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Pleasanton Costco could open next year after court rejects opponents’ appeal

PLEASANTON — A new Costco Wholesale store about seven years in the making could finally open its doors in Pleasanton by the end of 2023 after the latest legal challenge to stop it has failed.

The nearly 150,000-square-foot Costco, which will include a 20-pump gas station, would be located on a currently empty 17-acre plot of land at 7200 Johnson Drive, just east of Interstate 680, and north of Stoneridge Drive.

Costco appears to have a clear path toward building the store after the latest legal challenge from a group of residents who opposed it was shot down by a three-judge panel of California’s First District Court of Appeal.

The residents group, called Pleasanton Citizens for Responsible Growth, asserted in a March 2020 lawsuit that the city’s environmental review for the area was inadequate.

The lawsuit said the city’s environmental review didn’t consider the cumulative traffic and air quality impacts of recent growth near the I-580/I-680 interchange, such as the Workday headquarters on Stoneridge Mall Road, a Kaiser medical facility on Dublin Boulevard, or the proposed Ikea project in Dublin, about 1½ miles away.

Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch ruled against the group in November 2020, saying that the city’s review considered the broader scope of impact for both the Costco project and nearby development.

The residents group appealed the decision in early 2021.

In late February, the appeal court judges affirmed Roesch’s ruling, citing a recent change to the California Environmental Quality Act, commonly referred to as CEQA.

Under rules that went into effect in July 2020, “a project’s effect on automobile delay shall not constitute a significant environmental impact.”

“In light of the recent amendments to the CEQA guidelines,” the judges wrote in their Feb. 28 ruling, the residents’ challenges about possible traffic impacts are “moot.”

The court also rejected the resident group’s arguments about air quality impacts.

“It’s obviously frustrating for us,” Matt Sullivan, a former Pleasanton City Council member and one of the leaders of the residents group, said about the appeals court ruling.

“When your own city council turns a deaf ear … then CEQA is really the only thing the public has to do anything about anything. When it’s undermined like this to basically cancel our argument, it’s pretty tough,” he said.

Sullivan said the group is evaluating whether to continue its challenge of the development.

Eric Luchini, a senior city planner, said in an interview that the city is moving ahead with reviewing plans for the project from Costco, and is not expecting any further legal delays.

“Obviously I don’t have a crystal ball, but we’re proceeding along the lines that that was our last hurdle that we need to clear,” he said.

The lawsuit was the latest in a string of attempts to block the project. In 2016, a citizens referendum was put on the ballot asking voters to prohibit retail “big box” stores larger than 50,000 square feet in the area, and 63 percent voted no.

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