April 24, 2021
Lawsuit Filed To Save North Livermore Valley

We have followed through on our promise to file a lawsuit against Alameda County after the Board of Supervisors' decision in March to approve Intersect Power's 410-acre Aramis solar energy project planned for North Livermore.

Along with Friends of Open Space and Vineyards and the Ohlone Audubon Society, Save North Livermore Valley served the county with a petition for writ of mandate, challenging the Board of Supervisors' approval of the project on the grounds that the development violates Measure D, which protects agricultural land and open space in eastern Alameda County.

The lawsuit also argues that by approving the project, the Board of Supervisors violated a number of other provisions, including the California Environmental Quality Act and the Alameda County General Plan.

"Twenty-one years ago, 63,000 Alameda County residents placed Measure D on the ballot to safeguard and preserve the agricultural land and open space of East Alameda County, including North Livermore Valley. The voters overwhelmingly supported Measure D, despite an effort by the supervisors to defeat the measure. It constitutes the greatest environmental achievement in our county's history," said Chris O'Brien, chairperson of the Save North Livermore Valley steering committee.

He added, "The Board of Supervisors is now attempting to overturn Measure D by authorizing the industrial development of North Livermore Valley. Instead, the Board of Supervisors should respect the will of the voters and follow county and state law."

Tamara Reus, Board President for Friends of Open Space and Vineyards, shared similar sentiments, emphasizing North Livermore's heritage of grazing cattle, scenic areas and serving as a habitat for vulnerable species. "While we support the need for renewable energy to combat climate change, we cannot justify allowing solar projects to destroy the environment in the name of protecting it," she said.

“The Aramis Solar Project will have significant negative impacts on multiple sensitive species including Golden Eagles and the Western Burrowing Owl that have not been adequately mitigated,” added William Hoppes, President of the Ohlone Audubon Society. “Furthermore, the Supervisors should not have been permitted the Aramis Project if and until Alameda County completes a suitability study and comprehensive policy for siting solar facilities in the East County.”

Note: The Save North Livermore Valley Go Fund Me account has reached 1/3 of its $95,000 goal to underwrite the cost of a lawsuit to uphold Measure D and preserve the open space & agricultural land of North Livermore.

Please support our effort and donate at https://gofund.me/a94f99a7
What's At Stake: Mass Killing of Species & The Future of East Alameda County
"The nearly 400-acre Aramis solar project site has been erroneously described as disturbed land when in fact the area is a rangeland ecosystem that is occupied by California tiger salamander [in photo above], California red-legged frog, western burrowing owl, and golden eagle.
Conversion of the Aramis project site from low intensity cattle grazing and hay production into a utility scale solar facility with ancillary high intensity commercial agricultural operations will result in permanent impacts to the listed species habitat. It will also likely eliminate connectivity between populations in adjacent and nearby natural preserves and undeveloped land protected by conservation easements.

This is a significant and unavoidable impact that extends well beyond the footprint of the project and can't be mitigated by preserving land elsewhere."

- Wildlife biologist Karen Swaim, April 20, 2021
Board Of Supervisors Delays Vote On Sunwalker Industrial Solar Project

On Thursday, April 22, 2021, the Board of Supervisors yesterday delayed a vote on the Sunwalker industrial solar project proposed for environmentally important agricultural land in North Livermore Valley.

[Click this video link to see the proposed location of the Sunwalker solar plant and earlier approved Aramis project.]

The Supervisors expressed concern that the project may run afoul of the Williamson Act and questioned whether the County staff’s finding of consistency is supported by legal authority.

“This project does not belong in the scenic North Livermore Valley, where voters decided to support cultivated agriculture, and preserve open space, species habitat and scenic beauty,” stated Robert Selna, counsel for Save North Livermore Valley. “On the related Williamson Act issue, the Board of Supervisors wisely demanded more proof from County staff that the project complies with the Williamson Act.” So far, County staff has failed to supply any such proof.

Chris O’Brien, chair of the Save North Livermore Valley steering committee, stated, “We are grateful to the many community members that called on the Supervisors to reject the Sunwalker project. The project would open the floodgates to the industrialization of North Livermore Valley and the East County.

Four project appellants, including Save North Livermore Valley, and public speakers warned the Supervisors that the project, proposed for Williamson Act contracted property, violated the Act as well as Alameda County rules that implement the Act.

The County rules specifically state that solar panels may not cover more than 10 acres or 10% of the contracted land, whichever is less. The Williamson Act, also known as the California Land Conservation Act, permits counties to enter into contracts with private landowners to restricting their land for agricultural uses or ropen space use. Property owners, in return, receive property tax breaks.

The project proposes to cover more than 45 acres and 76% of the 59-acre project with solar panels. When the Supervisors asked Planning Director Albert Lopez how the project complied with the County rules and Williamson Act, Lopez said the County treated solar panels like wind turbines for the 10% and 10-acre restrictions, instead of like solar panels.

Alameda County rules state that – unlike solar panels -- the land area covered by wind turbines is NOT is not counted for Williamson Act restrictions. Lopez’s explanation was a troubling admission that the County does not follow its own rules.

The reason the County rules treat solar panels and wind turbines differently for Williamson Act acreage restrictions is that it is possible to conduct genuine agricultural uses, such as grazing cattle and growing crops, under wind turbines. Such is not the case with solar panels.

The Supervisors will revisit the project and their outstanding questions at a yet-to-be publicized date in June.
About Save North Livermore Valley

We started as a group of farm and ranch families and other members of the North Livermore Valley Rural Community. We have been joined by over 400 concerned residents in the City of Livermore and Tri-Valley area united for the purpose of preserving the open space, agricultural land and wildlife habitat of North Livermore Valley for future generations.