Save our pristine hills and our park | November 16, 2007 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - November 16, 2007

Save our pristine hills and our park

by Jennifer Hosterman and Matt Sullivan

We had planned to stay out of the debate over the Oak Grove referendum; however misinformation about the project and confusion in the public about our support considering our history of slow growth, environmental advocacy, and support for neighborhoods, compels us to provide this clarification.

Over three years ago, the property owner started work on a 98-unit plan, which was opposed by the adjacent Kottinger Ranch neighborhood. We have both campaigned against development in the hills and in support of affected neighborhoods. But instead of entering into yet another endless land-use battle, we thought there might be a better way: a collaborative process with the neighbors, the developer, and the city to see if agreement could be reached and these outcomes avoided. Our goals were threefold: empower the neighborhood to help shape the project, provide "finality" from future development, and create a model for the acquisition of public open space for the remaining developable properties in the southeast hills.

The result has been a resounding success! A consensus plan was facilitated by the city for a 51-unit project--half the size of the original--with the addition of $1 million in traffic mitigation fees for the neighborhood, and the dedication of a 497-acre public open space park. The plan then went through the normal Planning Commission and City Council public review process, input was sought throughout, additional issues identified, and adjustments were made. Regulatory agencies will evaluate habitat and mandate mitigation measures, or prohibit building on environmentally sensitive areas. No taxpayer monies will go to fund the open space park--the developer will deed the property to the city, will construct the trails and a staging area, pay the endowment to the easement-holder Tri Valley Conservancy, and the future HOA will be responsible for ongoing maintenance costs. For the units potentially most visible from the valley floor, one story limits, reduction in size, strict design guidelines, and plant and earth berm screening have been mandated. Finally, not one single house has been approved for this project--each will submit detailed plans and visual simulations to both the HOA Design Committee and the city for approval. The Planning Commission can choose to bring each to a public hearing, and any house can be appealed to the City Council for final decision. With these requirements and processes in place, the images presented by some project opponents of two- and three-story 12,000-square-foot white glowing "mega-mansions" sitting on barren hilltops are simply false.

Similar to what the city achieved with the Bernal property, Oak Grove provides nearly 500 acres of public open space in exchange for minimal development within the context of a collaborative neighborhood process and the support of four out of five councilmembers. With this success, the council has taken the first step in achieving a vision for a magnificent 2,000-acre natural park completely accessible to the public stretching from Shadow Cliffs to the Callippe Preserve Golf Course--forever protecting these hills from development. This is an important legacy that this generation can leave to future Pleasantonians.

Jennifer Hosterman was first elected to the City Council in 2002, elected mayor in 2004 and re-elected as mayor last year. Matt Sullivan, after six years as a planning commissioner and two years on the West Las Positas Interchange Committee before that, was elected to the City Council in 2004.


Posted by Buddy, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Nov 16, 2007 at 7:37 am

Thanks for the clarification of your position, Mayor Hosterman and Mr. Sullivan. This is a confusing issue- the clipboard people in front of Tully's and the stores are making a lot of claims to confuse the issue. It sounds like the community has already spent many hours and a lot of positive energy getting to this deal. Thank you for your leadership on this. I won't be signing the petition.

Posted by concerned, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Nov 16, 2007 at 7:57 am

If I signed the petition and am having second thoughts, is there a way to remove my name from the petition?

Posted by Cheryl Cook-Kallio, a resident of Jensen Tract
on Nov 16, 2007 at 9:50 am

Signature withdrawal forms for both the initiative and the referendum are available at Thanks for wanting to know both sides and doing your homework.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 16, 2007 at 10:30 am

The writer makes the statement, "For the units potentially most visible from the valley floor, one story limits, reduction in size, strict design guidelines, and plant and earth berm screening have been mandated. Finally, not one single house has been approved for this project--each will submit detailed plans and visual simulations to both the HOA Design Committee and the city for approval."

Just this week the Planning Commission approved a 16,000 sq. ft. palace in the hills adjacent to Oak Grove. The Specific Plan said the house is required to be 1 story in height, minimal grading, blend in with the rural area, traditional style. The Planning Commission approved the 16,000 palace on the top of a hill AFTER they take a bulldozer and take 40 feet off the top of hill and remove 67 trees for this single house. So when you hear about design guidelines protecting the hills, it is a nice concept but the city this week showed how it does not mean anything.

For your information, the applicant for this 16,000 square foot palace used the same lobbyist that Oak Grove used so they could get around the design guidelines.

And another thing, the property owner of Oak Grove is the same owner who submitted a 2,500 housing unit plan to Livermore in 2005 and called it a Park "Livermore Trails". They called that residential development a park also. The Livermore voters voted this down by 72% of the vote. This is also the same property owner who recently submitted plans by the freeway in Dublin to construct residential towers ranging from 16 to 21 stories. The owners of these parcels are land speculators from outside the United States. They do not have a real interest in our community sad to say.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 16, 2007 at 11:32 am

I don't see how the information regarding the property owner is really relevant to the discussion on Oak Grove. The current Oak Grove development proposal was created in cooperation and compromise with the City and other interested parties. By contrast the proposals in Livermore and Dublin were not.

Posted by Becky Dennis, a resident of Foxborough Estates
on Nov 16, 2007 at 12:12 pm

Stacy, are there 2 of you now?

To your comment about the 16,000 sq ft "palace"...if you are talking about the Vineyard Corridor on 20 acres at the last Planning Commission meeting, here is the most important thing for people to realize:


So imagine 10, 16,000 sq ft palaces on a ridgeline that were exempt from all City design requirements that were required of this proposal.

Take a look at the Staff Report:
Web Link

First of all, the lot is 19 acres. The 16,000 feet you mention are not all one house, but include other structures such as a greenhouse, winery barn, cabana, and large garage. Also, also, about one third of the house square footage is located underground in the basement.

If one reads the entire staff report, including the workshop comments and conditions of approval, you can see the level of design control that could be lost if current policies were replaced by a voter approved, one size fits all hillside, policy that exempts developments of 10 units or less from building restrictions. In fact, most remaining hillside and hilltop parcels in Pleasanton fall into this category.

One of the supporters of the "Save the Hills Initiative" lives in a house nearby that can be seen from the Livermore end of Stanley Boulevard. Another owns a hilltop adjacent to Oak Grove that he would like to build on one day.

Residents should thoroughly inform themselves about the unintended (or maybe hidden but intended)consequences of the inititive before they sign petitions to put a flawed law on the ballot that can only be corrected in another election.

Posted by Live in a home not a house, a resident of Birdland
on Nov 16, 2007 at 12:58 pm

I dont know why someone would need a home that large. I love the fact that I can see everyone in my home on a daily basis and not make an appointment to drive my car to the other end of the house...but then again they are not me..

Posted by Becky Dennis, a resident of Foxborough Estates
on Nov 16, 2007 at 6:26 pm

It looks as though they are planning a small winery or vineyard estate. That would explain the large basement, winery barn, and greenhouse.

Posted by mac, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2007 at 10:13 am

We moved to Pleasanton 15 years ago. We checked with the City of Pleasanton about the status of growth. We were specifically told that we were at "cap" (approximately 55,000 ppl) and that the only developing was completion of already approved projects and those still unfinished.

What malarchy! Pleasanton continues to find more and more swathes of land to fill in houses and ignore their original goals.

Building massive homes atop our beautiful hills will destroy the scenic beauty of this community...and for what? The rediculously rich to reside in the clouds.

What are the costs through fire safety and any additional risks or services that we 'all' will bear due to these proposed homes?

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Nov 18, 2007 at 10:46 am

You are not likely to bear ANY costs or risks regarding fire safety or (community) services. In fact, the property taxes that these homes will pay will far exceed any proportional services in turn provided these future citizens and will in fact help subsidize your services for which you pay far less in taxes given what homes cost 15 years ago. I think the math is quite simple. And you get a 500 acre park. Furthermore, the growth in Pleasanton over the last 15 years has generated taxes that has subsidized our schools and community services and infrastructure that has made Pleasanton so desireable.

Posted by Troy, a resident of Las Positas Garden Homes
on Nov 18, 2007 at 10:59 am

I have lived in Pleasanton now 15 years and the Bay Area nearly 20. I have always admired the beautiful hills in our community. We as the people of Pleasanton voted some years ago to protect our hills around us, that is why I support the city council's decision in finding a compromising solution that balances development and protection of our hills and open space.

In contrast to the unrestrained, massive development projects that are destroying the pristine valley hillsides and clogging our transportation system, the Pleasanton City Council's proposal seems to affirm our responsiblity to the valley community to manage and protect our natural environment while maintaining a high quality of life.

I will not support the Oak Grove Referendum or Hillside Ordinance, and urge fellow Pleasantonians to do the same.

Posted by mac, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2007 at 2:00 pm

Frank, concerning the the increased growth generating taxes that have added to our only has to look at the overcrowded (and technically illegally high numbers) of kids in the classrooms. If you think there is an advantage to go to a school built for 1200 when there are 2500 students you'll find the students and teachers are overwhelmed with the stresses on the system.

No gain there.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 18, 2007 at 2:53 pm

Speaking of schools and classroom sizes... Anyone notice the parcel tax the school district wants to assess to fund smaller classrooms? I for one don't need any more taxes and this one seems especially unfair since not everyone has a child in school. And that isn't even before you get into the debate about the effectiveness of smaller class sizes.

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Nov 18, 2007 at 4:28 pm

Perhaps Mac actually is agreeing with my point, I can't be sure. Fifty one very expensive homes will pay substantial taxes some of which will flow to our schools to help pay to mitigate the stated "overcrowding" while at the same time the occupants of these fifty one homes will not likely flood the schools with additional students. Therefore, one should welcome the tax cash flow that will occur without further burdening our schools with more students, no?

My observations of the growth of Pleasanton and its schools spans 28+ years, not fifteen, and my two adult daughters are products of Pleasanton schools as well as the UC system. During that time two middle schools were added and Foothill High was greatly expanded. No longer does its drama club have to share the Amador auditorium. Additional infrastructure improvements were made at Amador. Additional elementary schools were added, the number of which I have not bothered to research yet. Existing elementary schools were expanded. All of these additions came about as a result of growth and are paid for with that growth.

I simply do not see how we "all" are paying for anything regarding the 51 homes, which was your original statement.

Posted by Sarah, a resident of Ruby Hill
on Nov 19, 2007 at 6:16 am

In the case of Oak Grove, not only are the people who move into the homes designed for the 51 lots going to generate property tax revenue for schools and other services, but the developer is going to give a 496 acre public park to the City, build trails there (unlike the Bernal property where the City has to pay), pay $1 million in traffic fees...all before a single home is proposed or approved. As someone said earlier, this sounds very much like "smart" development.

51 future homes for 496 acres of publicly accessible parkland and the promise of more publicly accessible parkland and trails in the southeast hills. Let's get rid of the referendum and move ahead with opening the open space to the public.

Posted by Mitch, a resident of Birdland
on Nov 19, 2007 at 10:00 am

Thanks Frank for your sound reasoning. Can you imagine Pleasanton today if your generation wanted to put gates around this town 28 years ago? I'm constantly amazed at people who call themselves longtime Pleasanton residents of 15 years. This town has thrived on "smart" development and Oak Grove is an example of this. Let Pleasanton continue to grow this way.

Posted by mac, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2007 at 10:39 am

Mitch, you seem to have been distracted when you read these posts. Neither myself nor the other poster referred to 15 years as "longtime" residents so you can drop your sarcasm. Please re-read. My concern was the blatant lie that the City told me as we were making a decision 15 years ago to reside here. They were quite emphatic that they'd reached growth maximum and only existing (those in the works or those just approved) projects would be completed. My own naivete was quite shameful.

I only wish for truthful information from our public/civic/governmental entities but with the removal of "rose colored glasses" I am now prepared to take on new perspectives.

Posted by Becky Dennis, a resident of Foxborough Estates
on Nov 19, 2007 at 11:10 am

Hi, Mac -

Fifteen years ago, in 1992, Pleasanton was just beginning to consider undertaking the undate of its General Plan that was adopted in 1996. Much of that plan focussed on how to handle Pleasanton's future growth, the adoption of our Urban Growth Boundary, and the setting of the Housing Cap.

Given the planning issues that the community and city staff were focussed on at the time, I can't imagine who would have told you that Pleasanton was built out, and that all future projects were already approved and that no more would be considered.

Everyone knew there was growth in the future, whether people wanted it or not. The big policy decisions were all about control.

Posted by mac, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 19, 2007 at 1:36 pm

Hi Becky, It is unusual what we were told, and yet very specific. I suppose they were assuming we'd understand that growth would always be part of any town's plan. Like I said, I was naive about it. Growth is everywhere and in every state and city.

It's a difficult subject. After seeing East Dublin's massive and seemingly out of control growth, opinions on each side are prevalent. Rather than the beautiful undulating, golden hills, it is a mecca of concrete. I just hope that our own beautiful hills don't take on that look.

I do agree with a previous comment that we elect officials and ask them to do a job. They have spent countless hours researching and debating these issues. In the end, Pleasanton will continue to be a wonderful town with a devoted following.

Posted by Beth, a resident of Birdland
on Nov 20, 2007 at 1:39 pm

If anyone here knows anyone at the Leadership of Save Pleasanton Hills, please ask them to inform their volunteers that they CANNOT solicit signatures on school grounds. This happened repeatedly at different elementary schools on Thursday and parents were furious. This doesn't help the cause; it only hurts it.

Posted by Brad, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 22, 2007 at 7:30 am

FACT: The city of Pleasanton does not own the Oak Grove land, a private party does. If we want it to be parkland, we have only 2 options - Allow for development on a portion of the parcel, with the rest being donated to the city for parkland, or have the city buy all of the land. We don't have the money to buy the land outright, so a carefully crafted development proposal is our best bet. This baloney about "saving our future park" is misleading. Who is going to buy this land and make it a future park? Last time I checked, this is still America, where property rights are sacred. You don't own that land, someone else does. If you want it to be some mythical "future park", then find out what it would cost to buy it, and put a referendum on the ballot to increase taxes to the residents to pay for it. I doubt it would fly.

This is the most fiscally responsible way to obtain open space. By the way, this is the same owner who developed Kottinger Ranch, and the residents there did not seem to object when that developement was put in, destroying raw land and building large homes on top of the hills. That seems to be a case of "I have mine, but you can't have yours".

Posted by Maura, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 24, 2007 at 8:39 am

Your fact is interesting, Brad. It seems like the vocal majority opposing Oak Grove live in Kottinger Ranch and Grey Eagle. Can someone from that group comment on whether these hillsides were massacred to make way for their megamansions or where the nice 1/2 acre view lots already home builder ready. I look forward to a dialoge on this subject.

Posted by George, a resident of Val Vista
on Nov 24, 2007 at 2:26 pm

Thanks Brad. Your perspective does make sense. It is better to go with a carefully though out plan aimed towards bringing a fair closure to this issue rather than blindly voting to block everything.

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Nov 24, 2007 at 4:21 pm

In these discussions the point has been raised that many residents in the existing Kottinger Hills neighborhood constitute a large portion of the active opponents against the Oak Grove development, and yet their own neighborhood is a worse example of the charge they bring against the Oak Grove development: visually obtrusive development of our hill sides.

In the Kottinger Hills development there are about 100+ homes. If one considers Casterson Ct., Remillard Ct., Smallwood Ct., Benedict Ct. as well as a portion of Hearst Dr. itself, one can easily determine that these courts present the most visually obtrusive hillside scenes that are seen from many parts of Pleasanton. When you look up toward the southeastern part of Pleasanton, these are the most obtrusive large homes that you see. Yes, you will also see neighborhoods that lie a bit lower, like mine in Pleasanton Heights. Yes, you have already been looking at a lot of hillside development right now. The very proponents of Save Our Hills have caused them to already be LOST HILLS because they chose to buy these homes. I'm also guilty... I confess. But Oak Grove is not likely to worsen this.

Now if you bother to go to the Oak Grove development web site, you will find they did a careful study of what will visually result from the development of the 51 lots. If you bother to go through the whole presentation with critical thought, you might conclude as I did that the build-out of the 51 lots will produce far less visual obtrusiveness as viewed from most parts of Pleasanton than already exists, most of it caused by Kottinger Hills.

Posted by mac, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2007 at 8:17 am

All right, you guys...I'm now officially a flip-flopper.

First of all, great post, Frank. Very true. After spending the past couple of weeks learning more about this issue the grand finale was to nail down the real reasons why the "sign the petition" people oppose this development.

Not a single valid reason was offered.

The number one reason was the "visual impact" which Frank already dispelled (and rightly so).

The next highest reason was that the fire hazard and lack of an exit route was critical. To who?!? It didn't affect her at all. The new homeowners have to deal with that concern. And yes, a majority of them pointed out where the live (Grey Eagle and Kottinger) but emphasized it had nothing to do with their position.

My own personal concern is the vast removal of soil (up to 40 feet) from the ridgelands and what impact that will have, but I'll leave that to the engineers and experts who I am sure have spent years working over these issues.

Posted by Angela, a resident of Heritage Valley
on Nov 25, 2007 at 2:45 pm

If you have already signed the referendum petition and now wish to withdraw your signature, you must fill out a form and submit it to the Pleasanton City Clerk. Forms can be found at or at the Keep Our Park tabling being done around town. Forms must be submitted to the city clerk by December 6th.

Posted by mac, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Nov 25, 2007 at 5:57 pm

Thanks Angela, but I didn't sign anything until I could learn more and understand it enough to make a somewhat intelligent decision.

Posted by activemom, a resident of Pleasanton Middle School
on Nov 28, 2007 at 10:37 pm

I have signed this petition and am happy to have the democratic process used to keep Pleasanton growth in perspective. We don't need to "sell" our hills to get fake parkland. I haven't seen any of you hiking in the hills around this city when I go hiking and doubt that you will be on the steep slopes of undevelopable land up above Vintage Hills. The City has just had true donated property from a private owner of 1500 acres of TRUE parkland over by Pleasanton Ridge and we didn't have to build any HUGE houses on the hills to get it. Even the East Bay Parks in the EIR say that this land cannot be maintained properly and should not be taken on by the City of Pleasanton. The propaganda put out by the few "insiders" that have planned this "deal" makes it sound like everyone agreed....not from the City Council meetings I have watched. It was an orchestrated way to get what they wanted, not what most people in Pleasanton would like to see--which is NOT monster homes!

Posted by activemom, a resident of Pleasanton Middle School
on Nov 28, 2007 at 10:37 pm

I have signed this petition and am happy to have the democratic process used to keep Pleasanton growth in perspective. We don't need to "sell" our hills to get fake parkland. I haven't seen any of you hiking in the hills around this city when I go hiking and doubt that you will be on the steep slopes of undevelopable land up above Vintage Hills. The City has just had true donated property from a private owner of 1500 acres of TRUE parkland over by Pleasanton Ridge and we didn't have to build any HUGE houses on the hills to get it. Even the East Bay Parks in the EIR say that this land cannot be maintained properly and should not be taken on by the City of Pleasanton. The propaganda put out by the few "insiders" that have planned this "deal" makes it sound like everyone agreed....not from the City Council meetings I have watched. It was an orchestrated way to get what they wanted, not what most people in Pleasanton would like to see--which is NOT monster homes!

Posted by activemom, a resident of Pleasanton Middle School
on Nov 28, 2007 at 11:11 pm

People have really gotten confused with all the misinformation and what everyone is talking about, so...

There are 2 things that need to happen at the same time: 1)The Referendum to overturn the City Council's misguided approval of the 51 HUMONGOUS homes that can be built above Vintage Hills and Kottinger Ranch area and 2)An Initiative to allow future development of all hills to be limited to 10 homes at a time and not on greater than 25% sloped hills or near the ridgelines.

When you hear people say, "Well, if they Referendum passes they will just come back and want to build more homes" it will not be true with the above Initiative in place. Developers will be limited to 10 or less.

The Referendum just applies to the Lin property, but the Initiative applies to all Open Space Hills around Pleasanton. The next developer to want to build is looking at Lund Ranch II and all the ridgelines around that southern part of Pleasanton. DON'T LET IT KEEP HAPPENING and SIGN THE PETITIONS. All signing does is let BOTH sides be explained fully in the next year and ALL the voters can decide. Makes sense to me :-

Oh yeah, the Initiative does have another issue in it too. Everyone in Pleasanton believes we have a 29,000 housing cap. Apparently, this "not-really slow growth City Council" is trying to sneak in more front doors into that number. There is talk of "if the homes are built near BART they don't count" or "if they are senior housing, they don't count," etc. The Initiative has another portion besides the hillside protections of ensuring that the housing cap really stays at 29,000 and doesn't keep inching up. Another great reason to put it on the ballot so all the voters learn about what is going on at City Hall. I am still glad I signed!

Posted by Becky Dennis, a resident of Foxborough Estates
on Nov 29, 2007 at 1:42 am

Hi, Activemom -

I have hiked those hills, and they are truly beautiful. It's actually not as steep as Pleasanton Ridge. I found it a bit easier to hike.

On your last two posts:

1. The City of Pleasanton has not received any land donation of 1500 acres on Pleasanton Ridge. I'd sure like to know who's spreading that tall tale.

2. The EBRP letter commenting on Oak Grove said "The District is interested in the project in that a substantial amount of land will be preserved as open space." Note that comments about potential impacts addressed the 98 unit version of Oak Grove, not the 51 unit plan that the Council adopted. Nor did they say that Pleasanton should not or could not undertake preserving this land as a park. They only commented that a plan should be developed for the preservation and maintenance, which the City plans to do. They also wanted more discussion on mitigating impacts that were inconsistent with our General Plan. They have made no negative comments about the 51 unit version.You can read their complete comments on the 98 unit plan at Web Link

3. The people who worked hard to perfect the Oak Grove plan for maximun public benefit, as well as those who have rushed to defend it from this unwarrented referendum, include most of Pleasanton's long time environmental and open space advocates, Parks and Recreation Commissioners, and others who have given many years of service to preserving Pleasanton's quality of life, including securing and protecting our open space.
They are: Web Link.

4. You have misread the initiative. The initiative does not limit development in the hills to 10 homes or less. The land remains entitled to a certain number of units. In the case of the Oak Grove property, that number is 98. The developer agreed to build 47 units elsewhere in Pleasanton in order to lower the number of units to 51.

The initiative actually EXEMPTS hillside parcels of 10 units or less from the grading and ridgeline protection rules in the initiative, as you can read at Web Link. Most remaining hillside parcels in Pleasanton are smaller. If the initiative passes, and those property owners propose to build less than 10 units, the initiative eliminates the City's ability to control how big or how visually prominent those houses can be. They can build on ridgetops and grade all they want because they will have voter approval to do so. Although certain property owners would be overjoyed to abolish City design restrictions that apply to their hillside land, do you really want to vote for that?

5. As for the Housing Cap, it's validity is currently being litigated by a group that believes the Cap violates California housing law. You can read the latest brief at I think you are misunderstanding the reasons for discussions about not counting some kinds of units against the Housing Cap. It well could be that the City is trying the preserve the legal validity of the cap by leaving enough units to make the case that Pleasanton can meet its State housing requirements. If the initiative passes it just hastens the day when Pleasanton will be in obvious violation of the law and the courts can impose a program for bringing the City into compliance.

I know that this information probably won't change your opinion of the development. Still, given the misinformation you have received from the proponents and true beneficiaries of the initiative and referendum, I hope you will reconsider your support in light of the facts. The impacts of Oak Grove will be minor compared to those of Kottinger Ranch (for instance), and the benefits are truly extraordinary.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 29, 2007 at 8:30 am

This is a prime example of why I don't support initiatives generally. The common voter always misunderstands them and the effect they have. I wish the City would preempt this initiative and come up with a better written, well-researched ridgeline ordinance.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 29, 2007 at 10:11 am

I've hiked around Kottinger Ranch. Really illegal for me to have done since I was trespassing on private property. It would be nice to get legal access to hike around those beautiful hills. Won't happen if the referendum passes. Won't happen either if the initiative passes. Those lands will still be private property and all us hikers will be illegal trespassers!

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Nov 29, 2007 at 11:38 am

Thank you Becky for knowing the details and setting the record straight after each of these posts that spread mis-information. You have done it before.

I took note of how the initiative opens the door for the worst kind of uncontrolled development on the hills - mega-mansions with no city control, but in groups of ten or less. Another example of a very small group of people writing initiative language which is never properly and completely vetted, and then gets put on a ballot for up/down votes by voters who can never PRACTICALLY be completely informed of all of its language and its consequences, intended or unintended, when they are called to vote on it.

Posted by cj, a resident of Birdland
on Nov 29, 2007 at 7:17 pm

It is sad to see somebody like Becky spewing out some incorrect information. First of all the signature collection is to get this on the ballot. It does not approve anything. If you are confused at this point (and some developer interests are trying to do this), signing the initiative to put it on the ballot and gives everybody time to understand the complete facts before voting. If this does not go on the ballot, the bulldozers will be out at the hills and there will be no way to question or stop them.

This initiative and referendum does not give developers the free reign to build what they want. We still have Planning Commission and City Council review and approval of all plans, even for those less then 10 homes. It is just plain false for Becky to state that the initiative eliminates city control for development less then 10 units.

As for the housing cap, Becky would be happy to get rid of it. She has spoken at a previous council meeting saying the city should approve 20,000 more homes to improve our jobs/housing balance. Becky is also involved with the parties that are suing the city to get rid of the housing cap. So our city money is going to lawyers and not to providing low-income housing. It is unfortunate that city members have started to not include housing units as being counted against our cap. We should not have to put this to an initiative since we have a housing cap but there are those on the council who are trying to trick the residents by saying we are not at a housing cap while they continue to approve more development. If there is a real reason to increase the cap, the council can put a council initiative (needs no signatures) to the voters to increase the cap. They should not be doing this sneaky stuff. It is no wonder that people do not trust politicians.

I also remember Becky advocating for much more housing on the Bernal Property and she strongly opposed an initiative that blocked houses from going on our parkland there (a real park potential).

Sorry for getting upset but it frosts me to see somebody claiming the truth who is not accurately representing the facts. Signing the petitions to put this on the ballot gives you time to understand the facts, it does not commit you to either side.

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Nov 29, 2007 at 8:50 pm

Thanks cj, you help make my point about initiatives drafted by small self-interested groups. Your phrase "those on the council who are trying to trick the residents" pretty much sums up your emotions.

For all of you following this blog and its cousins and who are becoming increasingly confused about the "facts" and what they really are, you have no alternative except to study in detail the language of the initiative in question and to become expert in these matters if you want to make an intelligent decision when you vote (assuming it gets on the ballot). Or, you can simply go with well-established democratic governmental processes that include electing officials who are responsible for the vetting of information and the making of these decisions, which invariably includes extensive citizen input prior to such decisions being made. Then, when these ballot initiatives appear and you do not fully understand them and their consequences or are confused about what is factual, simply vote NO because its the safe thing to do, despite the emotional appeal that their proponents associate with them. Then, there will be no unintended consequences.

Posted by activemom, a resident of Pleasanton Middle School
on Nov 29, 2007 at 10:00 pm

"The purchase of the Tyler Ranch near Sunol will add 1,476 acres to Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park in a two-phase process. This is the largest single acquisition in 17 years and is only possible thanks to the Tyler Ranch owners and a generous contribution from the Priem Family Foundation, a tax-exempt organization dedicated to preserving open space in the greater Bay Area." (Contra Costa Times)--ok, its not the City of Pleasanton who will be able to expand the park to 1500 acres, it is EBRP. So? There will be 1500 acres added to our "real parkland" with no strings attached--no mansions, no roads, no constructions traffic, no energy wasted. The best way to make an impact on the environment is to make no impact at all.

I think I will retire from this string because it seems to be populated by a small group of citizens who are willing to sell out. I hope the signature-gathereres are successful in their efforts!

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 29, 2007 at 10:10 pm

Uh Activemom,

Sounds like someone PURCHASED the property for the express purpose of turning it into a park. "and a generous contribution from the Priem Family Foundation"

I'm pretty sure I mentioned in another thread that purchasing the property from the Lin's is one way for Pleasanton to "save" that land. The land is expensive. Where is Pleasanton going to get the money from for that? We can hardly fund the Bernal park.

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Nov 29, 2007 at 10:41 pm

Interesting comment:

"The best way to make an impact on the environment is to make no impact at all."

Logic would force the question: How do you propose to practice this recommendation applied to yourself? You and your family consume energy far beyond what the average world citizen consumes, you pollute, you consume resources excessively, you demand low prices to support your excessive consumption which in turn creates untold transgressions of human rights, child labor, out-of-control pollution, and other problems in places like China and third world countries. How do personally propose that you make no impact at all?

Stopping 500 acres of open parklands and 51 large, future homes compensates for your impact on the environment?

Posted by Becky Dennis, a resident of Foxborough Estates
on Nov 29, 2007 at 11:13 pm

Hi, cj -

You say, "This initiative and referendum does not give developers the free reign to build what they want. We still have Planning Commission and City Council review and approval of all plans, even for those less then 10 homes. It is just plain false for Becky to state that the initiative eliminates city control for development less then 10 units."

Yet the Initiative intends to write this exemption into Pleasanton's General Plan:

"Policy 12. Program 12.3 on page II-17 of the City of Pleasanton August 6, 1996 General Plan is added as shown.

Policy 12.3: Ridgelines and hillsides shall be protected. Housing units and structures shall not be placed on slopes of 25 percent or greater, or within 100 vertical feet of a ridgeline. No grading to
construct residential or commercial structures shall occur on hillside slopes 25% or greater, or within 100 vertical feet of a ridgeline.


In the next section this same exemption is listed as part of the Initiative's statement of purpose as reason number 3:


As I read it, these exemptions can only be changed by the voters, not the City Council or the Planning Commission. The exemptions are given the same importance as the hillside development restrictions.

"The provisions of this initiative may be amended or repealed only by the voters of the City of Pleasanton at a City general election and overrides any existing General Plan."

In my opinion, these provisions should worry anyone who is concerned about the impact of hillside development on Pleasanton's viewshed, because it seems to exempt most of Pleasanton's hillside parcels and future hillside developments from any existing or future design control.

Of course, I am not an attorney. I could be wrong, and will be glad to yield to those with more expertise.

Posted by cj, a resident of Birdland
on Nov 30, 2007 at 10:25 am

Developments of 10 homes or less are exempt from THIS policy. The rest of the policies in the General Plan and the discretion of the city is still in force.

Your analogy is the same as somebody saying that since we have an urban growth boundary policy voted on by the residents that does not allow housing outside the urban growth boundary that anybody can build whatever they want inside the urban growth boundary; without discretion. You know that to be a completely false statement.

While I admire that you are taking an interest for your group of constituents, you must get the facts straight. As you stated, you are not an attorney. Have you checked in with the city attorney to see if your "facts" are correct? I don't think so as he would say you are not correct. The city attorney wrote a summary of the initiative and he does not say that anybody who has a development of less then 10 homes can do whatever they want.

On another topic, Becky. You have stated that we loose all of the potential for trails and parks by not allowing this development. You probably remember as you were one of the supporters of the Save the Pleasanton Ridge initiative in the 90's that the same argument was made at that time against that initiative. Look at how well the ridge looks today and the amount of open space and parks we now have on that ridge. Personally I don't want our ridges looking like Dublin and I am thankful that we have residents who care enough about our environment and take action to stop the bulldozers before it is too late. In fact I thank you for helping save the Pleasanton Ridge in the 90's. It is time to finish the job however and protect our other natural beauties in Pleasanton.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Nov 30, 2007 at 11:29 am


The City Attorney specifically uses the word "intent" when describing the initiative.

"The intent of the Initiative is to protect scenic hills from development, to direct development away from lands with environmentally sensitive features or with primary open space values, and to make the Pleasanton General Plan definition of housing unit consistent with federal and state definitions."

People always write these initiatives with good intentions, but their realities can turn out to be vastly different. That is why direct legislation that hasn't been vetted and modified by a thorough debate process tends to make poor law. And since our City Attorney can't predict what the reality will be, say if anyone decides to sue based upon the wording in the initiative, he used the word "intent".

What can occur basically is someone can build 10 mega-mansions on top of a ridgeline because they are exempt. Maybe go back and read this archive Web Link where Matt Sullivan is quoted so well:

"The alternative is to engage in a series of land use battles between developers and neighbors and others that could stretch on forever."

Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Foothill Place
on Nov 30, 2007 at 2:03 pm

I would be careful cj about citing the City Attorney's office with regard to this. They're still checking into whether parts of the Referendum and Initiative violate state law.

I bet nobody's talked about that yet...

Posted by John, a resident of Valley Trails
on Nov 30, 2007 at 8:16 pm

Since I work with attorney's who know something about initiatives I wanted to pass on some information. There is the legal wording of the initiative and then there is the intent. While the legal part of it modifies the General Plan, the intent can be used to defend the initiative in court; should that occur. So if there is a claim made against the initiative, the judge will look at the intent to clear up things should somebody sue. The intent is a legal part of an initiative for that reason.

I am sure there are lawyers working for the developers, encouraged by some members of the council, who will try to find problems with it. I checked with the city attorney's office and they are not checking into parts of it. I would not count on a good opinion from the mayor as I was told she just failed the California bar exam for the 4th or 5th time.

Even if there were people checking into the validity, there is no harm in qualifying the initiative for the ballot by collecting signatures. I had a lawyer look it over and the initiative is real short and clear intents and this initiative is probably no more violating state law then the previous initiatives on saving the Pleasanton Ridge or our housing cap and urban growth boundary. These initiatives are done in cities all over California.

Posted by CGN, a resident of California Reflections
on Dec 2, 2007 at 1:17 pm

Did anyone notice that petition gatherers last night at the Amador parking lot, where hundreds gathered to get ready for the parade, were saying there would be "no cost at all" to have this put on the ballot? I didn't sign anything, but it would be interesting to know if and how much the cost actually would be... and would also be interesting to find out if misinformation on part of the petition pushers could nullify their campaign. Things that make you go "hmmmm.."

Posted by Can the Rhetoric, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Dec 3, 2007 at 10:32 am

Even the title of this message board is misleading - "Save our Park." You cannot save something that does not exist!

Many of us were very vocal with the city council about our reasons for not wanting this development and the changes we wanted the Lin family to make. I can't speak for everyone else who made that effort, but my complaints were completely ignored. 16,000 sf homes? Gimme a break!

Why are people so opposed to putting the Oak Grove project up to a vote by residents? All I hear is that "The city council already made the best deal they could." SO WHAT? They ignored our opposition.

Let's let the people speak for themselves, since the council refused to.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 3, 2007 at 10:55 am

You seem to be forgetting that the "people" are also against this referendum and have every right to try to convince people not to sign the petition. Don't buy into the assumption that it is only the Council against the referendum.

Speaking of canning rhetoric, how about not exaggerating the proposed square footage or making it a broad statement about all the lots?

This should be about what benefits the majority of Pleasanton, not how vocal a small group of people are at meetings.

Posted by Carol, a resident of Stoneridge Orchards
on Dec 3, 2007 at 11:21 am

A few comments....

"Beth" - why can't signature gatherers collect signatures on school grounds? Didn't our school board during a recent school board election say that teachers are allowed to wear campaign buttons on school property during school hours? Yes, they did! And, they are school district employees! Wearing buttons in front of their students during the school day constitutes campaigning. If there is any legal reason why people can't collect signatures on school grounds, please let me know because I'm not aware of it.

To the people who say the Save our Hills group is a "small self-interest group", I think you should check out how many people are collecting signatures and are involved in this. It is hardly small. It is a large group of citizens from all over Pleasanton, not just the Kottinger area. Also, what "self-interest" are you talking about? What is wrong with people trying to protect our hills? We have an ordinance for the western ridge, isn't it fair to apply that to the other hills in the city?

Regarding the comment "we should have the ones that we elect to council making our decisions", yes, they are elected to make decisions. But, if one disagrees, do they not have the right to voice their opinions? Do we have to just sit back and take everything that is decided, no matter how wrong we feel it is? Isn't that the constitutional right of free speech? That comment just gets me every time! That is really something coming from a city council person herself on this blog. Trying to stifle someone's free speech is not the kind of person who should be in office. And, if the council feels so strongly that they did the right thing, what is the harm in putting it to a vote of the people? If it's such a great thing, the voters will validate their decision and they have nothing to worry about.

Regarding the "parkland" we'll be getting, please! It would be a trail or two, no "park", no sports fields, nothing else that I would say constitutes a "park". Please quit misrepresenting what it really is. I don't know how steep it is in comparison to Pleasanton Ridge, but I do know that I would have trouble hiking it and I'm not even close to being a senior citizen and I'm a fairly active person. So, in addition, this would not benefit seniors at all.

"CGN" - this is not going to cost the taxpayers to put this on the ballot. It is not a special election. If it qualifies for the ballot, it will go on the ballot in the next municipal election. I have personally heard the opposition telling the public that a special election for this initiative will cost the taxpayers. Completely false! Check for yourself if you want.

To all of those who are still "confused" after all of this, here's a tip. Research this developer and see who he has given money to for their campaigns. And, consider that the fact that a former official is actually getting paid from the developer. That might give you another perspective on the motives for our officials to want to destroy our environment.

If you care about our hills and don't want to see what has happened in some surrounding cities with uncontrolled growth and visual nightmares, sign the petitions and let's hear the voice of the people. And to reiterate what another post said, it will give everyone more time (if it's needed) to fully research both sides and make an informed decision at the ballot box.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 3, 2007 at 1:22 pm


Please don't mislead with comments like "That might give you another perspective on the motives for our officials to want to destroy our environment." The officials you accuse of wanting to destroy our environment are the same ones who actually have worked hard to protect it.

Posted by Shelley, a resident of Downtown
on Dec 3, 2007 at 1:42 pm

Yosemite National Park is a park yet it has no sports fields, so with your reasoning, Carol, Yosemite is not a park.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Birdland
on Dec 3, 2007 at 3:33 pm

Oak Grove seems like a reasonable development but wouldn't it be even better to have no homes on that property? Can someone who is informed and relatively disinterested (i.e. neither a resident of Kottinger Hills nor part of either organization) let me know if that is a potential outcome if the initiative passes? Thanks.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 3, 2007 at 4:56 pm

Carol, I think your comments are highly disingenuous with regards to your definition of a park. You ask for it not to be misrepresented yet you misrepresent it. Not everyone has trouble hiking steep slopes nor
do they define parks as playgrounds with groomed fields. In some regards it is a slap in the face to the whole National Park system and even Regional Park systems to say they are not parks because they do not have these facilities you claim are needed to be called a park.

Furthermore these comments make no logical sense as an argument supporting your position of "save the hills". You seem to be saying that the Oak Grove plan should not be allowed to go forward because the park is not a playground. So then why should the hills even be saved? Their slopes will continue to be too steep for you to hike.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 3, 2007 at 5:01 pm


I am neither a member of any organization nor do I live in Kottinger Hills. The potential outcome if the referendum passes is a lengthy land use battle between the owner and the city since the property is already zoned for 98 homes. This battle will also have the potential to spill over into other properties adjacent to Oak Grove as the property owners there come to realize that the attempt to work together with the City and surrounding neighborhoods to create an environmentally pleasing and minimally impacting win-win situation for both the developer and the City has failed.

Posted by Becky Dennis, a resident of Foxborough Estates
on Dec 3, 2007 at 5:54 pm

Hi, Dave -
I am informed, but not disinterested. So, for what it's worth, here's my take.

The only way to eliminate ALL development on the Oak Grove property is to buy the land. Acquisition is how development was eliminated by EBRPD on Pleasanton Ridge.

In the late 1980's, Ridgeland property owners applied to be annexed and developed within Pleasanton because they did not want to be purchased by the Park District. Their development within the County's jurisdiction was limited to one dwelling per lot of record (most lots were over 100 acres). When Pleasanton residents voted down the proposed development on the ridge (a process that was the result of a City Council sponsored initiative), the landowners determined that it was in their best interest to sell to EBRPD, which had successfully raised bond money for acquisitions to expand Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park.

Even if it were for sale, Pleasanton does not have the money to purchase Oak Grove, which would be far more expensive per acre for a variety of reasons. Compared to the unincorporated land on Pleasanton Ridge, Oak Grove has more entitlement, which makes the land more expensive: 1)It's within our city, within our city's Urban Growth Boundary, and thus entitled to city services like water and sewer. 2) Pleasanton's agricultural land designation entitles Oak Grove at one dwelling unit per 5 acres, not 1 du per lot of record like the County.

Under the proposed initiative, the property owner could divide the Oak Grove parcel(including the 500 acres that is currently proprosed for a natural park) into 10, 57 acre lots. Those houses are then exempt from the rules of the initiative.

"(3) Exempt 10 or less housing units and supporting infrastructure on “legal parcels” of January 1, 2007 from hillside development restrictions."

Under the initiative's exemption, these 10, 57 acre parcels would be allowed to develop very large (imagine the floor area ratio on 57 acres!), visually prominent structures, including homes, barns, and who knows what else in the way of "supporting infrastructure". They would also be exempt from the initiaative's grading restrictions.

In addition to Oak Grove, a number of other Pleasanton parcels with 25% slope, mostly on the face of Pleasanton Ridge, could realize increased development potential as a result of the initiative's exemption from hillside development restrictions, including some "legal parcels" which Pleasanton's policy currently limits to a single dwelling unit due to slopes in excess of 25%.

The language of the initiative is what led me to oppose it. I think the exemptions allow results that are completely contrary to the reasons most people would vote for a hillside protection ordinance.

Posted by cj, a resident of Birdland
on Dec 3, 2007 at 6:41 pm

Becky, Becky, Becky...

I don't think you read what you posted. You quotes the part from the initiative:

"(3) Exempt 10 or less housing units and supporting infrastructure on “legal parcels” of January 1, 2007 from hillside development restrictions."

This protects against somebody, like the Lins, dividing their property and doing a bunch of 10 unit developments. The sentence was part of the initiative to protect against this sort of action. If the initiative was missing the part "legal parcels" of January 1, 2007, then somebody could do this.

Here is some advise to you Becky, why don't you have a discussion with those who wrote the initiative and go over your questions before you start to make assumptions, and then state them as fact. Maybe you are a glass half empty person trying to find fault with work that many residents support but if you really had an interest to sit down and learn more, not just for the purpose of finding faults, you might find the real answers.

I guess I have seen this too many times. People opposing an initiative who cannot find enough credible problems in the initiative have to make up stuff to confuse the voters. We would all be best served if both sides stated fact on why they supported or did not support the initiative, which we will only get to once it makes it to the ballot. I believe it is fine to agree to disagree and put your message arguments out there and let the voters make their decision. Lets do it based upon fact and not hearsay, or by making things up and seeing what will stick. You seem to be assuming that those who wrote the initiative and support it are evil people trying to sneak in a fast one. I wish you had more faith in your fellow residents.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 3, 2007 at 7:35 pm


Sit down and talk with the folks who wrote the initiative? That sounds a lot like debating a bill in a legislature or a proposed ordinance being debated in a public hearing process, no? The only difference is that a bill can be well-researched and have its language changed before being passed into law. Initiatives on the other hand end up having to be challenged in court or overturned by other initiatives in order to get language changed. The community would be better served by tossing out this initiative.

While you may be reading what Becky wrote as a "glass half empty" argument, I read it more as her trying to point out that initiatives generally end up having faults that result in unintended consequences.

Read again what John wrote above: "So if there is a claim made against the initiative, the judge will look at the intent to clear up things should somebody sue. The intent is a legal part of an initiative for that reason." Initiatives can end up going to court and a judge has to look at the INTENT instead of the actual language of the initiative in order to make a decision. Is this the kind of democratic system we really want to use for everything, having law vetted in a courtroom by a judge instead of a legislature and/or public hearing? The justice system should only be used for last resorts in this case.

Becky points out that Pleasanton Ridge was protected by money from EBRPD that allowed the purchase of the property from the owners. How would that be able to be done here? The Lins have every right to develop their land (they've owned the land around here for longer than most of us have even lived here) and preventing them from developing it or putting excessive restrictions on said development could end up be construed as the City practicing eminent domain. The City could be taken to court over that. Sure people, go ahead and pass the initiative and then watch the fun.

Posted by cj, a resident of Birdland
on Dec 3, 2007 at 8:23 pm

Okay Stacey, I think I understand what you are saying:

Since developers and other special interests can challenge any initiative, we should just accept defeat now and not propose protective measures. Lets allow the developers to build wherever they want and as many units as they way; it is their land. In fact, I would like to tear down my house and construct 6 condos on my parcel. It is my land, why can't I do that?

"In California, initiatives are state or local legislative measures placed on the ballot by a group of citizens. The initiative process has been called California's fourth branch of government, a frank recognition of the important role it plays in setting the state's policy agenda." - Robert M. Hertzberg, Speaker Emeritus of the Assembly (

"Local voters appear to use this process to tackle issues that are not adequately resolved by their elected representatives or by state policy." - Public Policy Institute of California (

I feel that the initiative process is important and successful.

Stacey, you sound like an elected official that does not believe in direct democracy and that the elected officials are the only ones who should be trusted. Hum, maybe you are one of our elected officials using a "pen name"?

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Dec 3, 2007 at 8:38 pm


I confess that I understand Becky's stated concern about the exemption but fail to understand what you are saying in rebuttal. So, I conclude the language is faulty and likely to end up in court. Becky consistently articulates her points of concern without attempting to minimize the input of others, but in your post you attempt to minimize hers.


Teachers wearing buttons hardly compares with on campus signature gathering by Save Our Hills advocates. The "win at all costs" attitude this exemplifies is a turn off, but go do it if you feel this is democracy in action and is well received by those parents dropping their kids off at school.... If our council members vocally oppose the initiative, this is their democratic right to do so. And if they feel strongly about their position, why should they shrink from expressing themselves? Therefore, please quit accusing them of trampling your rights.... As pointed out convincingly by others in this blog, your definition of a park is ridiculous.... Please stop these slanderous accusations about the developer and our elected council unless you have something substantive to say. And Pico has publicly stated his relationship to the Lin's.... Lastly, the Pleasanton Ridge history as well as its visual prominence relative to the low hills in Southeast Pleasanton will be extensively discussed assuming the initiative signature gathering goes forward, so there is plenty of time for that comparison to be considered. Let's just say that Pleasanton did not buy the land.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 3, 2007 at 8:57 pm


Special interest groups and developers can also use the initiative process and increasingly have been since the 1970s. Don't be mislead in thinking that it is only a "voice of the people". It used to be when it was first created, but now is highly abused. Ask yourself also why there is no initiative process at the federal level. Direct legislation leads to bad law. Direct democracy leads to tyranny of the majority and the Founding Fathers worked hard to avoid that.

If you're going to quote from then how about reading the PPIC survey that showed that 1) Californians do not like the large number of initiatives on ballots yet want the process to have more power than the legislature and governor and 2) Californians are dissatisfied at the large number of initiatives challenged in court. Or how about the articles talking about reforming the initiative process and the citizen groups that took up working with the CA legislature to get laws passed instead of using the initiative process? With the large number of initiatives that get passed by CA voters ending up in court, is this really a successful process?

As for sitting back and allowing developers to do what they want without protective measures, I don't know where you get that idea from. Who said the initiative process is the only way to create such protective measures?

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Dec 3, 2007 at 9:37 pm


Go study democracy, you may surprise yourself and find out what your high school did not teach you. There are 14 states that use the initiative process that can institute laws. This number expands to 24 states if one includes constitutional amendments and indirect initiatives. Do the math and this means that 26 states have no initiative process at all. Here's a few reasons that might explain why all states have not rushed to install direct democracy (taken from Web Link):

1. The State initiative process is often usurped by wealthy special interests groups.

2. There is no quality control of State initiatives and/or there is no way for Citizens to change the wording.

3. The State incurs large costs to verify signatures.

4. The number of initiatives can be excessive.

Here's a local example: go read about the Windemere neighborhood (San Ramon) using the initiative process to force council to set speed limits on two streets, the result of which will be contrary to state law.

Regarding point 1 above, one can substitute "small self-interest groups" for "wealthy special interest groups" in the case of local matters in small cities.

Yes, our founding fathers of this country did not include direct democracy in the grand plan.

Regarding the pen name "Stacey".... maybe she is Jennifer Lin herself!!!!! Writes English well for a Taiwanese, though. Maybe Jennifer has been living amongst us for years, all of this time.... Who'd a thunk!!!

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 3, 2007 at 10:31 pm

Speaking of initiatives and referendum and mob rule, anyone notice that Chavez's referendum failed in Venezuela? Thank God we don't have a nationwide initiative and referendum process!

Posted by Becky Dennis, a resident of Foxborough Estates
on Dec 3, 2007 at 10:40 pm

CJ -
Sorry that I wasn't more clear. Under the initiative, Oak Grove could be divided into 10, 57 acre lots. Each of these lots would be sold as a single property. What that property owner did on that land in the way of grading and building would be exempt from the hillside protection restrictions of the initiative. For instance, each of the 10 houses (no size or height restriction) could be built on a hill top. A barn or other "supporting infrastructure" could be similarly sighted. Ironically, Oak Grove as a ten unit development on 570 acres could have more negative visual impacts than the current plan. And without the 500 acres of permanently protected park/open space, it wouldn't have any mitigating public benefit either.

Posted by Shelley, a resident of Downtown
on Dec 4, 2007 at 11:51 am

I think you interpreted the exempt 10-unit or less clause in the initiative incorrectly. As far as I understand, the total property is 570 acres. Divide this by 10 lots and you get 10, 57-acre lots. One lot owner could basically do whatever s/he wants in regards to development (that means no city approval for grading, etc).

Posted by Shelley, a resident of Downtown
on Dec 4, 2007 at 11:53 am

Oak Grove, or, How I learned to stop worrying and love development:

It's inevitable, people are trying to work with developers and make compromises. Others are trying to resist the inevitable.

Posted by Carol, a resident of Stoneridge Orchards
on Dec 4, 2007 at 2:21 pm

My point was missed entirely concerning the "park". One can hardly believe that Pleasanton residents would say that Yosemite and Pleasanton are similar. Your comparing apples and oranges here. When one says that there is going to be a park in Pleasanton, what do you think of? I think of a combination of things, kind of like what Bernal park is going to be. Since the Oak Grove "park" will only be a trail, I find it misleading to call it a park. I would just like the opposition to accurately state what it will be, not just say "park" with no explanation.

Speaking of this "park" that will be a trail, do any of you realize that it will NOT be accessible to the public? The agreement in place right now states that it will be accessible to Oak Grove residents and Kottinger Hills residents. I have to admit that wasn't aware of this at first until I looked at the paperwork. I guess this makes sense if Kottinger Homeowners Assoc are going to be paying for it. Look this up for yourself if you don't believe me. Again, I think the public are being misled into thinking this is going to be trails for the whole community.

Regarding the school campaigning issue, again, please tell me where it says one can't collect on school grounds. If there is such a law, I'd like to see it. And, you can't tell me that a teacher wearing a campaign button, telling their students to tell their parents to vote for a candidate is not campaigning. This is a fact because it happened in my kid's classroom. Plus, a school board candidate (this same time) was going to school classrooms all over town campaigning to the students. He went to my child's class, so I again know this to be fact. If this is allowed (and it was) how on earth can you say that signature-gatherers can't collect signatures on school property? It has to work both ways!

One last thing, people on this blog are starting to become very rude and disrespectful. Please refrain from doing that. You just make yourself look bad. I certainly respect anyone's opinion, whether it differs from mine or not. My whole purpose on this thread is to explain my view and why I support it, nothing more. It doesn't say much about our "Community of Character" if people can't have a healthy dialogue about issues that affect all of us.

It's the holiday time - be nice!

Posted by Becky Dennis, a resident of Foxborough Estates
on Dec 4, 2007 at 2:45 pm

Hi, Carol -

As far as I know the park will be publicly accessible. The public staging area and trail will be built by the developer and available for public use when the 5th lot is sold. 496 acres will be dedicated to the City, and that portion of the land will be maintained by the City, including the staging areas and trails.

Other open space around the 70 developed acres would be maintained by the HOA.

What paperwork did you see that indicates this 496 acre park will not be owned and accessible to the public? I doubt if these documents are part of the approved plan, and I think you may have been misled.

Posted by Shelley, a resident of Downtown
on Dec 4, 2007 at 2:52 pm

Could you please use proper citation when referring to the plan, where it says that the park is not accessible to the public? That way your statement would be more credible. Also, please review the meaning of park: Web Link
Sycamore Grove <i>Regional</i> Park: Web Link
East Bay Regional <i>Parks</i>: Web Link
Great America Theme <i>Park<i>: Web Link
San Francisco Maritime National Historical <i>Park<i>: Web Link

I'd like to think that most people know that parks come in many different forms and varieties and that the people interested in Oak Grove know what kind of park it will be.

Posted by Beth, a resident of Castlewood Heights
on Dec 4, 2007 at 3:22 pm


Signature gatherers cannot collect signatures for political causes on school ground. They cannot collect them at Gingerbread Preschool, a City of Pleasanton property. They aren't teachers; they aren't employees.

Principals all over Pleasanton are having to chase SOP signature collectors off of school grounds.

Furthermore, I don't think it helps the cause to have so many parents angry that people are loitering on school campuses.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 4, 2007 at 4:13 pm

From the American Heritage Dictionary Web Link

park (pärk) Pronunciation Key

1. An area of land set aside for public use, as:
1. A piece of land with few or no buildings within or adjoining a town, maintained for recreational and ornamental purposes.
2. A landscaped city square.
3. A large tract of rural land kept in its natural state and usually reserved for the enjoyment and recreation of visitors.
4. An area where military vehicles or artillery are stored and serviced.
5. The materiel kept in such an area.
2. A broad, fairly level valley between mountain ranges: the high parks of the Rocky Mountains.
3. A tract of land attached to a country house, especially when including extensive gardens, woods, pastures, or a game preserve.
4. Sports A stadium or an enclosed playing field: a baseball park.
1. An area where military vehicles or artillery are stored and serviced.
2. The materiel kept in such an area.
6. An area in or near a town designed and usually zoned for a certain purpose: a commercial park.
7. A position in an automatic transmission that disengages the gears and sets the brake so the vehicle cannot move: put the car in park and turned off the engine.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 4, 2007 at 4:35 pm

Maybe a better way to put the initiative language...

570 acres of Oak Grove is a legal parcel as of Jan 1, 2007. The owner decides to build 10 homes on it. That would be 57 lots exempt from the ridgeline ordinance the initiative tries to create.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 4, 2007 at 4:37 pm

Sorry mistake... that would be 10 lots of 57 acres each exempt from the ordinance. Those 10 homes could be built on top of the ridgeline.

Posted by Steve, a resident of Vineyard Hills
on Dec 4, 2007 at 6:04 pm

My memory is failing… was there an agreement in the contract for the development of some ~49 additional homes by the owner somewhere in Pleasanton (TBD) by end of year 2008?

Posted by Carol, a resident of Stoneridge Orchards
on Dec 4, 2007 at 9:00 pm

Becky and Shelley- it states in the PUD (I think it was number 10) that the trails would be accessible by Oak Grove residents and Kottinger Hills residents. I actually saw it. I thought it was public access too until I read this. Could this be a mistake? Perhaps it's an error, I don't know.

Shelley and Stacey - I know what the definition of a park is. Again, you don't understand my point. When the Keep our Park people keep telling people we are losing a park, WITHOUT EXPLAINING WHAT EXACTLY THAT IS,

Posted by Carol, a resident of Stoneridge Orchards
on Dec 4, 2007 at 9:05 pm

CONTINUED (sorry, I hit a button that sent my last message before I finished).

I think that is misleading. I think the majority of people here think of a park in Pleasanton as something different than a park in Yosemite, Sequoia, etc. I know a lot of people think of sports fields (especially when they are needed). Also, my point here is that a community park (not a national park) of this size and where we would be giving up a lot (or views, more traffic, etc), it would be nice if it would benefit more people. Steep hills are not going to be utilized by most of the elderly or very young children. So please, don't keep posting webster definitions of park, it is not being cordial.

Stacy - please read the initiative. If that passes, homes could not be built on slopes of greater than 25 percent. That would exclude the ridgeline.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 4, 2007 at 9:24 pm


I did read the initiative. Here is the key language in it:

"Exempt from this policy are housing developments of 10 or fewer
housing units on a single property that was, as of January 1, 2007, “legal parcel” pursuant to the
California Subdivision Map law. Splitting, dividing, or sub-dividing a “legal parcel” of January 1, 2007
to approve more than 10 housing units is not allowed."

If the initiative passes, it could mean the Lin's have the option to build 10 homes right on top of the ridgelines. Each lot would be roughly 57 acres in size. Then, instead of dealing with 1 property owner who is willing to dedicate over 400 acres to the City, you are dealing with 10 different property owners, each with a mega-mansion on top of the ridgeline if the question of additional development on those 10 different 57 acre lots ever came up.

The referendum and initiative will not prevent development upon those hilltops. Sorry.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 4, 2007 at 9:33 pm


I do get your point and I don't know any good way to address it without being facetious. How about if I put it this way? I think the majority of Pleasanton residents could be smarter about what is meant by "park" than what you seem to be taking them for. Tell me that the majority, especially the people who signed the petition, don't know that Oak Grove is in the southeast hills and couldn't make the mental leap that this isn't flat land that could accomodate a playground or sports field.

Maybe could change their name to

Would that be less misleading?

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 4, 2007 at 9:59 pm

Another thought about the initiative language...

The purpose of this initiative is to 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."

If this initiative passes and were ever taken to court, would it even stand up to judicial scrutiny with a purpose like that? Show me what uncontrolled growth ever occurred in Pleasanton, the City of Planned Progress.

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Dec 4, 2007 at 11:33 pm

In matters like these I try to script out end games and/or develop a big picture view. So, the question(s) to be asked in this regard is if the initiative passes in the general election what might be the basis for a lawsuit by the land owners (and what have courts already ruled in this regard). Same point that is mentioned by Stacey.

My research is incomplete but I have some comments after reading the initiative. I have not yet researched any case law (I am not a lawyer), but my reading of the initiative along with reasonably considering what a judge might decide, I think the initiative, if passed, would be ripe for a lawsuit. Basically, the writers of the initiative probably could lose their case because the stated purpose and the main policy 12.3 are disproportionate with each other and therefore may be judged as a public confiscation of private property without compensation, which is contrary to the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution.

1. "protect our city from uncontrolled growth". Uncontrolled growth should be a proven threat, not a hypothetical. Where is there a record of such "uncontrolled growth" in Pleasanton that will justify the policy? I can't think of any such example occurring in Pleasanton, ever.

2. "impact on...." If one enumerates the cumulative number of housing units that can result from the totality of "legal parcels" the judge will need to be convinced that this number is a reasonable restriction regarding the purpose to "protect our city from .... the impact on ridgelines and hillsides, traffic, schools, water supply, and quality of life". Might this resulting number be about a hundred or so housing units at the very most? Will the judge think this number is reasonable protection? Why not twice or three times this number? Will an increase to perhaps 30 units per legal parcel from 10 cause us to run out of water and space in our schools? Hardly. Is not the policy so harsh as to be construed as confiscatory?

3. Now the initiative does not put any restriction on "legal parcels" that do not contain ridgelines and hillsides, even though the stated purpose is much more general, as described above. The policy discriminates only with regard to ridgeline and hillside properties but does not explain why. Nowhere in it is stated a purpose for this discrimination. What is the purpose? In the notice of intent to circulate the petition there is some explanation about "scenic hills" , but this is the only explicit statement linking the restriction to ridgelines and hillsides, and not putting the same restriction on, for example, Staples Ranch. Therefore, the purpose for the policy is silent regarding why ridgelines and hillsides are picked out and flat lands are not included. Should not flat lands also be restricted to "protect our city...." etc.

4. What is the justification to back date the "legal parcels" to January 1, 2007? Why not further back in time? Why not as of the date of validity of the initiative? What would be the legal doctrine that supports such back dating in an initiative?

5. Policy 15.3 further restricts housing cap waivers. Will the judge be convinced that uncontrolled growth is occurring because there are any existing waivers? Why is this disparate restriction lumped in with ridgeline and hillside policy 12.5? What does it have to do with hypothetical uncontrolled growth and ridgelines and hillsides?

Since initiative language becomes hard and unchanging at the time it goes out for signature gathering, improving it becomes near impossible.

So, assuming this initiative becomes law I suspect the future of southeast Pleasanton will end up in the hands of a judge, not the voters.

Posted by Stephen, a resident of Mohr Park
on Dec 5, 2007 at 5:58 am

Issue is confusing. Without running into a petitioner I would have not looked deeper into issue. I believe it’s a good idea to involve/engage the general public a bit more on issues like this. If getting a measure on the ballet open more discussion I think it’s healthy. I do hope the initiative does not compromise keeping any of this land. But we should not sell out too quickly based on past and other regions experience. EB Regional Parks is a good model but may not be as applicable within city limits on a more desirable parcel.

By my brief reading.
opinion is: compromise now with some development so a park can be established.
opinion is: stop this development with hope of eventually turning entire area into park

I do hope intentions for both parties is to preserve land for Pleasanton residents and not alternative motives. Approaches may be different.

I don’t know detail or fully understand verbiage but would encourage more dissemination of info on topic to general public.

If there is no alternative and development is eminent I support
If there is potential to leave this land as a land bank and get funding to buy outright or phased in future, I support the later.

We should learn from other experiences: Pleasanton Ridge, East Bay Regional Park, Danville, Dublin, San Ramon, Moraga etc. This open space/development debate has been ongoing is many locations.

See below links for some reference to this particular issue:

Web Link
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link

Here is the reference made earlier to the 1500 acre purchase.
Though not in Pleasanton, it is great for Pleasanton and other communities around
Web Link

And when done reading this get outside. Visit a park or open space or land bank.

Posted by Very Trusting Citizen, a resident of Bridle Creek
on Dec 5, 2007 at 9:26 am

This thread is both enlightening and entertaining. I think both sides have good intentions and some good arguments, but the side is, to me, most logical and fact-based. Of course, logic and facts don't always win against the emotion injected into the ballot initiative process.

This property is in our general plan (at 98 housing units), within our urban growth boundary and, if you believe in property rights, inevitable to be developed. If the community can find a "park angel" to buy the property outright to keep it all open space, then great, let's do it. But absent that, why do we think a different cast of characters will magically come up with a better deal? The owner, neighbors, developer, city staff, politicians, commissioners, activists and community at large have ALL been involved over the past four years to hammer out a very good compromise plan. Is Oak Grove perfect? Perhaps not, but it's got mega-positives for everyone, and I respect and appreciate all in the community who took the time and energy to produce it.

And Carol, while you make some decent points, I think your "park" argument is silly. Are the folks who are so easily mislead about the word "park" also the ones so qualified to analyze the merits of this ordinance and development agreement? You can't have it both ways...

If this makes the ballot, then so be it. I hope a vigorous and respectful debate will ensue and that all voters become as educated and engaged as all of those in the community responsible for the 4 year compromise plan. But direct democracy can be an ugly affair, with all kinds of mudslinging and unintended consequences. There's a reason our founding fathers set up a representative form of governance, and it has served us well, I'd say.

In the end, I trust our community will do the right thing...

Posted by Patricia, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Dec 5, 2007 at 5:20 pm

I have been struggling to understand all this, and I've spoken to and read opinions by people I respect who come down on both sides of this issue.

In the end, I agree with Stephen: it comes down to a choice of compromise now with some development so a park can be established and a huge section of hills can be permanently protected from development OR stopping this development now and working to eventually buy the land for parkland or create legislative restrictions that will render it undevelopable in hopes that the owners throw up their hands and donate it to take the tax write-off.

Telling people to sign the petition because it will buy them time to understand the issues better just puts off making this basic choice, and creates a real possibility that one of the two choices will be removed from the table. I, for one, prefer to take the time to sort through this NOW so I don't have to get accosted every time I buy groceries between now and June.

Also, the argument that it is or isn't a park is spurious. Those gathering signatures say they want the land undeveloped, then argue that undeveloped land with a couple of trails is of no benefit to the community so it's not a park. Huh? I live near this land, and walk around it on sidewalks and through Vintage Hills park, looking longingly at the open hills. I'd love to walk those trails. Neighbors who oppose Oak Grove say they walk on it all the time now, but I don't because it's currently private property and I'm law abiding that way. So stopping Oak Grove is fine if you already feel like it's a place you can walk and look at but you don't want the rest of us to come to? Sorry, but that argument turns me off. If the city tried to put ball fields on it, I'd oppose it in a heartbeat. But open space and trails? Opening to all the views currently enjoyed by the people living in megamansions on hilltops (who now oppose megamansions on hilltops) to everyone? Now THAT'S a park!

Ultimately, I've decided not to sign the petitions because I think the compromise presents us the best chance for preserving open space in our hills AND because it opens the hills to all of us.(Whether we choose to use them or not is up to us!)

Thank you all for your posts and especially for the links, which have helped me sort through all this. I think I'll go for a walk now. Thanks for the suggestion, Stephen!

Posted by Carol, a resident of Stoneridge Orchards
on Dec 5, 2007 at 7:32 pm

Stacey - do you realize that there are 2 petitions out there. 1 - the referendum of Oak Grove and 2) the Save our Hills initiative? They are not the same thing. The initiative (#2) states that there shall not be any development on slopes greater than 25 percent. It also protects our housing cap. From your post, I think you are only looking at the referendum and not the initiative. The referendum stops Oak Grove, the initiative prevents any ridges to be built on and slopes greater than 25 percent anywhere in the city.

You know, it's frustrating when posts will keep saying something that is missing the boat. Regarding my analysis of a park, I am NOT saying that a park has to be sports fields and such. What I am saying is that the opposition to this initiative/referendum keeps appealing (in your words!) to the emotions of people by saying we are losing a park. First of all, we can't lose something we don't have. Second, they don't explain what exactly they are talking about. That is my beef! When the opposition says to people "the signature gatherers are taking away our park" and nothing more, that is misleading. All I'm asking is that they be up front and explain what it is and to not say we are "losing a park". That assumes we are losing a park we currently have(i.e. the sports park). I don't think this should be too much to ask for. Transparency in politics, a novel idea, no?

Very Trusting - I would say you are an idealist. It sounds like maybe things have worked out to your liking. In my world (of politics), they haven't always done that. Yes, we have elected officials to do their work. However, when enough citizens feel that they haven't made decisions that are representative of the majority, it is the right of the people to act. That's what it comes down to. Telling people to trust their government and never question, well, that isn't the kind of government I would want to have. If enough signatures aren't obtained, the development goes forward. If they do get enough, it goes on the ballot and it's voted on, still no guarantee of which way it will go. Signing the petitions doesn't guarantee anything.

Have a nice holiday everyone, thanks for writing!

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 5, 2007 at 7:57 pm


I haven't read the referendum language in detail yet because I know it basically is for reversing the decision of the City Council on the two ordinances they passed related to Oak Grove. The exemption I wrote about is from the initiative. You can find it here: Web Link

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Dec 5, 2007 at 9:20 pm

Patricia wrote: "or create legislative restrictions that will render it undevelopable in hopes that the owners throw up their hands and donate it to take the tax write-off"

That would never happen because property owners could construe such laws as confiscatory and sue in court.

Posted by curious, a resident of Country Fair
on Dec 5, 2007 at 9:21 pm


My understanding of this is that with approval of the seoond reading by the City Council, the the City gained a park of 496 acres. Perhaps, most importantly, part of that approval, required the developer to build a staging area consisting of parking, rest rooms, horse watering trough and construct the trail from one end of the property to the other. Also, if I'm not mistaken, the trails are to be constructed with imput from the Trails Ad Hoc Committee. So in my mind, at this point the City has gained a 496 park at zero expense to the City but that is now subject to the outcome of the referendum. So currently, we have a park that will be developed unless the project is successfully referended which will mean that we lose a park. I am utterly amazed that people think we can referend the project, end up with no houses and yet still have access to the land since the land has been/is privately owned for over 30 years by the same person.

When you talk about people being up front, I would like the "save pleasanton hills" to please be up front and explain based on facts how referending the project will eliminate the houses AND still allow us to have access to the privately owned land.

Also, as a mother of two school age children, the issue for me with people collecting signatures at schools is safety, safety, safety. I don't want the principal or administrators distracted from their job by having to keep an eye on signature gatherers that don't belong on school grounds in the first place. Plus the behavior in the parking lots, was contrary to what they're trying to teach children with safety, etc. It just seems like we say that children come first and we need to honor and respect that. Collecting signatures and distracting school employees from their jobs is just not in line with that. If its okay to collect at schools then why not churches?

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Dec 5, 2007 at 9:27 pm

I've contributed to these posts and have read carefully what other poster's have said. It is my opinion that Carol has been the one "missing the boat". The points being made are pretty clear.

Assuming the 5000+ signatures certify with at least the required number of Pleasanton registered voters, then I look forward to the script playing out into the next phase where all of the same arguments that have been presented both pro and con in these blogs will be re-hashed ad nauseum over the forthcoming months.

Posted by noMansionOwner, a resident of Grey Eagle Estates
on Dec 9, 2007 at 5:34 pm

Re earlier post about Grey Eagle's own "megamansions": biggest house in Grey Eagle is 6100 square feet and that is in a valley - not visible on a ridgeline. The two biggest houses visible from outside our neighborhood are 5400 and 5700 square feet, all the others are 4000 or less. Check if you don't believe it. My own house in G.E. is 2500 square feet - and one story. Oak Grove houses will start at 6000 and can go up to 12,500, and can be three levels and over 40 feet in height. There's no comparison between the megamansions that would be allowed under the current development plan and the existing houses in Grey Eagle.