Other communities seem to have strategies for managing their growth without a hard housing cap. Were going to just have to determine how some of them do it"
With all due respect, what community would you might suggest we take a lead from? What leadership qualities interest you that our future leaders might have? Maybe we need a pants falling down mentality to light a fire under our feet. What type of development, with millions of sq. ft. already in place, do we need? How might we remedy the people in the middle who don't quite understand the dynamics of the Oak Grove project on Pleasanton? Maybe the Hacienda housing task force would be better prepared to discuss the rezoned properties if their meeting were switched to an outdoor setting, at the intersection of Hacienda Blvd. and Gibraltar. Please share a better city to shadow? You share many good points, this one is a stretch. IMHO


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Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Apr 29, 2010 at 11:05 am

Steve P. What do I hope to accomplish?
The Housing Cap was a bad idea at the time, it was one group's idea to control Pleasanton in perpetuity without having to get elected every two years. It has now been ruled to be against the law. Fighting this one will end up like "Neal School 2." I love our community and have lived here since the 60's, but remain ashamed of the superiority complex Pleasanton now maintains. They're asking our community to take on its share of affordable housing. A few more affordable homes around here won't hurt anything. Let's move Pleasanton forward!


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Posted by Nosy Neighbors
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Apr 29, 2010 at 11:22 am

A quick look at the current state of both the construction industry, building development financing, the residential real estate & banking/loan landscape will tell you that there is a slim to zero chance of any non-state or government subsidized plan to build & sell dedicated low-income housing in a market such as Pleasanton for the foreseeable future. Banks are not lining up to make loans or refinance mortgages for the lucky few with FICO's well north of 800 these days & as far as a loan to somebody less credit & finance fortunate? Forget it. The unfolding Goldman Sachs soap opera & Freddie Mae/Mac scandals have all but screwed the pooch for most of us in that situation. Essentially we did just waste the $500K or so in legal fees because the economy itself just killed the notion of this ever seeing the light of day. Even if there was to be some funding to find it's way into this (debacle of a)project the Planning & zoning commissions, neighborhood coalitions, negative press coverage & even, pseudo-bloggers on local media websites will allow it to ever happen.

At least we're consistent in our building mindset. No mega-mansion's for the uber-rich polluting our hillsides & no mega-cheap/Cabrini Green esque` developments either.


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Posted by iwastheretoo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Pete, I'm interested in what communities in Marin County are doing as well as Los Gatos comes to mind. Cities in Marin County aren't growing but yet don't have any sort of housing cap. I believe its tied to lack of availability of additional infrastructure as in water specifically. Seems like we could get there pretty quick. My understanding is that Los Gatos (maybe its Los Altos, i get them confused) has a floating type of cap that takes into account new RNHA numbers as they're assigned but has a way to manage growth.

I want my leaders to think out of the box in this case as there are definitely some smart ways to continue to manage our growth without the housing cap and without litigation. I believe that the majority of the council are capable of that. The bigger problem is how to get the residents to understand that--Oak Grove is the perfect example. Having the Kay Ayala's stand at the podium and tell the Council they have an obligation to defend the voter imposed housing cap doesn't have the problem.

The bottom line is the state can't force the City to build houses only make sure that enough land is zoned such that our RHNA numbers could be met IF builders did build projects. I think that will likely take quite awhile to happen. As an example think of the 300 plus unit apartment building with retail on the ground level approved by the new BART Station. I think that's exactly the kind of development Urban Habitat is looking for. Guess what--the developer can't get funding and the project is on hold and I believe has filed for at least one extension on the approval.

Don't get me wrong--I don't think its right the state and courts can dictate what our city does but as i noted above i do believe there are some communities that can serve as ideas on how we proceed.


Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 29, 2010 at 12:30 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

iwastheretoo,

Some in our community believe that "growth management" means "stop growth" instead of "manage growth" or "control and direct growth to the benefit of the community".


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Posted by Pete
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 29, 2010 at 4:24 pm

iwastheretoo, the question you may be asking is...could our City Staff conduct...maybe they have, a search into areas, similar to Pleasanton's current relationship to buildout? Ask our Council to report a follow-up to your concerns. You would find a very short list. According to Stacey's follow-up blog quote to you, I find people most everyday, whether in a store, coffee shop, downtown... her/his message generic in nature that could be related anywhere across the country, within their own town as well. Stacey's a rock. I just don't agree with her/him at times. As far as Kay's stand is concerned...information is often never allowed to filter down in a way for those to understand in a matter to contribute fully to their community. Kay cares very much for Pleasanton. We all have a tweak or two that people don't like. Your Bart example, 300 apartments is a good one. Our future lies within public/private partnerships, IMHO, but safety was compromised from those within that partnership.The pedestrian bridge connecting Dublin to Pleasanton,by Bart, was not within code.My hope is that when those apartments are built that the C C & R's are clear enough to provide direction for a wonderful addition to our Community. My point is... we may be most of those ideas for others to follow in the future. I don't have a problem with that. I'm still hopeful my kids could live here someday. Each neighborhood of town must compliment each other in some way.


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Posted by SteveP
a resident of Parkside
on Apr 30, 2010 at 8:59 am

SteveP is a registered user.

Jack, that all sounds very altruistic, but you can't really think this is in Pleasanton's best interest. Who really stands to benefit from this debacle raised by special interests?
You "lived here since the 60's, but remain ashamed of the superiority complex Pleasanton now maintains"? Really? Ashamed? I'm thinking a nice retirement community might suit you and your guilty conscience.
What's wrong with living in a successful community? Unless you don't share in that succeess, which may explain the shame.


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Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Apr 30, 2010 at 8:59 pm

Call me old fashioned, but yes, I think crafting laws that can actually stand up in a court of law would be in Pleasanton's best interests...


Like this comment
Posted by CowTurd
a resident of Las Positas Garden Homes
on May 3, 2010 at 1:02 am


Let's keep the riff-raff out of Pleasanton. Whatever it takes.


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Posted by Hills
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on May 3, 2010 at 8:17 am

So, set up the low housing approvals in the sacred "open spaces". Then let the group suing Pleasanton get sued by the environmentalists. That should delay any change forever.


Like this comment
Posted by Steven J. Raff
a resident of Castlewood Heights
on May 3, 2010 at 8:56 am

Mr. Turd, I take your comment as a vicious attack on both myself & the Raff family in general sir. We Raff's are hard working, family oriented, church going regular folks, just like you.

We want nothing to do with those "Riff's" that always seem to give us a bad name!


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Posted by CowTurd
a resident of Las Positas Garden Homes
on May 3, 2010 at 10:20 am

to: "Steven Raff",

I apologize if my comments offended you in any way. I looked at Riff-Raff (hyphenated last name) as completely separate from the Raff's and did not mean to imply they were associated in any way. Let me rephrase my previous comments: "I would like to see all liberal pinkos, illegal immigrants, and people with income of $20k/year run out of town"


Like this comment
Posted by Steven J. Raff
a resident of Castlewood Heights
on May 3, 2010 at 3:44 pm

No worries, me to!


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

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