Sunday, June 25, 2017

Judge denies "Sue the Suburbs" lawsuit seeking more housing in East Bay city

Judge denies "Sue the Suburbs" lawsuit seeking more housing in East Bay city

Apr 7, 2017, 7:04am PDT Updated Apr 7, 2017, 10:22am PDT

A Contra Costa County Superior Court judge ruled on Thursday against activists who filed a lawsuit against Lafayette that sought to increase the East Bay city's housing production.

Judge Judith Craddick denied a writ of mandate sought by pro-development activist Sonja Trauss, who leads the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation (SFBARF). Her suit alleged that Lafayette had violated the state's Housing Accountability Act by approving a smaller single-family housing development in 2015 rather than a larger apartment complex.

A rendering of O'Brien Homes' proposed single-family project Homes at Deer Hill in… more


The case is part of the group's larger legal and political effort to increase the amount of housing development in the Bay Area. Trauss and her fellow activists have sought to use the 1982 Housing Accountability Act as a tool to keep cities from reducing the size of projects that fit within a city's zoning. They've also cited the law in a lawsuit against Berkeley over a rejected three-unit housing proposal and plan to take action again there.

The petitioners have 20 days to file an appeal in the Lafayette case but haven't decided whether to pursue it, said Trauss.

In Lafayette, developer O'Brien Homes had initially proposed 315 apartments at the intersection of Deer Hill and Pleasant Hill roads. But the developer revised its plans and eventually received approval for a project with 44 single-family homes, which will be more expensive.

Judge Craddick wrote that the developer said it voluntarily pursued the less dense project, so Lafayette didn't violate the Housing Accountability Act.

“Lafayette supports smart growth, not indiscriminate growth. In this case, the city and the developer agreed to work together on a more suitable plan for that parcel. That’s good government," said Steven Falk, Lafayette's city manager, in a statement.

Trauss and SFBARF argued that the city pressured the developer to reduce the size of its project, harming potential renters who want to live in Lafayette.

"We are disappointed that Judge Craddick sided against hundreds of middle-class aspirational residents in favor of upholding Lafayette's exclusionary character. The California Legislature passed the Housing Accountability Act to rein in NIMBY ("not in my backyard") suburbs like Lafayette. Unfortunately, the court ruled in favor of maintaining the housing shortage, which harms low- and middle-income people the most," the petitioners said in a statement.
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