The longtime goal of Livermore residents to protect Garaventa Hill in North Livermore has achieved a monumental victory. On March 30th, a three-judge panel on the California Court of Appeal First District ruled in favor of the residents who brought the case. The Livermore City Council erred in allowing a housing development to proceed on the environmentally sensitive property.
The proposed “Garaventa Hills” housing tract was to be located in Northeast Livermore between Laughlin Road and Vasco Road, just north of Altamont Creek School. For nearly a decade, developers attempted to push their plans through the City’s processes, only to be repeatedly thwarted by a myriad of unmitigable environmental consequences that would result from development.
The Hill is home to a number of threatened and endangered species, including the endangered Vernal Pool Fairy Shrimp, California Tiger Salamander, Burrowing Owls, the Livermore Tarplant and other species on and around the site. The U.S. Dept of Fish & Wildlife Service has designated it as critical habitat for the Vernal Pool Fairy Shrimp.
The panel of judges agreed with the Save the Hill, who argued that the City Council failed to adequately consider whether Garaventa Hill could be purchased and preserved in perpetuity for conservation as a part of a “No-Action” EIR alternative.
Conservation funds were available to buy it, and the California Environmental Quality Act requires that appropriate attention be applied to such an option as part of the EIR certification process. Failing to divulge this information, especially after being asked to provide it, violated the law.
Bianca Covarelli has been spearheading the protection efforts for over a decade. “The City failed to apply due consideration to the Hill’s preservation as open space”, said Ms. Covarelli. “We are happy the legal issues are in the rearview mirror. As we have said from the beginning, our goal is to buy the property and preserve it forever. We will be ready to talk to the landowners about consummating a purchase agreement whenever they are ready.”
The panel also noted similarities to another property a few hundred feet away which also failed years of development attempts. Known as “ The Farber Property”, it was eventually bought by East Bay Regional Parks and added to the Brushy Peak trail system North of Livermore.