An Alameda County judge dismissed a lawsuit seeking to block 130 affordable homes from coming to the Tri-Valley city of Livermore, calling the claims “utterly without merit.”
Rejecting the suit filed by Save Livermore Downtown was “not a close call,” said Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The decision marks another step in the lengthy battle over the site in downtown Livermore, which has a population of about 88,000 and homes that sell for a median price of about $1.1 million. The city designated the property for affordable housing 15 years ago and in 2018 picked Eden Housing as its developer.
The suit has already delayed the project by a year and forced the nonprofit to return $68 million of low-income tax credits, Eden President Linda Mandolini told the newspaper.
“Had we been able to retain that award, we would be starting construction later this year,” Mandolini said. “Instead, we will be starting over to apply for this funding. While we at Eden are pleased with the court’s decision, we would vastly have preferred to be proceeding with the construction of this development in 2022.”
While the Bay Area is short of more than 160,000 affordable homes, it’s not the first time that a local town has tried to push back on affordable housing. Woodside, where single-family homes sell for a median of $4.6 million, tried and failed to block housing because of its mountain lion population.
The Livermore project’s prominent location has made it a target for opponents. Planning Commissioner John Stein said he didn’t want his downtown to become a “ghetto of affordable housing.” Stein voted against the proposal after apologizing for the comment.
The fight isn’t over. Save Livermore attorney Winston Stromberg said the group, which has spent more than $1 million on mailers and advertising opposing the project, may challenge the ruling at the California Court of Appeal. An appeal could push back the construction start date by another two years, the Chronicle said.
“We want to make clear that we are not giving up on fighting for a downtown Livermore that reflects the character of the community,” Save Livermore’s Jean King told the Chronicle.
Still, for Livermore Mayor Bob Woerner, the judge’s decision shows that the suit was little more than a stalling tactic to keep out low-income housing.
“I firmly believe it would be best for the community if they would stop these extremely divisive and futile delaying tactics and let us move forward,” Woerner told the Chronicle.
Eden has Livermore’s approval to build the homes on a 2.5-acre parcel near the southeast corner of Railroad Avenue and L Street. Units would be reserved for people and families earning less than 60 percent of Alameda County’s local median income, or up to $54,840 a person and $104,400 for a family of four, the Chronicle said. The county has allocated $14.4 million in bond funding to Eden for the project.
[San Francisco Chronicle] — Matthew Niksa