Two referendums of large housing projects in the City of Loma Linda have been reinstated by the Fourth District Court of Appeal. The court overturned a Superior Court judge's decision to pull the referendums from the June 2006 ballot because referendum petitions failed to contain the full text of challenged ordinances. The Fourth District found the petitions to be legally adequate, clearing the referendums to appear on ballots in 2009.

In recent years, Loma Linda has replaced Redlands as San Bernardino County's center of ballot-box planning. After the disputed measures were pulled, voters passed a different initiative in November 2006. Measure V established a 7,200-square-foot minimum lot size for the entire city, preserved about two-thirds of the 3,000-acre "South Hills" area as permanent open space, imposed new building height restrictions and mandated development traffic mitigation. Voters rejected a city-backed alternative concerning the South Hills territory.

The developer of one of the projects targeted by a disputed referendum has sued over Measure V. A San Bernardino County Superior Court judge upheld Measure V earlier this year, but an appeal is pending in the Fourth District. That case is Holland Partners Orchard Park, LLC v. City Council of Loma Linda, No. E046153.

The referendums concerned two large projects approved in September 2005: the 990-unit, 138-acre Orchard Park project, and the 1,500-unit, 168-acre University Village project. Both projects would also contain substantial office and retail space (see CP&DR Local Watch, December 2005). A group called Save Loma Linda prepared a referendum on each project and obtained enough signatures to force a vote.

Ten days before the deadline to print the June 2006 ballot, however, the pro-growth group Friends of Loma Linda sued. Friends of Loma Linda submitted two one-page exhibits describing last-minute project modifications approved by the City Council; the referendum petitions did not contain the exhibits. Within days, Superior Court Judge Martin Hildreth removed the referendums from the ballot, concluding referendum authors' failure to include the exhibits was "fatal."

But the Fourth District determined the exhibits were simply documents prepared by Friends of Loma Linda and unavailable to referendum proponents. The last-minute project changes approved by the City Council never made it into any official document, nor were they even referenced by the formal resolutions and ordinances.

"The one-page exhibits describing the specific plan modifications were not required to be included in the referendum petitions, because they were not part of the text of any of the challenged resolutions or ordinances," Justice Thomas Hollenhorst wrote in an unpublished decision. State elections law does not require "the inclusion of information or documents that are not part of the text of the proposed measure or the challenged ordinance, regardless of their informational value to voters."

The case is Friends of Loma Linda v. Verjil, No. E040974 and was filed on August 19.

Orchard Park and University Village have not moved forward because the specific plans must be revised to comply with Measure V. Still, Save Loma Linda is pressing to have the referendums on the ballot as soon as possible.