FOR THE second time in as many years, Pleasanton voters are being asked to weigh in at the ballot box because their City Council has been deaf to their concerns about hillside development.
In 2008, with the passage of Measure PP, voters said they didn't want development that requires grading on slopes of 25 percent or greater, or within 100 vertical feet of a ridgeline. On June 8, voters will be asked to rule on a development that violates that measure.
We urge residents to vote no on Measure D and reject the Oak Grove proposal for 51 custom hilltop mega-homes ranging in size from 7,000 to 12,000 square feet. We believe voters have been clear about their hillside development concerns. Those concerns should be respected. The developer should be required to comply with Measure PP.
This showdown has been nearly two decades in the making. Jennifer and Frederic Lin own the 562-acre parcel that's at the center of the dispute. In 1992, they won city approval for a 122-unit development that included an 18-hole golf course, but opponents launched a successful referendum drive to overturn it.
In 2003, the Lins returned with a plan for 98 homes on the site. Environmental review and negotiations between the city, the Lins and nearby landowners led to a 51-unit compromise that sets aside 500 acres for permanent open space. Unfortunately, it also involves cutting as much as 43 feet off hilltops.
Long before the Lins submitted their 2003 proposal, the city adopted a general plan that called for developing a ridgeline preservation ordinance to guard against "negative visual impacts" of building in hilly areas. But the city never followed through on the hillside guidelines.
It all came to a head in 2007 when the City Council approved the Lins' proposal, infuriating residents concerned about the visual impact of hillside development. Those residents collected signatures for a ballot initiative to establish the hillside regulations the City Council refused to adopt. And they collected signatures for a separate ballot measure, a referendum, to overturn the City Council's approval of the Lin proposal.
Voters approved the initiative, Measure PP, finally establishing the city's hillside ordinance. They did so despite the City Council's sleazy attempt to confuse voters with a gutless competing measure.
As for the referendum on the Oak Grove development, the Lins filed suit to try to block it. A state Court of Appeal finally ruled in July 2009 that the referendum could proceed, setting the stage for the June 8 vote on Measure D.
In the referendum, voters will be asked whether they support the City Council approval of the development. Thus a "yes" vote would allow the project to proceed, while a "no" vote would block it and force the Lins to come back with a new proposal that complies with Measure PP.
It should have never come to this. If city officials had complied with their promise more than 10 years ago to develop a hillside ordinance, the Lins' 2003 proposal and the subsequent compromise would have been drafted to comply with the rules. This fight could have been avoided. But that would have required the City Council to listen to residents' concerns rather than overriding them.