The California Court of Appeal has reinstated a 2006 lawsuit claiming the city of Pleasanton has failed to meet its affordable housing obligations due to exclusionary policies and practices.
The ruling allows the group Urban Habitat and Pleasanton resident Sandra De Gregorio to pursue their challenge to the city's voter-approved housing cap and growth management program, as well as ask the court to require the city to rezone land for affordable housing.
"It means all of the issues that we're seeking judicial resolution for will be resolved — the invalidity of Pleasanton's housing cap and of other exclusionary housing measures," said attorney Richard Marcantonio of Public Advocates, which represented De Gregorio and Urban Habitat.
The lawsuit, originally filed in 2006, was dismissed last year after a judge ruled the statute of limitations applied to contesting the city policies in question had lapsed.
Urban Habitat, a regional environmental justice organization, became involved in the lawsuit when it learned 40,000 workers commute to jobs in Pleasanton because of the lack of housing near jobs.
Executive Director Juliet Ellis said affordable housing within walking distance of a major transit hub would reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote social equity.
The suit also says Pleasanton's land-use policies unlawfully discriminate against families with children. Since 1999, 20 homes for very low income families with children — such as a family of four earning $40,000 — have been built in Pleasanton.
"We have produced affordable housing," principal planner Janice Stern said. "There are certainly opportunities next to transit and downtown for higher density housing, which is generally more affordable."
City officials have said they are not standing in the way of affordable housing and are considering how to build the remaining housing under the city's 29,000-unit cap as part of the update to the general plan. As of Jan. 1, 2007, there were 3,235 remaining to be built within the city's urban growth boundary. The update, which was initiated in April 2003, is expected to be complete by the end of this year.
Due to the delay in the general plan process, however, Pleasanton's plan to accommodate its fair share of regional housing needs, and the "housing element," has been out of compliance with state law since 2005.
Marcantonio noted that the city's housing element had promised to rezone enough land to accommodate 800 units of lower-income housing by June 2004.
"Four years later, it has not yet selected the sites for rezoning, or begun the process of rezoning them, effectively making it impossible for non-profit housing developers and others to build that housing," reads a news release by Public Advocates.
Stern said the city will begin working on a new housing element next year.
Marcantonio also questioned the legality of the city's housing cap, approved by voters in 1996, calling it a barrier to fulfilling Pleasanton's obligation to address the regional housing needs.
"As soon as the cap interferes with (Pleasanton's) ability to provide its fair share of regional housing need, it's unlawful," he said
In a letter mailed to Marcantonio in response to the initial lawsuit, City Manager Nelson Fialho cited four affordable housing developments and the city's inclusionary housing ordinance as evidence that it is committed to providing affordable family housing. In addition to having to meet its remaining 1999-2006 share of regional housing needs as allocated by the Association of Bay Area Governments, Pleasanton received its new numbers, with 3,277 units of housing allocated during the period of 2007-14.
"The affordable housing units for which the city failed to provide sites in the prior planning period, now roll over and those come on top of the additional numbers," Marcantonio said.
Reach Meera Pal at 925-847-2120 or firstname.lastname@example.org.