Winners and losers in Lund Ranch 50-home development approval

Planning Commission's approval of new road tests Measure PP hillside construction ban

There were winners and losers last week as the Pleasanton Planning Commission approved a bid by Greenbriar Homes to build 50 homes on the now-vacant 195-acre Lund Ranch II site in the hills south of Sunol Boulevard.

The decision now goes to the City Council for another public hearing, likely to be held on Oct. 20.

In approving the project in a 4-1 vote, the commission also ruled that the upscale home development could be accessed only by a new 24-foot-wide road that Greenbriar must build to connect to Sunset Creek Lane, which homeowners would then use to reach Sycamore Creek Way and Sunol Boulevard.

That route is controversial because a section of the new roadway would be built across a 25% slope, which opponents said will violate voter-approved Measure PP. Pleasanton voters passed Measure PP in 2008, a law that is now part of the city's General Plan that requires the city to restrict development of housing and commercial structures on steep slopes and within 100 vertical feet of a ridgeline.

Opponents of the roadway approved by the commission argued at the Aug. 26 public hearing that the road is a structure and therefore can't traverse slopes steeper than 25%.

They live along Sycamore Creek Way, the road Lund Ranch II homeowners would use, and favored the access plan Greenbriar proposed, to have all Lund Ranch II traffic --about 550 vehicles per day -- use a circuitous route from Lund Ranch Road through Ventana Hills onto Livingston Way, Hopkins Way, Independence Drive and Junipero Street to reach Sunol Boulevard.

That route would avoid any hillside road construction and would also spare Greenbriar's cost of building a new road.

Some 25 speakers addressed the commission with their comments about evenly divided between those who live on the Independence/Junipero route who want no more traffic on their streets, and those in the newer homes along Sycamore Creek Way and in the Bridle Creek neighborhood who share the same view.

In deciding to route the Lund Ranch II traffic onto Sycamore Creek Way, commissioners noted that the street was built extra-wide to accommodate future traffic to Callippe Preserve Golf Course and possibly to a Lund Ranch II development. Homeowners who moved into that neighborhood also signed covenants agreeing to those additional traffic flows on their street.

As a compromise, the Pleasanton planning staff recommended splitting the traffic, with residents of 10 of the new Lund Ranch II homes traveling on Independence/Junipero and the other 40 using Sycamore Creek Way. But commissioners preferred a single access route and, with the exception of Planning Commissioner Gina Piper, voted for the new road and Sunset/Sycamore Creek route.

When the votes were taken after the 3-hour public hearing, Piper voted against the new road proposal, saying she felt it would be in violation of Measure PP.

Plans for a major housing development on the former Lund cattle ranch date back to September 2002 when 113 homes were proposed for construction on 12,000-square-foot lots. Even then, the Planning Commission expressed concern over that project's effect on hillsides. The proposed development then changed hands and it was not until April 2007 a new builder proposed 149 homes on 3,000-square-foot lots. Those plans again were delayed and, a year later, Measure PP became the law of Pleasanton.

Measure PP doesn't affect the latest 50-home development plan which would be built on a fairly flat bow of the old ranch, not on hillside slopes. It's the needed 50-yard extension of Sunset Creek Way that will have to cross a steep slope that falls under Measure PP's terms.

During the hearing, Brian Dolan, assistant city manager, said the City Council and previous planning commissions have struggled with the interpretation of Measure PP.

"The last official action that the council took was its decision not to adopt an implementing ordinance and to use the language in Measure PP as it is written and interpret it on a case-by-case basis as projects come forward," Dolan said.

The proposed Lund Ranch II development and the Planning Commission's approval of constructing a roadway across a steep slope appear to be that "case."

If the council agrees with the Planning Commission decision, a law suit is likely, based on statements made by opponents of the new road at the Aug. 26 meeting. That would mean actual construction on the old Lund cattle ranch could still be years away.

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