October 26, 2019
We appealed the 2018 ruling of Judge Goode which found an inconsistency between the RHI and the Richmond General Plan (as detailed below in 2018 News), and finally got a hearing date for October 15 2019. As we prepared for this, we learned that:
- All developer parties had dropped their cross-appeals, so the only remaining issue was the inconsistency (they could have re-tried the issues that we had already won).
- One of the defendants to the appeal, Denham, dropped out for unknown reasons, leaving only the owners of the Forest Green property with standing in the appeal.
- The previous owners of the Forest Green property (Gray 1 Forest Green) had donated their land to the Waldorf School (presumably because they saw it as undevelopable and gained a tax benefit by doing so).
The October 15 hearing went well. We were told that we could expect a judgement in 90 days.
However, we just received the judgement yesterday and it is very much in our favor! The court reversed the decision of the trial court and the City of Richmond will be directed to cure the inconsistency in its General Plan to make it harmonize with the RHI. This is a giant step towards finalizing the protections that the RHI brings to the hillsides!
There is still work to do, for instance meeting with a new City Council as they amend the General Plan. And, there is still some threat remaining – for instance, the case could be appealed to the California Supreme Court, although this is very unlikely. We feel confident that we will surmount any further obstacles that arise.
This is a huge victory for the people, flora and fauna of Richmond and El Sobrante! Hats off to everyone for all the work of the last 40 years!
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.