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Livermore: Community group sues city for approving affordable housing development downtown

Lawsuit 'last resort' to challenge 'flawed Eden plan,' rep says; Mayor Woerner calls litigation 'desperate delaying tactic'

Screenshot satellite view of the Eden Housing development site location, marked by a green teardrop icon.

Community group Save Livermore Downtown filed a lawsuit against the city of Livermore on Thursday, challenging the City Council's approval of the 130-unit Eden Housing affordable housing development planned for downtown.

The Eden Housing project site, located at the Southeast corner of the Railroad Avenue and L Street intersection, is currently being used as a public parking lot. (Photo by Cierra Bailey)

"As a last resort, Save Livermore Downtown has filed a lawsuit to halt the implementation of the Eden Housing plan," Save Livermore Downtown spokesperson Jean King said in a statement. "This action was made necessary because Livermore’s City Council members did not engage with citizens to consider alternatives to the flawed Eden plan."

The lawsuit -- a copy of which was obtained by the Weekly -- argues that the council's approval of the project "is an abuse of discretion because the project is inconsistent with Livermore's Downtown Specific Plan and because further environmental review is required to address newfound concerns regarding contamination at the project site."

The lawsuit seeks for the court to, "set aside the city's approval of the project and require the city to prepare further environmental analysis for the project, such as a supplemental environmental impact report." Additionally, the petitioners are requesting that the court "require the city and Eden Housing to resolve the project's inconsistencies with the Downtown Specific Plan."

Although a petition for writ of mandate has already been filed with the Alameda County Superior Court, Save Livermore Downtown said the group would like to meet with the city and Eden Housing to potentially find another solution. "We have communicated to the City Council and Eden Housing our desire to meet at the earliest possible moment to find acceptable alternatives to the current plan and avoid the necessity of the lawsuit," King said.

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In response to news of the litigation, Livermore Mayor Bob Woerner told the Weekly in an email, "I’ve been anticipating such a lawsuit against our city ever since the malicious political attacks started appearing in The Independent earlier this year."

"It’s a desperate delaying tactic that I believe will be rejected by the court, where the facts and the law matter," he added. "I also expect the incredibly misleading and divisive political theatrics will continue, because it is not about public safety or the law, but rather it is about manipulating public opinion for their own purposes. This frivolous lawsuit will waste precious taxpayer dollars, and shamefully delay much needed homes for our essential workers."

Vice Mayor Trish Munro shared similar sentiments. "I am deeply saddened by the cruelty of the people attempting to delay the Eden Housing development. They have no interest in building community or providing homes for real people, but simply want to benefit themselves. I wish they would reflect on the harm they do and act for the good of all," she said.

"I'm just really disappointed because it's very hard to build affordable housing and this is just making it harder," said Eden Housing President Linda Mandolini of the lawsuit. "I'm sure that the city did all of the things that the city needed to do to get us through the approvals process and so, we believe we'll prevail in court. It's just going to delay the project and I think that's really what they want to do," she said, adding that these obstacles are unfortunate because "people desperately need a place to live."

Save Livermore Downtown has been a staunch opponent of the project and previously expressed concern that the approved plan is different from the initial conceptual design that was approved by City Council in 2018, which featured four separate buildings and a larger park.

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The design that the council approved includes two four-story buildings with units that range in size from 500 to approximately 1,000 square feet. Both buildings would occupy a combined footprint of about 38,000 square feet and would include various amenities like lobbies, recreation rooms and laundry facilities.

About 31,000 square feet of land between and to the southeast of the two buildings would be allocated to Veterans Park, which would be open to the public.

City staff has previously said that the reasoning for some of the design changes since the conceptual stage were because state affordable housing grant funding requirements called for changes in the mix of units, unit sizes and common areas compared to what was initially considered for the project.

Save Livermore Downtown has also cited traffic congestion and inadequate parking among its concerns about the project, along with the concern that having four story buildings in the area "will change the character of Livermore's comfortable, open downtown."

While the group's lawsuit creates a hurdle for the city and Eden Housing, Mandolini said, "We're not giving up." She continued, "Even if it takes another year to get through the court system, we plan fully to build this project with the city."

Earlier this month, Save Livermore Downtown published an ad in The Independent newspaper that accused the city of ignoring correspondence from the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board calling attention to contamination at the site.

At the City Council's regular meeting on June 14, city staff clarified several points in the letter, explaining that the letter was typical and standard in nature and that it's overall purpose "was for the water board to communicate their concurrence with the city report's conclusions and request additional evaluation to assess any impacts from the property's former use as a lumber yard and also to notify the city that a site management plan would have to be reviewed and approved by the water board prior to construction and redevelopment of the site."

While some contamination does exist at the site, city officials said that it is not out of the ordinary and will be remediated as part of the cleanup ahead of construction.

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Livermore: Community group sues city for approving affordable housing development downtown

Lawsuit 'last resort' to challenge 'flawed Eden plan,' rep says; Mayor Woerner calls litigation 'desperate delaying tactic'

by / Pleasanton Weekly

Uploaded: Mon, Jun 28, 2021, 6:10 pm
Updated: Tue, Jun 29, 2021, 5:24 pm

Community group Save Livermore Downtown filed a lawsuit against the city of Livermore on Thursday, challenging the City Council's approval of the 130-unit Eden Housing affordable housing development planned for downtown.

"As a last resort, Save Livermore Downtown has filed a lawsuit to halt the implementation of the Eden Housing plan," Save Livermore Downtown spokesperson Jean King said in a statement. "This action was made necessary because Livermore’s City Council members did not engage with citizens to consider alternatives to the flawed Eden plan."

The lawsuit -- a copy of which was obtained by the Weekly -- argues that the council's approval of the project "is an abuse of discretion because the project is inconsistent with Livermore's Downtown Specific Plan and because further environmental review is required to address newfound concerns regarding contamination at the project site."

The lawsuit seeks for the court to, "set aside the city's approval of the project and require the city to prepare further environmental analysis for the project, such as a supplemental environmental impact report." Additionally, the petitioners are requesting that the court "require the city and Eden Housing to resolve the project's inconsistencies with the Downtown Specific Plan."

Although a petition for writ of mandate has already been filed with the Alameda County Superior Court, Save Livermore Downtown said the group would like to meet with the city and Eden Housing to potentially find another solution. "We have communicated to the City Council and Eden Housing our desire to meet at the earliest possible moment to find acceptable alternatives to the current plan and avoid the necessity of the lawsuit," King said.

In response to news of the litigation, Livermore Mayor Bob Woerner told the Weekly in an email, "I’ve been anticipating such a lawsuit against our city ever since the malicious political attacks started appearing in The Independent earlier this year."

"It’s a desperate delaying tactic that I believe will be rejected by the court, where the facts and the law matter," he added. "I also expect the incredibly misleading and divisive political theatrics will continue, because it is not about public safety or the law, but rather it is about manipulating public opinion for their own purposes. This frivolous lawsuit will waste precious taxpayer dollars, and shamefully delay much needed homes for our essential workers."

Vice Mayor Trish Munro shared similar sentiments. "I am deeply saddened by the cruelty of the people attempting to delay the Eden Housing development. They have no interest in building community or providing homes for real people, but simply want to benefit themselves. I wish they would reflect on the harm they do and act for the good of all," she said.

"I'm just really disappointed because it's very hard to build affordable housing and this is just making it harder," said Eden Housing President Linda Mandolini of the lawsuit. "I'm sure that the city did all of the things that the city needed to do to get us through the approvals process and so, we believe we'll prevail in court. It's just going to delay the project and I think that's really what they want to do," she said, adding that these obstacles are unfortunate because "people desperately need a place to live."

Save Livermore Downtown has been a staunch opponent of the project and previously expressed concern that the approved plan is different from the initial conceptual design that was approved by City Council in 2018, which featured four separate buildings and a larger park.

The design that the council approved includes two four-story buildings with units that range in size from 500 to approximately 1,000 square feet. Both buildings would occupy a combined footprint of about 38,000 square feet and would include various amenities like lobbies, recreation rooms and laundry facilities.

About 31,000 square feet of land between and to the southeast of the two buildings would be allocated to Veterans Park, which would be open to the public.

City staff has previously said that the reasoning for some of the design changes since the conceptual stage were because state affordable housing grant funding requirements called for changes in the mix of units, unit sizes and common areas compared to what was initially considered for the project.

Save Livermore Downtown has also cited traffic congestion and inadequate parking among its concerns about the project, along with the concern that having four story buildings in the area "will change the character of Livermore's comfortable, open downtown."

While the group's lawsuit creates a hurdle for the city and Eden Housing, Mandolini said, "We're not giving up." She continued, "Even if it takes another year to get through the court system, we plan fully to build this project with the city."

Earlier this month, Save Livermore Downtown published an ad in The Independent newspaper that accused the city of ignoring correspondence from the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board calling attention to contamination at the site.

At the City Council's regular meeting on June 14, city staff clarified several points in the letter, explaining that the letter was typical and standard in nature and that it's overall purpose "was for the water board to communicate their concurrence with the city report's conclusions and request additional evaluation to assess any impacts from the property's former use as a lumber yard and also to notify the city that a site management plan would have to be reviewed and approved by the water board prior to construction and redevelopment of the site."

While some contamination does exist at the site, city officials said that it is not out of the ordinary and will be remediated as part of the cleanup ahead of construction.

Comments

Steven Spedowfski
Registered user
Livermore
on Jun 29, 2021 at 9:03 am
Steven Spedowfski, Livermore
Registered user
on Jun 29, 2021 at 9:03 am

"We have communicated to the City Council and Eden Housing our desire to meet at the earliest possible moment to find acceptable alternatives to the current plan and avoid the necessity of the lawsuit," King said.

I met with this groups many times when I served as a Livermore Council Member. They never compromise, they don't know how. After the decision to approve the downtown plan, I invited the group to discuss how we can move forward, they did not respond. A few weeks later the misinformation campaign began and hasn't stopped for the last 3+ years. When she mentions "acceptable alternatives" it's basically their way or nothing. Their plan is not feasible based on basic public finance and basic engineering principles.

Elected officials and city staff have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to work with this group, costing Livermore tax payers millions in staff time, special elections, and project delays. It's time for them to move on.


Longtime Resident
Registered user
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2021 at 9:30 am
Longtime Resident, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
Registered user
on Jun 29, 2021 at 9:30 am

(Comment removed)


Rich Buckley
Registered user
Livermore
on Jun 29, 2021 at 10:16 am
Rich Buckley, Livermore
Registered user
on Jun 29, 2021 at 10:16 am

My wife and I are 3rd generation residents of Livermore. Our families have resided here since the early 1920's. We've enjoyed 75-year residency and run a small business in our downtown since the 1970's after returning from Vietnam.

My family holds an interest in downtown commercial property that we are now charged as custodians to manage. Speaking for my wife and I, would like to see our City acquire the downtown housing from the rental facilities of Legacy Partners 150 feet west of the old Lucky Store site and for City to maintain a large public destination-location park that runs from Veterans Park on the east, unobstructed through to South L Street on the West with an enlarged lighted safety green-themed crosswalk, crossing at grade level over both South L and South Livermore Ave.

RUNAWAY INFLATION 38.7% LAST 12 MONTH'S
Web Link

Our economy has entered a high inflation period (38.7% Alameda County Past 12 months). We will be brought back to the cost saving merits of condemning ready-to-go, fully vetted new housing from Legacy Partners over proceeding with Eden Housing's unfortunate designs and experimental inadequate parking ratios. The truth is, the city council is totally out of sync with the Livermore community on the scope of our central park.


Longtime Resident
Registered user
Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 29, 2021 at 2:39 pm
Longtime Resident, Another Pleasanton neighborhood
Registered user
on Jun 29, 2021 at 2:39 pm

Since my comment was removed, here's an article from a major newspaper (The New York Times) that says the same thing.

"The profusion of councils and public hearings that let NIMBYs block new homes are a legacy of a progressivism that wanted to stop big developers from slicing communities up with highways, not help wealthy homeowners fight affordable apartments."

"Americans talk like conservatives but want to be governed like liberals. In California, the same split political personality exists, but in reverse: We’re often symbolically liberal, but operationally conservative."

Web Link


Vic-tah
Registered user
Mission Park
on Jun 29, 2021 at 5:38 pm
Vic-tah, Mission Park
Registered user
on Jun 29, 2021 at 5:38 pm

NIMBY NIMBY NIMBY. We elected public officials to do the best, informed job possible. Then the NIMBYs think they know better. Costco. Home Depot. Now this.
Get over your privileged selves, will ya?


Todd
Registered user
Livermore
on Jun 29, 2021 at 9:01 pm
Todd, Livermore
Registered user
on Jun 29, 2021 at 9:01 pm

What an absolute waste of people’s time and tax payers money!


Rich Buckley
Registered user
Livermore
on Jun 30, 2021 at 9:28 am
Rich Buckley, Livermore
Registered user
on Jun 30, 2021 at 9:28 am

Antagonists to current city plan resisters points to alleged NIMBYISM. Livermore's Mayor however, promised he would be open to publicly review alternatives Eden Housing and/or Moderate to Low Income housing location across the street, north of Railroad Ave, and other possible sites, during the height of his recent mayoral campaign. He has not honored that commitment and has walked it back in so many ways. The mayor's promise was tendered at a critical moment in his election campaign, knowing 4 to 1 public preference that we keep the Old Lucky Store site open and place the housing elsewhere. The committee had even obtained legal opinion that there were legal that would support such actions.

WE ARE EXPERIENCING BROKEN SUPPLY CHAINS AND 38% CONSTRUCTION INFLATION

Directly across the street Web Link 150-feet away from the misguided Eden Housing Project, is a cost saving rental project known as Legacy Partners about 50% to 60% completed, fully vetted, with traditional parking ratios, and environmental clearances and perhaps best of all, nearly ready to go. We will save 3 to 5 years of hyperinflation costs to just condemn what we need out of the LEGACY PARTNERS project. It's hardly NIMBYISM to root for a much sounder financial solution benefiting the public and building within 150 feet. Give me a break! This is about a City Council's total disconnect in regards to expressed public opinion on this downtown project, to develop a much larger open space all the way through from South Livermore Ave to South L Street. Eden Housing muffed it, Big Time. Even their architect offered his apology.


Steven Spedowfski
Registered user
Livermore
on Jun 30, 2021 at 4:57 pm
Steven Spedowfski, Livermore
Registered user
on Jun 30, 2021 at 4:57 pm

Rich Buckley - Woerner said he would consider alternatives "if practical and feasible". No such alternatives were presented.

Where do you get the 4-1 statistic? A private survey with slanted questions?

Legacy Partners is commercial rate housing. You speak of condemnation if it were a) easy and b) cheap. it would be quite expensive to try to do so. Some of us are not so easy going with tax payer dollars.

The City conducted years of public outreach. All of the top priorities are being met. The vast majority of the public supports this project. Just look at the two latest elections and Measure P results.


Rich Buckley
Registered user
Livermore
on Jul 1, 2021 at 9:38 am
Rich Buckley, Livermore
Registered user
on Jul 1, 2021 at 9:38 am

Respectfully Steven Spedowfski, your statement is a total cop out illustrating public official double speak.

One reasonable effort by Mayor Woerner, who I and several hundred others switched to support from our posture of seeking alignments from mayoral candidates during the critical base building phase of his campaign, would have been to publicly review the costs of condemnation. He never even tried.

Meetings if any where secrete not public. Analysis was non-existent. For about $10,000+- a certified appraisal could have been secured in a timely fashion to underwrite a thorough analysis of condemnation. Factor in about 38% to 45% annualized residential inflation in Alameda County and 3 to 5 more years to get Eden Product on line compared to 1 year to be Legacy Partners on line, transferability of grants, availability of loans, a different picture begins to emerge.

Furthermore, a community of 100,000 such as Livermore can afford to own a downtown destination location attraction in the way of a city park that invites foot traffic and recreation from Legacy Partners on the West end to the Hotel on the East end.

Statistic were gather by public surveys run by committee supporting the downtown park.


Steven Spedowfski
Registered user
Livermore
on Jul 2, 2021 at 8:22 am
Steven Spedowfski, Livermore
Registered user
on Jul 2, 2021 at 8:22 am

Rich, my statement was pretty darn clear. Don't know what double speak you are referring to. Maybe you should look at the City finances a bit more carefully? It's not an endless pit to condemn whatever you feel like. Let's see, the City paid for Veteran's Way, Stockmen's Park, Railroad garage extension, and the new L Street garage. All without raising taxes. The City is pretty much tapped out for downtown funding.

Want a park that's central to downtown? Go use Carnegie.


Rich Buckley
Registered user
Livermore
on Jul 2, 2021 at 10:17 am
Rich Buckley, Livermore
Registered user
on Jul 2, 2021 at 10:17 am

Perhaps this is the spot to plug modifications I've prodded cities including Livermore for many years to start. If there is any volunteer group committee that should be given access to Livermore's official website, it's a volunteer committee to demystify city finances.

Some attempts have been made by the city. But I find, the level of work needed, needs to be brought down to simple to understand departments that the public can not only probe, but receive linked updated videos, on what the information seen on line actually means.

My eyes glaze over and I drift into a numb-fog when I look at most city published budgets. I need quick simple talk-through before I understand. Surely there are retired CFO's living in Livermore who could be persuaded to participate. I would be happy to serve such a committee by asking stupid questions.

I try to write contracts so a child might understand in hearing it, "You get that, we provide this," sort of language. My mind operates more like a child when looking at city finances. The net result is, as it stands now, I can not get to the bottom of anything on line..... and that's the way City Staff prefers it. I can understand privacy around personnel issues. Beyond that however, everything seems to be kept a maze of disconnected parts.

Imagine this. Say for example, I am a local resident that thinks the entire city council is foolishly, caught up in some sort of city staff guided financial formula pushed on to a former mayor who swallows it hook, line and sinker that the city can't possibly make adjustments. All endorsements following to other political candidates then become dependent on swallowing the same city mgr guided dictum. Anyone thereafter disagreeing is demonized... because, well, we can't do this, it's not in the budget.

But what if our volunteer committee placed on line an in depth, sensitivity analysis cash flow eXcel-like program, that allowed anyone to interact, and adjust?

Na-a-


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