Lins should end their lawsuits against Pleasanton | September 30, 2011 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - September 30, 2011

Lins should end their lawsuits against Pleasanton

Civic diplomacy took a back seat in the Pleasanton City Council chambers last Monday as Mayor Jennifer Hosterman again sparred with leaders of a citizens group long opposed to a housing development in the southeast hills called Oak Grove. The outburst came as former Councilwoman Kay Ayala asked for an answer to her question on if the council, in closed session, had voted on a settlement agreement with representatives of Frederic and Jennifer Lin, the landowners who are currently suing the city on two issues. Hosterman refused to allow the question, but others intervened, allowing City Attorney Jonathan Lowell to say that consideration of a "stand-down" agreement with the Lins had been discussed, but no vote was taken.

The angst between some members of the council and the citizens' coalition formed by Ayala in 2007 to overturn a 4-1 vote by the council that approved the Lins' 51-home housing project at the end of Hearst Drive is sadly not over. Since then, Ayala's coalition has successfully battled the Lins in court, fielded Measure PP that won voters' approval to block development on steep hillsides, and sponsored Measure D that won voter approval at the ballot box in June 2010 scuttling the council's approval and the Lins' right to build their houses. Now the Lins are in court with litigation this time against the city of Pleasanton arguing that a once-signed development agreement trumps the 2010 measure D vote and setting the stage for possible damages if they continue to be denied development rights on the 600 acres they own. Adding to this longstanding, hugely costly litigation is now a new proposal from the Lins to build only 10 houses instead of the 51, a proposal submitted to city planners who have yet to consider it.

Ayala's concern was with the wording "settlement agreement," a term the Lins' attorneys used in their latest request that the City Council "stand down" in the lawsuits, including an appeal before the state Court of Appeal to overturn an unfavorable ruling by a Superior Court judge against the Lins. The stand-down would last until the city acts on the Lins' 10-home petition. Presumably, although the Lins haven't said so, they would drop the appeal and possible damage suit if they receive building permits and can proceed to build the proposed million-dollar-plus homes in the southeast hills. Karla Brown, a Realtor, who is part of the Ayala coalition, told the council Monday that this would be like asking a contractor to do more work on your house while you were suing him for the faulty work he'd already done.

Hosterman was among a majority on the council who approved the Lins original plan for a 51-home development in Oak Grove, which included a gift to the city of nearly 500 acres of parkland and open space and was considerably less than the 100 homes they had earlier asked to build. To her and the council majority, and many in the community, the Oak Grove plan had merit, even benefits. But the majority vote on Measure D showed voters felt otherwise and it's the council's duty now to make sure the Lins either drop their legal actions against the city or see them through on appeal before anyone in City Hall turns the first page on a new building plan. Ayala and her coalition asked the right question. We all agree that the Lins' 10-home plan looks good, but it needs to be considered through the normal approval process, not as part of a stand-down agreement that allows the Lins to hold the threat of resuming their litigation against Pleasanton over our heads if they don't like the outcome.


Posted by Ed Heacox, a resident of Highland Oaks
on Oct 2, 2011 at 7:19 am

Disagree! the ongoing battle between the city and Lins has become a wasteful soap opera driven by zealot coalition bullies. The Lins on the other hand continue to offer compromises for developing their land (THEIR land).

It is obvious that a reasonable compromise regarding details of the development can be made to benefit Pleasanton. The Lins have reduced the numbers of homes several times and previously offered 500 acres of open space parkland - and, Pleasanton will benefit from tax revenue, economic activity, construction jobs. Maybe the Lins can offer financial assistance to our local schools; we need that more than a park.

Shut down all the legal posturing and make a deal - the City Council needs to take the lead instead of being puppeted by the coalition - make a deal for the benefit of Pleasanton - stop the waste, get it done.


Posted by local, a resident of Birdland
on Oct 2, 2011 at 10:30 am

There is no deal to be made right now. The Lin's lost in both the ballot and the courts. When the Lin's stop their suits against the city, the city can then look at their new proposal. The longer the suits are out there, the longer it will take.

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Oct 2, 2011 at 1:15 pm

Hopefully, the Lins will come to their senses and develope half of their property into low-income housing!

Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore
on Oct 2, 2011 at 2:31 pm

[Post removed due to promoting a website and nothing more]

Posted by @ed, a resident of California Reflections
on Oct 3, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Ed, I don't think the City Council is being puppeted. They had agreed on the 51-unit plan, but Ayala and her crew put it on the ballot and the voters decided what the Lins could or couldn't do with their property. The city is in the middle of this mess and the Lins just want some satisfaction because they can't develop their own property. I know why the Lins don't sue Ayala and the people in her group (the city has more money), but actually that's who they should be suing.

Posted by Roger Smith, a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on Oct 4, 2011 at 8:52 am

I live on Hearst Dr and opposed the 51 home proposal as there was only one ingress and exit for the homes. I do not have any problem if the Lins want to develop 10 homes. But they should stop bullying and threatening the City. If they put in a application for this new proposal I am sure no one will oppose it.

Posted by Spudly, a resident of Laguna Oaks
on Oct 4, 2011 at 9:33 am

At this point the Lin's should just donate their land to the state to make it all low income housing funded by the cities general fund. Private property and the ability with many concessions to develop it do not seem to count for much any longer.

Posted by Concerned, a resident of Del Prado
on Oct 4, 2011 at 10:22 am

In this two-sided argument, there seems to be a strong resentment againt Kay Ayala and her group. It is great that we have someone trying to see that the city council and mayor have someone watching what is being done. I am glad that we have SOME participation from the community.

Posted by moving to pleasanton, a resident of another community
on Oct 4, 2011 at 10:25 am

Do the Lins live in Pleasanton? It appears they are looking out for themselves and not the community.

Posted by Dave, a resident of Birdland
on Oct 4, 2011 at 11:19 am

It does constantly amaze me that so many people feel that they have the right to tell somebody else what they can or cannot do with their own property.
Kind of like telling one set of homeowners that they can only mow their lawns on Tuesday's because some other neighbor’s on the other side of town may not like the end result.

Posted by Marie, a resident of Downtown
on Oct 4, 2011 at 12:43 pm

As much as I don't think we need even more houses built I don't understand why we are able to tell the Lins what to do with their land. If they own it shouldn't they be able to do what they want with it? I think 10 homes and donating the rest to a park is a reasonable request. Sorry we don't need more low income housing.

Posted by Shawn, a resident of West of Foothill
on Oct 4, 2011 at 3:31 pm

If Kay and others are concerned about what the Lins do with property that THEY OWN, perhaps she/they should pony up the funds to buy the property and donate the land to whatever cause they see fit. Otherwise, more power to the Lins to build their 51 homes. Worst case, it gives the city more tax reveunes to squander on their ridiculous "climate action plan".

Posted by Well planned community, a resident of Pleasanton Middle School
on Oct 4, 2011 at 4:00 pm

In well planned communities, just owning property does not allow the owner to do what ever he/she feels is right for their own personal financial gains. Perhaps it is different in Taiwan.

In Pleansanton traffic, schools, safety, the environment, etc. are all considerations which must be evaluated -- NOT just the fact that someone owns the land and wants to build.

Do you want your neighbor to sell their homes and the new owner build a Kmart? A parking lot? A hiking trail? A grave yard?

Think twice.

Posted by Robert, a resident of Highland Oaks
on Oct 4, 2011 at 7:42 pm

What gives the city the right to basically confiscate the Lins property and make it useless. The city either allows the Lins to build or pays them for their economic loss. Is this the same group that wanted to purchase the bernal property for$100,000,000? So that we could enjoy free space? The Lins have owned this property prior to the majority of the population moving in to Pleasanton. Move in and change the rules. Only in Pleasanton or Marin county. This is America. A capitalist society. Cities are not above the law. I hope the Lins receive justice.

Posted by Uncle Sam, a resident of Birdland
on Oct 5, 2011 at 8:35 am

Hey Dave, that's the beauty of democracy, a majority can tell someone what they can with their land. No laws were violated here-the courts upheld that. All the Lin's money and influence couldn't change the will of the people of Pleasanton.
You sore losers may need to move to Texas to feel right with the world.

Posted by Uncle Sam, a resident of Birdland
on Oct 5, 2011 at 8:56 am

Robert, you guys don't seem to get it at all. No one confiscated anyone's property. One group of law-abiding citizens stood up for something they felt strongly about, went out and got petitions signed and then sent their measure to the people for a vote. They had much less money and way less influence than the Lins and yet they prevailed. That is democracy at it's finest.

You shouldn't sit back and demonize them just because you don't like like the results.

The Lins are land speculators, business people who gamble on land purchases to make money. They are not guaranteed success in the constitution. Sometimes they will lose. The nuisance lawsuits we are seeing are a reflection of their unhappiness with this fact.

Posted by registered user, Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 5, 2011 at 9:44 am

Seems like a ripe moment to mention Prop. 8... Just replace the "Lins" with "gay people".

Posted by Jill, a resident of Country Fair
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:19 am

When property owners our help up from devloping their property by a group who's only interest is stopping development, its time to change the system. The Lins have tried to work with everyone, but to NO AVAIL!If you had your money invested in this land, what would you do?

Posted by taxpayer, a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:48 am

There are rules about what can and cannot be built on property within the city limits. And sometimes those rules change. Don't like it? As another readar said, move to Texas, they don't seem to have rules about anything.
If I buy a lot in downtown Pleasanton, can I build a tin sided shack just because I like that style? Can I install a pig farm because I like fresh pork? Or how about keeping chickens and roosters? There are rules about all of that.
These people not only don't live in Pleasanton, from what I hear they don't even live in the US. They bought only for speculation and their financial motives are not good enough to require Pleasanton to cave and allow them to build whatever they think will generate them the most money. It is all about money, nothing else.
Try buying property in another country and then telling that country how to run their laws. The difference is that in some countries you and/or your property would simply cease to exist. Here at least we follow the legal laws and the Lins still cannot accept that.

Posted by registered user, Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 5, 2011 at 10:56 am

I doubt very much that the Lins have all their money invested in this land. ;)


The property was zoned for a certain kind of development potential through a different democratic process. The Lins were trying to develop it according to that, not trying to develop a Kmart. They were not trying, like in other cases, to get voters to overturn current zoning or urban growth lines. This particular piece of land is one that Pleasanton already told the Lins they could develop a certain way. Then add in the missing hillside development ordinance...

I think these facts make this subject more complex than just a simplistic rehash of "develop a property how they want" vs. "Kmart next door".

Posted by registered user, Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:00 am


If you bought a lot downtown, you would have a reasonable expectation to build something according to downtown zoning laws. You would NOT expect your project to be referended and then downtown zoning laws changed so that you could not even build what you thought you could before.

Posted by A Citizen's point of view, a resident of Valley View Elementary School
on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:51 am

The Lin's property is zoned 1 house per 5 acres - yet in the early 1990s they tried to bring forward a plan of a golf course and 98 homes onto the City. That development was referended by the Citizens.

The Lin's property was still zoned 1 house per 5 acres. Within their rights, they offered a 51 unit plan with demolition of the southeast ridges.

ALL within the rights of the Citizens, the development was rejected by the voters of Pleasanton.

They are out of touch with the goals of the citizens here in town.

Posted by Well Planned Community, a resident of Pleasanton Middle School
on Oct 5, 2011 at 11:56 am

Stacey, you state, "The property was zoned for a certain kind of development potential through a different democratic process. The Lins were trying to develop it according to that, not trying to develop a Kmart."

What different democratic process? Are you saying some democratic process are better than others?

Just who do you think puts together the General Plan to determine zoning? The PEOPLE had and will continue to have a part in the development of the General Plan. So does our City staff and elected officials.

This plan is a living and changing document, not the holy grail. Recent initiatives and lawsuits have changed the document and will continue to do so.

Posted by registered user, Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 5, 2011 at 12:30 pm


Exactly. The PEOPLE put together the General Plan, created the current zoning. The Lins were trying to develop their property according to what WE the people already said. Arguments about Kmarts and toxic dumps and parking lots next door are irrelevant.

And yes, the General Plan _is_ a living and changing document, which is why development agreements exist. We the people are prone to changing our minds. We're quite unpredictable! To me, the bigger question is at what point does all the referendums and changes become confiscatory? It is very doubtful to me that referendums, initiatives, and General Plans were ever intended to be used to hold property owners indefinitely hostage to the whims of we the people.

Posted by Zoning, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2011 at 1:59 pm

The GP zoning was Rural Density Residential with 1 unit per 5 acres. Much of the land is steeply sloped and unbuildable. Oak Grove had much higher density than that and they wanted a higher density than 1 unit every 5 acres.

They wanted 2 houses per acre of ridgetop property. Much different.

Posted by registered user, Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 5, 2011 at 2:15 pm


Are you being intentionally misleading? The 51-unit Oak Grove plan was a lower density than what the General Plan allows.

Posted by George, a resident of Jensen Tract
on Oct 5, 2011 at 2:26 pm

You might look at the Hills of East Dublin and see what the Lins have done there. I know, that I don't like it!! To answer someone else's question, no the Lin's do not live in Pleasanton. Looking out for the best interest of Pleasanton? Not Hardly!!

Posted by Zoning, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Oct 5, 2011 at 3:05 pm

Rural Density Residential is 1 unit per 5 acres.

Oak Grove proposed Low Density Residential which is 2 units per acre, a higher density, on the ridgetop portion of the property.

The General Plan has holding capacity, which is not an entitlement to build. The holding capacity in the 1996 General Plan was 98 units. They decreased it to 51 units for the PUD, but the sizes of the houses nearly doubled, thus the footprint of the original 98 unit vs 51 unit project did not change all that much (one court was deleted).

They then said that they would build the 47 units somewhere else. Of course, all along, they probably planned to sue the city all along for 'damages' regarding the somewhere else 47 units. Or sue the city to force the other 47 units to be built on that so-called 'gift' portion they said they were going to deed to the city.

Posted by registered user, Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 5, 2011 at 3:43 pm

Nothing in the General Plan says Rural Density Residential must build 1 house every 5 acres. In fact it says something quite opposite. I don't know what you're really trying to say. It seems that you're just trying to make an issue out of nothing. The Oak Grove plan was consistent with the 1996 General Plan prior to PP.

Posted by registered user, Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 5, 2011 at 3:49 pm

"Rural Density Residential - No more than
.2 dwelling units per gross developable
acre. Clustering of development shall be
encouraged with lots of one acre and


"Residential projects proposed for land
designated as Rural Density Residential
should be encouraged to cluster home sites on
lots of one acre or larger but may include any
housing type."

Posted by registered user, Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Oct 5, 2011 at 3:52 pm

"The maximum number
of units allowed on parcels zoned PUD shall
not exceed the maximum for the underlying
General Plan Map designation (plus a possible
25 percent density bonus for the provision of
significant affordable housing), multiplied by
the number of gross developable acres in the
parcel. Gross Developable Acres shall
include all privately owned acreage within a
parcel and shall exclude all publicly owned
facilities (e.g., City-owned parks, flood
control channels, and public school sites) or
such sites planned to be purchased by a public
agency. Acreage to be devoted to publicly
owned facilities dedicated as part of a project
(e.g. roadway rights-of-way, parks, and trails)
shall be included as "gross developable acres"
unless such acreage is rendered undevelopable
by other General Plan provisions."

Posted by Mike, a resident of Highland Oaks
on Oct 5, 2011 at 4:01 pm

This is beginning to remind me of the JHS social studies game in which one group is given increasingly greater say in the rules that are made. The usual outcome is that as the one group's power increases, it gives less consideration to anyone outside the group and abandons any pretense to fairness - until class ends or everyone else gets frustrated and quits.


Posted by Old Joe, a resident of Downtown
on Oct 5, 2011 at 7:10 pm

Affordable housing is the right use for the Lin property. Pleasanton needs lots of affordable housing and the Lin's have lots of acres available. At least 5,000 affordable homes could be built there. Affordable housing -- a win-win for all involved.

Posted by Steve, a resident of Parkside
on Oct 5, 2011 at 8:01 pm

Old Joe, that was very funny. I'd be interested in seeing anyone seriously proposing a new ghetto on prime real estate in the foothills. If you believe that, maybe you should be purchasing some swampland.

Posted by Confused, a resident of Stoneridge
on Oct 6, 2011 at 8:49 am

Old Joe was tounge in cheek on his affordable housing in an effort to make a point. But Steve's comment that it is "prime real estate" is way off base since people like him dont want the property developed. Please tell me what is so prime about this property. Some people of Pleasanton have taken taken up the cause to strip the rights away from the Lin's to do with their property as they see fit under the law when they bought it just. Very selfish. I don't have a clue where the Lin's live but that does not diminish their rights as the property owners. This is the classic "I have mine and you be damned". I have lived in Pleasanton for the past 43 years and it is not the old timers complaining about the development but the new comers that don't want any further development in order to keep housing limited and prices as high as possible.

Posted by Roger Smith, a resident of Kottinger Ranch
on Oct 6, 2011 at 10:01 am

We are beginning to sound like our Congress where compromise is a bad word. Stacy seems to be on the Lins payroll the way she is advocating their position. I would not be surprised as the Lins hired a lot of people like our ex mayor Tom Pico to fight for them.The issue was put to a vote and the development was rejected so no point in going and harping over it.The Lins should stop suing and wasting money and work towards the 10 unit development. End of story.

Posted by Confused, a resident of Stoneridge
on Oct 6, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Roger -
I have just one question for those that think they know what is best for the Lin's property. How would you like to have the "community" vote to reduce the value of your home by placing restrictions on the property that were not there when you bought it?

And no, I don't know the Lin's nor anyone else in this discussion. I just find it amusing that people have no problem dictating to others what is best for Pleasanton while they would be up in arms if it was done to them.