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California Attorney General Rob Bonta has submitted an amicus brief in a lawsuit filed by the group Save Livermore Downtown against the city of Livermore, supporting the city’s request for dismissal, or expedited review, of an appeal challenging the city’s approval of Eden Housing’s 130-unit, downtown affordable housing project.

The initial lawsuit was filed in June 2021 and alleges the project is not consistent with Livermore’s downtown plan and the city did not do enough environmental review.

According to a statement from Bonta’s office, “a trial court flatly rejected Save Livermore Downtown’s claims and dismissed the lawsuit. Now, the continued delay caused by this litigation threatens to jeopardize the project’s funding.”

“As California confronts a severe housing shortfall, Attorney General Bonta argues that CEQA (California Environmental Quality Act) must not be allowed to thwart the construction of necessary affordable housing or the statutory processes intended to streamline these projects,” the statement says.

The Livermore City Council unanimously approved the plan in May 2021. The four-story project will be built on 2.5 acres on the corner of South L Street and Railroad Avenue. The one- to three-bedroom units will vary from 500 to about 1,000 square feet each and will go to Livermore residents making less than $55,000 a year as individuals and up to $78,000 a year for families of four.

“Timing is critical for affordable housing projects … The project at issue in this case would bring desperately needed affordable housing to the City of Livermore, and I commend the City for its efforts to address the housing needs of its community. …”

Attorney General Rob Bonta

More than 100 people spoke on the matter at the meeting, about a third of whom were very vocal in opposition.

Many speakers said the project — which will include two underground parking garages and a dedicated spot for every unit — would make downtown parking even more problematic. Some disagreed with the design, while others said they worried about how the project would affect their property values. At least one resident said people who can’t afford to reside in Livermore should live elsewhere.

The city, which owns the property that once held a Lucky grocery store, planned affordable housing for the site as far back as 2003. Eden secured $14.4 million for the project through Alameda County’s Measure A1 bond, contingent on the city putting low-income housing there. The council ruled the project conforms with the city’s downtown plan and its general plan.

Bonta said the council made the right decision.

“Timing is critical for affordable housing projects, which often rely on time-sensitive funding sources like tax credits to finance development,” Bonta said. “The project at issue in this case would bring desperately needed affordable housing to the City of Livermore, and I commend the City for its efforts to address the housing needs of its community. Our state is continuing to face a housing shortage and affordability crisis of epic proportions.”

Despite losing at trial, Save Livermore Downtown appealed. Opponents collected thousands of signatures to put the matter on the November ballot, which the city rejected last month because the council’s decision was administrative, not legislative, and therefore did not qualify for the ballot.

Bonta said Livermore “carefully followed a planning process that comports with both the letter and spirit of state law,” and the appeal shouldn’t be allowed to “stall or block critical projects.”