Judge: Livingston broke the law

MERCED — Livingston broke state law when it approved its 2025 general plan update and certified the requisite environmental documents, a Merced Superior Court judge has ruled.

The ruling decided a nearly year-old lawsuit against the city and ordered Livingston to send its controversial 2025 general plan — which projects the city to grow to roughly 100,000 — back to the drawing board.

The lawsuit was filed by the Merced Farm Bureau in December 2008.

It claims the city's environmental impact report was inadequate and that the city violated state planning laws, among other charges.

According to court documents, presiding Judge Carol Ash concluded that the "city's approval of the (general plan) and certification of the EIR violated (California Environmental Quality Act) and the Open Space Plans Act." The ruling says the city must set aside its approval and certification of the general plan and its environmental study.

City Manager Richard Warne contends in the lawsuit that Livingston didn't break any laws. Livingston's lawyers argue the city exceeded environmental law requirements.

According to the lawsuit, the city "claims there was no abuse of discretion and the city reached an informed decision in certifying the (environmental study), and their adoption of the (general plan) was not arbitrary, capricious or entirely lacking in evidentiary support."

Merced Farm Bureau president Peter Koch said he hadn't seen the ruling.