Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled Wednesday that signature-gatherers violated the California Elections Code by not carrying all the documents related to the city statute that they were attempting to overturn, and therefore, voters did not fully understand what they were signing.
"The information in the referendum petition thus does not accurately inform voters of the contents of the ordinance sought to be invalidated," Roesch wrote in his ruling.
"We're obviously delighted," said Clark Morrison, the attorney representing landowners and developers Jennifer and Frederic Lin. "The court held that our opponents failed to comply with the election law, and therefore the referendum is dead."
Referendum leader and former Councilwoman Kay Ayala could not be reached for comment.
City Attorney Michael Roush said he has already received notice from Ayala's attorney that Ayala plans to appeal the judge's decision.
Ayala has maintained that she and the many "Save Pleasanton Hills" supporters carried the ordinance and every exhibit mentioned, as directed by the city attorney's office. She has called the lawsuit an intimidation tactic.
Roush said once the court issues a judgment -- which summarizes the final ruling and is signed by the court -- he will discuss with the City Council whether Pleasanton wants to be a part of the appeal.
"The decision will not bear on what (the city) is going to do," Roush said, adding the council needs to decide whether to be an active participant in the appeal process.
Roush also noted that while his office did give Ayala what they considered to be all necessary documents for the referendum effort, obviously the judge disagreed.
The Lins filed their lawsuit against Ayala and the city arguing that those who signed the petition were misled because opponents carried incomplete information on the project and presented inaccurate information.
If the referendum had been placed on the ballot and approved by voters, it would have overturned City Council approval of the Lins' project in the southeast hills.
The Oak Grove subdivision, developed by James Tong, will create 51 lots on 77 acres of the Lins' 562 acres of ridge line property. The lots would be sold for high-end custom homes ranging in size from 6,000 to 12,500 square feet.
In exchange, the city will receive nearly 500 acres of open space, miles of hiking trails, $1 million in traffic mitigation fees and a new fire truck for fighting wildland blazes.
News of Roesch's ruling thrilled supporters of the Oak Grove project, who have banded under the name "Keep Our Park." Their support for the project was largely based on the acquisition of the open space and hiking trails, which will be maintained in perpetuity through an endowment funded by the developer.
Meera Pal covers Pleasanton. Reach her at 925-847-2120 or firstname.lastname@example.org.