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By Tim Hunt

Costco foes pivot to the courts

Uploaded: Dec 19, 2017

Here’s the latest strategy to battle Costco in Pleasanton: when your signature drive fails, pivot and pitch a case into the courts.
That’s the strategy that Matt Sullivan and his Citizens for Responsible Growth took this month. They had mounted a referendum drive to overturn the City Council’s unanimous approval of the Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone. Mayor Jerry Thorne recused himself because he once owned Costco stock in a retirement fund.
Costco is planned as the anchor store in that development. It would be the third location in the Tri-Valley, complementing Livermore and Danville. The zone also includes spots for two hotels and other retail uses.
Sullivan’s group had 30 days to gather more than 4,000 signatures and the deadline went without any filing. Sullivan was quoted in the Pleasanton Weekly saying it was a tough time of year with the Thanksgiving holiday to gather signatures.
Perhaps, but this is the first referendum drive in memory that has failed to gather enough signatures to file with the city clerk. In 2016, Bill Wheeler, owner of Black Tie Transportation, put together a team that included paid gatherers and qualified an initiative for the ballot. Pleasanton voters rejected it by almost a 2-1 margin.
Given that margin, the council was very comfortable moving ahead.
Now, Sullivan’s group has challenged the approval in court, questioning the adequacy of the environmental work and whether it adequately mitigated the impacts of the project. The filing, by attorney Mark R. Wolfe, appears to be throwing as much mud on the wall as possible and hope a judge finds that some of its sticks. That said, Wolfe has an impressive background in planning as well as the law.
There was a time that these suits were easy to win and force more environmental work or a settlement. Of late, they have been a tool often used by unions to force proponents to sign favorable labor agreements.
Just where this suit will go is for time to tell. It’s doubtful that it will stop the project, but it could become more expensive and be delayed while the matter wends its way through the courts.