David Erlich, the new chairman of the Alameda County Republican Party, is facing strong criticism from fellow party members for an email he sent urging them to vote No on Measure K, a June 7 referendum on a Lund Ranch housing development planned in Pleasanton.
The measure was placed on the ballot by members of the Pleasanton City Council after opponents of the 43-home project obtained the needed signatures to force a public referendum.
Three of the five council members, including Mayor Jerry Thorne, who is active in Republican circles, approved the Lund Ranch project in January. Another councilman, Jerry Pentin, declined to vote because his home is close to the planned development. A fifth, Karla Brown, voted against the project.
Although Measure K is a nonpartisan referendum, a large number of Republican activists have supported the Lund Ranch project and sport "Yes on Measure K" signs in front of their homes and businesses. A "Yes" vote would enable Greenbriar Homes Communities, the developer, to build the homes with access roads to 13 homes on one side and 30 homes on the other.
A "No on Measure K" vote would block the project for at least a year before another development could be proposed.
In his email and the party's election flier, Erlich wrote:
"The Alameda county Republican Party and specifically the members in the 16th district urge voters in the city of Pleasanton to strongly oppose measure K.
"The Lund Ranch housing project is the first hillside development approved by the City Council since Measure PP (our hillside protection ordinance). It was overwhelmingly passed by the voters in 2008. Measure PP's stated purpose is "protect our city from uncontrolled growth and the impact it has on ridgelines and hillsides, traffic, schools, water supply, and our overall quality of life."
Republicans active in the county Republican organization said Erlich, who was elected chairman last January, lacked authority to send the "No on Measure K" messages.
"The Republican Central committee for the 16th district should call a special, emergency meeting and remove this rogue chairman for gross disregard of the standing rules," said Jan Batcheller, a Pleasanton business owner who also is seeking election to the Alameda County's Republican Central Committee in the 16th State Assembly District.
Frank Capilla, owner of Can-AM Plumbing in Pleasanton, agreed. In an email to Erlich, Capilla asked:
"What is the matter with you? I'm voting yes on measure K. Why don't you talk to some (real) Republicans in Pleasanton before you make such a recommendation. It's no wonder the voters are so upset with the Alameda County Republican Party."
Councilman Pentin added: "I absolutely agree, Frank. I questioned this yesterday. Four Republican Pleasanton Council members out of five support Yes on Measure K. Apparently that's bad math for the Alameda County Republican Party. Just another example of bad leadership."
Pleasanton Councilwoman and Vice Mayor Kathy Narum said she is "thoroughly disgusted" with the email from the Republican chairman, especially considering it wasn't voted on at the central committee meeting.
"Now we need to do damage control," she added. "If you've looked at the opposition Facebook page ("Save Pleasanton Hillsides), they've got a video up commenting that it (the Lund Ranch development) must be bad if both the Republican party and the Sierra Club are against Measure K."
"Erlich's message sounds very messy and poorly thought out to me," added businessman Brad Hirst.
Before becoming chairman of the Alameda County Republican party, Erlich ran as a Republican candidate for the 18th State Assembly District against Rob Bonta, a Democrat, who won.
Erlich, an electrician and enthusiastic Donald Trump supporter, said working on the 2016 primary and General Election campaigns, including referendums in the county, "is exciting."
"We can probably make it cool to be Republican again," he added.