Council may settle affordable housing litigation issues Tuesday

Staff report says city would pay $1.9 million in legal fees, scuttle housing cap law

The Pleasanton City Council is expected to agree to a court order Tuesday that scuttles a 29,000-unit housing cap law approved by voters in 1996 and to provide more affordable and workforce housing to meet future state housing requirements here.

The agreement, according to staff reports prepared for the council meeting, also calls for paying $1.9 million in legal fees to lawyers from Urban Habitat and Public Advocates, the two housing coalitions that filed the successful suit in 2006 to invalidate the housing cap. Tom Brown, an attorney who represented Pleasanton as outside counsel in the litigation, already has been paid about $500,000 for his work.

As costly as the settlement agreement will be, if the council accepts it, it could have been worse. The affordable housing coalitions claimed their legal fees topped $4 million. Attorney General Jerry Brown, whose office joined in the suit against Pleasanton, also had legal fees but has agreed to waive those now that a settlement has been reached.

Tom Brown, who handled the city's legal battle, advised against appealing the decision by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch. He said an appeal would escalate the costs for all the parties involved and would likely be unsuccessful.

Following his ruling March 12, Roesch gave Pleasanton until August to appeal his decision or accept it and remove the housing cap. In the meantime, he barred the city from issuing any non-residential building permits, a move that has exacerbated commercial interests that have held back on plans to expand their facilities here or to build new ones.

With the final settlement agreement expected to be formally approved at a council meeting Aug. 17, according to staff reports, it's expected that Roesch will lift the permit ban.

Although the housing cap will be stricken from the city's General Plan, no one expects the floodgates to open for more home construction. A growth management law restricts new residential building permits in Pleasanton to no more than 350 a year, a number that hasn't been seen in years. Given the current market doldrums, it's unlikely more than a few permits will be requested this year or next, with those most likely for room additions, not new homes or apartments. Even the housing cap, which Roesch found in violation of state law, hasn't been a factor in limiting housing growth in Pleasanton. As of today, with 27,000 homes and apartments built, the city is at least 2,000 units short of reaching the cap.

After the Roesch decision, the City Council appointed Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and Councilwoman Cindy McGovern to be a negotiating team to meet with representatives the attorney general's office, Urban Habitat and Public Advocates. City Manager Nelson Fialho, City Attorney Jonathan Lowell and outside counsel Tom Brown also attended those meetings, which took place weekly at various locations.

According to staff reports, the negotiating team had five goals. They included retaining local control over rezoning efforts already under way for new affordable and market rate apartments in Hacienda Business Park, restoring the city's non-residential permitting authority as quickly as possible, ending all outstanding litigation that hasn't yet been adjudicated related to the housing cap, and affordable housing and General Plan issues, including two outstanding unfair discriminatory housing claims filed in 2006.

In reaching a settlement agreement, the staff report states that the City Council will agree to:

* Repeal the housing cap from the General Plan and wherever it is referenced in other city documents, including the city's housing element. Although the housing cap was approved in 1996 by an overwhelming margin of voters, the court order requires the council to scuttle it.

* Expedite a task force study on the Hacienda Business Park housing plan, with its recommendations to be completed within six months of the final settlement date.

* Prepare a housing element within the next 12 months that will basically spell out how Pleasanton plans to develop over time, where housing units for all income levels will be built, and that the numbers will comply with state requirements for meeting anticipated housing needs in the community.

* Adopt a resolution reiterating the city's commitment to non-discrimination in all type of housing, specifically including affordable housing for families with children -- an action Urban Habitat and Public Advocate representatives demanded.

* Prepare within 18 months a "Climate Action Plan," as requested by the attorney general's office, that will address the effects of vehicle miles traveled here given a large workforce with a smaller number of residents in that workforce. This plan will meet the requirements of greenhouse emission controls sought by the state.

* Pay all legal costs associated with the various lawsuits and threatened litigation in an amount of $1.9 million.

The proposed settlement agreement, as stated in the staff report, is on the council's Tuesday night agenda. Representatives of the attorney general's office and the affordable housing coalitions are expected to participate in the meeting, which starts at 7 p.m. in the City Council chamber, 200 Old Bernal Ave.

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Posted by Chris
a resident of Walnut Grove Elementary School
on Jul 16, 2010 at 8:32 am

This is very frustrating to me. My husband and I have worked hard to be able to afford to live in Pleasanton. We have a budget and we stick to it and that is why we are able to live here and raise our kids here. And although we don't have "low income" it is because we put ourselves through college so we could have higher income (and are still paying student loans). It is disappointing that the city is backing down to allow people who have not sacrificed as much as we have to live in this great community. I will not vote for any of the council members that supported this settlement.

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Posted by SteveP
a resident of Parkside
on Jul 16, 2010 at 8:39 am

SteveP is a registered user.

Blame Jerry Brown and the low life advocates from Berkelely for this travesty. The council had no choice but to go along or exhaust the city's finances fighting a losing battle in court.
The low income appeasers won't be happy until they've ruined the community we've worked hard to build and drag it down with them.
Good thing they already published the top 100 cities list since it will be the last time we'll be on it.

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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jul 16, 2010 at 9:45 am

Stacey is a registered user.


I applaud you in your efforts at managing your finances so successfully. You wouldn't throw your money at a losing proposition and here neither is the Council.

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Posted by John
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2010 at 9:52 am

As part of the state of California, Pleasanton, like all communities, is responsible for various contributions to the well-being of the state and Bay Area region. Regional planning is critical to the health of the economy and environment and local laws, such as the housing cap, is one way that communities attempt to avoid their larger responsibilities. You can argue that the city has a right to govern the growth within their own borders (and even, as so many people here suggest, protect our own upper-income comfortable and complacent turf), but the fact is that Pleasanton benefits from a great many services the state of California provides and therefore has a responsibility to the state to contribute to responsible growth patterns.

No matter what you think, this isn't going to be the end of Pleasanton's character. The denser development of housing in the Hacienda park has long been suggested and, perhaps, this will help with solving the city's problem. It is in the state's interest, and it is in the interest of the city of Pleasanton, to make it possible to build housing that makes it possible for those who work here to live here, too.

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Posted by gelson
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 16, 2010 at 10:09 am

Chris and SteveP,

I find it interesting how you two have utter distain for low income people. I guess a person who has financial problems or doesn’t make a six figure income is subhuman scum in your eyes. Of course, you subscribe to the ridiculous and simplistic notion that all poor people are lazy or have some moral shortcoming.

The truth is that you don’t want “DIFFERENT” people living in Pleasanton. You want to avoid diversity at all costs so you can live in a homogeneous bubble. You dread any and all change and live in a world of 24/7 Faux News fear-mongering. America is changing whether you like it or not, so you might want to reconsider your whitebred, 1950s ideals for Pleasanton. Think about that the next time you spit on a poor person from your SUV.

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Posted by A hard working mom
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jul 16, 2010 at 10:57 am

When we moved here 16 years ago, from an urban working-class neighborhood, we could barely afford houseing prices. That was 1994. There is no in the last 12 years or so we could have afforded to buy here, even with college degrees and "professional" jobs. The mistake many people are thinking is what the word "affordable" really means. Our teachers, firefighters, peace officers and nurses cannot afford to buy in our town, let alone the those who work in the restaurants and stores we love on Main St. Many of those who need affordable housing are single mom's (read college educated divorced mom's) who have had to move out of Pleasanton. Affordable housing will not turn Pleasanton into a "downtown Oakland". Affordable housing will allow our children to come back and live in this town once they have graduated from all the UC and CSU schools we send them too.

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Posted by Nosy Neighbors
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jul 16, 2010 at 11:48 am

If you all thought the battle over Measure D was nasty, just wait until some developer tries to build a high-rise, low-income housing project out by 580. We've shown that we don't want mega mansions for the uber rich in this town & I'm sure that this time the do-gooders will face some stiff opposition from everybody & anybody that will be affected by not only the real possibility of their property values taking a nose dive but of the increased traffic, noise, congestion & yes...crime.

Bring it on Jerry!

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Posted by Indano
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 16, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Don't you just love bullies? They are everywhere now; both out of the P-town radius as well as within. You get what you ask for; I say. The bullies within have reared an ugly Phoenix of bullies.

Until we all say "enough" to these bullies (and it only takes a few to ruin it for all) we all will continue to suffer from "counter" influences.

We are bullied by the White House Administration, we are bullied by the State, we are bullied by the Jerry Brown's of society, and we are bullied by local "advocates" for "better living"....or not. For they all believe we don't know what we are doing; we don't care about others and certainly we are not to live the way we wanted to or dreamed of. Technically, they are dillusional bullies with too much power and/or clout.

I love bullies.

In Ptown's case, most people came here for its quaintness. Now we have to honor "obligations" that will take us in a different direction than what we moved here for. Right or wrong; good or bad, we continue to lose our ability to perform without 'permission'.

Oh, the cost these bullies incur to the common people.

With that being said, affordable housing shouldn't be as frightening as it sounds. It's when the term "low income" housing starts to surface that should be concerning. I know. I saw it's ugliness where I grew up. There is a difference; be aware.

On a side note, it ought to be interesting seeing Jennifer and Cindy work together. Wish I were a fly!

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Posted by javadoc
a resident of Dublin
on Jul 16, 2010 at 5:06 pm

javadoc is a registered user.

For the record, I object strenuously to the state's position, as an infringement on property rights. I object to the housing cap on the same grounds.

I have to imagine that there are some people who object to this decision, who also supported the effort to tell the Lins what they can and can't do with their property. It makes me smile to think of the outrage they are feeling. My gosh, what might happen to your property values?

You made all the right decisions, set yourself up a little slice of appreciating heaven, and then some larger group of people around you tells you that your plans are subject to their whims, even to your pecuniary detriment. The horror!

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Posted by Steve
a resident of Birdland
on Jul 16, 2010 at 10:50 pm

Don't you love how people like 'gelson' automatically assume someone is a racist white person because they object to "affordable", read low income, housing. It's comforting to know we have people with such powers as to know everything about someone living in Pleasanton. He/She must be mega wealthy with his/her ESP powers. The point is that they worked hard to be able to afford to choose a specific town and neighborhood to live in and now you have ultra liberal people and groups suing because they believe they know what's best for you and your community. And yes, affordable housing does not mean it will automatically bring problems with it, but prove to me where it does not bring an up-tick in crime and lowers property values around it. The absolute proof of the matter is, that the "majority" of people who move into low /affordable housing, no matter their ethnicity, has a completely different set of values and morals. I will repeat, the majority, not all, no matter what their ethnicity may be. I do not make six figures, yet I was able to save, borrow and payback, so that I could live in Pleasanton because of the community. Oh, and 'gelson', guess what? I'm not white. So don't throw the 'white racist' moniker my way either.

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Posted by Jake
a resident of Castlewood
on Jul 17, 2010 at 8:13 am

What is affordable housing? It translates to small units one on top of the other. High density housing is the same thing. It is cheaper to build - then sell high denisty housing than housing with yards and separation between units.

Subsidized housing is paid for in part with either: your taxes or your neighbors when they paid over their actual cost, just so a low income person could live next door. But should we HAVE to pay more for a home, or pay out of our taxes because someone wants to live in Pleasanton not Dublin or Livermore? Can't afford Pleasanton? No problem, there are other cities in the area-try them.

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Posted by Kick the Bums Out
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2010 at 9:01 am

In the bay area, and especially Pleasanton, when they say "affordable housing" they are referring to subsidized housing. Somebody has to pay for the subsidized housing. It is either the taxpayer; you. Or it is the new people who buy homes because the cost of those below-market homes is passed on to the non-subsidized homes. That just brings the price of housing higher.

The reason we have a housing cap is because our infrastructure was built with that number in mind. The water system, the sewer system, the traffic system, and the school system. If the housing cap is removed, we will be overburdening our infrastructure. We cannot widen the streets so that means more traffic congestion. The school system especially in our middle and high schools will be overburdened. We will all pay the the price of having more portables in our schools and having to drive our kids around town for school because there will be a good chance that the school in your neighborhood will be full. We have limited capacity for our infrastructure but we have elected officials who think more is better; especially if the more people vote for them!

A problem we have today is the lawsuit, and all city lawsuits, is handled by the City Attorney. You would think the City Attorney works for the city. Wrong! The City Attorney works for the majority of the City Council. The City Council hires the City Attorney and gives him direction. All the closed sessions are the mayor and city council giving the City Attorney direction. Until we get rid of the mayor and two members of the city council who continue to have contempt for the citizens, we all loose. The current city council majority has worked against the citizens twice in the last two years by going against what we wanted for hillside protections. This is in open session and we see it all. Even the developers campaign materials have our mayor all over it supporting them. This is what you see. What you do not see is the closed sessions where this same city council majority is giving direction to the city attorney to not fight the lawsuits on our housing cap too hard. This council majority would love for the housing cap to go away. That means more money from the developers for their campaigns; in Pleasanton, and for our mayor, higher office. It is time to 'kick the bums out' and get a council majority who listens to the citizens! Remember this all at the next election in November. I hope some good people who support what the residents want will run. It is hard to run against incumbents. Especially those who are heavily financed by the developers. We have to work hard for change to protect the city that we love. The current city council majority would love for Pleasanton to be just like Dublin. I do not.

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Posted by Obamanation
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 17, 2010 at 1:06 pm

Go to Urban Habitat's website and I believe you will their real interest here and their long term goals. They are state funded and then further fund themselves bu suing cities. A bunch of environmental wackos who want to get rich doing it. Our wacko Mayor and the others are in over their heads just like our incompetent President Barack "insane" Obama.

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Posted by R Byrd
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 17, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Reading the Council report, appears that the City just has to "zone" to give this housing some place to go in the future, but it will only show up if a private builder can fund and build it.

Seems that Hillsborough, Palo Alto, and Walnut Creek, where housing is expensive, have "zoned" on their books the possibility of this low-income housing, but none has acually been built (likely b/c a private builder can't make it pencil-out).

Now, reading that Lafayette, another town with expensive housing, is also being sued, like Pleasanton, for not having enough of this housing allowed "in the books".

So, let's put it "in our books" and get rid of this lawsuit so that businesses can get building permits.

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Posted by tennessee jed
a resident of Jensen Tract
on Jul 18, 2010 at 7:47 am

Great idea! And I would further add it might be useful to put unsurmountable regulations and ridiculously unfair environmental impact requirements. And make those claims in the name of sustainability, fairness and argue they are necessary and appropriate to keep the air clean, and provide for the utopia that we don't want in our town. But alas, no one in their right mind would want to try and build something like that for a profit. In this case, I think heavily overregulated and hopefully unfair restrictive environmental regulations wanted by the court would do the trick. This would be a great tactic to pursue against those who claim that we "need it".

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Posted by brad
a resident of Birdland
on Jul 18, 2010 at 7:36 pm

How is it that so many forget that Pleasanton in the late 60's and early 70's was the affordable place to live in the Bay Area. How sad that the arrivals after 1985 believe that those of us who came here before them and worked so hard to make it a great place to live, work, and do business are not good enough to qualify to be here now and how " entitled " the newbies are to deny others the same opportunity they enjoyed - and earned.

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Posted by Tiger
a resident of Bordeaux Estates
on Jul 18, 2010 at 9:46 pm

Here is the group which brought us down. You should all take a look at their link and see what they are up to.

Web Link

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Posted by Not a NIMBY
a resident of Danbury Park
on Jul 19, 2010 at 11:08 pm

All you "eletists" like Chris and SteveP (aka NIMBY's, neo-Pleasantonian's) might as well go pound sand. You should feel fortunate to live in this community, but need to better understand the issue at hand. What Pleasanton really needs today is a good supply of WORKFORCE housing located near public transit and the freeways. There's absolutely nothing wrong with affordable, high-density housing that meets the needs of a growing CA population near job centers. You cannot equate that to a low income, low class population that you currently see in our inner-cities.

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Posted by who pays
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2010 at 8:03 am

To "Not a NIMBY", how much subsidized housing should we build and who should pay the subsidies? ABAG is not asking for your smaller units, they are demanding below-market (i.e., subsidized) housing for the "very-low income". If you have below-market housing, and in the case of the bay-area that is below-cost, somebody has to pay for it. It is either the taxpayers, or a select group of people. Those who think that the developer pays it are wrong as they just pass that "tax" along to the others, just like all taxes.

The Urban Habitat group is nothing more than a socialist organization that feels that everybody should get the same thing in life, no matter what they do. Supporters of this group have been at council meetings demanding that the subsidized units we build have exactly the same amenities as the rest of the units. This means granite counter tops, marble floors, etc. In addition to giving these people the subsidized units, they want to ensure that they get exactly the same product as those who have worked hard for decades, and saved their money. I have worked hard all my life to get to the house I am in now. It took sacrifices. My first houses were starters with formica countertops, old shag carpeting, things to fix, and whatever I could afford. An yes, I moved to Pleasanton as it was cheaper than the silicon valley and I could afford it here so I had to commute. We live in such a world of entitlements now. People now feel they entitled to live anywhere they want, in a upper scale home, even though they cannot afford it. I guess sacrifices are inmoral. I wish I knew this some time ago and I would have not worked so hard to get to my current situation.

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Posted by who pays
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2010 at 8:05 am

I want to add that I am not a NIMBY. I also think we should be building less expensive housing. What I do not believe is correct are the subsidizies of the current system. Not everybody is entitled to what they want.

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Posted by Not a Nimby
a resident of Danbury Park
on Jul 20, 2010 at 4:22 pm

I'm not advocating for subsidized housing. I am, however, very supportive of high-density, workforce housing that by definition is affordale; thus allowing a certain segment of our population to buy into the local real estate market.

Like this comment
Posted by Larry
a resident of Stoneridge
on Jul 26, 2010 at 12:49 pm

I really hope Pleasanton won't become the next Oakland. So scary..

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

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