Opponents of placing a measure on the June ballot to overturn the City Council's approval of a 43-home development in Pleasanton's southeast hills complained vigorously Tuesday night about what they called strong-arm tactics by those seeking signatures to hold the referendum.
"What have we created here?" asked former Councilwoman Kay Ayala after 14 speakers addressed the Tuesday night City Council meeting.
At the meeting, the council heard from residents who said they had been verbally accosted by signature gatherers at street corners, outside supermarkets and even on the Hearst Elementary School campus.
Particularly troubling, speakers said, were paid workers who sought their signatures on the proposed referendum that would stop the plans by Greenbriar Homes to build the house on Lund Ranch, a 194-acre site it owns. As part of the agreement, Greenbriar would donate 177 of those acres to the city as open space, which would be kept free of any future development in perpetuity with hiking trails to be added.
Proponents of the referendum have until 5 p.m. Friday to gain signatures from 10% of the city's registered voters, or 4,124 signatures from 41,237 on the city's registered voter rolls as of today.
One couple told the council that they were disappointed with the referendum leaders for using paid workers from outside Pleasanton to collect the needed signatures.
"It's a black eye for our city," they said.
Another woman, who lives on Junipero Street where traffic would increase with the development, said she was afraid to allow her children to go to Raley's supermarket on Sunol Boulevard or even to walk to Hearst Elementary which they attend because of the overly aggressive signature solicitors.
"My father, a Vietnam veteran, was yelled at by one of these outsiders," she said. "My kids can't go the park or library when they are around."
Another woman said she was subjected to verbal abuse.
"I am angry and I want to know who hired these people and what the name of the company is that supplies these kinds of workers," she said.
After referendum backer Allen Roberts told the Council that while some of the signature gatherers were being paid, another 50 of them were Pleasanton volunteers.
But when Councilman Arne Olson asked him to identify he firm that is supplying the paid workers, Roberts said he knows the company but declined to disclose that information.
At 5 p.m. Friday, Roberts and others leading the referendum effort must turn their petitions into City Clerk Karen Diaz. She will make a prima facie (first look) review of the petitions and, if they have the needed number of signatures, will then forward them to the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, whose office will check each signature against voter registration records and also look for duplicates.
The registrar's office must complete its review within 60 days.
It's that office's final number that will determine if at least 10% of the city's registered voters signed the petitions to call for a referendum.
If they did, Diaz will send that verification to the City Council which could repeal the ordinance it approved Jan. 5 authorizing Greenbriar Homes to move forward on its proposed Lund Ranch development.
Or, more likely, the Council within 88 days must call for a special election to ask voters to decide how to proceed.
That election would likely be held during the June 7 primary at an estimated cost to city taxpayers of $250,000.