Citizen group appeals judge's rejection of lawsuit over proposed Costco store | February 5, 2021 | Pleasanton Weekly | PleasantonWeekly.com |

Pleasanton Weekly

News - February 5, 2021

Citizen group appeals judge's rejection of lawsuit over proposed Costco store

Specific arguments unknown; notice of appeal filed Jan. 15

by Jeremy Walsh

Pleasanton Citizens for Responsible Growth are appealing an Alameda County Superior Court judge's rejection of their lawsuit against the city of Pleasanton over environmental approvals for the proposed Costco store and overarching Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone.

The specific points of the appeal are not yet known, but attorney Mark R. Wolfe filed a notice of appeal with the county court on Jan. 15 on behalf of the citizen group spearheaded by former city councilman Matt Sullivan.

"We respectfully disagree with the trial judge's view that the final EIR for the JDEDZ fairly considered the cumulative impacts on traffic and air quality of the Costco project in tandem with the IKEA, Kaiser, 'At Dublin,' and other massive, traffic-generating development projects approved in Dublin in the last five years after the EIR's analysis was performed," Sullivan told the Weekly. "We are now waiting for the Court of Appeal to send us a letter stating when our opening brief is due."

Pleasanton city attorney Dan Sodergren declined to comment on the appeal, saying he does not comment on pending litigation.

Suing the city for the second time over the JDEDZ and Costco, PCRG challenged the adequacy of the city's second round of environmental review that occurred after a settlement in the group's prior lawsuit in 2018 and that the City Council approved in February 2020 in the hopes of advancing the project.

At issue in the new lawsuit is whether the city adequately considered the cumulative air quality and traffic impacts on the JDEDZ caused by three proposed or pending projects in neighboring Dublin — the IKEA store, Kaiser Permanente medical campus and At Dublin — as well as whether the city adequately responded to two public comments in its recirculated final supplemental environmental impact report (RFSEIR).

Judge Frank Roesch ruled in favor of the city in November after hearing arguments in the case, denying PCRG's petition for writ of mandate.

"There is substantial evidence in the record demonstrating that the RFSEIR adequately considered the three Dublin projects identified by Petitioner in the RFSEIR's analysis of the Project's cumulative traffic and air quality impacts," Roesch said in his written order and judgment.

"There is likewise substantial evidence in the record supporting the adequacy of the RFSEIR's responses to (the comments in question), and the Court finds that those responses included good faith reasoned analysis in compliance with the requirements of CEQA," the judge added.

The judgment, which followed a court hearing on Nov. 13, was signed on Nov. 17, starting the clock on the 60-day appeal window.

An attempt to reach Costco, which is a real party in interest in the lawsuit, was unsuccessful.

Under consideration since 2014, the JDEDZ is the local regulatory framework laying out how redevelopment could occur for a new Costco Wholesale store with gas station, two hotels and other projects at prominent property just south of the I-680 and I-580 interchange.

The project was previously paused by a ballot measure in 2016 (which went in Costco's favor) and the prior PCRG environmental lawsuit (which both sides settled, resulting in the RFSEIR), in addition to this second lawsuit by the citizen group.

The timeline of the proposed Costco project and design review application, as well as the already approved plans from a hotel developer to build two hotels with 231 rooms in the JDEDZ area, remain unclear. No injunction has been ordered by any court so far in the current case, so any project proponent would be proceeding at their own risk with the appeal pending.

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