Community group Save Livermore Downtown was recently ordered to post a $500,000 bond to Eden Housing as a result of the group's lawsuit challenging the city's approval of a new 130-unit affordable housing development planned for downtown.
The lawsuit, which was filed back in June, argues that the City Council's approval of the project "is an abuse of discretion because the project is inconsistent with Livermore's Downtown Specific Plan and because further environmental review is required to address newfound concerns regarding contamination at the project site."
"We were forced to file our citizen lawsuit, supported by dozens of individuals who donated -- mostly small contributions -- to the cause, because the City Council refused to seriously consider alternatives to the project," Save Livermore Downtown told Livermore Vine in a statement.
While the case is not expected to go to trial until February, Eden Housing asked the Alameda County Superior Court to order Save Livermore Downtown to post the bond for "costs and damages incurred as a result of the affordable housing project’s delay."
On Sept. 27, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled in Eden Housing's favor and ordered the group to post the bond.
The new development proposed by Eden Housing and approved by the city of Livermore will consist of homes ranging from one to three bedrooms for low-income families and the local workforce at the southeast corner of the Railroad Avenue and L Street intersection, a site that formerly housed a Lucky store.
The plan consists of two four-story buildings with units that range in size from 500 to approximately 1,000 square feet. Both buildings would occupy a combined footprint of about 38,000 square feet and will include various amenities like lobbies, recreation rooms and laundry facilities. About 31,000 square feet of land between and to the southeast of the two buildings would be allocated to Veterans Park, which would be open to the public.
Two private underground parking garages are also a part of the proposal, with additional parking reserved for residents of the complex in the nearby L Street public garage.
The units would be reserved for residents with incomes between 20% and 60% of the Alameda County area median income, which includes individuals earning less than $55,000 a year and less than $78,000 a year for a family of four.
According to court documents obtained by Livermore Vine, the court found that Save Livermore Downtown's lawsuit "has the effect of delaying the provision of affordable housing and that the preponderance of the evidence supports the conclusion that the action has been brought for the purpose of delaying the provision of affordable housing."
The judge also found that posting the hefty bond would not create "undue economic harm" for Save Livermore Downtown as the group "admits to having at least 50 people contributing money to it."
On Oct. 7, the First District Court of Appeal denied Save Livermore Downtown's motion requesting an immediate stay to halt Roesch's ruling as the appellate court did not find the decision to be "clearly erroneous as a matter of law."
The appellate court also found that the bond would not cause economic hardship for Save Livermore Downtown for the same reasons stated by the trial court and because the group, "by its own admission, spent approximately $37,000 on designing its proposed alternative project."
"We were disappointed that the Alameda County Superior Court judge granted Eden Housing’s motion for a bond. We thought the judge granted the motion without factual and legal support," Save Livermore Downtown said in its statement.
The group said it believes the issues raised by Eden Housing's bond motion "have nothing to do with the merits of the lawsuit."
"The merits of the case will be addressed by the court at the writ of mandate trial scheduled for Feb. 4, 2022. Save Livermore Downtown recently filed its opening brief on the merits in support of its lawsuit. The opening brief makes strong arguments as to why the city failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act and planning and zoning laws in approving Eden Housing’s project," Save Livermore Downtown said, adding that the group looks forward to the upcoming trial and continuing its fight.
Eden Housing said it agrees with the court's ruling on the bond motion.
"We believe that the court was correct in its assessment that Save Downtown Livermore’s lawsuit was brought to delay the development of much-needed affordable housing," said Eden Housing representatives in an email.
Livermore Mayor Bob Woerner addressed the status of the lawsuit in his Mayor's Report aired on TV30 and streamed online at tri-valleytv.org.
During the segment, Woerner said the damages to Eden Housing resulting from the lawsuit are "substantial" because, "Eden was just informed that, that project got the leading score in the East Bay regional allocation for the 9% tax credit financing -- which is so critical for these projects -- and that financing is now at risk because of the lawsuit," he said.
Woerner also said that following the ruling on the bond motion, he is "optimistic" looking ahead to the trial set for early next year.