Newly formed community group Move Eden Housing filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court on Monday, taking their efforts to implore the city to process their referendum petition a step further.
The referendum petition seeks to overturn the City Council's May approval of an amended disposition, development and loan agreement (DDLA) for the 130-unit affordable housing development and public park planned for downtown at the southeast corner of Railroad Avenue and L Street.
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.
"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 Livermore Vine that as of Friday afternoon, they had not yet been served.
"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 on Monday, 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 Wednesday, 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.