The judge who heard the lawsuit against the Richmond Hills Initiative has issued his verdict. The good news is that he ruled that the majority of the issues raised by the plaintiffs were not valid and he denied a “writ of mandamus” for them. However, he did rule that one issue WAS valid – that the RHI creates an “inconsistency” with the Richmond General Plan, because the diagrams and maps in the General Plan would no longer match the RHI-amended text.
This inconsistency is there. However, it could be easily remedied. In fact, California State Government Code (section 65754) mandates that if a court finds an inconsistency, it is required to direct the city to fix that inconsistency. In the only precedent decision regarding a voter initiative that created an inconsistency, the appellate court found that remanding the matter back to the city to cure the inconsistency was the appropriate course of action. However our judge did not seem to feel that this applied to this case. He has declined to state why he doesn’t feel that it applies here. Furthermore, he refused to grant “severability”, which would mean that even though one aspect was struck down, the others remain valid and in place. He issued a final ruling in early May 2018, which invalidates the Initiative.
The Sierra Club, with help from the City of Richmond and Friends of the Richmond Hills, has filed an appeal. We feel strongly that we have an excellent chance of success at restoring what was clearly the desire of the voters. The final brief in the case will presumably be submitted sometime this year (2019), after which the court will set a hearing date.
During the process of appeal, the provisions of the Initiative will remain in place, so no development can take place while this issue is in court.