No more housing on Pleasanton's hills | December 14, 2012 | Pleasanton Weekly | |

Pleasanton Weekly

Opinion - December 14, 2012

No more housing on Pleasanton's hills

For years, hillside preservationists have sought rulings to keep housing off the steep slopes in and around Pleasanton. Their campaign started in earnest when plans were being made in the 1970s and 1980s to build residential and some commercial projects on the Pleasanton Ridge. With those plans finally scuttled, work began to draft similar legislation to protect the rest of the Ridgeland and the hills in southeast Pleasanton, including hillside protection language that was part of the city's 1996 General Plan. Measure PP, approved by voters two years ago and ratified and strengthened by the City Council last month, now completes that work, banning hillside development on or close to slopes with a 25% grade with few exceptions.

If PP had been in effect back in the 1970s, Pleasanton would be a much different, and smaller, city. Much of upper Vintage Hills, Vintage Heights, Foxbrough, Grey Eagle, Kottinger Ranch and developments along the west side of Foothill Road could not be developed within the new guidelines. There's even a question now if homes can be built along a proposed bypass road to the Callippe Preserve golf course, or even if the road can be built, since some interpretations of PP include roads as structures. Oak Grove, a 51-luxury home development planned for the hills above Kottinger Ranch, is still on the last remaining list of hilltop developments that could be built. A suit to set aside a voter-approved referendum that cancelled the council's approval of the project continues to languish in the State Court of Appeal.

With the City Council's approval of a strengthened Measure PP, city staff will now prepare final documents that will clarify the "Save Pleasanton's Hills" initiative and turn it into an ordinance that the council will consider and is expected to approve next month or in early February. Once done, hillside preservationists, developers, city staff and lawyers will have a document the can be readily understood to protect the hills of Pleasanton in perpetuity. It will protect our scenic hills from development, including roadways, to preserve the character of our city and keep development and development speculation away from lands with environmentally sensitive features, lands with primary open space values and lands that the public can enjoy visually and on hikes along pathways that will still be allowed.

The only exemptions that will be allowed will be housing developments of 10 units or less, but even these will have to meet critical reviews to make sure that no homes will again be built on highly visible hilltops. For those who have long promoted these restrictions, theirs is a well-deserved victory that all who live here can enjoy.