The state Court of Appeal has partially granted a joint motion filed by the city of Livermore and Eden Housing, Inc. to expedite review of the pending appeal challenging the city's approval of the 130-unit affordable housing development planned for downtown.
The city and Eden Housing filed their motion on July 29, asking the appellate court to expedite the briefing schedule and in the alternative to dismiss the appeal filed by citizen group Save Livermore Downtown (SLD). California Attorney General Rob Bonta later filed an amicus brief supporting the city and Eden's request.
"We are pleased with the Court’s decision to grant the City’s motion to establish an expedited briefing schedule and to set an early hearing date in the matter," said City Attorney Jason Alcala in an email.
"The City obtained the result it wanted. The City also appreciates the Attorney General’s involvement and recognition that Save Livermore Downtown’s lawsuit is an abuse of the legal process. The City welcomes his continued support to curb and expose the tactics by Save Livermore Downtown, whose principals now call themselves Move Eden Housing, to delay the project. I look forward to the Appellate Court’s final decision, and I am confident the Court will uphold the judgment in the City’s favor," he added.
On Aug. 15, SLD filed an opposition to the city's motion, objecting to a dismissal of the appeal.
SLD first filed its appeal in April, following Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch's denial of their initial lawsuit that argued 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 and for a community park to be built on the city-owned project site instead.
In a ruling issued Thursday (Aug. 18), the appellate court denied the motion to dismiss the appeal but granted the motion to expedite with SLD's opening brief due no later than Sept. 12.
"If appellant fails to file its opening brief by September 12, 2022, the appeal will be dismissed. Respondents' brief shall be filed no later than 20 days after appellant files its opening brief, and appellant's reply brief shall be filed no later than 20 days after the respondents' brief," the court's order states.
It continues, "If oral argument is requested, the court anticipates it will set the matter for hearing on November 16, November 30, or December 14, 2022."
However, as noted on the appellate court's website, counsel for SLD is not available on Nov. 16 but is available for either of the two later dates.
Under the appellate court's accelerated schedule, there could be a ruling on the appeal before the end of the year.
While SLD was not the party that filed the motion to expedite review of the appeal, the group considers the appellate court's decision a triumph in its favor because the appeal was not dismissed.
"We are pleased that the California Court of Appeal has denied a motion filed by the City of Livermore and Eden Housing to dismiss the Save Livermore Downtown (SLD) appeal of its lawsuit," SLD told Livermore Vine in a statement. "This is an important victory. The appellate court has recognized our serious concerns and is allowing us a full process before the court. We have strong arguments that the City and Eden did not follow the Downtown Specific Plan requirements or CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) regulations."
SLD also said that the schedule established by the court still gives the group adequate time to make its arguments.
"Although the timeframe for the appeal has been accelerated, it significantly exceeds the 60-day limit that the City and Eden asked the Court to set. A very compressed time period would have curtailed SLD’s rights to brief the appeal and give oral argument before the court, as is the normal practice," the group's statement said. "Under the court’s proposed schedule, SLD can make its arguments in an appropriate timeframe. As a result, there is nothing unreasonable about the appellate court’s decision to expedite the appeal. In fact, after noting the importance of preserving our briefing rights, the statement SLD filed concluded by saying that SLD does not oppose an acceleration of the court hearing."