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Original post made by Referendum? on Apr 13, 2008

Recently I have heard from a reliable source that the City is going to place a counter to the referendum measure concerning the hillside development as proposed by Ayala, et. al. This counter measure would be supported by Hosterman and Sullivan, Lin et all, Pico, and others, the purpose whice would muddy the referendum by Ayala, et. al.

Is there any basis in fact for this rumor?

Comments (25)

Posted by not a rumor, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 13, 2008 at 7:17 pm

Last week's Independent had an article written about the City council asking staff for information on a possible hillside ordinance. If you follow the city council meetings you would know this was nothing new and has nothing to do with the referendum. It's not a rumor and if you listened to the various council members there seemed to be some consensus that they all wanted this information.

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Apr 13, 2008 at 7:21 pm


Can you be more precise about the "rumor", because what you are saying does not make sense. There was already a referendum concerning Oak Grove. What is currently being completed is a petition for an INITIATIVE regarding hillside development by Ayala and her forces.

Meanwhile, at least one council member has called for council to begin a process to modify the General Plan regarding hillside development in the hills of southeast Pleasanton. This is overdue. The process would be the normal one that governments follow that incorporate the concerns and inputs of all constituencies in Pleasanton, unlike the initiative which represents only the point of view of the faction led by Ayala.

If this is what the "rumor" is about, then it is not a rumor nor is it a "counter", but rather is a process expected of our elected council.

I think your post exemplifies what's wrong with this whole thing where direct democracy is starting to replace the role of elected government. Unfortunately, that is happening in Pleasanton because too many of our council members defer to small, vocal citizen factions rather than exhibiting leadership and carrying out their job for the greater good, like considering reasonable planning restrictions for our southeast hills. When they do their job, like in the case of Oak Grove, the factions beat them up as a tactic which plays on the normal emotions of many voters.

Everything is a referendum or an initiative these days and people like Referendum? don't know which is which nor who is supposed to do what. So, possible council action becomes a "counter"...

Posted by Kaylee, a resident of Danbury Park
on Apr 13, 2008 at 8:26 pm

Referendums and initiatives are a symptom of a community where the elected officials are not responding to the residents.

In the case of the hillside ordinance, this is a response of the Council to the Initiative that is out for signatures. The last General Plan in 1996 said the Council would do a hillside ordinance and they "never got around to it." Now that citizens decided not to wait for the Council anymore, the Council is reacting. It is a shame that it takes people to collect signatures before the Council takes action.

Personally I feel that Council Ordinances are almost worthless. They can be ignored or changed by 3 members of a Council. This Council or any future Council. Initiatives voted on by the residents can only be changed by the voters so you know it will be difficult, but not impossible, to change.

Perhaps if we trusted our elected officials this would not be necessary. I thought I voted for a slow-growth Council but have been greatly disappointed. I think many members of this Council said they were slow-growth so they could get elected and then have acted differently. I guess some people will say anything to get elected.

Posted by the facts?, a resident of Birdland
on Apr 13, 2008 at 9:24 pm

Contrast the number of units approved by this council to the last two councils. I think you will find that this council has approved significantly fewer than the previous two.

Hey, don't let the facts stand in the way of politics.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 13, 2008 at 9:50 pm

I'm guessing that Referendum is unsure as to what is the correct terminology for a referendum, an initiative, and an ordinance. I'm also guessing that what is being referred to is the ridgeline protection initiative by Ayala and company and past attempts to develop a ridgeline ordinance by the City. It isn't rumor nor is it something new that just popped up this past week.

The General Plan calls for a ridgeline protection ordinance to be created for the southeastern hills. For whatever reason (I'm not aware of the details on this one), it hasn't been accomplished yet. Anne Fox wrote a letter to PW back in November stating that the Planning Commission has tried since 2004 to come up with a ridgeline ordinance (Web Link) but kept getting rejected. I applaud Councilmember Cook-Kallio for publicly stating a desire to have the City to bring a proposal for an ordinance to the Council finally. I'd much rather support one created by the City through the open process that allows public input rather than Ayala meeting in secret with her friends behind closed doors.

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Apr 13, 2008 at 10:12 pm

"behind closed doors". Good point. Where did the language for the initiative come from, anyways? Why was it not drafted in an open forum with input from everyone, that is, all stakeholders?

It was NOT. So, how can Ayala supporters somehow say they represent democracy? After all, the council and planning commission are subject to sunshine laws and have numerous meetings open to public input. They even schedule special workshops. Where was Ayala's?

All these factions do then is to use 30 day strong-arm "sign my petition" tactics at farmer markets, school drop-off points, and supermarket storefronts to win a right on the ballot. They shove a petition at you, say something like "don't you want to blah...blah... save motherhood and apple pie". Not my idea of democracy. Initiatives and referenda are rights of citizens but should not be abused by factions, irrespective on which side of the issue they sit.

Posted by Buddy, a resident of Bridle Creek
on Apr 13, 2008 at 11:07 pm

Why didn't Ayala do anything about this 1996 general plan hillside protection ordinance when she was a council member? Hmm...

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 14, 2008 at 9:07 am

Here's from the 1996 General Plan (Web Link)

Page VII-12 under "Conservation of Open Space Goals, Policies, and Programs":

"Policy 5: Preserve as permanent Open Space all areas of outstanding scenic qualities or areas which provide extraordinary views of natural and man-made objects.

Program 5.1 : Develop a ridgeline preservation ordinance and scenic hillside design guidelines to improve safety and reduce the potential negative visual impacts of development in hilly areas.

Program 5.2: Implement the recommendations contained in the Scenic Highway Plan for 1-680.

Program 5.3: Encourage developers to dedicate scenic/ conservation easements for private open space areas possessing exceptional natural, scenic, and/or vegetation or wildlife habitat qualities."

From page II-8 under "Areas of Special Interest, South Pleasanton"

"Consideration should be given to preserving large open space acreage in South Pleasanton by a combination of private open space and a
public park system. Trail rights-of-way and land should be acquired by way of developer dedications, as well as by bond measures, corporate and personal donations, regional State and Federal funding programs, etc. Attempts to achieve public access to open space areas and trails should not create onerous impositions on property owners. In addition to open space and trails, an equestrian center is also encouraged in South Pleasanton."

Now if you're reading some of this and thinking that it sounds familiar with the Oak Grove plan, you're spot on the money!

Anne Fox mentions looking at the San Juan Capistrano ridgeline ordinance as a model for Pleasanton. I'll have to go dig that up later and see what San Juan Capistrano wrote. Let's see how Ayala's proposal compares.

Posted by mac, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2008 at 8:47 am

It looks as though < 5.1 > says it all.

Program 5.1 : Develop a ridgeline preservation ordinance and scenic hillside design guidelines to improve safety and reduce the potential negative visual impacts of development in hilly areas.

It both describes the intention and makes obvious the lack of follow through, which has lead to the current situation. Doesn't San Ramon have a ridgeline ordinance that is strongly supported by its residents?

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 16, 2008 at 9:58 am

One has to wonder why the previous Councils didn't work on it. Anyone know the details?

Incidentally, my earlier comment regarding developing a ridgeline preservation ordinance through an open and public process rather than from Kay Ayala meeting in secret to write an initiative with her friends is made more ironic when we remember that it was Ayala who had put the City on notice regarding the Council's Brown Act violation back in 2006.

I also found it ironic that Ayala, when she was on the Council, supported expanding trails through Pleasanton's canals, but apparently now is against trails that are planned to be built near her home.

" Councilwoman Kay Ayala said Pleasanton was the "weakest link" among communities that are connecting trails and opening access along the Arroyo Mocho. Ayala said this trail is a step toward Pleasanton's contribution. "I am definitely a supporter of the trail system," she said." Web Link

Posted by Tom, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2008 at 5:36 pm

This ordinance was signed by over 5,000 people and will go to a vote so every resident can see it and vote on it. How much more open and transparent can you be? If you don't like it, don't vote for it. Talk about public disclosure!

Kay lives nowhere near these trails. She lives behind Amador High School. Stacey, I know you can do a better job in research so wonder why you made the statement, "now is against trails that are planned to be built by her home." That is a completely false statement. Please appologize. If you do not like Kay, just say so. You don't have to make up false information about her.

Kay has been an advocate for the trail system and I thank her for that. I hope you are not saying that people should be for trails no matter what the details are (bulldozing down a house through emminant domain, cutting down a 1,000 trees, approving 10,000 homes to get the trail, etc.). First this list above is partially hypothetical (one item is true) but it does not matter. You need to look at the whole picture.

I want to thank Kay for committing her time to serve this community whether through working on the 1996 General Plan, serving as a Council Member, or working with grassroot groups to better our community. Kay could be spending more time on her familiy and personal hobbies but instead she is concerned about our community and continues to serve and speak up; using her own name. Stacey, if you don't like this, I challenge you to speak at Council meetings and use your full name, address, and phone number. It is so easy for any one of us to write an anonymous message but Kay is not hiding behind this "identity secrecy". I don't remember seeing any speaker with the name of Stacey speak at a Council meeting recently. If I have missed you, please let me know so I can look at the archive (and correct my statements about you and your "identity secrecy").

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 16, 2008 at 9:04 pm


Well you're right that I could do better research. I was under the impression that Ayala lived in Kottinger Ranch based upon reading that from somewhere else. I don't believe I was making up false information since I usually qualify my opinions with words like "apparently" or "seems". So I apologize for stating an opinion that was based upon bad data. By the way, I don't know Kay so I can't say I like or dislike her, but I don't agree with her politics and there is nothing wrong with that.

Now regarding politics, you question how much more transparent can one be. The answer is lots! Did Ayala and company give notice and solicit input from the public before coming up with the initiative (or they just asked people they thought would care)? Was this input recorded in a public record? Was consideration given to public input by people given public representative authority through an election process? Who researched and vetted the pros, cons, and other details of the initiative and what were the results of that research?

The initiative process, frankly, is very hostile towards such transparency. Anyone can write up something they dang well please in secret, gather enough signatures to put it on a ballot, and get it passed into law that affects everyone. Moreover, the language of an initiative cannot be changed even by the people who wrote the initiative. Think about how in the last election Oakland Children's Hospital had two initiatives on the ballot. One was a mistake and they couldn't change it so they had to write another one! So great, every resident gets a chance to see and vote on the initiative, but they certainly don't get a say in how the initiative is written. Your voice in the whole process is reduced to a simple "yes" or "no". Why is that acceptable to people? Don't people have more to say?

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Apr 16, 2008 at 9:19 pm

Tom, you said:

"This ordinance was signed by over 5,000 people and will go to a vote so every resident can see it and vote on it. ""

Not true! Only 4200 were actual registered voters of Pleasanton. To imply otherwise is a lie. Also, it is a referendum, not an ordinance. The judge found that they did not and could not "see it" because it was not available when they signed. They don't know the substance of what they signed for. Most of what you stated is untrue! Please apologize for your misleading statements!!!

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 16, 2008 at 9:40 pm


I think that Tom meant the initiative and not the referendum when he wrote "ordinance" (the City writes ordinances). Does anyone know offhand if the signatures for the initiative were validated yet and what that number is?

Posted by Tom, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 16, 2008 at 9:43 pm

Frank, I was talking about the initiative not the referendum; sorry if that was not clear. The referendum is another topic on another thread. My statements are not misleading. Sorry if you thought I was talking about a referendum. These topics keep getting mixed together.

Posted by Jerry, a resident of Oak Hill
on Apr 17, 2008 at 1:45 am

One can say whatever about the supposed short comings of "direct democracy" but the greatest application of direct democracy to hit California since I've lived here is Prop. 13, written by a "faction" called Jarvis-Gann. I don't remember that "faction" holding public meetings to gain input. I do remember state and local politicians, school boards, an assortment of "special interest groups", gullible citizens, ect., screaming bloody murder, while predicting gloom and doom, because they weren't invited when the proposition was written. It's implementation is still used by some as a scapegoat for any financial ailment this state may incur.

Although I can't provide evidence to the contrary, I'm also not convinced all "public business" is done in the "light of day".

Posted by Spin it for me, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2008 at 10:37 am

Frank, nobody used "strong-arm "sign my petition" tactics" on me. I'm perfectly capable of saying "No thanks" when approached to sign a petition - as are most adults.

I resent the implication that the petitioners forced or coerced impressionable, easily-led 'victims' to sign the paperwork. Oh those poor, poor people, who were bullied into signing their names....How silly!

For the record, I signed the petition because I felt the council ignored all of our concerns and issues about the Oak Grove project. My numerous emails and letters received lip-service glances at best; their minds were already made up long ago, they were just going through the motions pretending to be open-minded.

Posted by nicole, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 17, 2008 at 11:17 am

Over 33,000 registered voters DID NOT sign the petition.

I personally witnessed people circulating the petition who were giving information contrary to what I read in the documents or could not answer questions posed and did not have the materials with them to answer questions. I am sure that there are people who disagree with Oak Grove and were sincere when collecting signatures.

However it is clear that for many of those people spear heading the petition drive it was political in nature. Many in the community and the developers went through nine public hearings on the matter. The council heard what was said. It is human nature that everyone is not going to agree. A vote by our representatives was taken based on four years and nine plus public hearings.

The cry to let the people decide and then say the gatherers should not have had to carry the information necessary to make an inform decision is contrary to a representative democracy. Do we really want decisions made by who shouts loudest on a street corner?

Now we have an initiative submitted that purports to stop hillside development. It is poorly written and was done so with NO public hearings or input. You get the government you deserve. Do want mob rule or deliberative government?

Posted by Jerry, a resident of Oak Hill
on Apr 18, 2008 at 12:30 am

I continue to read "people spearheading the Oak Grove petition drive" were doing so for politicial purposes. Is this pure speculation or can someone provide evidence this charge is true. Was the drive to save Pleasanton Ridge political? To me, the Pleasanton Ridge and Oak Grove measures were driven by circumstances some citizens felt would lead to spoilage of natural beauty.

From the April 17th edition of The Independent - "Save Pleasanton Hills and Housing Cap Initiative Petition has been submitted to the Pleasanton City Clerk for signature validation". Anyone out there get "strong armed" into signing this go around??? :)

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Apr 18, 2008 at 10:44 pm

"Strong arm" tactic is, in my opinion, an appropriate description. Strong arming is not something so black and white. It can be very subtle. The tactic may not necessarily mean bodily harm is meant to the person when it is used (although usually it does). That's why it is controversial and law was needed to be written to define when it is a crime and when it is not. It can be a high pressure technique used during circumstances when the target person is vulnerable. Target persons, like mothers dropping their kids off at school during which a "save our hills" petition is shoved in their face. Your choice is to say NO (and be a meany) or simply sign (and go away being a nice person). (OK, some mother will write back that she signed and was not pressured but really felt against Oak Grove! I accept that this may be some, but not all, situations.)

So, I stick with the original language that I posted. Actual voting is NEVER this solicitation process. You DON'T go into a voting booth with someone shoving a petition in their face saying you should vote their way. Are there not laws about how far such zealots have to stand away from the polling place on voting day? So, I say don't present a petition and its permitted tactics as somehow representing the will of the people unless, of course, such petition succeeds on a significantly grand scale like Prop 13 did throughout ALL of California. Prop 13 was very different. It did not depend upon the Farmer's market and lines of school moms' dropping off kids.

Jarvis-Gann, Prop 13. This is the example I hold up for view. It was just. Direct democracy was put in place in the California Constitution because the originators thought there were certain circumstances that needed and deserved the citizenry to have recourse to SIGNIFICANT AND SEVERE situations that came into existence. UNFAIR AND EXCESSIVE PROPERTY TAXATION THAT WAS WRENCHING ALL CALIFORNIANS WAS ONE OF THOSE CIRCUMSTANCES. WHY SHOULD GOVERNMENT EXPERIENCE A WINDFALL BECAUSE MY NEIGHBOR SOLD THEIR HOME AT A HIGH PRICE? WHAT DID GOVERNMENT DO FOR ME IN RETURN TO TAKE MORE MONEY FROM ME BECAUSE MARKET CONDITIONS ALLOWED THEM TO TAX ME MORE MONEY? (Answer: nothing. This is known as the greatest free ride in history!)

Direct democracy was designed for these cases, not for some group (faction) in a community who got a bug about 51 big homes up on the low hills to the southeast of the city. This is simply a tactic used by factions and is an abuse of direct democracy.

Don't get me wrong. Both sides of any issue abuse the right to initiative and referendum. My position is to stick with republican form (representative) form of government for the most part and the multi-forum public input methodology that has resulted from this form of government. So far, it has served America well since everywhere it has been used and for the last 200+ years with great success.

So, to conclude on my point, let's return to the basic question: where did this initiative language that Ayala and her faction circulated come from? I did not ever see advertised a public hearing that she called to get input to it from ALL of our citizen and stakeholders. What democratic form of government is she running? What are the rules? How does one input? We only get to vote after the fact?. And we have to vote on it because 10 percent of a fraction (6/10, about) of the registered voters signed a petition described above (strong-arm)? So, 6 percent of actual voters get to determine what's on the ballot. And these people did not actually vote for this, but were petitioned outside a voting booth. I think this stinks.

Posted by frank, a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Apr 18, 2008 at 11:25 pm

Correction: math description- if 10 percent of registered voters validly signed the initiative, then if all voted in the next election they would constitute up to 24 percent of the vote in the next election possibly since only about 60 percent of registered voters actually voted. But more likely they would represent 10 percent of actual voters since their non-voting rate would likely be the same. Therefore, the signers of the petition still constitute a certain minority between 10 to 24 percent of elgibile voters. .

Posted by Just Wondering, a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Apr 19, 2008 at 9:08 am

What time frame were the petitioners allowed to obtain signatures for the referendum, Oak Grove project?

Posted by Resident, a resident of Bridle Creek
on Apr 19, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Signatures for a referendum must be gathered within 30 days of an ordinance being approved. An initiative has a 6 month time frame to gather the necessary signatures. I believe that Kay delayed turning the initiative in so that it could be on the November ballot and thereby a campaign issue for herself or whomever choses to run from her committee.

I heard the initiative informally reviewed by a lawyer last week. He felt that the initiative was full of problems and wouldn't stand up to legal challenge the first time a project was denied as a result of it. Anyone know who actually wrote the initiative? I would hate to see this City become even more bogged down in law suits such that even less gets done then is being done now. I hope the Council will put a hillside initiative on the ballot that is well thought out with the citizens able speak to it through the public process.

Posted by Karen, a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Apr 26, 2008 at 7:35 am

With regard to the public input, most people I know are petrified to stand up at a City Council meeting, speak to the council with a microphone -- all with a TV camera rolling. Public input under these circumstances eliminates most people from stating their opinion - so we just stay home. But it does not mean we don't vote!

I see the same faces at the microphone each week anyway. I think true public weigh in is really rare in this town.

AND once a person has the guts to finally get up there, the speaker lights start blinking and the Mayor ask you to "wrap it up, you 3 minutes are up!".

Most of the people I know figure the council has already made up their minds during one-on-one meetings with paid lobbiest like Pico and Inderbitzen. As we have seen, those people have a lot more power than Joe Citizen.

Why waste our time, the council won't listen to us anyway. Working parents don't have time to go to endless city meetings. If we did, would they remember our comments from 6 months or 2 years ago? Of course not.

I signed both the referendum and the initiative. I truly think I am part of the silent majority. We don't want houses on our beautiful ridgelines -- Period.

Posted by Stacey, a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Apr 26, 2008 at 8:44 am

What a poor excuse for lack of participation in government. That's like saying the dog ate the homework. Standing up in front of the lights and camera to speak at a City Council meeting is far from the only method of input to the City that citizens have recourse to. And in the case of Oak Grove, are you saying that 4 years is not enough time to give people to participate?! The easier explanation is that the non-participators don't care. That includes the folks that don't waste their time signing petitions or voting.

PS, they aren't _your_ beautiful ridgelines.

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