PLEASANTON — Hoping to dissuade voters from adopting a resident-sponsored ballot measure to protect Pleasanton's hillsides, the City Council plans to place a competing measure on the November ballot.
At a special meeting Thursday, the council voted 3-2 to create a measure that reaffirms the city's existing ridgeline and hillside protections, but also commits the council to preparing a more comprehensive hillside regulation ordinance.
"The bottom line is it isn't us against them," said Councilwoman Cheryl Cook-Kallio. "It's providing a hillside ordinance that doesn't leave us open to litigation and protects the hillsides."
Cook-Kallio, along with Mayor Jennifer Hosterman, and Councilman Jerry Thorne voted in favor of the competing measure, while council members Matt Sullivan and Cindy McGovern dissented.
City staff members are expected to bring back a draft of the council's proposed ballot measure to the July 15 meeting.
"Had this (resident-sponsored) initiative not qualified for the ballot, this City Council would not be advocating to quickly put some hillside protection in place at this point in time," Sullivan said.
The meeting had been scheduled to consider the impact report for the "Save Pleasanton's Hills and Housing Cap" initiative, which was continued from the June 17 meeting at Sullivan's request. The council could have taken the report and done nothing further.
McGovern told the council that at her request, City Manager Nelson Fialho had recommended taking no further action.
The initiative, which more than 5,000 residents signed to place it on the November ballot, proposes to amend the city's general plan by prohibiting grading on slopes of 25 percent or greater or within 100 vertical feet of a ridge line. The measure also provides a stricter definition of a housing unit, reducing the number of units left under the voter-approved citywide 29,000-unit housing cap.
A fiscal analysis of the initiative, conducted by city staff, determined that relocating new housing from the hillsides to the flatter areas of Pleasanton could result in millions of dollars lost to the city and school district.
It is expected that adding restrictions to development would result in up to 224 planned houses not being built on the hillsides, mostly in the area west of Foothill Road and in the Happy Valley and North Sycamore areas. The units would be built elsewhere in the city, as smaller homes or apartments through infill or redevelopment projects.
Pleasanton's economic development fiscal officer, Emily Wagner, noted that the city would face a reduction in development impact fees and tax revenues, while the school district would receive less in one-time development school impact fees.
Sullivan pointed out that the potential loss of revenue to the city would be equivalent to 0.1 percent of the city's total revenue, or an insignificant amount.
Several residents asked the council to not place a competing hillside initiative on the November ballot.
"The citizens who asked to put this on the ballot should have a chance to get to vote on the citizens' initiative without the interference of the council's plan to create a plan to protect the hillsides," said Allen Roberts
Thorne said the residents' initiative is too flawed to be adopted into law. He said it would satisfy more voters to engage in a collaborative public process to develop a hillside protection ordinance.
"Both (groups) have the same overall objective, which is the protection of the beautiful hills that surround this community," he said. "The difference is only the approach."
Reach Meera Pal at 925-847-2120 or firstname.lastname@example.org.