Council, affordable housing coalitions, expected to settle legal battle for $1.9 million tonight

Housing cap scuttled, more land to be set aside for low-income housing

The Pleasanton City Council is expected to agree to a court order tonight 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 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.

If the council accepts the proposed settlement agreement tonight, it would give City Manager Nelson Fialho and City Attorney Jonathan Lowell the authority to negotiate the final points of the agreement. The full settlement then would be formally approved at a council meeting on Aug. 17.

At that time, Roesch would accept the settlement and 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.

Tonight's council meeting starts at 7 p.m. in the City Council chambers, 200 Old Bernal Ave.

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Like this comment
Posted by Jimbo
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 20, 2010 at 8:47 am

Interesting. Not much of an argument that Pleasanton needs to develop some lower cost, higher density housing. It is healthy for the long term economy. But this last part is a jem.

* 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.

Hold on to your wallets folks. More intrusion by the government. I hope all of you who are planning on voting for Jerry Brown are updating your resumes, because many of your employers are going to bolt California rather than submit to the fantasy of this wing nut. What we need are jobs and an improved business climate, not more regulation and Socialist edicts from the all knowing and all powerful government.

Read between the lines. At some point, Pleasanton (and therefore Pleasanton residents) are going to have to pay a tax to the government to "address the effects of vehicle miles traveled here given a large workforce with a smaller number of residents in that workforce". Translation: We are going to owe someone a lot of money. It is another redistribution of wealth scheme. Tax residents of "rich" cities like Pleasanton and give the money to other cities that are not as well off.

I have a climate action plan. Lower taxes, eliminate the excessive and crippling regulations of this state, and attract more employers to the Tri-Valley. And send Jerry Brown to some monastery in the Himalayas. At least we wont have all the hot air from all of his climate edicts making "global warming" worse.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jul 20, 2010 at 9:28 am

Why does California spend so much money on referendums and special elections only to have the voter's decision repealed...time and time again? I am sick to death of this state's ability to waste time, resources and money over and over. Why can't Pleasanton have the city developed the way it was determined to be developed? Why does every inch of land need to have buildings on it only to watch it deteriorate in years to come? Why can't we focus on what we have NOW and stop trying to appease every idea that's put before us for personal gain? Jerry Brown and his ideas are what got Pleasanton into this debate and mess. Is Jerry Brown doing this to get reelected - you bet he is. Why does Pleasanton need to look like Dublin? We have enough affordable housing in Dublin and Livermore - do we really need to clutter Pleasanton with additional all towns really need to look like overcrowded - overbuilt mass messes? Remember City Council why residents moved here - they were looking for something different. Why have our property values and schools prospered - because we had something different. Why does everyone insist on making a place worse just because it doesn't have or want to be what every other town is like. Don't we teach our children to be different. Don't we teach them to be independent thinkers and individuals. Jerry Brown go home and leave us to think for ourselves. Pleasanton has done a pretty good job so far. However, if Jerry and our own City Council really wants to do something positive for the city.....look at all the business vacancies and work on filling them with businesses that contribute to California employment and sales tax revenue.

Like this comment
Posted by SteveP
a resident of Parkside
on Jul 20, 2010 at 10:03 am

SteveP is a registered user.

good posts. Don't forget to thank those magnamous do-gooders from Berkeley who helped spearhead the effort to ghetto-ize Pleasanton. They must be so proud they used the courts to drag us down to their level.

Like this comment
Posted by care 4 ewe
a resident of another community
on Jul 20, 2010 at 10:58 am

Amazing how the legal system works some play & taxpayers can pay. So much for Self Governance

Like this comment
Posted by maja7
a resident of Vintage Hills
on Jul 20, 2010 at 3:20 pm

So much for having any control over how our community grows!

Like this comment
Posted by Gunslinger
a resident of another community
on Jul 21, 2010 at 6:13 am

You're going down Brown. You wanna sue good communities in order to ghetto-ize them, then charge us the bill for it. Oooohh... Methinks someone's underestimated the conservative backlash. We're gonna render all you carpetbagging litigators and traitorous officials politically impotent. How long did you think the majority would take getting prison-raped by you audacious thugs? Time to bend you over

Like this comment
Posted by Kelly
a resident of Canyon Meadows
on Oct 14, 2010 at 8:31 pm

This is the influence of Berkeley radicals like Hosterman and her husband and anti war, ecco nazis like Matt Sullivan. Pleasanton wake up and stop voting for far left liberal wingnuts!

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