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Pleasanton council will pay out $2 million, wipe voter-approved housing cap from its records

Submitted by News Desk on Wed, 08/18/2010 - 2:56pm

PLEASANTON -- The city will pay out $2 million and wipe any trace of a voter-approved housing cap from its records in a settlement with an environmental justice group that sued the city.

Urban Habitat claimed the cap, which set the maximum number of housing units in the city at 29,000, prevented Pleasanton from providing its share of affordable housing,

The city council voted 4-0 Tuesday to finalize the agreement, one month after it approved a tentative agreement with Urban Habitat, ending a four-year legal battle. Mayor Jennifer Hosterman was on vacation but voted in favor of the tentative agreement at the previous meeting.

In the settlement, the city agreed to remove all references of the decade-old cap from city records by Oct. 19, adopt a nondiscrimination policy related to housing and pay a combined $1,990,000 in two installments in attorney fees to Public Advocates Inc., which represented Urban Habitat. The first payment of $995,000 is due 30 days after the agreement is signed. The second payment is due no later than July 1, 2011.

Also, the city agreed to a timeline that includes plans for the construction of 3,277 housing units, including 2,524 affordable homes, by 2014; have a development plan for three sites in the Hacienda Business Park by 2011 and adopt a climate-action plan related to greenhouse gases.

"I am not happy with the whole thing," said council member Matt Sullivan, who was absent from the vote on the
tentative agreement. "It is an example of the state and other people, in particular the attorney general, preempting local decision making. ... But (the settlement) made a bad situation into something we could live with."

State Attorney General Jerry Brown joined in on the suit in 2009.

If the city had not settled now, it could have faced litigation costs in excess of $4 million and the possibility of three other lawsuits surrounding housing discrimination and the environment from Urban Habitat and the attorney general.

Urban Habitat filed suit against the city in 2006 over the 29,000-home cap approved by voters in 1996. The state attorney general joined the suit in 2009.

In exchange for the settlement, the city received an agreement that Urban Habitat and the attorney general would not file any additional suits related to the issues raised in the current complaint. The city also regained its control over issuing nonresidential building permits.

In a March 12 decision that found the city was violating state law, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch had stripped the city of its ability to issue nonresidential building permits.

In order to issue permits, which included everything from moving signs to adding square footage, the city had to clear the permits with Urban Habitat and the attorney general, said Pleasanton City Manager Nelson Fialho.

Fialho said that in excess of 100 permits from March 12 until the agreement was reached had to be cleared through Urban Habitat and the attorney general.

For a complete look at the settlement visit
Robert Jordan covers Dublin and Pleasanton. Contact him at 925-847-2184.