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Court throws out luxury home builder’s lawsuit vs. Sonoma

Posted on August 5, 2019 by Sonoma Valley Sun
Developer Bill Jasper sued the City for permission to build three huge homes on the Sonoma hillside to the west of Fourth Street East at Brazil Street.

A lawsuit brought against the City of Sonoma by a spurned developer, who was denied City permission to build three luxury mansions on a prominent hillside, has been been rejected by the Superior Court.

Elements of a suit brought by Bill Jasper were ruled as “wholly without merit” in a Sonoma County Superior Court decision announced Thursday. 

At issue was a plan by Jasper and partners to develop his land above Brazil Street at Fourth Street East. It was originally approved by the Planning Commission. But an appeal of that decision was heard and upheld in April by a vote of the Sonoma City Council.

Prior to that appeal meeting, Jasper, through the San Francisco legal firm Zacks, Freeman & Patterson, threatened the City with legal action if his plan to build three homes, each of  14,000 sq. ft. or more, was turned down.

Such a lawsuit was filed June 29. It argues that Jasper was denied a fair hearing and that the council, in a politically-motivated “quasi-judicial hearing,” improperly interpreted the municipal code.

In addition to Jasper and the holding companies he formed for the project, the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund was a plaintiff in the lawsuit, which contended that the City’s denial violates provisions of the state’s Affordable Housing Act. The law, the suit says, “was meant to increase the approval and construction of new housing for all economic segments of California communities… and curb and curtail the ability of local governments to deny (such projects.)”

It was Jasper’s additional assertion that the City does not have the discretion or authority to deny his plans, based on the state environmental review process known as CEQA. But the court ruled that the Council does indeed have that authority, and that CEQA does not give the court the authority to order the Council to approve the project.

In his ruling, Judge Arthur A. Wick found that argument “unpersuasive.” The denial means the City of Sonoma will not pay the Plaintiff’s legal fees — likely upwards of $400,000 or more — as demanded in the lawsuit. 

It was Jasper’s assertion that the City does not have the discretion or authority to deny his plans, based on the state environmental review process known as CEQA. But the court ruled that the Council does indeed have that authority, and that CEQA does not give the court the authority to order the Council to approve the project.

If built as planned, the finished homes would sell for $5-8 million each, according to local real estate experts.

 



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