Council’s “Exercise of Judgment” Justifies Departure from City Standards
On May 4, 2015, the Pleasant Hill City Council rejected PHCRG’s appeal of the Hilton Homewood Suites. In its desperate pursuit of tax revenue, the City has betrayed the trust of residents who expect and deserve to have new development conform with local planning laws.
At the hearing PHCRG President Mike Flake identified the ways in which the project exceeds standards established by the city’s general plan and zoning ordinance. PHCRG Vice President, Dorothy Englund, offered clear evidence of the project’s excesses, to which neither the developer nor staff offered an on-point response.
Ultimately Council rejected PHCRG’s appeal based on a Kings X argument, essentially saying “We’ll do it because we can -- and no one can stop us.” Council argued that they have the authority to use “flexibility” when applying planning/zoning requirements to a planned unit development. They reasoned that even a defective project is better than a vacant parcel, which justifies ignoring community development standards that they consider merely “guidelines.”
In other words, anything goes . . . if we say so.
Council’s action is significant because the Hilton project sets new precedent for running roughshod over the family-friendly development standards cherished by Pleasant Hill residents.
- Never before has the City re-zoned a single, tiny parcel as a “planned unit development” to accommodate a single developer for a single project; and
- Never before has the PUD mechanism been warped and misused in this way, for the purpose of dodging critical development standards set forth in the city’s general plan and zoning ordinance.
- Never before has the mere installation of a sidewalk – a minimal requirement for new development -- been construed as a “public benefit” to justify a zoning exceptions for development.
Pleasant Hill’s decision to ignore community development standards means it’s likely to do so again for other tax-revenue-generating projects.
This means residents must continue to keep a watchful eye on new development throughout the City.