The California Supreme Court has denied a petition to review a case involving a McCorkle Avenue housing development, ending a two-year-long court battle.
The denial, issued April 17, leaves in place rulings by lower courts that the St. Helena City Council acted appropriately when it approved Joe McGrath’s 8-unit housing project on the basis of design review, without the more intense environmental analysis that would have accompanied a use permit application.
The lawsuit was filed by a group of neighbors calling themselves the McCorkle Eastside Neighborhood Group and St. Helena Residents For An Equitable General Plan.
McGrath, who has said that the cost of the litigation will significantly increase the rents he’ll have to charge, said he was pleased with the decision and “relieved that this quixotic legal challenge is finally over.”
“Unfortunately there are no winners here,” he said. “The opposition was successful in one thing — making housing less affordable in my hometown for low- and median-income residents. And that means more commuting workers, more traffic, and a less vibrant and socio-economically diverse St. Helena.
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“I look forward to completing the McCorkle project in the next few weeks and bringing eight new, well-appointed units onto the St. Helena rental market in early June. I would also like to thank the countless residents and tradesmen who provided moral support throughout this effort.”
St. Helena resident Vickie Bradshaw, who represents the plaintiffs, also released a statement.
“While we are disappointed in the Court’s decision not to review the case, we are hopeful the City will learn the lesson from this lawsuit. First, neither the City Council nor the Planning Commission should ever allow staff to declare that any part of a staff report is ‘off limits’ for discussion. If staff submit a report in support of an action, City officials have the authority — and the duty — to review and discuss it.
“Second, neither the Council nor the Commission should ever approve written resolutions saying they discussed and decided issues which they specifically testified they didn’t discuss or decide. While that didn’t happen in this situation, we are hopeful the City will act accordingly in the future.”
McGrath paid for the city’s legal expenses related to the case. City Attorney Tom Brown declined to comment.