The Garaventa Hills development process evolved from a fairly straightforward housing development proposal, onward through considerable public pushback, and now moving forward toward full preservation as open space. A core enabling factor of saving “The Hill” was the discovery of a specific sum of money to buy the land – the Dougherty Valley Settlement Agreement Fund, or DVSA. Many people have been asking for more details on the origin and structure of the funding, and how CBG relates to it.
There were many lawsuits and other settlements associated with the various Dougherty housing projects. This page discusses our settlement as it relates to CBG’s actions and has nothing to do with other funds similarly named in Contra Costa County. Feel free to investigate, as we haven’t focused on that. There was some legal action with Danville. In San Ramon there was a lot happening – here is a Dougherty Valley Settlement document that might get you going in the right direction.
Zone 7’s Journey into the Abyss
It all started in 1998. Zone 7, the Tri-Valley’s wholesale water supplier, was considering whether to broaden its services to include delivering water to future customers in Contra Costa County. A series of housing developments, sometimes referred to as the Dougherty Valley Project, would be a massive, unpopular development of 11,000 houses that faced many obstacles. Crucially, it did not have a source of water and thus would not be buildable.
The developer was unable to find a supplier until cooperative talks began with Zone 7 (via DSRSD), even though the area was outside of its allowable service boundary. Dublin was agreeable to provide the infrastructure, but they did not have a source for water. That’s where some all too creative methods began to be employed.
Here’s what they figured they would do. Dublin would provide water connections, and Zone 7 would “wheel” water from the Berrenda Mesa source, and on to Contra Costa County. They reasoned that doing it this way wasn’t really servicing outside the Tri-Valley, even though it was, and they could get around the inconvenient restrictions. Illegal, but technically possible with the addition of some infrastructure.
CBG’s Dougherty Valley Lawsuit
A public hearing process was required. On January 28, 1998, the Board held a public hearing on proposed contracts and an escrow agreement associated with the multifaceted plan. Many members of the public, including CBG and some of our executives (such as former Livermore Mayor Don Miller, former Zone 7 Director Margaret Tracy, former LVJUSD Director Jim Day), as well as Livermore Vice Mayor Tom Reitter, future DSRSD Director Tom Ford, and Sierra Club’s Cynthia Patton, pointedly informed Zone 7 that they were about to break the law. The minutes also reveal that the negotiations were rushed and had just concluded, giving the public only hours to review the many pages of documents. They felt the process was being ushered through the approval too quickly.
Representatives from the housing development interested parties also stated their case and recommended that Zone 7 should indeed serve their development projects.
In the end, the Directors reiterated the many benefits they claimed justified the actions, ignoring out of hand the many issues of law and insufficient review presented by resident speakers. Setting aside all the testimony, the Zone 7 Board then voted 6-1 to authorize the President to sign five agreements approving and implementing the contracts for delivery of water by Zone 7 for the Dougherty Valley Project.
CBG sued Zone 7 on behalf of Valley residents March 19, 1998. Days later, we were joined by the City of Livermore. Months of court mandated proceedings ensued. To avoid prolonged litigation and a near certain loss in court, Zone 7 offered to settle our litigation in November 1999. As part of the provisions, the settling parties paid all of CBG’s and Livermore’s legal expenses, as is common when plaintiffs prevail in court, and the DVSA Fund was established.
So how does the Fund benefit Valley residents?
The purpose of the Fund is to provide some measure of relief from excessive traffic and also support habitat preservation. One of the many reasons I-580 is so congested is because our water agency in essence, played a small part in creating thousands more commuter cars that take to the roads every day. Many of them go straight for the freeway, and that traffic is reduced to a small degree by preserving some land that would otherwise be built up and therefore a traffic source. When such purchases protect endangered species, all the better. In this way, we got “something” in exchange for the traffic caused by the defendants.
Process of Implementation
The money itself resides with the City of Livermore. Over the years, the Fund has been put to use for its intended purposes as needed.
We believe that Garaventa Hill will be the next acquisition in the chain. It will be leveraged as soon as the City Council receives a request for funding via a bona fide buyer who enters a purchase agreement, and wants to own and preserve the Hill in perpetuity.
Expenditures are geographically limited. In the Tri-Valley, we can consider funding any open space purchase east of Collier Canyon Road and North of I-580.
The City of Livermore, DSRSD, and Zone 7 continue maintain actionable responsibilities to CBG. DSRSD and Zone 7 make regular reports to us in connection with the Settlement. They have cooperated fully and courteously over the years.
Livermore performed admirably for more than a decade. Their performance has declined recently, most notably in their failure to inform us, discuss or pursue the possibility of protecting Garaventa Hill. We hope to make arrangements for improving the ways we work together on applying funding in the best interests of residents.