April 29, 2024

On March 28, 2024, there was a hearing of the developers (Denham, LLC, Nikta, LLC, and Manning-NextBay Venture, LLC,) last open claim. That claim asserted that they had exhausted their remedies in a timely fashion, which, if true, would have compelled the City of Richmond to prepare a quasi-CEQA assessment of the RHI zoning changes. The judge disagreed with their in-court argument and upheld his tentative ruling, which denied their petition. In short, we won!

This is great news, indeed. There may well be further challenges later on, but for now all is well.

August 8, 2024
The Case Management Conference mentioned below has occurred, and there will be a hearing of the developers remaining open claim, which would compel the City to prepare a quasi-CEQA assessment of the zoning changes called for by the RHI. The developers say they exhausted their remedies in a timely fashion, and we say they didn’t. Even if they were to win, it won’t jeopardize the Initiative – it will simply cost everyone more time and money. The date for the hearing is currently set for Feb. 8, 2024.

May 1, 2023
The City expects to complete the administrative record in June 2023. The Case Management Conference is now scheduled for June 15, 2023.

February 24, 2023
The would-be developers submitted a second amended petition to the court in December. In response, the city and the intervenors (us) determined that rather than filing a demurrer to the amended petition, a full administrative record should be prepared. The judge had said previously that he can only consider whether the developers exhausted their administrative remedies, as our side claims, with a full record before him. The city is now preparing the administrative record. A Case Management Conference is scheduled for April 27. Presumably, the administrative record will be completed by then, and the judge will set a briefing schedule for the second amended petition. More information to follow when we know the briefing schedule.

November 16, 2022
After the September 22, 2022 hearing, the judge dismissed outright two of the developers’ three claims, but he allowed them to amend their petition on the third. That claim asserts that, because of the zoning changes that were made to implement the RHI, the City is required to do a new environmental study. Even if that claim is eventually upheld (and it may well not be, after the judge considers the merits of the arguments), it will not overturn the initiative – it will just force Richmond to do the study. In order to proceed with this claim, the developer must submit an amended petition by December 9th, 2022. A final ruling might be expected in early Spring 2023.

August 16, 2022
The second hearing of the second phase of the new legal challenge has been postponed once again, by request of Denham’s attorney. It is now scheduled to be heard on September 22, 2022

June 22, 2022
The second hearing of the second phase of the new legal challenge has been postponed several times. It is now scheduled to be heard on July 28, 2022

February 10, 2022
The first hearing of the second phase of the new legal challenge was heard on this date. The judge ruled in our favor, but is allowing the petitioners (the speculators) to amend their complaint.

November 12, 2021
The first hearing of the second phase of the new legal challenge mentioned below has been postponed. It was rescheduled for January 21, 2022, but was then postponed again until February 10, 2022.

October 8, 2021
A new legal challenge to the Richmond Hills Initiative has arisen. It’s being presented in two phases. The first phase has already been through the court and was quickly and summarily dismissed. The second phase, which has its first hearing on December 9, 2021, is more complex, and we feel the need to provide additional specialized legal help to support the City of Richmond’s defense of the RHI, as we have done several times in the past. You can donate to make that possible by clicking here.

April 29, 2021
The City of Richmond returned the Writ of Mandate to the court on April 28th, 2021, thus curing the inconsistency in the General Plan that was the technicality that prevented the RHI from being fully implemented. In other words – we have won!!!

This amazing effort, the culmination of 30+ years of work by the community, has succeeded in protecting our hillsides for future generations. Bravo! You can read more about the history of the RHI by clicking here.

We anticipate legal challenges to the RHI in the future. The difference between “before” and now is that, “before”, we had to prove over and over again the unsuitability of the land for development. Now that the RHI is in full effect, a specific body of law, blessed by the voters, the City Council, and the courts, is in place to protect the hills by default.

April 7, 2021
Last night, the Richmond City Council voted unanimously to amend the City’s General Plan and Municipal Code to bring them into accord with the Richmond Hills Initiative (RHI). This clears yet another hurdle in the path to the full realization of the RHI. The City, after implementing the fixes, will return the writ of mandamus to the court for approval. We are getting very close to the final legal acceptance of the RHI!

March 8, 2021
The Richmond Planning Commission met on March 4, 2021, to consider approving a cure to the inconsistency in the General Plan mentioned below, and unanimously (with one abstention), did do so! That is great news. The issue now moves on to the Richmond City Council, which is required to consider this issue in two C.C. sessions. The first meeting will be on March 16th, the 2nd meeting perhaps on March 30 or alternately April 6th.

December 1, 2020
The Richmond Planning Commission’s October 15, 2020 meeting to consider ways to amend the General Plan in order to implement the Richmond Hills Initiative did take place, but nothing was decided. The City has been granted a 120-day extension to implement the fix, which is, by court order, mandatory. The new deadline for curing the inconsistency is roughly February 12, 2021.

We were struck recently, when walking on the Clark-Boas trail, how different a scene might present itself to us had we all not fought so hard to stave off development of this area for so long. In particular, it occurred to us that the pandemic might have realized our worst fears for the area – massive gradings and terraforming started in the hills, only to be abandoned to the ravages of winter because of business failure, lack of skilled workers, increase in material costs, and other Covid-19 related problems. It could have been a real mess. Once again, thank you all for all your efforts!

October 14, 2020
The Richmond Planning Commission’s meeting to amend the City’s General Plan in order to implement the Richmond Hills Initiative will be taking place tomorrow (October 15). If possible, it would be great to send a brief supportive email as per the one below to the PC members to show them our support. The email address is:

The subject must contain the words “public comments-agenda item #3”

Below is a suggested text. It’s fine to just paste it in verbatim.

Dear Planning Commission Members,

I am writing to express my support and gratitude for your efforts to amend the General Plan in order to finalize the protections that the Richmond Hills Initiative afford to our beloved Richmond Hills. I am very excited to see this dream become a reality. Thank you!

August 1, 2020
The Superior Court issued a writ of mandate on June 16th, 2020, instructing the City of Richmond to cure the single inconsistency in the Richmond General Plan created by the Richmond Hills Initiative.  The City has 120 days to comply with the writ, but it can ask the Court for a 120-day extension if necessary. The City will need to increase density elsewhere within its boundaries to compensate for down-zoning the RHI area parcels. Our hope is that the City is close to implementing the remedy and that an extension will be not necessary. If such is the case, the process will be completed by October 2020, after which the Richmond Hills Initiative area will finally be protected from development for the foreseeable future!

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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!

May, 2018
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.