Save Livermore Downtown (SLD) faces yet another court rejection in its quest to overturn the City Council's approval of a 130-unit affordable housing development.
The California Supreme Court case online docket was updated Thursday afternoon to reflect its denial of the community group's petition asking the court to review the appellate court's published decision that affirmed the trial court's judgment in favor of developer Eden Housing, Inc. and the city of Livermore.
"We are grateful to the California Supreme Court for supporting affordable housing and reinforcing the importance of the City of Livermore’s vision to provide diverse housing opportunities to its community,” said Linda Mandolini, president and CEO of Eden Housing.
She continued, "This is the third ruling against Save Livermore Downtown and it’s our sincere hope that we can now focus on moving forward with developing much needed affordable housing rather than wasting precious time and resources on meritless lawsuits. We are thankful to the City of Livermore’s steadfast support of this development and look forward to welcoming low-income families and residents who are in dire need of finding a place to call home."
SLD filed its petition to the Supreme Court in early March. According to a previous statement from SLD, the petition sought to address "important questions of law related to the level of deference courts are to give to cities and counties approving housing projects and the findings that must be made as part of those approvals."
The group's initial lawsuit seeking to overturn the city's approval of the project -- which is planned for the southeast corner of the Railroad Avenue and L Street intersection -- was denied in trial court in February of 2022. The group argued that the project was inconsistent with Livermore's Downtown Specific Plan and violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
After Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch rejected their case and deemed their claims "almost utterly without merit," SLD filed an appeal which was also ultimately denied by the California First District Court of Appeal in December of 2022.
At the time of writing, a request for comment from SLD about the Supreme Court decision was unsuccessful.
City Attorney Jason Alcala told Livermore Vine in a statement, "The City is pleased with the California Supreme Court’s decision denying Save Livermore Downtown’s petition. That decision upholds both the Appellate Court’s published decision, and the Trial Court’s judgment, that determined the City properly approved the Eden Housing project. The Supreme Court’s decision marks yet another rejection of Save Livermore Downtown’s case, and confirms the prior court determinations that the case was almost utterly without merit and brought for the purpose of delaying an affordable housing project."
Former Livermore mayor Bob Woerner -- who was embroiled in the debate over this project during his two-year term as mayor and several years before while serving on City Council -- has continued to follow the case and expressed support for the Supreme Court's decision.
"I am grateful that after many years of needless and harmful delay SLD’s meritless lawsuit is finally over," Woerner said. "The original suit was so weak that it was easy for the courts to justify forcing SLD to post a $500,000 bond that can now be paid to Eden Housing as partial compensation for the much more significant damages caused by SLD’s lawsuit. SLD’s appeal to the California Supreme Court was equally weak and contrived, and the court wasted little time in issuing its denial."
Woerner also addressed Move Eden Housing (MEH) in his comments -- another group that filed a lawsuit last year challenging the city's decision to not process a referendum petition which sought to overturn the City Council's approval of an amended disposition, development and loan agreement for the Eden Housing development.
Both SLD and MEH share members and financial backers, including Joan Seppala – publisher of The Independent newspaper.
"MEH, which is also funded by Joan Seppala, should drop its own meritless lawsuit now rather than waste more time and money pursuing frivolous legal machinations that only harm our community," Woerner said. "The numerous court decisions rendered so far make it abundantly clear that MEH will not be able to prevent the much needed housing from eventually being built."
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story included references to a forthcoming full written ruling from the Supreme Court. According to court officials, the online docket reflects the court's official decision.