California First District Court of Appeal and Alameda County Superior Court Rule in Favor of Eden Housing’s Downtown Livermore Project
January 30, 2023
— Rulings thwart attempt by small community groups to delay project —
January 30, 2023 — The California state appellate court has denied an appeal challenging the City of Livermore’s approval of Eden Housing’s 130-unit affordable housing development planned for the downtown Livermore area.
The appeal was filed by Save Livermore Downtown (SLD), an unincorporated association claiming to be comprised of local residents who filed a meritless lawsuit in 2021 claiming the City’s approval of Eden’s project violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and California Planning and Zoning Law. SLD’s claims were presented to the Alameda County Superior Court, who concurred with the City and Eden’s assessment that SLD’s challenges are meritless. The court denied SLD’s claims and ordered a judgment be entered dismissing its lawsuit.
Despite the emphatic rejection of its claims by the trial court, SLD then appealed the decision to the state appellate court. In a comprehensive 27-page opinion on the matter, the First District Court of Appeal rejected each of SLD’s arguments, and agreed with the Alameda County Superior Court’s decision, as well as its conclusion that this was not a close case.
This was the first of two significant wins for the project this month. Move Eden Housing (MEH), another group established to thwart the project, filed a lawsuit last August in an effort to convince the court to push through a petition which sought to overturn the city’s approval of an amended disposition, development and loan agreement (DDLA) with Eden Housing. On Thursday, January 19, an Alameda County Superior Court judge rejected MEH’s lawsuit against the city of Livermore over the group’s failed referendum attempt from last year. In addition, both MEH and SLD were each ordered to post $500,000 bonds for damage caused by their lawsuits.
“These are important wins for affordable housing, the City of Livermore and the 130 families that are eagerly waiting to have a place to call home,” said Linda Mandolini, president and CEO of Eden Housing. “Following the latest string of legal wins, it is our hope that groups like Move Eden Housing and Save Livermore Downtown will stop these frivolous lawsuits that are only meant to delay and stall projects meant to address the dire housing crisis that our region is facing and aim to house our most vulnerable populations. Kudos to the City of Livermore for their steadfast resolve to fight for the Downtown Livermore apartments in an effort to offer much-needed housing to its local workforce that is struggling to afford soaring rent and food costs.”
The City of Livermore acquired the downtown site with affordable housing funds in 2008. In January 2018, following a year of extensive outreach efforts to collect community input, the city approved a plan which led to the selection of Eden Housing to develop affordable housing units on the site. The Livermore Planning Commission approved Eden’s 130-unit affordable housing development and sent the project to City Council for review in April 2021. One month later, the Livermore City Council voted unanimously to approve Eden’s proposed development. The project received significant support from the community and business leaders, and all five council members expressed enthusiastic support for the proposal.
Several stakeholders throughout the state of California have expressed support for the project over the last year.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta lent his support by filing a brief asking the court of appeal to grant expedited review. “CEQA plays an essential role in protecting the environment and public health in California,” said Bonta. “We won’t stand by when it is used to thwart new development, rather than to protect Californians and our environment.” Bonta added that as California faces a housing crisis of epic proportions, delays cannot stand in the way of the State meeting its goals.
The League of California Cities, an association of 479 California cities, filed an amicus brief with the appellate court in November in support of the city of Livermore. The League stated that the case raises issues that affect all California cities, and SLD’s environmental claims demonstrate a concerning and growing practice of litigation abuse.
Bob Woerner, Livermore’s Mayor from 2020-2022, and a steadfast supporter of the project, stated during his term as mayor that he found the project well considered and in the best interest of the community. He supports the court’s latest ruling. “This decision further confirms that SLD’s intentions were to delay and derail. They never brought an alternative location or plan to the table that was truly a viable option.”
Livermore’s current Mayor, John Marchand, played a part in the project planning process and participated in many public hearings leading up to the City’s approval of the project. “These homes are desperately needed by the people working in our community, and I’m very happy to see this project finally moving in the right direction. It is unfortunate that a handful of individuals continues to waste millions of dollars opposing an approved development which will provide jobs and much-needed housing for local workers. I am glad to see that the courts have once again affirmed that the City’s decision was correct.”
Eden Housing’s downtown Livermore project will add two four-story apartment buildings with a total of 130 units, as well as approximately 31,000 square feet of land that will be allocated to a public Veterans Park.
About Eden Housing
Eden Housing is a non-profit with more than 50 years of experience in tackling affordable housing from all angles. We believe that home is where your start is. Every day, we create the housing needed to make sure all of our neighbors have a place to call home and advocate for still more, because safe and affordable housing helps families stay secure, allows communities to thrive, and solves many of our cities’ most pressing challenges. Learn more at: http://www.edenhousing.org.
Johnston Communications for Eden Housing
(408) 656 8025