Eleven years ago, Legal Services of Northern California filed a lawsuit against the city of Folsom over the city's lack of affordable housing.
Out of that came a settlement and an ordinance requiring builders of large projects to set aside 15 percent of their market-rate homes for buyers with limited incomes.
Then came the recession and, ultimately, the death of that very same ordinance. Its demise put Folsom back in court.
The ordinance had stymied recession-weary builders, the City Council said. Instead, the city would rely on voluntary initiatives and builder incentives. Builders' representatives lauded the decision.
Last year, the Sacramento Housing Alliance, saying the council action was in conflict with the city's own policy guidelines, asked a Superior Court judge to block the city's action.
And this month, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley agreed, granting the request.
Affordable housing advocates expressed delight.
"You can't adopt (a housing program) and send it to state Housing and Community Development for approval and then eviscerate the program," said Valerie Feldman of Legal Services of Northern California, which took the lead in filing the suit. "It makes a mockery of the whole housing project."
The Housing Alliance had challenged the city's decision to end the low-income housing ordinance, arguing that to do so was in conflict with the city's housing element the document that outlines for state officials how the city plans to make progress on affordable housing.
City officials were disappointed with the decision.
"We had a very long discussion at the council when we decided to eliminate this inclusionary ordinance," Folsom Mayor Kerri Howell said. "A lot of it goes back to the economy.
"When you add so much cost and eliminate the redevelopment agency, it makes it very, very difficult."
City Attorney Bruce C. Cline said he believes the city made the right choices.
"We still believe that our position is correct," he said. "I'm very surprised at the court's decision."
He said the outcome was most disappointing because the City Council pushed hard to accomplish affordable housing in other ways.
"We have a council that's very committed to affordable housing now," Cline said. "We just disagree (with the Housing Alliance) on what the tool is."
The disputed ordinance had been a mainstay of the city's own strategy to achieve affordable housing goals. It was to have accounted for 44 percent of the city's 915-unit goal for housing low-income residents.
Progress has been made. Of the 405 units that were part of the objective under just the ordinance, 264 were built.
The judge found there was "no evidence showing that the (ordinance) was not producing affordable housing."
Tyrone Buckley, a policy director for the Housing Alliance, said he was disappointed with the city's actions leading up to the lawsuit.
"As the city goes forward in this cavalier style, ignoring housing element law, it's really great to the see that the court holds them to the commitments they've made," Buckley said.
"The underlying premise of affordable housing law at a regional level is that different actors have to do their fair share so as to make affordable housing" in every jurisdiction.
Legal Services filed the suit along with the Public Interest Law Project. The Western Center on Law and Poverty later joined the effort on behalf of the Housing Alliance.
The city has 60 days to appeal. The question of whether to pursue an appeal is likely to go before the council in closed session Aug. 28.
So far, the city has spent close to $100,000 in legal costs.