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Pleasanton likely to lift housing cap

Submitted by News Desk on Fri, 07/23/2010 - 2:19pm

Pleasanton's City Council has tentatively agreed to lift a cap on the number of residences in the city after a judge ruled that the limit violates state law.

The decision was part of a settlement between the city, the state attorney general's office and two lawsuit plaintiffs that requires Pleasanton to remove the voter-approved cap, pay almost $2 million over two years in attorney fees and implement a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.

The plaintiffs in the 2006 suit, the advocacy group Urban Habitat and a schoolteacher seeking affordable housing, said Pleasanton was happy to have people work in the town but was forcing other cities to house them.

They called that a violation of a state law requiring each city to take a fair share of a region's housing burden.

In March, an Alameda County judge agreed and ordered the city to lift the cap. Pleasanton quickly entered into settlement negotiations, and the City Council is expected to approve the agreement next month, City Attorney Jonathan Lowell said.

Pleasanton officials initially fought the lawsuit because they felt local control over planning was important, Lowell said. Eighty-six percent of voters approved the 1996 measure, which allows no more than 29,000 housing units in the city.

There are now about 27,000 housing units in Pleasanton and an average of 40,000 weekday commuters into the city, an imbalance that state officials say increases congestion and pollution.

The Association of Bay Area Governments, a regional planning body, assigned 5,059 units to be built in Pleasanton from 1999 to 2007 and another 3,277 units to be built from 2007 to 2014. The city failed to meet the 2007 total and would be unable to meet the 2014 total as long as the limit remained in effect, Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch determined.

"This agreement clears the way for new jobs, less congested freeways and cleaner air," said Attorney General Jerry Brown, whose office joined the suit in 2009. "It requires homes to be built closer to where people work to reduce long commutes and create a more neighborly urban environment."

Richard Marcantonio, an attorney with the plaintiffs' nonprofit law firm, Public Advocates, said that "by approving this settlement, the City Council has reaffirmed its commitment to building vibrant neighborhoods in Pleasanton, while doing its share to address the Bay Area's affordable housing crisis and leading the way on reducing carbon emissions."

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