By David M. Greenwald
Davis, CA – The first shoe has now fallen in Davis—now the question will be what will come of it. On Monday, David Taormino announced the filing of a lawsuit on behalf of Palomino Place, LLC in Yolo County Superior Court seeking to compel the City of Davis to comply with its legal obligations under the Housing Accountability Act, Permit Streamlining Act, and the California Environmental Quality Act.
Palomino Place contemplates the development of housing (as well as a competitive swimming pool) on a site that is currently designated for agricultural use under the General Plan and Zoning Code. It would require a Measure J vote even though it is within the current city limits.
Taormino is claiming that Davis is refusing “to process a housing development project in which 20% of the homes will be for low-income households.
“I really wish it would not have come to this,” said plaintiff and project developer David Taormino. “My only desire has been to build housing for people working in Davis and for young families in order to put kids back into our schools.”
In response, the city of Davis told the Vanguard that the City Attorney Inder Khalsa is reviewing the petition and that staff will provide a more lengthy statements once Khalsa has had a chance to analyze the arguments.
At the time, the city deemed the application to be incomplete and responded with a September 9 letter.
On September 15, Taormino’s legal counsel sent a letter to the City stating his intention to proceed with his project under “Builders’ Remedy” without seeking any legislative approvals for his project.
In the letter, Matt Keasling of Taylor and Wiley noted that they were removing a “requested general plan amendment to residential land use designation.”
He writes that “the City has repeatedly indicated that such legislation actions afford it unfettered discretion as to how, when and if it will process the Palomino Place application.” He said, “With the removal of the requested general plan amendment… processing of the remaining Palomino Place entitlements is purely adjudicative in nature without any request for legislative action.”
In a follow up letter dated September 25 (Monday), Keasling noted, “City attorney and staff time spent in defense of this action is not time spent processing the Palomino Place application – in fact, the action asserts that the City has been actively engaged in an effort to avoid processing the application…”
Keasling also noted a second complaint would potentially be filed under Section 1983 arguing that the Council has violated Taormino’s constitutionally protected civil rights.
He argues that this constitutes “a regulatory taking of property rights without just compensation” and a “procedural due process violation stemming from among other thing, bias” and he alleges “retaliatory conduct by the City serving no legitimate governmental function.”
In the lawsuit filed, the plaintiffs assert “the City has ignored numerous mandatory timelines and further claims that the unjustified two-year delay has resulted in an effective denial of the project.”
The lawsuit notes, “The City’s failure to approve housing to accommodate its share of regional growth is exacerbating the statewide housing crisis; it is inflating the cost of housing in Davis making the jurisdiction even more unaffordable; it is resulting in significant environmental impacts associated with a jobs/housing imbalance such as longer commutes and increased greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change; and it is having an exclusionary effect that impedes socioeconomic and racial integration in Yolo County.”
The lawsuit notes that “despite the well documented and often discussed negative effects of providing inadequate housing, the City of Davis has demonstrated an unwillingness to advance this viable housing project in clear violation of its legal obligation to do so under the Housing Accountability Act..”
They allege, “These actions—or inactions as the case may be—during a time of crisis have left the Petitioners with no redress other than to seek relief from the judicial branch of the government.”
Taormino is seeking to have the court mandate that the City process the project and prepare the analysis necessary for its eventual approval. There are also claims for monetary damages including possible fines of $1.6M for violating state housing laws.
A release notes that Davis has been the subject of scrutiny by HCD and a letter that the Vanguard published from August 31 appears to threaten potential legal action against the city if it fails to comply with state housing law.
As Taormino sees it, “When the government fails to act in the interest of its citizens, it is incumbent upon the individual to step in and do what is right.” He added that, “Davis has an extreme need for all housing types including affordable housing and entry-level homes. Quite simply, we have not been producing our fair share of housing and as a result we have excluded an entire generation of young families.”
Meanwhile, the city responds, “The City has not taken any formal action to deny the project, nor has the City refused to process Mr. Taormino’s application; on the contrary, the City has informed Mr. Taormino of the next steps required to in order to complete his subdivision map application.”
The action will be heard in the Civil Division of Yolo County Superior Court.