California Developers Lose Attempt to Overturn County's Urban Growth Boundary

Development interests have failed to overturn Measure D, the landmark smart growth initiative adopted by Alameda County, CA (Oakland, Berkeley, Livermore) voters in November 2000.


Trent Orr, Earthjustice, 415-206-0898


Laura Hoehn, Earthjustice, 415-627-6725


Dick Schneider, Sierra Club, 510-482-1553

Developers’ attempt to overturn Measure D, the landmark smart growth initiative adopted by Alameda county voters last November, failed on Friday as Superior Court Judge James Richman ruled that the developers’ case against Measure D lacked legal merit to justify further court proceedings. Building upon an August 27 ruling denying all but two of the developers’ claims, Richman’s decision rejected the developers’ lawsuit in its entirety and reaffirmed the will of the voters. Measure D passed with a 57% majority of Alameda County voters (243,094 in favor, 186,682 against).

Measure D was placed on the ballot by citizens’ groups and supported by a majority of voters because it will preserve vanishing agricultural lands, protect open space, watersheds, and wildlife habitat. The measure limits sprawl development by setting a county urban growth boundary, preventing subdivisions on the farms and ranches of eastern Alameda County and in the canyonlands east of Castro Valley, Hayward, Union City and Fremont. The measure encourages infill and transit-friendly development to help revitalize neighborhoods within existing urban boundaries. This court victory provides a model for communities fighting sprawl across the country.

Having lost at the ballot box, developers Shea Homes Limited Partnership and Trafalgar, Inc. filed suit against Alameda County and its Board of Supervisors earlier this year claiming Measure D violated the California Constitution and other state laws. Citizens groups, including the Sierra Club, joined with the county to defend the measure. Friday’s ruling upholds Measure D as both constitutional and in compliance with housing laws and other state statutes.

“This ruling vindicates the choices made by a majority of Alameda county voters, who recognize that the county is a special place because of the beauty of its natural environment — being able to take kids out into natural areas and open space so close to our urban neighborhoods,” said Dick Schneider, coordinator of the Yes on Measure D campaign for the Sierra Club. “Measure D will allow us to grow within our urban areas without destroying natural resources needed by all residents for recreation and drinking water protection.”

“We believe Measure D is one of the best-written smart growth initiatives in the country. Because it is well written, it gained strong support from political leaders, community groups, and most importantly, county voters,” said Trent Orr of Earthjustice, which represents the groups that intervened in the case. “Developers claimed that Measure D would keep us from reaching state goals for new housing, but Judge Richman’s decision affirms the fact that we can meet our housing needs inside urban growth boundaries, without paving over our remaining open spaces.”

“If developers are really interested in building affordable housing near public transit and cutting down on the traffic congestion that makes life miserable for Bay Area commuters, I’d be glad to take them on a tour of neighborhoods and communities, within the current urban boundaries of Alameda county, just waiting for such an investment,” said Schneider.

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