An Alameda County judge on Friday denied community group Save Livermore Downtown's petition challenging the city of Livermore's approval of a 130-unit affordable housing development at the southeast corner of the Railroad Avenue and L Street intersection.
The lawsuit, which was initially filed last June, argued that the City Council's approval of the project proposed by nonprofit developer Eden Housing "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."
"This is not a close case," said Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch. "The CEQA arguments are almost utterly without merit," he added while delivering his ruling at the end of the approximately hour-long hearing on the petition for writ of mandate.
He also said that with regards to whether or not the approved plan complies with the city's Downtown Specific Plan, "It seems to me that the city has supported all of their positions and they are entitled to support those with substantial evidence and they've got it."
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) argument came to light last June after Save Livermore Downtown claimed toxic contamination existed at the project site.
Prior to filing its lawsuit, the group published an ad in The Independent newspaper that accused the city of ignoring correspondence from the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board calling attention to the contamination.
At the time, city staff explained that the letter was typical and standard in nature and that it's overall purpose "was for the water board to communicate their concurrence with the city report's conclusions and request additional evaluation to assess any impacts from the property's former use as a lumber yard and also to notify the city that a site management plan would have to be reviewed and approved by the water board prior to construction and redevelopment of the site."
While the city acknowledged that some contamination was present at the site, officials said that it is not out of the ordinary and would be remediated as part of the cleanup ahead of construction.
Since then, the city has submitted a Data Gap Assessment with a Human Health Risk Assessment to the water board for the site. The Data Gap Assessment presents the results of additional subsurface testing completed in August and September 2021, according to the city's website.
Last week, the water board approved the Data Gap Assessment report, acknowledging that the report satisfies the water board's request for additional information and concurring with the recommendations presented in the report, including characterization of site conditions, estimated risk and next steps.
The board followed its approval letter with a fact sheet that summarized the results of the data gap assessment investigation. The results show that, "the chemicals detected in soil gas and groundwater at the Eden Housing site are likely the result of one or more releases from the nearby Quality Cleaners site and are not from prior lumberyard or train depot use on the Eden site," according to the fact sheet.
In regards to human health risk, the board's fact sheet said, "the estimated risks are well within levels considered by the California and United States Environmental Protection Agencies to be protective of human health and do not warrant further remediation or mitigation as part of the proposed development of the property."
As a next step, the water board is requesting that the city provide a Site Management Plan, which will describe procedures to maintain protection of human health and the environment during and after construction of the development.