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Davis, California

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

City attorney: Judge rules in city’s favor in Lincoln40 lawsuit

Student housing project can now move forward after defeating lawsuit alleging inadequate Environmental Impact review

City attorney Harriet Sterner informed the Davis City Council on April 23 that the lawsuit levied against the proposed student development project Lincoln40 was successful.

Sterner announced to the council during the Tuesday meeting that a Yolo County judge issued the final order in the Lincoln40 case, ending a legal battle that delayed the progress of the new development for the past month.

“I’m glad to be able to formally tell you that the city prevailed in the lawsuit that was brought challenging the Lincoln40 project,” Sterner said. “The court issued its final order, ruling on behalf of the city and the developer on Tuesday.”

A month before, a judge issued a tentative ruling on the case, siding with the city over Susan Rainier, the litigant pursuing the case against the city and developers, according to The Davis Vanguard. The judge found the Environmental Impact report “legally adequate,” and Rainier’s arguments to be insufficient to establish otherwise.

Though the ruling indicated the end of a monthlong case against the development, the matter was not fully settled until the final order was issued by a Yolo County judge, according to Sterner. Now that the lawsuit has been resolved, construction can proceed as planned on the student housing.

“The rest of the case is more or less final now, and a judgement will be filed probably this week,” Sterner said. “The project can go forward at this point.”

In April, Rainier explained to The California Aggie her rationale behind the lawsuit. She felt the project planning stages failed to meet basic environmental impact standards and that new student housing could have a significant detrimental effect on the surrounding neighborhood. She also accused city leadership of failing to conduct adequate review on the project’s impact on the community as whole.

“The City of Davis leadership is incompetent,” Rainier said. “They have not conducted enough analysis of the cumulative effects of mega dorms on city systems and services, such as traffic, noise, circulation, waste water propensity and police.”

The City Council pushed for the Lincoln40 project since unanimously approving it in March of 2018. Both developers and the city have maintained that not only is the environmental impact study adequate, but not legally required in the first place — the report was only provided as a courtesy to the general public.

“‘[T]he environmental analysis was conducted to provide public information about impacts that could occur…,’ but ‘[t]he analysis is informational and not required pursuant to CEQA or local statute,’” the developers noted in the final environmental impact report.

Then-mayor Robb Davis expressed a similar sentiment in a city council meeting in March of 2018, when the project was first approved.

“We chose to make a disclosure when the law of the State of California would not require it,” Davis said. “I think that gets to this council’s willingness to be transparent and staff’s desire to be transparent.”

According to The Vanguard, the court ruling that the city’s case for exemption from Environmental Impact Report was insufficient. The judge also ruled, however, that Rainier’s petition failed to prove the developer’s environmental studies were inadequate.

With the lawsuit defeated, developers are free to prepare for the construction stage of Lincoln40. The proposed student housing will span roughly six acres of land on East Olive Dr., and is slated to provide 130 units with a total of 435 bedrooms, according to a report from city officials. With a mix of two- to five-bedroom units, developers anticipate Lincoln40 will provide 708 new beds for students. According to a project narrative submitted by developers, the project also includes a plan to create a route linking Olive Drive to the Davis Depot, allowing residents better access to transit and the downtown area.

Written by: Tim Lalonde — city@theaggie.org


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