In the Media
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 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.
By Juliet Ellis, Mahasin Abdul-Salaam
The Federal Transit Administration pulled $70 million in stimulus funds from BART's Oakland Airport Connector project last month based on our civil rights complaint, finding that BART ignored civil rights laws. Fortunately, the Bay Area didn't lose that funding - it was distributed among the region's ailing transit systems. But the transit administration's action makes it clear that public money must be spent fairly or agencies will be held accountable...
Complaint derailed funding for Oakland jobs
By George Holland, Ron Silva
The statistics are stunning: With a 65 percent minority population and an 18 percent unemployment rate, Oakland is near the top of the nation's jobless chart. So when the region looked for the most effective way to spend $70 million in federal stimulus money, the BART Oakland Airport Connector became its signature project.
In the short run, the connector would help revitalize Oakland's economy by providing thousands of jobs - many targeted to local hires. In the long run, the connector will elevate Oakland Airport's prestige by providing a world-class train-to-plane connection - a crown jewel in the East Bay's efforts to attract tourism and the corporations essential to its future economic vitality...
A project isn't "shovel-ready" until it is fair. Agencies receiving federal funds are legally obligated to ensure that low-income and diverse communities share fairly in the benefits of that funding. To do so requires analysis and community involvement. BART failed to live up to these responsibilities.
PLEASANTON — The city council met in closed session Tuesday to discuss an Alameda County Superior Court ruling that Pleasanton's voter-approved housing cap violates state law.
The first American metropolises emerged after World War II, the result of a publicly subsidized mass exodus of white populations that coincided with the migration of blacks from the cotton and sugar fields of the American South to the cities of the North and West. Over the years, segregation in housing and in education increased, and today the nation’s public schools are more segregated than they were decades ago.
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 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
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.
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
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 "
"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.
Judge Strikes Down Pleasanton Housing Cap
A judge has rulled a 1996 voter approved cap on the number of housing units in Pleasanton is unconstitutional, which may lead to more affordable housing. Thuy Vu reports.
Voters had approved a ballot measure in 1996 capping the number of residences in the Silicon Valley city at 29,000. The city now has more than 27,000.
Ruling bars city from issuing building permits to commercial builders, but gives home builders freeer rein
The Pleasanton City Council delayed any action last night in response to an Alameda County court ruling that invalidated the city's 14-year-old housing cap.
The ruling immediately halted all commercial building in Pleasanton after Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch determined that the cap, which had limited the total number of homes and apartments allowed to be built in the city to no more than 29,000 units, violates state law and is invalid.