Livermore mayor urges public to reject downtown plan naysayers

Marchand touts benefits of improvements in State of the City remarks

Livermore Mayor John Marchand, in his State of the City address at a Livermore Valley Chamber of Commerce-sponsored assembly, called on the community to reject an effort underway that would undermine already-approved plans for multimillion-dollar improvements to the city's downtown.

He said the so-called "Central Park Plan Initiative," being championed by the Livermore Independent newspaper, asks voters to sign to petitions that, if qualified, would delay proposed downtown improvements, including a new boutique hotel.

"This would mean going back to the drawing board and endlessly redesigning this project by initiative and at the ballot box," Marchand told the sold-out luncheon crowd at the Robert Livermore Community Center on East Avenue on May 23.

"The Livermore Independent is writing stories about people circulating an initiative to stop the progress we are having in our downtown today. I hope you will stand with me to oppose this attempt," he said to loud applause.

The Independent followed Marchand's address with a full-page advertisement on May 30 promoting the initiative, stating it was paid for by "Citizens for a Livermore Central Park." The newspaper also printed a letter signed by Bill Dunlop, chairman of the organization.

In a press release and on Facebook, Dunlop stated, "The Central Park Plan provides better parks and better parking, for a better Livermore. The City Council was given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create something special on the 8.2 acres of city owned land in the downtown core; they failed to do so."

Opposition to the city government's planned new downtown amenities came early last year when the Livermore City Council adopted key land-use elements to form the new downtown plan for city-owned land on the east and west sides of South Livermore Avenue.

The downtown plan responded to the priorities identified by the community through an extensive public engagement process by adding to the existing parking supply, carefully controlling building height and location and incorporating a large new park to be named for the Livermore Stockmen's Rodeo Association. Other improvements will include a science museum, Blackbox theater, limited retail and 130 affordable housing units.

Most controversial was the council's approval for a four-story hotel on the northeast corner of South Livermore and Railroad avenues, next to the Bankhead Theater. Dunlop, Joan Seppala, publisher of The Independent, and others have urged the council to relocate the hotel to the west side of South Livermore Avenue and create a park, instead, next to the Bankhead.

"I for one believe this community has no interest in delaying the downtown project," Marchand said.

While seeking re-election as mayor in 2018, Marchand voiced strong support for the downtown plan. He won with more than three-quarters of the votes. Another supporter, Trish Munro, was elected to the council for the first time. Incumbent Councilman Bob Woerner, also a downtown plan backer, received more votes than both the of the opposition candidates combined.

"In other words, the community supported our downtown plan at the ballot box," said Marchand, adding, "I'm excited about the progress that we are making toward turning this plan into a reality. We have waited 17 years for completion of this plan. We have waited long enough."

Also in his State of the City remarks, Marchand said Livermore's municipal finances are climbing with a current budget of $120 million, with sales and property taxes expected to generate more than $60 million this fiscal year, including $1 million from the San Francisco Premium Outlets, alone.

Livermore continues to gain accolades in various surveys, Marchand said.

A recent National Citizen Survey showed 96% of those responding gave high marks to the quality of life in Livermore, rating it as an excellent place to live. The city's hospitality and wine country amenities also earned high marks from Huffington Post, an online news source, which wrote:

"If Italy is a little too far from home, but wine is a must, consider booking your tickets to the Tri Valley area. Smaller places like Livermore have been making a name for themselves."

For retired folks, Marchand said the city has been named by a national publication as a great place to live.

"It's Livermore comfortable and casual," he read from the magazine's story. "The area has a lingering cowboy feel, but the wineries have just popped here, and there's plenty of arts and culture."

That's a fitting report, Marchand said, since this year is the 100th anniversary of the Livermore Stockmen's Rodeo Association.

He concluded: "Today, our city continues to expand its wine-making industry and celebrate its cowboy tradition with our annual rodeo taking place this weekend from June 7 to June 9. Come celebrate."

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2 people like this
Posted by Eric
a resident of Livermore
on Jun 6, 2019 at 9:50 pm

I live downtown. The opposing “Central Park Plan” is superior to the current council approved plan. The opposing plan has less housing, more open space, and more parking. Marchand and most of the current council are hacks.

Like this comment
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on Jun 6, 2019 at 11:19 pm

I live downtown. The "Central Park Plan" is much worse than the current plan.

The plan includes fanciful wishes of improvements with no way to pay for them (seriously, not a single mention or estimate of cost in the 188 page petition), doesn't build enough housing to retire the debt the city owes for the property, takes away affordable housing opportunities, makes traffic worse by putting parking access in terrible locations, puts the hotel in a location hotel operators don't like, and forces the city to dig up part of Veteran's Way that has already been completed.

The renderings are completely unrealistic. They render a soccer field at 1/8th the actual size. They redefine "open space" to suit their purpose and argument in the document. If you use Google Maps on their proposed housing you'll see that it is 57x280ft, which to make 84 units and include common hallways would make the average (not the minimum, the average!) unit size ~440sqft at best. That's some way to respect our teachers! The only way they can claim "more open space" is with these ridiculous sleights of hand.

What parking was removed near the Bankhead was due to the previous petition by the same people who now complain of the results of their own work.
The Friends of Livermore are hacks.

For more details: Web Link

1 person likes this
Posted by Grumpy
a resident of Vineyard Avenue
on Jun 8, 2019 at 8:10 pm

Grumpy is a registered user.

Yawn. Either way, you both already have a parking garage and some good food options. We're still waiting here in Pleasanton for anyone to figure out what they're doing.

That being said, I'm really curious why the PW is pushing one side of this so hard in the main article. It didn't make much sense to me. I guess, not living there, I don't need to have an opinion. But it might have been nice to have understood the motives and interests better.

2 people like this
Posted by Eric
a resident of Livermore
on Jun 8, 2019 at 10:42 pm

It’s extremely political. The Mayor, several Council members, and other groups are basically saying that its the current plan or nothing. They justify this viewpoint by saying, “if we don’t build now, developers will walk” and “we elected the current officials to do a job, so let them do it”. They will also point to the mandated housing that must be built on the property. While it’s true that housing must be built, the Mayor and Council are not being truthful about how many homes need to be built. The adjacent Groth property is going to be FULL of housing! I’d like to see as much open space as possible, parking, and attractive cultural features in the downtown plan, I think the Central Park plan is superior to what the Council and Mayor are force feeding us now. Lastly, I live downtown, so I have a high interest as to what gets constructed.

Like this comment
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on Jun 9, 2019 at 11:09 am


Please point out where the those people have said "this plan or nothing." No one is saying that. Everyone is saying this new plan is ridiculous.

"saying, 'if we don’t build now, developers will walk'"
Developers will walk until after the next recession. Another 10 years after we've already owned this land for 13. In a housing crisis.

"not being truthful about how many homes need to be built"
How many homes are mandated by law is different than how many homes are required to require the debt to the state. You ignore that most people wanted to retire the debt in the outreach.

"The adjacent Groth property is going to be FULL of housing!"
The FIRST apartment complex in 27 years in Livermore, and only a small % affordable housing. Great point.

"I’d like to see as much open space as possible, parking, and attractive cultural features in the downtown plan"
I heard that the first time, but this plan has no plan to pay for it. You haven't addressed this.

"Lastly, I live downtown, so I have a high interest as to what gets constructed."

And as I already mentioned, so do I.

2 people like this
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on Jun 9, 2019 at 11:10 am

"Yawn. Either way, you both already have a parking garage and some good food options."

Yeah, no big deal we can just delay building affordable housing for another decade.

1 person likes this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jun 10, 2019 at 8:52 am

Follow the money. Just like in Pleasanton, the chamber of commerce controls the elected officials. In Livermore the builders and developers are drooling at the chance to construct the mayor’s plan.

Like this comment
Posted by DJ Drone
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 3, 2019 at 12:43 pm

Each side has an agenda because if they did not there would not be a battle over either plan. Example, I know for fact the Wine Growers Assc. wanted the hotel on the East Side, I know for fact FOL wants a Garage on the East side. I guess the bigger question to ask is why are so many people worried about the Initiative, if by the words of the Mayor, Council and all the groups/people supporting the current plan, if so many residents are in favor of the current plan, then let it go to the voters. Yes we delay development by a few months but in the over all time frame 3 months will not have a huge impact on the project that will take years to complete.

With the "Majority" of residents in favor of the current plan, they will vote it in, the Initiative dies and constructions continues. Are those supporting the current plan worried that the Initiative may pass? If so this means everything that residents have been told, as to "Why" we must follow the current plan, would have been less than truthful. As a resident I would like to have a vote on how the downtown will be built.

Like this comment
Posted by Rich Pleasantonian
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jul 3, 2019 at 3:08 pm

I think most of the rich folks in Pleasanton consider most of Livermore to be low income........

2 people like this
Posted by Jack
a resident of Downtown
on Jul 4, 2019 at 10:11 am

Jack is a registered user.

I too wonder why the PW is taking a side on this one. It's easy to paint Friends as group who knee jerks to a lot of things, but it's not like the city has a great record when it comes to this property. They've had hundreds of units approved on it multiple times. Either time, if what was approved had been built, it would've drastically changed the look, feel and function of their thriving downtown...

Like this comment
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 5, 2019 at 11:56 am

"They've had hundreds of units approved on it multiple times."

Yeah, because that is exactly what was required to pay back the state money used to acquire the property in the first place.

"why are so many people worried about the Initiative"
Because the paid petition gatherers they are using will lie to get signatures.

"we delay development by a few months"
3 months if the initiative fails. Years if it passes. The initiative plan has no financial reality to it.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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