PLEASANTON -- Following two contentious public meetings that pit neighborhood against neighborhood, the City Council voted 3-1 Tuesday, deciding roads are not structures and not subject to the city's hillside preservation Measure PP.
"I've never heard of a road referred to as a structure," said Mayor Jerry Thorne, in casting the deciding vote. "There are structural elements to a road ... but a road itself, I don't believe, is a structure."
During the 4-hour meeting, continued from April 2, the council put the finishing touches on a hillside protection ordinance incorporating provisions of Measure PP into city code. Passed by city voters in 2008, the measure requires restrictions on development of housing and commercial structures on slopes with at least a 25 percent grade and within 100 vertical feet of a ridgeline.
Council member Karla Brown, one of Measure PP's supporters and original signers, cast the dissenting vote, arguing that roads should be included in any ordinance intended to protect hillsides.
"Eighteen thousand (voters) said, 'I want my ridgelines protected,'" Brown said. "There were agreements made with neighborhoods that should be respected, but I absolutely think a road is a structure."
Despite the semantics, council members pledged to honor the intent of Measure PP and not allow roads on ridge tops.
"What we have to do is protect the view of the ridges, and there's no way on this earth that I'm ever going to allow that road to be built," Thorne said. "Because you, the voters, have told me you don't want it built."
"I don't think there is any question at all that (Measure PP) was to protect ridges," said Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio. "I don't want to have roads on ridges."
A standing room-only crowd of about 120 people, mostly residents from the Sycamore Heights, Bridal Creek and Ventana Hills neighborhoods, packed the city council chambers to debate the issue and to argue why connecting roads to the Lund Ranch II development should not go through their neighborhoods.
Residents of Sycamore Heights and Bridal Creek said the roadway plans were never clearly disclosed when they bought their homes and that roads should be considered structures, barring them from being built under Measure PP.
"I believe a road is a structure, and the book I refer to is the book of common sense," said Bridal Creek resident Shareef Mahdavi. "When you look at the intent of PP and what people were trying to vote for, we just didn't want development in our hills."
Ventana Hills residents argued roads were never intended to be included in Measure PP and urged the council to honor agreements Sycamore Heights and Bridal Creek homeowners made with developers to allow roads through those areas.
"To claim these facts were not released to homeowners is inaccurate," said Amy Lofland, a member of the Ventana Hills steering committee. "There is no justification for throwing out 20 years of planning."
The council's decision leaves the door open for the Lund Ranch II roads and a bypass road through Happy Valley to move forward as previously planned.
Former Pleasanton City Council member Kay Ayala, a driving force of Measure PP, said roads were never meant to be included in the initiative and was pleased by the council's decision.
"Everybody realizes that the citizens want the ridges protected, and all of (the council members) said they never would put a road on top of the ridge," Ayala said. "We won both ways."
Council members also voted 3-1 against a proposed city inventory of slopes, saying it would be too costly, time-consuming and could lead to lawsuits by developers. Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.