By Tim Hunt
Hillsides in the headlines againUploaded: May 30, 2013
Hillside issues in Pleasanton just cannot be laid to rest.
The city has been immersed in a legal battle stretching back many years with the Lin family over land it has wanted to develop in what would have been the second phase of Kottinger Ranch. It was the subject of competing initiatives in 2008 with the citizens' initiative winning the most votes and prevailing.
Those initiatives followed a lengthy citizen's task force process that resulted in a plan for 98 homes and more than 500 acres of publically accessible open space on the hills above Kottinger Ranch. That proposal won approval with four council votes and then was challenged by the referendum. And, of course, that was the second development to win council approvalmany years earlier a proposal for many, many more homes and a Robert Trent Jones Jr. golf course was approved by the council and then lost in a referendum.
As the years have stretched on, the Lins seem to have exhausted their legal remedies. What remained was for the city to develop an ordinance to implement Measure PP. After a series of hearings, it finally came to the City Council in April with the question of whether a road was deemed a structure and thus covered by the provisions of the ballot measure. Three council members (Kathy Narum had not been elected yet) decided that a road was not a structure. City Councilwoman Karla Brown, who lives in the Kottinger Ranch neighborhood and emerged on the civic scene as vocal opponent to the 98-home plan, was the lone vote in opposition.
Earlier this month, the council was preparing to finally adopt the ordinance, but it received letters from two attorneys threatening legal action. One, Stuart Flashman, is a very well known environmental lawyer who has been involved in these actions for years.
A key part of Flashman's warning was that the ordinance should have be subjected to an environmental review under the state's environmental lawsa step that the city attorney did not believe was necessary because the ordinance was enacting a citizens' initiative.
Just whose opinion meets the state law may be decided in court, but the council delayed its final approval until members could discuss their options in closed session. Over the course of the years, the city has lots and lots of money on these legal actions.
The irony, of course, is that it has been the potential developers who have battled the city in court since 2008 and now it is the environmental side that has Pleasanton in its legal crosshairs.