The League of California Cities recently demonstrated support for the city of Livermore in the pending appeal challenging the City Council's approval of the 130-unit Eden Housing development under the California Environmental Quality Act.
The association, also known as Cal Cities, filed an amicus brief with the appellate court last month, backing the city against community group Save Livermore Downtown, which filed the appeal in April after its initial lawsuit against the city was denied in Alameda County Superior Court earlier this year.
SLD argues that the city's approval of the complex -- set to be built at the southeast corner of Railroad Avenue and L Street -- violated state environmental policy and the city's own Downtown Specific Plan. The group is advocating for the housing development to be relocated to a yet-undetermined location and for a community park to be built on the project site instead.
In the midst of the ongoing litigation, the previously city-owned land has already been sold to developer Eden Housing, Inc. but opponents of the project are not backing down.
Cal Cities -- an association of 479 California cities -- "is dedicated to protecting and restoring local control to provide for the public health, safety, and welfare of their residents, and to enhance the quality of life for all Californians," according to court documents obtained by Livermore Vine.
The organization filed the amicus brief after determining that the case raises issues that affect all cities.
"Specifically, the appellant's contentions concerning the standard of judicial review and its piecemeal (and often mistaken) focus on various design standards without addressing the city's overall findings of the project at issue's consistency with its Downtown Specific Plan implicate the constitutionally allocated authority of cities and counties," the document reads.
Cal Cities also said that SLD's environmental claims demonstrate a concerning and growing practice of litigation abuse.
"As Cal Cities' members strive to meet their communities' mounting housing needs, opponents of housing development seek to delay or halt such efforts through misuse of the state's environmental laws. Cal Cities believes this court's decision on the appellant's CEQA claims may implicate future CEQA disputes and ultimately, the law's identity as either an obstructive tool for anti-housing groups or a powerful tool for proponents of affordable housing."
Citing several references including relevant literature, authorities and other California appellate court examples, Cal Cities' amicus brief urges the court to affirm the trial court's decision and uphold the city's approval of the project.
The Cal Cities' amicus brief contends that SLD is misusing CEQA in an effort to block affordable housing, which was also the argument at the center of California Attorney General Rob Bonta's amicus brief filed back in August.
"Perhaps the most compelling evidence that SLD is motivated by personal preferences rather than by legitimate environmental concerns is the fact that SLD does not even claim the housing project will negatively impact the environment," Cal Cities' amicus brief reads, adding:
"Rather, appellant's CEQA claims rely on the argument that the 'soil and groundwater contamination at the project site is far more severe than what was assumed in the city's previous environmental review documents.' Appellant argues that because it contends the contamination at the project site is greater than what was originally believed, the city was required to do additional environmental review. In arguing this point, SLD reveals its lack of experience working with CEQA."
The hearing for the appeal is set for next Wednesday (Dec. 14), following a partially granted joint motion filed by the city and Eden Housing, Inc. to expedite review of the case.