My perspective comes both as a resident of Hearst Drive (highly impacted by the proposed Oak Grove project) and later as the President of the Kottinger Ranch Homeowners Association 2002-2008. When I moved to Pleasanton in 1994, I was aware that the Lin Family’s proposed “Kottinger Hills” project had been approved in 1992 by the Pleasanton City Council and subsequently recalled via a city vote in 1993. Kottinger Hills was slated to be an 86-home community with an 18-hole golf course. One of the biggest objections people had was that large amounts of earth would be moved to create the golf course, causing serious environment and visual concerns.
Thus, we moved in to our current home with the naïve thought that nothing would be developed in the hills east of the Kottinger Ranch neighborhood. We were disappointed to discover in 1996 that a new proposal for 98 homes without a golf course for this same 562 acre parcel was included in the Pleasanton General Plan update. This was the beginning of a discovery process that unfolded for me over the next ten years.
The Lin Family bought the property for Kottinger Ranch and the now-proposed Oak Grove development in the late 1970s. At the time of purchase, they had the right and the intention to develop the land. The Kottinger Ranch development started in the 1980s and continued in earnest through the late 1990s; a few homes have been built on available parcels since that time. The Lins planned to continue their development efforts in 1992 with the approval of Kottinger Hills when community activism halted those plans.
The new Lin Family development plan included in the 1996 General Plan update didn’t feel like reality until Family representatives approached Kottinger Ranch in 2003 to disclose the specific details. While it was a rather terse meeting, it was the beginning of what became difficult yet constructive dialog between the Lins and KR. The City was aware of the contention between the two groups and wanted to see if we would work together to reach a compromise that both parties could live with.
To officially represent Kottinger Ranch in these discussions, the KRHOA Board of Directors voted to empower the ‘Growth Containment’ committee made up of volunteer homeowners (including me) who would negotiate the issues with the Lin representatives. While we were officially empowered by the Board, we still felt a responsibility to get guidance from our constituency. Going into this process, there were some major issues to be negotiated. Here is a partial list:
-The final number of homes
-Permanent easements to ensure that Hearst would never be extended beyond Oak Grove with no connectors that would create cut-through traffic
-Significant traffic calming measures on Hearst Drive to slow and reduce traffic while protecting school-aged children who walk to Vintage Hills School on Concord Avenue (which intersects Hearst Drive in KR).
-Oak Grove homes to have acceptable site-lines and displacement back from KR to maintain separation and privacy.
Kottinger Ranch homeowners received updates on a periodic basis regarding the progress of the negotiations. In late 2005, the City sponsored facilitator Arlene Willits to help lead the process between the Lins and KR. The issues were clear, the process was well-defined, and all interested parties had access to the people involved.
Our committee felt an obligation to negotiate in good faith, only following the wishes of our neighbors. Going in, we felt the latitude to compromise to a total home count of 30 without further input from the homeowners. When we realized that the compromise would never settle at 30 homes, we conducted 2 meetings with homeowners to gather inputs and explain our position. One meeting included 45 people in my home and another was over 60 people at the PMS Library. Via a straw vote, we received latitude to negotiate up to 45 homes and ultimately settled with the Lins at 51 plus some other benefits. While both sides fought tenaciously, the process was fair, open, and appropriate to reach a reasonable compromise.
It is still a disappointment to me that Hearst Drive became the only access point to the Oak Grove property as a result of other City planning decisions made regarding adjacent properties that limited the access points the Lin’s 562 acre parcel. However, that is how compromise happens: you win some points and you lose others.
What does Pleasanton get?
-Fifty-one homes instead of 98
-Almost 500 acres of open space made available to the citizens as a park with trails
-Money towards schools and road improvements that include traffic mitigation measures on Hearst Drive
Closure is a major point. With the change in the housing cap law, a more ambitious plan could be submitted for this same property. The current proposal does a reasonable job limiting the home count with no further development when the remaining land becomes a park.
More importantly, the Lin Family has property rights. Through proper legal means, those development rights have been delayed; however, these rights won’t be delayed forever. They proposed 86 homes with a golf course and were denied. They improved the plan by removing the golf course and pursuing a more environmentally acceptable plan with 98 homes. In good faith, they negotiated with an adjacent group of homeowners to whom they had no legal obligation and settled at a far smaller number of homes. If they are denied again, they will have a reasonable case in court to claim that their property rights were taken. If they were to win a judgment against the City of Pleasanton for taking their rights, a wide-range estimate of Pleasanton’s financial exposure is $20M to $60M. I arrived at these numbers in the following fashion: the 51 lots will be sold in the range of $2M on average; thus, the Lins’ gross revenue on the project is over $100M. They have improvements to add to the land (roads, water, power, sewage, etc) that may cost $30M-$50M. Their profit on the project could be in the range of $50M. From there, a settlement becomes another compromise. Still, even a $20M judgment against the City of Pleasanton is unbearable during these times but it represents a possible reality.
To be frank, I am not thrilled with this project or the way it landed on the General Plan. However, it is a safe & reasonable compromise for the City of Pleasanton that provides access to the hills for all via the park & trail system, some funding for traffic issues and schools, and closure on a contentious issue that has long divided this community.
I am voting YES on Measure D.