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Judge's halt to non-residential building permits has some Pleasanton business leaders concerned

Submitted by News Desk on Wed, 04/14/2010 - 4:23pm

PLEASANTON — It has been nearly a month since an Alameda County Superior Court judge voided the city's voter-approved housing cap, and the city has yet to announce its action plan.
It's a situation that is making some city business leaders nervous.
On March 12, Judge Frank Roesch ruled that the city's 1998 voter-approved housing cap of 29,000 units is void. He ordered the city to drop the cap because it violates state law and prevents the city from meeting its share of regional housing needs, that is set by the Association of Bay Area Governments.

He ordered Pleasanton to plan for the construction of 3,277 housing units, including 2,524 affordable homes, for the current planning period that ends in 2014 and ordered the city to stop issuing non-residential building permits until it has complied with his order. He gave the city 120 days to submit a response plan.

At Tuesday's council meeting, some members of the public said they want a quick resolution instead of fighting more court battles. Among their concerns is that businesses — from large companies wanting to locate their headquarters in the city, to churches wanting to do improvements — are worried about permit problems.

"Right now that's a big question mark, if they could" build, said Scott Raty, president and CEO of the Pleasanton Chamber of Commerce,
Tuesday was the first time the council had an open session to discuss the city's loss of the lawsuit was filed by Urban Habitat, a regional environmental justice group, and city resident Sandra De Gregorio.

Thomas Brown, an attorney with Hanson Bridgett, that is working with the city on the issue, said Tuesday that the city can comply with the judge's ruling, fight it or negotiate a different solution. He said any appeal, which he said would be a "long, drawn-out process," should not be immediate because of two state and federal, discrimination/fair housing claims from Urban Habitat that were not addressed in the ruling and have not been resolved.

City Manager Nelson Fialho said council members, who gave no opinions of their own on Tuesday, will revisit the issue April 20, when more comprehensive information will be available on the city's options.

A city staff report said $500,000 has been spent on the litigation so far, not including work done by city staff. A conservative estimate of future legal costs could run $250,000, depending on the city's response, and there could also be plaintiff and other legal fee claims.
Former city councilwoman Kay Ayala reminded the council a majority of voters wanted the housing caps and criticized the state for setting housing numbers without money for cities to make them.
"We have been a city of planned progress," Ayala said.

Contact Eric Louie at 925-847-2123