Just say no to more initiatives | May 16, 2008 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |


Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - May 16, 2008

Just say no to more initiatives

We've said before that we're generally opposed to ballot box initiatives that should best be left to paid city staff to research and elected officials to enact. That, after all, is why we have a City Manager form of government and elect our mayor and two City Council members every two years. If we want change or don't like the way the city's being run, regular elections provide a reasonably frequent opportunity to change leaders. So it comes as no surprise that we're not in support of former Councilwoman Kay Ayala's latest effort to block all developments on hillside properties with slopes of 25 percent or greater. We also question the need for another initiative to clarify the housing cap, a 29,000-unit limit that voters imposed in 1996. Even if these initiatives are needed, which we don't think they are, the General Election on Nov. 4 when they would be on the ballot is the wrong time to ask voters for a decision. The presidential, congressional, state assembly, mayor and City council and school board races, along with a long list of state bond and other measures, will complicate the November ballot enough. We don't need two more issues that lack any sense of urgency.

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Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown
on May 16, 2008 at 1:42 pm

The reason people are signing initiatives and referendums now is because they are frustrated with the current leadership. If people were happy with the current leadership, they would not be signing these things.

The reason the housing cap needs to be defined now is nobody had any indication a future council would play sneaky games trying to get more houses in Pleasanton by designating housing units as "not a housing unit". There are two ways you can get above the housing cap. You can either go to the voters to ask them to ammend the previous initiative which defined the maximum number of housing units in Pleasanton (the honest thing to do), or you can not count all your housing units (the sneaky thing to do). Unfortunately, the current council has had discussion saying they wanted to excluding counting of some new units against the general plan. The only way to keep the Council in check was to define what a housing unit is. The initiative has a consistent definition as the state of California as well as the US Census. Although those definitions should have been enough, our Council is doing whatever it can to develop more houses. It seems like our elected officials are now more concerned in staying in office than representing the citizens and they feel that raising money for elections is more important. Hence, give the developers what they want so the politicians get more money for future elections. Why else would the mayor hire a public relations person?

I have lived downtown for many, many years and it makes me cry to see how this Council is unwilling to stand up to developers.

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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on May 16, 2008 at 2:21 pm

The reason the housing cap needs to be defined now is because the previous housing cap initiative was another bad law. The failing was in _that_ initiative. Initiatives lead quickly to bad law.

Additionally, I'd like to see Anne suggest how Pleasanton should follow State affordable housing laws.

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Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown
on May 16, 2008 at 6:14 pm

Stacey, the housing cap initiative was put on the ballot by the City Council to affirm the housing cap and the urban growth boundary that was in the 1996 General Plan update. That occurred after many years and meetings with a general plan steering committee. So taking your statement, all laws are bad :-)

We do not build affordable housing in Pleasanton (and most of California). We build subsidized housing. If the State wants us to develop subsidized housing, the State must pay for it. As it was explained to me, technically the city must not "get in the way" of providing "affordable housing" (i.e., subsidized housing). If a developer wants to provide subsidized housing, the city does not stand in the way. The City Council can actually solve this "problem" right now during the General Plan update. They can state that all housing units over what has been zoned in the General Plan today must be completely affordable (I heard somebody mention this previously). Period. We have then provided places for "affordable housing" and the developers can work with the state or other interests to pay for the subsidies. Alternatively, those who want more subsidized housing in Pleasanton can put an initiative on the ballot (your favorite thing), or the Council can do the same thing, asking residents if they would pass a bond or parcel tax to pay for subsidized housing in Pleasanton. Funny but I have never seen the housing advocates suggest a tax to pay for the subsidies so I guess they do not feel the issue is that important.

Stacey, who do you think should be paying the subsidies for this "affordable housing"? I see several ways:
1) Tax new home owners (we do this today but it is called inclusionary housing instead of calling it a new home tax)
2) Have the State pay for the subsidy
3) Start a tax in Pleasanton to pay for the subsidy
4) (your idea here)

Like this comment
Posted by frank
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on May 16, 2008 at 6:56 pm

Typical tactic in these threads. Mis-quote your critic. Anne, where did Stacey write "all laws are bad"?

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Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown
on May 17, 2008 at 12:08 pm

Stacey said that initiatives lead to bad law. Since this initiative was done by the Council to have the voters affirm what they would have done as an ordinance, the council wrote a bad ordinance/initiative because of the loophole. If this was not affirmed by the voters, the ordinance still would have been bad. My point is that laws whether written by the council or done by the voters are subject to being "bad" as Stacey states. I guess the only difference is if the Council writes a law and they later do not like it, they can just ignore it as it take a majority of the council, 3 members, to ignore any city law. If the voters approve something, the council will have a harder time ignoring the law. As Cheryl Cook-Kallio said at a recent council meeting, "we were elected to make the determinations and decisions." In other words, we are the council and we can do whatever we want.

Like this comment
Posted by shelley
a resident of Valley Trails
on May 17, 2008 at 10:08 pm

Tell me again what is the job of the city council is but to deliberate, have open discussion and make decisions....your point?