Monday, March 22, 2010

What Happened to Pleasanton?

One of the most discouraging things about AB32/SB375 is the removal by Sacramento of many traditional rights of cities to control development within their own borders. Whatever the intent, these new laws remove much of the housing development authority from individual cities and concentrate them within Sacramento. Something that effectively centralizes planning in this state. General Plans are now strongly required by Sacramento to accommodate the various requirements of these conjoined laws, and run the risk of state initiated lawsuits should they refuse to play ball. These requirements are mostly in regards to transportation oriented development, and in a lot of cases this includes planning for new large scale housing, something considered onerous and destructive to what many regard as the character, to say nothing of autonomy, of their communities.

In the case of Pleasanton we can now see an actual instance where the displeasure of Sacramento in this regard led to a crushing defeat in Court, with one of the major parties in this state initiated lawsuit being led by no less an august personality than Jerry Brown, California State Attorney General. It is obvious that with the personal involvement of the top legal officer in the state, Sacramento takes this all very seriously.

Something called the Transbay Blog, which is notably unsympathetic to the wishes of communities such as Pleasanton, gives a pretty thorough description of the process that led to Jerry Brown taking this city on over its voter approved initiative limiting housing there.

Jerry Brown to Pleasanton: Housing and Climate Change Are Connected - So what happens when, despite the state's requirement, a city tries to shrug off its obligation to accommodate its fair share of housing growth? Then, the state must step in -like it did yesterday, when Attorney General Jerry Brown finally took action against the City of Pleasanton's housing cap. In 1996, Pleasanton adopted Measure GG, which instituted a housing cap - no more that 29,000 units could be built within the city. Since 2006, the City had already faced lawsuits because of this provision, and in January 2009, Jerry Brown submitted comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) of Pleasanton's General Plan update. In his comments, Brown indicated quite unambiguously that the housing cap was problematic. Now, in just a dozen pages, Brown clarifies how the Pleasanton cap violates state housing law. It basically comes down to the numbers. ABAG's projections require the City accommodate 3,277 housing units by the year 2014. But the City is only 2,007 units short of reaching the housing cap of 29,000 units. With the cap in place, not even those 3,277 units could not be built - to say nothing of the units that ABAG projections would call for after 2014. And, in fact, the City even still has to come up with missing housing units from the last RHNA planning period, which ended in 2007.

ABAG (Association of Bay Area Governments) is a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) similar to our very own SCAG (Southern California Area Governments). When RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Assessment) numbers are assigned to cities such as Pleasanton (or Sierra Madre for that matter), it is these MPOs that do all the dirty work. Originally these regional organizations were designed to give voice to the needs of individual cities in regards to area planning, but lately they have come to serve as little more than enforcers for housing policies dictated by the central planning authorities in the state capitol.

Until recently RHNA demands for housing increases had been justified because the MPOs had somehow concluded that California was undergoing massive population increases that would lead to acute housing shortages should cities all over the state not plan for big housing increases. And you can see the results of that blunder locally in places such as Pasadena, Burbank, and Glendale. All cities that are now experiencing large gluts of unsold condominium style development. Obviously the millions of new residents the MPO's crystal balls predicted have not materialized, with the state actually undergoing an exodus of both high paying jobs and the skilled workforce required to do them. So great has this exodus become that there is a possibility, and for the first time in California history, that this state could actually lose a seat in Congress after the current census.

But while policies that proclaimed a need for more housing due to population increases are now inoperative, the pressure on cities to accommodate large new development continues. The reason now is climate change. Apparently this theory has it that we can build our way out of Global Warming, with the agent of our salvation being high density development. Or, to put it into more salvational language, condos that will rescue the world.

Here is how Transbay Blog describes this dynamic in the Pleasanton case:

The Climate Change Connection - What continues to be interesting here is Jerry Brown's consistent emphasis on climate change. In this case, Pleasanton's General Plan just straight-up violates state housing requirements, and the City's housing cap could be invalidated on that basis alone. Indeed, in his formal challenge of the housing cap, Brown focuses on the state's Planning and Zoning Law to make the case. In supplementary materials, however, Brown has embraced a policy discussion that goes beyond simply pointing out the literal legal problem. In his Jaunuary 2009 comments on the General Plan DEIR, he criticizes the City for not adequately considering climate change impacts of the Plan. This is an environmental issue, not a housing issue. More recently, Brown explicitly tied the housing cap to its effect on travel patterns and air quality - adding his voice to the chorus chanting about how focused growth and smart land use patterns are a critical component of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Different rationale, same requirement. Or, as the acronymically conversant like to put it, "You Build Or We Sue (UBOWS)." Next time somebody calls you a NIMBY, try using that one on 'em.

Bonus Coverage: Here is a copy of the letter California Attorney General Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown Jr. sent to Brian Dolan, Planning Director for the City of Pleasanton:

RE: Shaping Local Land Use Patterns to Meet the Requirements of AB 32

Dear Planning Director Dolan:

In response to the many questions we receive from local agencies like yours, the Attorney General's Office has compiled the attached document, "Climate Change, the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), and General Plan Updates: Straightforward Answers to Some Frequently Asked Questions." To ensure that all local governments have access to the most up-to-date information, we are sending these materials to cities and counties that are in the process of updating their general plans and, in addition, to those jurisdictions that are due for an update.

The general planning process presents a powerful opportunity to carefully consider and shape future land use patterns and ensure that development is consistent with AB 32. As the Air Resources Board noted in its recent AB 32 Scoping Plan, "local governments are essential partners in achieving California's goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Attorney's in my office have commented on a significant number of general plan updates over the past two years. They have also met informally with planners and officials from numerous jurisdictions. It is clear to us that local agencies are attempting to address global warming in their general plan updates and accompanying CEQA documents and are taking on the the challenging scientific, technical, and policy issues presented.

The letter goes on with some of the usual boilerplate, but you can see how global warming, and not population increases, have become the rationale behind Sacramento's latest series of demands for high density housing increases throughout the state.

Which begs the question - while obviously car emissions can be a problem, wouldn't the kinds of increases in housing called for by Sacramento only exacerbate the problem rather than alleviating it? After all, electricity production is as much a contributer of greenhouse gases as cars, if not more. And areas of high density settlement also contribute significantly to the problem. Then there is the related problems regarding water supply.

It would seem to me that if the state was genuinely concerned with reducing greenhouse gas emissions solar/wind technologies, electric auto technologies, and improved energy efficiency along with conservation, would be the way to go. Rather than just building vast amounts of mediocre and generic new housing in the hopes that it will somehow cause people to take public transportation.

Besides, if you settle a lot of people by public transportation sites, is there really any guarantee that they will somehow wish to abandon their automobiles and take the bus? Seems like magical thinking to me. A lot of people, upon being given a place to live that can be described as "low income," might actually wish to take those savings and invest in something they have always wanted.

Which in the case of most Californians would be a new car.


  1. For the first time in my life I can see myself voting for a Republican. Jerry brown is no friend of cities like ours.

  2. The whole AB 32/SB 375 is just a way of ducking the accountability for the other 80% of GHG sources which consists of building construction, supply chain (consumer products and building materials by freight), power plants, mining and extraction, manufacturing processes, etc. etc. Called hiding the ball in plain sight.

  3. That plus it props up big spending lobbying interests like the BIA, CAR, and various other concerned developer parties.

  4. Very sad about Pleasanton.

    The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the middle class disappears.

  5. Jerry Brown to California: Ride the
    bus and shut up about it.

  6. Laurie Barlow,
    I wish you were running for Gov.

  7. There is the beginnings of a ballot initiative to strike down AB32, sign the petition to "ballotize" it. The State government has stopped representing the people, and guys like Steinberg and Brown need to retire to the rose garden on their fat state retirement plans.

  8. The Superior Court judge's ruling on Pleasanton makes me sick. The residents of Pleasanton democratically put into place a population cap by referendum. However, I'm not aware of any referendum whereby AB32 or SB375 were approved. I thought California was a democracy? You couldn't tell by what is happening here. Someone tell me more about the ballot initiative to strike down AB32.

  9. Great post Mr. Zeger.

  10. Jerry Brown's decision to attack Pleasanton gives the "green light" and a "roadmap" to developers to rollover communities that wish to preserve their cities.

  11. I'm not a republican, but Meg Whitman becomes more appealing every day.

  12. Pull my finger, Jerry Brown NoseMarch 22, 2010 at 12:24 PM

    Just last month in the San Bernardino Sun, Jerry Brown was taking credit for busting unscrupulous county employees and crooked developers (friends of doyle) of the colonies postmus debacle. Today Sir Eric of the John Crawford has shared the news showing he has flipped about face, Was this last draconian action in response like pavlovs dog to obamas we will fund transportation pronouncement? You know barrington, transportation, the feds we will protect our assets, The entity above the abag, scag bag rhna rigamarole hyperbole which means we will build even if we dont have money and no one will buy the houses, because we have a glut of them now and the three to four years projected for recovery of property values has risen to 10 to 14 years to recovery if ever, (the builders are predicting the use of manufactured housing versus actual house builders and the cities are rewriting the terms of their remodeling ordinances in or to glean legally more money from the already strapped populace).

    I digress..

    Jerry Brown is a no good rat, to force this issue in this time, in this state on any poor strapped broke city and flip flops more than an autistic catfish or scumsucking attorney and that is all I have to say about that...

  13. It anyone would like petitions to put AB 32 on the November ballot contact: or see

  14. Our state now works on a 3rd world patronage system. Government and powerful interests scratch each others backs, while the taxpayers are treated as little more than a marketing problem. Some day this state will rise up and throw every bum out of Sacramento. When you look at how bad things have gotten in California, you have to conclude that we really are the worst governed state in America.

  15. WAWAWAWA! When the goin gets tough, the Democrats vote Republican. Don't worry, our next Gov will be Meg (consevative) and our next pres will be, without a doubt a Republican. What a joke!

  16. ABAG and SCAG - the bad idea of it all is clear from the sounds their acronyms make

  17. WaWa: Just for the record, our current governor is a Republican. Though I'd
    propably want to disown him as well.

  18. Great point Tattler:
    "Originally these regional organizations were designed to give voice to the needs of individual cities in regards to area planning, but lately they have come to serve as little more than enforcers for housing policies dictated by the central planning authorities in the state capitol."
    Just like the fact that ORIGINALLY the Green movement was for a better quality of life for people and other species, but it has been so severely co-opted and corrupted that it bears no resemblance to its original purpose.
    My new acronym for government is COCO, co-opted and co-rrupted.

  19. This stuff makes me crazy because water is always left out of the discussion.
    So how many households can these cities support with water?
    Or are people calculating that water "could" be a problem with these numbers?
    Prefect idea for an apocalypse type movie - a bunch of rabbit warren housing, jammed in tight, and oops....water's gone.

  20. That movie should surely be filmed in Sierra Madre - a kind of twin to Invasion of. But this one would be about people going berserkers stealing water from each other.

  21. The water is on paper in Sacramento. Paper water. Just like the IOUs they handed out a couple months ago. Invest in bottled water.

  22. Well OK then, let's just make damn sure that any high density building is paper building, to match the paper water.

  23. Anonymous at 2:53 pm, invest in desalinaton technology! Sea levels rising; ground water tables falling; need for new jobs -- it's a natural. In 20 years we'll be paying outrageous prices for drinking water and watering the golf courses with re-claimed water.

  24. I'll bet that few of us remember what OPEC nations had to do with energy policy in the late 1970's when the per barrel of oil skyrocketed, then pummeted--forcing policy for alternative energy (which is seriously backfiring) and then forcing American oil production out of business when they couldn't compete in the market of deflated prices. One big mess is the resulting Wind Farms and their huge carbon footprint (per wind generator) and their lack of electricity production--potential 24/7 versus actual less than 20% and the destroyed desert vista, land and wildlife corridors, etc. Edison does not want electricity to be generated at the point of useage (think all the flat roofed buildings all over the southland for solar electricity) but out in the desert because THEY MAKE MONEY ON TRANSMISSION not production! Sierra Madre is hooked in to this nighmare in more ways than one: We have a UUT based on utility usage so as you use less tax generation goes down. We have two city councl members who have some of their salary paid for by energy companies--Mosca and Buchanan, neither of whom should be voting on anything that has to do with energy production. Also, the tax payers pay for the subsidies given to these energy producing projects. We get higher bills, degredated deserts and unintended health care costs for future generations of people poluted by the production of these devices to create renewable resources.

  25. Upon being asked by Kurt Zimmerman about where the water would come from for some new development he was hyping, John Buchanan replied, "Don't worry about water. We'll find the water."

    Maybe he'd just gotten an envelope from Sacramento?

  26. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  27. OJS: You broke about 4 posting rules here with that one. Let me ask you: do you kiss your mother with that mouth?

  28. Greetings Tattlers!
    Josh Moran Video's up see the worm in action!

    Neuroblast Films

  29. Eyes Wide Open:

    Fascinating information. I've heard about this before.

    Crawford? Perhaps you can investigate this.
    What a SCAM on the public, as usual, by the Government and the energy companies.

    Between them, they have just turned California into a third world country.

  30. Well now, I just viewed the Josh Moran videos, and I must say he wasn't delivering any happy talk about bringing the town together back then now, was he? Of course, he isn't really about it now, either. Mr. Moran certainly wasn't reading from that script in 2007!

  31. JOSH TALKS about this charming town he grew up in but does not want Measure V. Guess he did not get it then, guess he still does not get it.
    Difficult to understand keeping a town charmimg means keeping the developers out and the real estate sellers from selling the property to the developers. Get it JOSH??

  32. Josh will never get it.
    Nancy Walsh will never get it.
    They are dupes for Bart Doyle's dirts.

    Joe Mosca is a dangerous lobbyist for development and is being endorsed and supported by the Democratic Party in a non-partisan election....our city council!
    This is absolutely unacceptable.
    This man Mosca should be rejected by the voters once and for all.

    The dirts dupe candidates, Moron and Walsh should be rejected, they know nothing, they are unqualified, and not even closely resemble legitimate council material.

    Don Watts, Pat Alcorn and John Crawford are qualified, they are on YOUR side. They put Sierra Madre FIRST.

  33. How many of you Tattlers went to Josh's Beer and Taco Party last week? According to Josh, the most important issue facing Sierra Madre is continuing to be able to party, get drunk and stoned, and just hang out wherever and!

    With intellect and insight like that, it's no wonder he's too good for the real estate industry.

    I offer a toast to Josh and all the other juvenile delinquents in town, who may need a little encouragement during challenging times; No matter how bad things get, don't forget to....

    Fight for Your PARTY!!!!!!!

  34. But 6:02! Josh LOVES this town! Didn't you see his flyer??
    He LOOOOOVESSS it. He'd give a big hug and a soul kiss
    if there was a commission in it for him.

  35. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  36. What's with all these trolls, suddenly? Big stakes in a little town, I guess.

  37. Just came up Michillinda and who was out putting up some of his signs but Carpetbagger Joe himself. Stomping around in the weeds and looking none too happy about it, either. Good to see he's got a lot of people out working so hard for him.


  38. Sorry OVERNOVER, but that gave me motion sickness.

  39. 6:52 #2

    Was that out in the public right of way? lol

  40. Not sure. But God's little green things were taking quite a beating.