Move Eden Housing is advocating for the relocation of the Eden Housing complex in favor of a community park being built on the current project site instead, although the group is not publicly advocating for a specific alternative location.
"The lawsuit is our last chance to stop the City Council from allowing a project that would degrade Livermore's downtown for generations," said Maryann Brent, a leader of the Move Eden Housing group. "We strongly support the creation of new affordable housing in Livermore, but not in the center of our downtown which should be a focal point for the city's residents."
Resident Richard Ryon -- who is named as a petitioner in the lawsuit -- initially filed paperwork to begin circulating a referendum petition in early June. After collecting more than approximately 8,000 signatures, the petition was submitted to the city on July 8.
Livermore city clerk Marie Weber deemed the council's action approving the DDLA as administrative, not legislative, and therefore not eligible for a challenge by referendum. Weber explained the decision in a letter to Ryon and his attorney Barry Fadem, noting that the city's response was based on the advice of city attorney Jason Alcala and special counsel.
According to a statement from Move Eden Housing, the lawsuit is asking the court to compel Weber to process the referendum petition, place a hold on the sale of the city-owned project site to Eden Housing and to ultimately allow Livermore residents to vote on the referendum.
"We believe that the City Clerk has no authority or basis in the law for refusing to process the petition signatures," said Fadem, who also represents Move Eden Housing. "We are simply asking the court to allow Livermore voters the opportunity to have their voice heard on this matter, as this is one of the fundamental rights granted by the California constitution."
City officials told the Weekly that as of last Friday, they had not yet been served with a copy of the lawsuit that was filed on Aug. 1.
"The City has not been served yet and since this is a matter involving litigation, we are not commenting on the lawsuit that was filed at this time," officials said in an email.
Move Eden Housing's goal is to repeal the resolution that approved the DDLA, "which could provide a future City Council majority elected this November with the ability to move the Eden Housing development to an alternative location," according to the group's statement.
After the lawsuit was filed last week, the case was assigned to Judge Frank Roesch who earlier this year denied Save Livermore Downtown's lawsuit which sought to overturn the city's initial approval of the Eden Housing project.
At the time, Roesch said the group's arguments that the project violated the California Environmental Quality Act were "almost utterly without merit." The group has since filed an appeal, which is still pending.
Although Move Eden Housing and Save Livermore Downtown identify as separate organizations, they share members and are advocating for similar actions related to the Eden Housing project.
On Aug. 3, attorney Winston P. Stromberg of Latham & Watkins LLP submitted a peremptory challenge to disqualify Roesch from presiding over Move Eden Housing's case.
"I believe Judge Roesch is prejudiced against the Petitioners or their interests, to such extent that Petitioners cannot receive a fair and impartial hearing before Judge Roesch," Stromberg wrote.
All of the city's documents and letters pertaining to the referendum, including the approved resolution authorizing the DDLA with Eden Housing, are available to the public on the city's website.
Attorney general backs city in SLD appeal
California Attorney General Rob Bonta filed an amicus brief Tuesday in the case of Save Livermore Downtown v. City of Livermore, supporting the city's request for dismissal or expedited review of the pending appeal challenging its approval of the Eden Housing project under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
"Timing is critical for affordable housing projects, which often rely on time-sensitive funding sources like tax credits to finance development," Bonta said in a statement. "The project at issue in this case would bring desperately needed affordable housing to the City of Livermore, and I commend the City for its efforts to address the housing needs of its community."
He added that CEQA is intended to protect the environment and public health, not to block new development. "Expedited review of this case will be key to allowing this development to proceed without further delay," Bonta said.
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