The City Council, hopelessly deadlocked over a developer's bid to build 50 homes in Pleasanton's southeast hills after a 3-1/2 hour public hearing, voted unanimously Tuesday night to try again at its Dec. 1 meeting.
More than 150 residents filled the Council chamber, most from neighborhoods affected by plans by Greenbriar Homes Community to build the upscale homes on the 195-acre Lund Ranch II site in the hills south of Sunol Boulevard.
Those from the Sycamore Creek and Bridle Creek neighborhoods were mostly opposed to using streets through their communities to reach the new development from Sunol Boulevard and favored Greenbriar's plan to connect the new development to Lund Ranch Road only.
Those living in Ventana Hills and neighborhoods along Independence Drive and Junipero Street, which Lund Ranch traffic would then use, complained that cut-through traffic, particularly on Junipero, already congests their streets far beyond capacity.
Besides which route should be approved, council members also wrestled with the questions raised by Measure PP, the voter-approved initiative that now bans residential and commercial construction on Pleasanton hills with slopes greater than 25%.
A new road proposed by the Pleasanton Planning Commission to connect Sunset Creek Lane to the new Lund Ranch II development would have to be built on a slope greater than 25%.
So the issue facing the council also was to determine if a road is defined as a structure which would then fall under Measure PP's mandate.
If roads are not structures, as some on the council, including Mayor Jerry Thorne contend, then PP's rule would have no affect on building the Sunset Creek Way extension. Both city staff and City Attorney Jonathan Lowell agreed that the question was never addressed when Measure PP was adopted.
Although the council chamber was filled with at least 50 more sitting on chairs set up in the Civic Center lobby, only 23 of them addressed the council.
They were about evenly divided, as the council turned out to be, on which routes future Lund Ranch II homeowners should use to reach Sunol Boulevard. In a show of hands at the start of the hearing, a majority expressed a view asked by Thorne if the development should be blocked completely.
Tuesday's action by the council to continue the hearing came after the council was deadlocked 2-2 on several suggestions for moving forward on any of the issues, with Councilman Jerry Pentin, who lives near the Ventana Hills neighborhood, recusing himself from voting.
Council members Karla Brown and Arne Olson said they consider Measure PP to include a ban on hillside road construction as well as homes. Mayor Jerry Thorne and Councilwoman Kathy Narum disagreed, although both suggested splitting the traffic impact by having some homes use Lund Ranch Road and the other homes using a different route that would take drivers through Sycamore Creek and Bridle Creek.
In the end, the four council members also suggested downsizing the proposed 50-home development by as much as 60% and excluding several proposed housing lots that might be too close to hillside construction not allowed by Measure PP.
Seeing the dilemma and the possibility the council would shelve his development plan, Greenbriar's president Mike Meyer suggested a postponement of a final vote to give him and his design staff to come back with a somewhat different plan.
The continuation of the public hearing was yet another delay in the consideration of a plan for a major housing development on the former Lund cattle ranch. The first plan was proposed in September 2002 when 113 homes were proposed for construction on 12,000-square-foot lots.
At that time, the city's Planning Commission expressed concern over that project's effect on hillsides. The proposed development then changed hands and it was not until April 2007 a new builder proposed 149 homes on 3,000-square-foot lots. Those plans again were delayed and, a year later, Measure PP became the law of Pleasanton.
Measure PP doesn't affect the latest 50-home development plan, which would be built in a fairly flat bowl of the old ranch, not on hillside slopes. It's the needed 50-yard extension of Sunset Creek Way that would have to cross a steep slope that could fall under Measure PP's terms.
Greenbriar's favored access to the new development on Lund Ranch Road also faces opposition, not only by the neighborhoods that route would affect, but also because of an agreement made by past City Councils with the Ventana Hills Homeowners Association that no traffic from Lund Ranch II would ever use streets in that community if the ranch was ever developed for housing.
"Council members over last 25 years have vowed that Junipero will not take traffic from Lund Ranch," former Councilwoman Kay Ayala said at Tuesday's hearing. "I don't blame Mr. Meyer for wanting to find a cheaper access, but that was our agreement."
The city's Planning Commission approved a plan Aug. 26 in a 4-1 vote, ruling that the new development should only be accessed by a new 24-foot-wide road that Greenbriar would have to build to connect to Sunset Creek Lane. That construction would involve retaining walls and the placement of the creek in a culvert, which would also have to be approved by state agencies.
The commission also debated at length proposals to split the traffic impact, by having drivers from 10 of the new homes use Lund Ranch Road and the other 40 using the Sunset Creek Lane extension. That plan, also discussed by the council Tuesday, received only lukewarm interest.
Narum, in her remarks, said she felt that plan would lead to two separate neighborhoods instead of a single Lund Ranch community.
Some of the public comments made at Tuesday night's hearing:
"I was a member of the Measure PP committee. There was never any talk about roads. PP was about residential and commercial development on hillsides, not roads. Roads should not be part of this discussion." - Former Councilman Steve Brozosky.
"Junipero Street has already become major arterial with motorists cutting through daily. Now the apartment project being built on Bernal at Stanley will create ore cut-through problems for our neighborhood." - Junipero Street homeowner.
"It's all about traffic. Nobody wants it. Nobody likes it in their neighborhood." Julie Lewis, Junipero Street homeowner.
"I worked on the Measure PP initiative. The only exemption for PP is a 10 or less home development. A road with would violate PP." Homeowner.
"If we don't want traffic, don't build the homes. That would make everyone happy." Homeowner.
"Have a vote to see if the public wants the Sunset Creek Lane extension." Alan Roberts.
"Send this proposal back to the Planning Commission to reconsider." - Rebecca Evans, Sierra Club.
"Follow the law. Don't try to find loopholes around the law." - Greg O'Connor, Planning Commissioner.