State court rejects Lin plea to build homes above Kottinger Ranch | March 22, 2013 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

News - March 22, 2013

State court rejects Lin plea to build homes above Kottinger Ranch

Affirms lower court's decision to deny 51-home project

by Jeb Bing

The state Court of Appeal ruled Monday against the owners of 562 acres of hilltop property in Pleasanton who claimed that they had the right to build 51 homes on the site, called Oak Grove.

The decision effectively strips Frederic Lin and his mother Jennifer Lin of all development rights that were once granted by a Pleasanton City Council, a decision that was successfully reversed by a majority vote in a referendum June 8, 2010.

Although the Lins could seek a review of the Court of Appeal ruling before the state Supreme Court, the chance that the high court would hear their argument, let alone overrule the Appellate court's decision, is unlikely.

Monday's decision ends the Lins' effort to develop their picturesque wooded property that started in November 2003 when investor James Tong and his Charter Properties firm sought city approval for a planned unit development. The application received extensive review by various city commissions and also had the approval of the board of directors of the Kottinger Hills Homeowners Association, an action some members of that community group protested.

The Lins' 10-year effort to develop their property has had many turns and twists, first in the years the proposal made it through the approval process, and since Nov. 6, 2007, when the council approved the Oak Grove development plan and a citizens' group called Save Pleasanton's Hills began a petition-signing effort to overrule that decision.

Former Councilwoman Kay Ayala and Allen Roberts, who lives in a hilltop community near the proposed Oak Grove development, led that organization in collecting enough signatures to force a referendum on the issue. The Lins filed a suit to block that effort and have continued to sue both the Ayala group and the city of Pleasanton ever since, without success.

Monday's decision in the Court of Appeal not only ends that effort, but the court also ruled that the Lins have to pay the legal costs incurred by the defendants.

The 22-page decision issued Monday by a three-judge Court of Appeal panel dealt mainly with the Lins' argument that the council adopted two ordinances -- No. 1961 and No. 1962 -- in approving the Oak Grove development plan. They argued that the 2010 referendum reversed the council's approval of No. 1961, but not No. 1962 which, in effect, was the actual development agreement.

But the city's legal team argued that the language in the both ordinances clearly spelled out that if either one was successfully reversed on appeal, that reversal would apply to the other ordinance as well. Lower courts and now the Court of Appeal agreed with that argument.

At one time, and during the court considerations, the Lins submitted another plan to build homes on only 10 large lots of their property, which would be permitted under the city's land use plan. However, the Lins withdrew that proposal and now, tougher hillside development requirements approved by voters two years ago, would apply to any new building plans the Lins might submit.