Pleasanton's city attorney and outside legal counsel acknowledged Monday night that they have agreed with a developer's legal team to extend the deadline for arguments before the state Court of Appeal in a lawsuit the developer is pressing against the city.
The legal arguments were scheduled to start Oct. 11, but now are likely to begin after the first of the year, City Attorney Jonathan Lowell told the City Council at a special meeting Monday night.
The extension, suggested by attorneys for Frederic and Jennifer Lins, who own 552 acres in the city's southeast hills where they are seeking permits for a housing development called Oak Grove, will give both sides more time to prepare legal briefs. The Lins are asking the appellate court to overturn a judgment in the Alameda County Superior Court against their claim that a development agreement once-signed by City Manager Nelson Fialho should allow them to build 51-homes on the property they have owned since the 1970s.
Also at Monday night's meeting was Amrit Kulkarni, an attorney with the firm of Meyers/Nave, who has been hired by Pleasanton as outside counsel to argue against the Lins' appeal.
The extension means that the three-judge Court of Appeal won't start deliberating on the arguments in support of the appeal by the Lins and against granting the appeal by Kulkarni and his Pleasanton-financed legal team until well into 2012 with a decision likely in May next year.
That will move the Oak Grove debate into the start of a political campaign year when the mayor's post and two seats on the City Council will be open. Mayor Jennifer Hosterman and council members Cindy McGovern and Matt Sullivan are termed out next November.
Along with the Court of Appeal delay, city officials said that they are bound by law to continue processing another proposal by the Lins to build 10 custom homes on the 552-acre site. That process, which will require an environmental impact review, could take six months of planning staff work to reach the Planning Commission and finally the City Council for consideration.
Given the timeline spelled out Monday night by Lowell, it's unclear which action, the court's decision on the Lins' appeal in the case of the 51-home project or the city's final consideration of their 10-home plan, would be finalized first.
Monday night's council meeting was initially scheduled to give the public an opportunity to comment on a proposal by the Lins to delay court actions against the city while its planning staff processed their bid for the 10-home project, which was seen as a substitute for the 51-home development.
But the Lins took that offer off the table before the meeting after a citizens' group head by former Councilwoman Kay Ayala protested against any agreement with developers who were in litigation against the city.
Even so, Ayala and others in support of her efforts, voiced their opposition to an apparent agreement by Lowell and the city's outside counsel Kulkarni to delay the Oct. 11 hearing before the Court of Appeal.
"Theirs (the Lins) is a frivolous lawsuit," Ayala said. "They're going to lose. Why would you give the Lins more time?"
"What is the rationale for the city8 assisting this developer on an extension of the lawsuit?" she asked, without getting an answer from Lowell or the City Council.