Sonoma developer Bill Jasper has filed a lawsuit against the City of Sonoma, alledging he was unlawfully denied his right to build three luxury homes on a prominent Sonoma hillside.
The plans for the three homes above Brazil Street, at Fourth Street East, were originally approved by the Planning Commission. But an appeal of that decision was heard and upheld April 9 by a 3-2 vote of the Sonoma City Council.
Prior to that appeal meeting, Jasper, through the San Francisco legal firm Zacks, Freeman & Patterson, threatened legal action if his plan to build three 10,000 sq. ft. homes was turned down.
Such a lawsuit was filed June 29 in Sonoma County Superior Court. 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 granting the appeal the Council found that each Jasper house violated the Sonoma Hillside Ordinance, enacted in 2003, which limits construction to 5,000 total square feet per lot. The lawsuit argues that the language in that portion of the municipal code is merely guidelines, not legal definitions. Thus, “(the Council’s) novel and politically driven interpretation is wrong.”
The lawsuit also asserts 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.)”
The fact that California is in a housing crisis compels the approval of the Jasper development, it argues, regardless of size or scope.
If built as planned, the finished homes would sell for $5-8 million each, according to local real estate experts.
In addition to Jasper and the the holding companies he formed for the project, two other plaintiffs are listed in the suit: Sonja Trauss, founder of the San Francisco Bay Area Renters Federation, and Victoria Fierce, of the California Renters Legal Advocacy and Education Fund.
Both are pro-housing, pro-density advocates — self-described YIMBYs (‘yes in my backyard’) who have called for increasing Bay Area housing stock, including affordable housing units, to combat homelessness and high rents.