East Bay

Pleasanton Council may settle affordable housing litigation issues Tuesday

Submitted by News Desk on Tue, 07/20/2010 - 3:57pm

The Pleasanton City Council is expected to agree to a court order Tuesday that scuttles a 29,000-unit housing cap law approved by voters in 1996 and to provide more affordable and workforce housing to meet future state housing requirements here.

The agreement, according to staff reports prepared for the council meeting, also calls for paying $1.9 million in legal fees to lawyers from Urban Habitat and Public Advocates, the two housing coalitions that filed the successful suit in 2006 to invalidate the housing cap. Tom Brown, an attorney who represented Pleasanton as outside counsel in the litigation, already has been paid about $500,000 for his work.

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.

COMMENTARY: Pleasanton's costly housing cap exceeds $1 million

Submitted by News Desk on Wed, 04/14/2010 - 4:16pm

COMMENTARY: Pleasanton's costly housing cap 
With legal costs now likely to exceed $1 million, City Council should accept verdict, move on

The Pleasanton City Council Tuesday night deferred until its April 20 meeting a decision on how to proceed on a court's ruling that declared the city's 1996 housing cap illegal. 

The council's response to the ruling should be a no-brainer. Accept the verdict and move on. 

Although voters approved the housing cap referendum by an overwhelming majority, many were no doubt misled by leaders who arbitrarily came up with 29,000 units as the absolute number that could ever be built here. The measure was billed as necessary to protect the city's infrastructures -- sewers, water capacity, streets -- from more volume than they could handle although no such studies were ever made.

ACTION ALERT! City of Pleasanton – Will you Uphold or Neglect Your Duty to Provide your Fair Share of Affordable Housing?

What hangs in the balance?  Suburban Sprawl, Air Pollution, Inadequate and Unaffordable Housing, Long Commutes for City’s Workforce!

WHO:  Pleasanton City Council

WHAT:  To hear from the public on how to respond to a recent court ruling that would require Pleasanton to BUILD ITS FAIR SHARE OF AFFORDABLE HOUSING – Will the City follow the MORAL and LEGAL path or will it continue to pander to NIMBY fears?

WHERE: City of Pleasanton, City Council Chamber, 200 Old Bernal Avenue

WHEN: Tuesday, April 6, 2010 at 7:00 p.m.  (and again on Tuesday, April 20)

Alameda land-use ruling could reshape state

Submitted by News Desk on Wed, 03/24/2010 - 4:53pm

When an Alameda County judge this month ruled that Pleasanton must loosen its development rules to allow large amounts of new housing for all income levels, he sent a message that could ricochet around the state.

The ruling by Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch found the prosperous city of 68,000 at fault for a voter-approved cap on the number of housing units allowed within its borders. Roesch based his decision on a California law that requires cities to make land available to accommodate their share of regional housing needs - and that is a standard that most municipalities don't meet.

If the Alameda decision stands, and if other cities face legal challenges, the result could reshape the landscape of California suburbs and small cities - conceivably forcing them to reconsider height limits or increasing the density in their downtowns.

"The next few weeks, everyone is going to take a look at this and see what it might mean," said Cathy Cresswell, the deputy director for housing policy development at the state's Department of Housing and Community Development. "Some might want to take another look at how they've addressed this very important state requirement."

Cresswell was referring to the Regional Housing Needs Allocation, a formula used since 1980 but, like many state edicts, often ignored.

The idea is simple: Likely growth is determined regionally, with housing needs tied to job creation. Regional planners then break up this amount among cities and unincorporated county areas so housing is located near jobs.

Local governments then must demonstrate that they can allow such growth to occur.

The decision by Roesch faults Pleasanton for capping its number of housing units at 29,000. There are currently more than 27,000, yet the city's general plan clears the way for an additional 45,000 jobs by 2025.

To meet the state requirement, Pleasanton was supposed to make room for 5,059 units between 1999 and 2006. Instead, the city issued 2,156 housing permits - 43 percent of the desired amount.

But if the cap on units is unusually blunt, Pleasanton's resistance to housing is typical of the region.
Falling short of goal

According to a study of housing production between 1999 and 2006 conducted by the Association of Bay Area Governments, just 24 of 102 cities in the region produced more housing than requested by the state.

In terms of housing for lower-income residents - a need also addressed in the formula - the results were even more lopsided: Of the 61,000 moderate-income units that ABAG hoped for in this period, 17,697 were built in the Bay Area.

While Pleasanton attorneys have yet to comment on the ruling, plaintiffs are open about the larger message they seek to send.

"The bottom line is, it's the law" that local government must respond to state edicts, said Wynn Hausser of Public Advocates, which argued the Pleasanton suit on behalf of Urban Habitat Program, a social equity advocacy group. The suit was joined last year by state Attorney General Jerry Brown.

"Everybody has to share in the region's growth, the positives and negatives," Hausser said. "The law doesn't say everything has to be urban, but we're going beyond a point where communities can be enclaves."
Concentrate the growth

One way to accommodate growth in suburbia is to allow slightly taller apartment buildings and condominiums in the center of town, to concentrate it near BART or bus stops, and loosen zoning so that single-family neighborhoods can sprout cottages and "in-law" units.

This sort of strategy has been touted for the past decade by advocates of what is called "smart growth." And, more recently, the message has been taken up by environmentalists who see compact development as a way to get people out of their cars and to preserve open space.

"There certainly has been a demand for those sorts of ideas," said Paul Fassinger, the research director for ABAG. "The trouble has been getting (local governments) to understand that this might be a good idea for them, not just for somebody else."

If Roesch's ruling is upheld - and is applied elsewhere - those governments might have less wiggle room in the years to come.



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