The Livermore City Council has unanimously agreed to revisit an 1,100-acre development zone that calls for the creation of some 4,095 new multi-family housing units, 2.1 million square feet of business and commercial development and three neighborhood parks along Isabel Avenue after tabling the discussion for almost a year amid the BART-to-Livermore uncertainty.
The Isabel Neighborhood Plan, which will undergo renewed environmental analysis, will now progress in tandem with the Valley Link commuter light rail project -- and be contingent upon the transit project's approval, much like the conventional BART plan before it.
"This is going to be a game-changer because it's going to allow this connectivity where we're going to have the ability to attract job sites for these young coders that are working in the tech sector," Mayor John Marchand said during the April 8 council meeting. "It's going to enable us to provide housing that we don't really have right now."
Last year, the Isabel Neighborhood Plan was contingent on a BART to Livermore extension project, which was fell apart after the BART Board of Directors voted down pursuing conventional BART to Isabel last May. Despite failing to approve the extension, the BART board certified the environmental impact report for the Isabel Neighborhood Plan, which will be updated in the coming months by city staff, per the council's direction earlier this month.
The original BART concept, estimated at $1.6 billion, would have extended conventional BART rail 5.5 miles from the end-of-the-line Dublin-Pleasanton station to a new station at the Isabel Avenue interchange with Interstate 580.
Envisioned as a tandem project with BART extension, the Isabel Neighborhood Plan was designed to construct a neighborhood around the new station, which could include a grocery store and create an estimated 9,100 jobs in the next 20 years, according to Livermore city staff. It would also help the city meet its housing goals of 1,500 new units by 2022 under the regional housing needs allocation (RHNA).
Completion of the plan, of which 25% would cater to lower-income residents, wouldn't have been expected until 2040.
Following the BART vote, the newly created Tri-Valley/San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority, a joint powers authority made up of 15 public agencies appointed to develop cost-effective public transportation in the Tri-Valley, took the lead and devised an alternative transit project.
That project is Valley Link, a 42-mile commuter light rail system that would run from a platform at the existing Dublin-Pleasanton station through the I-580 median. It would travel through Livermore; with stations at Isabel Avenue and ACE at Greenville; continue over the Altamont Pass with stations in Mountain House and Tracy; and end in North Lathrop, according to Bob Vinn, assistant city engineer. It could even extend as far as Stockton at a later time.
The Valley Link line, which would in part utilize existing Union Pacific tracks, would create a direct transit connection between BART and ACE for the first time. City planners said it could be up and running anywhere between 2023 and 2026.
Some residents spoke out during the public comment period at the Livermore council meeting April 8, urging the council not to spend any more money on the Isabel project until the Valley Line station is established and functional first.
"This is a big circular continuum here; everything is contingent," Councilman Bob Coomber told the audience. "The rail link won't happen unless we know we've got housing coming in ... and the housing is contingent on the rail link being built. So we have to commit at some point, and I think moving forward is the right way to go with it."
The revised draft EIR will cost around $175,000 to complete, according to city assistant planner Ashley McBride, and is expected to be available for public review in the summer, with potential adoption in early fall.
According to McBride, city staff is pursuing a grant through Senate Bill 2 of up to $250,000 to offset the cost, so no money would come out of the city's coffers.
According to Marchand, close to $600 million is already slated for the Valley Link project through Measure BB, Regional Measure 3 funds and local money. "Money attracts money," he said. "There is a lot of momentum behind this that we didn't have (with BART project)."