The debate over the affordable housing development planned for downtown Livermore continues with Save Livermore Downtown's most recent move asking the California Supreme Court to review the appellate court's published decision that affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of developer Eden Housing and the city of Livermore.
The group filed its petition to the court on March 7. In a statement to Livermore Vine, the group said that its petition "addresses important questions of law related to the level of deference courts are to give to cities and counties approving housing projects and the findings that must be made as part of those approvals."
The focus area of the petition was determined because the Supreme Court's grounds for deciding which appellate decisions it will review are "narrow".
According to the court document obtained by Livermore Vine, the specific issues presented for review are:
1. What does it mean for a project to be consistent with a local agency's general or specific plan, and how much deference should a court afford an agency's findings that a housing development project is, in fact, consistent with such plan(s)?
2. How much detail must a local agency provide in its findings approving a development project under California's planning and zoning law?
"The petition recognizes that there are various lines of appellate opinions about what it means for a project to be 'consistent' with an applicable land use planning document, such as a general plan or a specific plan, and that those cases are challenging to reconcile with one another," SLD said in its statement. "In addition, the petition notes that recent amendments to the state's Housing Accountability Act (HAA) may have muddied the waters on this issue even further, presenting an issue that has never been considered by the California Supreme Court."
If the petition is granted, SLD maintains the court's review of the case would provide an opportunity to clarify existing law and allow the group to "demonstrate how the city inappropriately determined that the Eden Housing project was consistent with the city's Downtown Specific Plan."
Livermore city attorney Jason Alcala underscored the fact that SLD's previous legal actions were unsuccessful and criticized the veracity of the new petition.
"Save Livermore Downtown's petition presents a distorted view of the case, and does not accurately represent the thoughtful and articulate decisions by both the trial court and the Court of Appeals that rejected Save Livermore Downtown's petition," Alcala said. "Instead, it attempts to hide the fact that both the trial court and the appellate court determined that Save Livermore Downtown's case was not even close, and that Save Livermore Downtown's case was brought to delay affordable housing."
Linda Mandolini, president and CEO of Eden Housing, expressed frustration with SLD's continued efforts to halt the housing development that would provide 130 units of affordable housing for Livermore's workforce and low-income residents.
"It is truly disappointing that, after two years of lawsuits and consistent losses, Save Livermore Downtown continues to take meritless legal actions with the aim to stall the Downtown Livermore project," said Mandolini.
She continued, "If these suits hadn't been filed, we would now be welcoming 130 families to their new homes. Given the scope and scale of the affordable housing crisis we face in the Bay Area and California, it is tragic that groups like SLD continue to look for CEQA loopholes to derail housing that would help so many individuals and families in dire need of a place to call home. These lawsuits not only hurt the people who really need a home, they also continue to make it harder for our local businesses to hire local workers."
Alcala said the city and Eden Housing are preparing to answer SLD's petition, which he anticipates will be filed with the Supreme Court on or before March 27. "That answer is intended to ensure the California Supreme Court remains focused on the facts in the case and the prior decisions," he said.
However, SLD also said that it is anticipating arguments to be submitted by the city and Eden and that the group plans to respond in early April -- after the arguments are expected to be filed.
While the petition's impact on the project itself remains to be seen, Alcala expressed that he was optimistic that the state Supreme Court will reject SLD's petition before June, which would limit its effect.