Friends of Pine Meadow

Keep Pine Meadow Open Space as Permanent Open Space/Recreation



Wrong on the Facts and Wrong on the Process

Rewriting history is very serious. The City Council decided at their January 18 meeting that Pine Meadow’s designation as open space was an error made 43 years ago. We believe they are wrong. Wrong on the facts and wrong on the process.

A key fact they apparently overlooked was City Council Resolution 69-73 passed in June 1973 that clearly shows Pine Meadow as Open Space.

  • The City Council voted unanimously to pass that Resolution and accept the map showing Pine Meadow as Open Space.
  • The Resolution states they did this after holding both Planning Commission and Council hearings.
  • It goes on to state no one objected to the resolution at either hearing.

The Open Space status of Pine Meadow was affirmed by City Ordinance 788 in May 1974. It was affirmed again in the Staff Report on the Busby project in July 1976. And the Council actually re-approved the map showing Pine Meadow as Open Space in Resolution 149 in Sept 1977.

Yet the City Council denied these facts*, and instead voted to say designating Pine Meadow as Open Space 43 years ago was an error, and the designation should have been for housing.

The Council was wrong on the process they used because:

  • They gave the developer/owners almost 2 hrs. to present their case, including a 106 slide presentation never seen by the Council or City staff before.
  • The staff was not given the time to study or rebut any of that information.
  • The Council was informed that they had to make a decision that night, so they had no time to study or question it either.
  • Their final decision was rendered after midnight.

That is not good government.

The Council’s decision was wrong because no weight was given to the people who relied on the Open Space designation for Pine Meadow for 43 years.

The Council’s decision was wrong because they have now set a dangerous precedent emboldening others to come to the Council to rewrite history for their own purposes.

We believe the Council must re- establish the legal process of requiring a General Plan Amendment to change Pine Meadow from Open Space to housing. No one says there cannot be housing at Pine Meadow, but we should base that decision on the law, and not on what happened at the Council’s January 18 meeting.

Friends of Pine Meadow

*This is just one of several issues that we believe were overlooked or misinterpreted.

Pine Meadow Threatened Once Again by Developer Ploy

This Wednesday DeNova Homes, who wants to develop Pine Meadow Permanent Space/Recreation site, will try to convince our City Council that Pine Meadow’s designation as Permanent Open Space/Recreation in 1973 was a mistake, and it was supposed to be designated for housing all along. There is talk of a lawsuit, and the Council’s position is unclear.

If the Council agrees with the developer, the designation of Pine Meadow as Permanent Open Space/Recreation that has been the law for 40+ years will just be thrown out. What a precedent that will be, and what an invitation for developers to continue to bully our Council into decisions that do not protect the public’s interests.

We need the public to tell our Council unequivocally that they must not be bullied by this or any developer. What the Council must do is uphold a designation of Pine Meadow as Permanent Open Space/Recreation that has been uncontested in over 40 years, and that the developer even agreed to on their previous project for Pine Meadow! Now they are changing their minds.

We need your help to tell our Council we expect them to stand up to this threat and protect our community’s standards and Martinez Open Space. The message otherwise will be that the Council will buckle under, if the developer applies enough pressure.

Show up at the meeting (7PM, this Wednesday, January 18, 2017, City Hall) and speak out to protect Martinez open space. If you cannot make it, please e-mail Councilmembers at the addresses at the bottom left of this page.

Here are the links to the agenda and the 12-page Staff Report. To see the entire 493 page Staff Report and Attachments click here.

Here is the link to the City website where you can e-mail all the Councilmembers, including the Mayor, at one time. If you use this to e-mail them, make sure to add the Assistant City Clerk, mcabral@cityofmartinez.org.

Together we can help protect Pine Meadow Permanent Open Space/Recreation once again.

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Note on the upcoming Initiative to Protect Martinez Open Space that will go before the public soon: This Initiative is in final preparation and has not been issued for public signature yet. Some media sources have written about the Initiative, but the Initiative is not completed, so those reports are not accurate. We and other environmental groups look forward to supporting this Initiative when it is finalized.

Tim Platt and Mark Thomson for Friends of Pine Meadow

P.S. It is ironic that this 98 house project they are using as a vehicle for this ploy is the’ better’ project they promised when they convinced the City Council to rescind the public vote on Pine Meadow last March.

Green Again! Housing Plan and Lawsuit Update

The Green Is Back At Pine Meadow

Fall rains have brought back the green to Pine Meadow. This is Nature’s way of saying “you can’t keep me down for long”.

We believe our goal---to convince our Mayor and City Council to protect our open space and park land, not turn it into housing, and to get them to work on purchasing Pine Meadow Permanent Open Space/Recreation for public use forever--- is the best future for this beautiful piece of land.

Recap

Pine Meadow has been designated Permanent Open Space/Recreation since 1973, soon after the owners asked to be annexed to Martinez.

Last year, the City Council voted to pass a General Plan Amendment turning Pine Meadow Permanent Open Space/Recreation into housing. Our Referendum, which over 4000 people signed, put that decision into the hands of the public to decide in a public vote set for November, 2016.

In March, 2016, the developer/owners convinced the City Council to rescind the public vote, promising a better project.

Our Referendum will protect Pine Meadow open space until mid-March, 2017, according to our lawyers. After then, the City Council can pass another General Plan Amendment changing Pine Meadow to housing.

Developer’s Better Project Update

Their new project reduces the number of houses from 99 to 98. Better? Additionally, the project application now states that Pine Meadow is zoned for housing---not open space. And a letter from the developer’s lawyer asserts that Pine Meadow is not open space at all, but was designated that way in error over 40 years ago.

Friends of Pine Meadow and the City disagree. This excerpt from the City’s letter to the developer states:

“As you [the developer] noted in your original application relating to this property, submitted in October of 2013, the property's current General Plan Land Use Designation is Hidden Lakes Specific Area Plan; Permanent Open Space/Recreation Permanent. Since the time that the property was formally annexed into the City in 1970, it has never been in a residential designation. The General Plan Land Use designation for the property was adopted on December 12, 1973 by the adoption of Resolution 154 (1973 Series) as Hidden Lakes Specific Area Plan; Permanent Open Space/Recreation.”

We will keep you advised of the next steps in this conflict.

Developer/owners SLAPP Suit Against Us

Soon after the developer/owners convinced the City Council to rescind the public vote on changing Pine Meadow from open space to housing, the developer/owners sued us. In September, the court agreed with us that this was a SLAPP suit (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) designed to harass and interfere with our right to free speech, and keep us (and you) from speaking out on Pine Meadow. The court dismissed the suit.

Just a few weeks ago the developer/owners decided to appeal that decision. In about a year, we estimate, the appeal will be heard.

We are confident the decision to dismiss the suit will stand, and will keep you informed as it proceeds.

We did not let the SLAPP suit divert our attention from our goals, and neither will this appeal.*

Petition Signature Gathering Goes On

Since the public vote on Pine Meadow was rescinded in March and the lawsuit was instituted against us in April, we have been busy collecting petition and e-mail signatures from concerned citizens at numerous public events.

We’ve been at: John Muir Birthday/Earth Day, the Beaver Festival, Blues Festival and several Farmers Markets. Hundreds have supported our cause. When you see us and our booth, please come by and add your name to those supporting open space and parks.

Milpitas Votes To Protect Open Space And Parks

Milpitas citizens just passed their City Council-sponsored Ballot Measure K by over 84% ‘yes’ votes!

The measure mandates that “…any attempt to rezone parks, parklands or open space to residential commercial or industrial, or any proposal for residential, commercial or industrial development in parks, parkland or open space, must be placed before Milpitas voters and secure two-thirds support in the City’s next general election.”

We applaud the Milpitas City Council for taking this step, and for the voters supporting it by such a huge margin.

Link to City of Milpitas website: http://www.ci.milpitas.ca.gov/

San Jose Planning Commission Votes to Preserve Open Space

Development on 2.8 acres of privately-owned open space was rejected recently by a 5-0 vote of the San Jose Planning commission. The developer petitioned for a General Plan Amendment that would have allowed housing on 2.8 acres of the 20 acre site.

Now the issue will go to the San Jose City Council with the Planning Commission recommendation to not allow the change. As with many land use issues, this one is pretty complex---the Staff Report is 501 pages long with public support for the open space comprising a large number of those pages.

Link to San Jose Planning Commission Meeting Video: http://sanjose.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=54&clip_id=9403#

*The lawsuit is not about what happens to Pine Meadow Permanent Open Space/Recreation. It is about whether we have the right to say and write what we did. The court ruling said we did and dismissed the suit as a SLAPP suit designed solely to harass and impede us. We stand firmly behind the accuracy and truthfulness of what we have said and written, and have supported it with facts and documentation.

FRIENDS OF PINE MEADOW LAWSUIT--WE WON AND SO DID THE PUBLIC!

The SLAPP suit filed against Friends of Pine Meadow (FOPM) and five individuals by DeNova Homes, Civic Martinez LLC and Christine Dean (owners of Pine Meadow) was dismissed by the court on August 29. Friends of Pine Meadow won, and so did the public at large.

The lawsuit was brought against FOPM, et. al. for intentional and negligent interference, defamation and conspiracy. FOPM quickly named the lawsuit a SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) suit whose sole purpose was to harass and impede FOPM.

The suit was meant to intimidate FOPM and the public at large, and keep them from speaking out about the City Council decision to change the designation of Pine Meadow from Permanent Open Space/Recreation (POS/R) to housing.

The court ruling granted FOPM’s motion to dismiss the suit and affirmed the right of FOPM and the public to speak freely on issues of public concern such as this.

What FOPM and the public said and wrote during public comments before the City Council and Planning Commission, and what was said and written in public in newspapers, on the web and elsewhere were deemed to be free speech protected by the First Amendment, the state constitution and civil code. The plaintiffs are required by law to pay for the legal costs and attorneys’ fees incurred by the defendants.

Tim Platt of FOPM stated: “The goal of Friends of Pine Meadow has always been to convince our Mayor and City Council to protect our open space and park land, not turn it into housing, and to get them to work on purchasing Pine Meadow Permanent Open Space/Recreation for public use forever.

We never lost sight of that goal, but, with our success getting the SLAPP suit dismissed, we can concentrate fulltime on saving Pine Meadow. With the upcoming election, it becomes doubly important for the public to push our leaders and candidates to protect Pine Meadow now.

The demand for more housing in Martinez and throughout California will never end. We must protect our remaining open space and park land or watch the quality of life decline for us and our children.”

Winning the SLAPP suit is about more than the Pine Meadow issue. It is a major victory for the public at large in protecting the right of every citizen to speak freely and publicly on issues that directly affect their lives.

Mark Thomson of FOPM stated: “The plaintiffs, DeNova Homes, Civic Martinez LLC and Christine Dean, trampled on the rights of ordinary citizens as well as the Friends of Pine Meadow. Two citizens with no involvement in the lawsuit issues were included in the suit, including one for just speaking at City Council meetings. And including an additional 100 unnamed defendants in the suit posed the specter of a lawsuit against anyone who opposed turning Pine Meadow into housing.

Strongly held opinions on political issues are expected, but it is out of bounds to attack our freedom of speech and right to petition the government. This is a core right for all of us, and threatening it cannot be allowed.”

FOPM has already called upon the Martinez City Council to give the public a clear explanation of how broad the public right to speak on public issues before the Council and in public forums is. The DeNova/Civic Martinez/Dean SLAPP suit has made many citizens concerned about their right to speak, and that is a critical part of making our democracy work, especially in these times of great controversies.“We urge citizens to let the City Council and candidates for election know how important this right is, and that public education by our City Council is needed in the face of the fear caused by this SLAPP suit” said Thomson.

Click here to see the court ruling.

Tim Platt and Mark Thomson for Friends of Pine Meadow


Friends of Pine Meadow sued by DeNova Homes/Civic Martinez LLC/Christine Dean

On April 4th DeNova Homes, Civic Martinez LLC and Christine Dean filed a lawsuit against Friends of Pine Meadow, as well as other individuals. Our attorney tells us that this kind of lawsuit, claiming defamation and a variety of commercial torts, is typically filed by developers against groups and individuals who oppose their projects.

We believe this lawsuit is without merit and fully expect that the court will agree.

We believe that what we have said and published has been true and accurate, and we have striven to be very responsible in our actions and communications.

This lawsuit will not deter Friends of Pine Meadow from our mission of urging our Mayor and City Council to protect our open space and park land, and buy Pine Meadow Permanent Open Space/Recreation for public use in perpetuity.

We ask the public to continue to support us in this by joining us on Facebook, Friends of Pine Meadow, and here on our website, and by volunteering and donating what you can.

Tim Platt and Mark Thomson for Friends of Pine Meadow


Help us today by joining our e-mail list and following us on Facebook, and by donating $25-$50-$100 or more to help us get the word out. Donations are critical to getting our message to the voting public.

We’ve accomplished the first big step, but much more remains to be done.