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Brown Sues Pleasanton Over Housing Limit

Submitted by Staff on Thu, 06/25/2009 - 2:15pm


Wednesday, June 24, 2009


(06-24) 18:14 PDT PLEASANTON -- State Attorney General Jerry Brown joined a
legal challenge Wednesday to Pleasanton's 13-year-old limit on housing
construction, arguing that the East Bay community is defying state housing
laws and adding to urban sprawl, vehicle use and greenhouse gas emissions.

"Pleasanton's draconian and illegal limit on new housing forces people to
commute long distances, adding to the bumper-to-bumper traffic along
(Interstates) 580 and 680 and increasing dangerous air pollution," Brown
said in a statement after filing suit in Alameda County Superior Court.

He said Pleasanton's housing shortage will worsen if the city adopts a
revised general plan that calls for more office construction and the
creation of 45,000 new jobs by 2025 without allowing any additional housing
to accommodate the employees. The City Council is scheduled to consider the
plan July 21.

The suit is the second to seek repeal of a ballot measure approved by
Pleasanton voters in 1996 that allowed no more than 29,000 housing units in
the city, which already had 21,180 homes, apartment units and condominiums
and now has 27,000. The nonprofit Urban Habitat Program and a schoolteacher
seeking affordable housing filed the first suit in October 2006 and
persuaded an appeals court last year to reject the city's claim that they
should have sued a decade earlier.

Both suits contend the city of 66,000 people is violating state laws that
require communities to take on their share of regional housing needs.
Environmentalists and advocates for the poor have lined up against city
governments in the litigation.

"Our concern is that in Pleasanton and other suburban communities, workers
and their families are being excluded from opportunities there because they
are blocking the construction of affordable housing," said attorney Richard
Marcantonio of Public Advocates, the San Francisco firm representing the
2006 plaintiffs.

Brown voiced other concerns, saying the city is forcing other communities to
sacrifice farmland and open space to house people working in Pleasanton.
Their long-distance commutes, in turn, add to emissions of greenhouse gases
and other pollutants, Brown said.

City Attorney Michael Roush said Pleasanton officials believe the housing
limit is "a valid exercise of our land-use authority."

Under state law, each city's minimum share of housing needs is determined by
state officials and regional agencies such as the Association of Bay Area
Governments.

Brown's suit said the 29,000-unit limit will leave Pleasanton 1,270 housing
units short of the minimum that state and regional agencies have determined
the city will need through 2014. Even if the limit was repealed, the suit
said, a separate city ordinance would prevent Pleasanton from issuing enough
building permits to accommodate the housing requirements.

By maintaining its housing limit while encouraging commercial development in
its revised general plan, Brown's suit said, "the city will worsen the
current jobs/housing imbalance and the negative environmental impacts that
come with that imbalance."

E-mail Bob Egelko at begelko@sfchronicle.com.
E-mail Bob Egelko at begelko@sfchro