News

Tensions high as Livermore council endorses boutique hotel for downtown

Opponents pursue initiative for ballot to halt city's redevelopment plans

A hotly contested plan to build a three-story boutique hotel on the southeast corner of South Livermore and Railroad avenues in downtown Livermore generated intense debate at Monday night's Livermore City Council meeting.

Hundreds of residents packed inside the overflowing council chambers, where council members later unanimously approved a development agreement with Presidio Companies of Davis for the project.

Plans to erect an approximately 65,000-square-foot upscale hotel with a rooftop deck, 135 rooms and about 1,400-2,000 square feet of conference space on a 1.4-acre site at 2205 Railroad Ave. next door to the Bankhead Theater have long been in the works.

Livermore's Downtown Specific Plan has included a hotel as a key feature for the downtown area since 2004, as well as a science museum, the blackbox theater, shopping and retail, expanded parking, 130 units of affordable housing and a large new park named in honor of the Livermore Stockmen's Rodeo Association.

Several years ago a steering committee was established with 19 members, and since then multiple public discussions about the future hotel have taken place, including building height and location specifics.

But opponents of the project said that the fate of downtown Livermore should go before voters during next year's general election. Members of Better Livermore/Friends of Livermore are advocating for an initiative for the ballot called the "Central Park Plan" to move the hotel to the west side of Livermore Avenue and build a new park next to the Bankhead.

Monday meeting's public comment portion drew a total of 63 speakers to the podium; most simply voiced their general support or opposition to the proposal but some people on both sides accused others of lying to garner support for their cause.

Unify Livermore, a group that supports the city-approved downtown plan, criticized the Better Livermore group for blocking and deleting social media posts that they said were reasonable, while opponents of the plan accused the council of acting illegally by not letting residents vote on the issue.

Earlier, several audience members shouted down a speaker who went over the three-minute time limit, prompting Mayor John Marchand to raise his voice to maintain control of the crowd.

"I have allowed people from both sides additional time," Marchand said. "I don't want anybody in this audience trying to take control of this meeting .. I'm the one up here that's running this meeting."

Marchand's reminder did little however to stem the accusations that flowed that evening.

Stockmen members refused to deal with any plan other than the city's and said rumors about their group supporting the Central Park Plan were false. Vintner Karl Wente quoted lyrics from Fleetwood Mac's song "Little Lies" to make his point about the Better Livermore backers, and one woman said she had video proof about signature gatherers lying to her that she offered to show the council.

Several more people also stated that signature gatherers for the Central Park Plan petition had lied to them about the city's plans. Later, Marchand told the Weekly that one petition worker he encountered told him, "'The reason that the mayor and council are lying is that they're being paid off by the downtown developers.'"

Bill Dunlop, chair of the Citizens for a Livermore Central Park Committee, said the council was trying to "avoid the vote of the people" by not bringing the downtown plan to a public vote.

"The voters would use the referendum power to reject any development agreement that the city council contrives to undermine the Central Park Plan," Dunlop said. "This action by the City Council is intended to cut off the rights of Livermore's voters."

Early outreach indicated residents wanted a hotel on the west side of Livermore Avenue, according to Dunlop, who said the city's plan "ignores the will of Livermore residents as an initial expression of the outreach process."

"It didn't work the first time and it won't work this time because we will place any development agreement with Presidio on the ballot for the voters to decide," Dunlop said, adding that last week the Alameda County Registrar of Voters' Office verified almost 7,000 signatures from the group's petition.

In an interview before the meeting, Livermore Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Dawn Argula said Friends of Livermore members are promoting "the drawings and all the claims they make" on their website but that there isn't anything corroborating the financial feasibility of the Central Park Plan nor does it offer more amenities than what the city already envisions building.

"The city's plan has as much if not more green space than the Central Park Plan," Argula said, adding that the group's suggestion to build housing back up to businesses on First Street is a "non-starter" for most retailers because of delivery truck access, existing trash enclosures and customers entering and exiting stores.

She said that many owners have already planned and invested in their businesses in anticipation of redevelopment.

"They're moving the parts and pieces around, the elements -- the hotel, housing, retail, Stockman's Park being left alone," she added. "It's sort of arbitrary because they're trying mightily to preserve that intersection. It was always planned for a future hotel but for some reason, and I think the question needs to be asked, 'what is it about that corner that you don't want any development on it?'"

Jeffrey Sinsheimer, attorney for Friends of Livermore, argued that the council was legally restricted from entering any agreement that annuls voters' ability to govern by placing a hotel where the Central Park Plan prohibits one.

City attorney Jason Alcala countered that Sinsheimer's reading of the cited case law "patently false."

The city's agreement with Presidio calls for the final design completion by next March; building permits would be issued in May 2021 and the hotel would open by September 2022.

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Comments

1 person likes this
Posted by David Furst
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 23, 2019 at 10:33 pm

Your post regarding the Livermore City Council's approval of the downtown hotel states the City of Livermore's plan includes a "large new park". In fact the new park is less than 2ac. This is a very tiny "pocket park" not a large park.


7 people like this
Posted by Loslofutura
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 24, 2019 at 12:56 am

WHAT IS A POCKET PARK?
A pocket park is a small outdoor space, usually no
more than ¼ of an acre, usually only a few house
lots in size or smaller, most often located in an
urban area surrounded by commercial buildings
or houses on small lots with few places for people
to gather, relax, or to enjoy the outdoors. They
are also called vest pocket parks, a term first used
in the 1960’s. Pocket parks are urban open spaces
on a small-scale and provide a safe and inviting
environment for surrounding community members.
They also meet a variety of needs and functions,
including: small event space, play areas for children,
spaces for relaxing or meeting friends, taking lunch
breaks, etc.
Successful “pocket parks” have four key qualities:
they are accessible; allow people to engage in
activities; are comfortable spaces and have a good
image; and finally, are sociable places: one where
people meet each other and take people to when
they come to visit.


4 people like this
Posted by Sue
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 24, 2019 at 10:36 am

Marchand is such a putz. He doesn't seem to care about what residents want. He only cares about what brings in money for the friends of Livermore mafia. We need more parking, not more high density housing to make life more congested downtown.


4 people like this
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 24, 2019 at 2:21 pm

Sue,

Your comment shows absolutely no understanding of the issue at hand. FoL is spending lots of money against Marchand and the rest of the council, trying to overturn the council's unanimous decisions about the downtown.

FoL's plan is increasing the density by making micro units for of the housing. That housing is required by law and by the financial situation the city is in with affordable housing requirements on this lot. Their plan is tripling the housing density of those units so that FoL can push them against the First Street Alehouse and get space for their (in my opinion) outlandish, unreasonable desires.

You have a right to your opinion, but I'd suggest you do a little more research before making false claims against people.


Like this comment
Posted by Srinivas N
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 25, 2019 at 8:22 am

So am I right in thinking that the essential difference between the City plan and the FoL plan is that in the City plan the hotel will be next to the bankhead and in the FOL plan it would be over on the Western edge of town and FOL wants more housing density downtown? Which plan has the greater amount of parkland downtown?


5 people like this
Posted by Fifty Years Here
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jul 25, 2019 at 8:31 am

Fifty Years Here is a registered user.

SJD... Yes, the City of Livermore borrowed money from the low-income housing fund to buy the site, but there is no reason why the housing has to occupy the site. They already removed a portion of that burden by doing a land swap with the Stockmen. Why can't they find another creative answer?
Also, Livermore's Downtown has flourished the past 20 years, while Pleasanton's has languished. Two notable differences: Livermore has invested millions to make sure they have and abundance of parking, while Pleasanton didn't even address parking in their recent Downtown Planning Process. Also, Livermore's Commercial Core is free of housing and the conflicts that that brings, while Pleasanton's Downtown is shared by residents and commercial interests alike.


3 people like this
Posted by Dave Fenner
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 25, 2019 at 9:43 am

Why can’t the tax paying citizens of Livermore decide with a vote? Personally I find the FOL plan to be more appealing but let the citizens decide instead of suspect officials.


1 person likes this
Posted by Louise Olsen
a resident of Carriage Gardens
on Jul 25, 2019 at 4:00 pm

why is there any reason, besides financial greed, that we wouldn't want to hear from the voters?someone is pocketing something and it sure isn't the voters


4 people like this
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 25, 2019 at 4:13 pm

I'm breaking up my comments here for readability.

Srinivas,
City plan has hotel next to Bankhead. FOL Plan has parking there - which will causes backups on Railroad there.

FOL plan has higher densities and lower total number of units. Their plan has the parking up against the 1st Street Alehouse - the owner of which expressly does not want to happen. This lower number of units also does not repay the city obligation for housing when they bought the site.

Their talking point is they have more open space, but this is because they basically define any green space near housing as "not a green space." It's disingenuous, in my opinion.


2 people like this
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 25, 2019 at 4:30 pm

@Fify Years, I'll do best to separate fact from opinion.

You are incorrect. There is absolutely an obligation to put housing here. The land covenant requires 84 units, period. No amount of swapping will get rid of this requirement. Yes, the remaining units could be moved. However, land prices have gone up significantly since the land was acquired - so acquiring a new site would be cost prohibitive. If you have a creative solution in mind, I'm sure council would love to hear it, but I've been listening and no one has said anything.

Furthermore, going to micro-units as in the FOL plan actually makes it harder to get funding, per city staff. Housing grants are needed to complete the units, and they are competitive.

And as I already mentioned, Alehouse doesn't want a 3 story building that close to their patio.

With regards to parking - both plans have additional parking. The city plans add additional parking well above the requirements for equivalent land use per the city General Plan in the downtown. The FOL plan says it has more parking, but has no actual financial plan to pay for the additional $15M or so it would take.

Now for opinions:

Livermore's commercial core is not "free of housing." Such a claim is preposterous. Your claims for why Livermore downtown has succeeded are simplistic at best. Livermore has more trails, easier freeway access, more secondary draw in things such as grocery stores, innovation spaces, more apartments, and is closer to the wineries.


6 people like this
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 25, 2019 at 4:40 pm

Dave Fenner,

What are we voting on? Not yes or no on the city plan. We're voting between the city plan and some other "plan" that the owner of the newspaper and operator of the Bankhead theater just decided to put together. How is that not suspect?

The initiative is a drawing with no financial analysis, no traffic analysis. Just a picture and a lot of lofty words written down. Signatures were gathered in part by paid gatherers, who told numerous lies to myself and to others I know.

Just estimates of the requirement is $20-22M, not including higher yearly upkeep costs.

I'd be a lot more generous to allowing a vote if getting to a vote was done honestly and openly. That just isn't the case.


Like this comment
Posted by Fifty Years Here
a resident of Pleasanton Heights
on Jul 25, 2019 at 9:46 pm

Fifty Years Here is a registered user.

SJD says, "Livermore's commercial core is not "free of housing." Such a claim is preposterous."
Except that From Railroad to Second Street and from McCloud up to M Street, there are ZERO houses in Downtown Livermore.
If you extend those boundaries out to Maple and down to Third, you might find four houses.
You have to go North of the Railroad Tracks, South of Fourth Street, West of M, and East of Church Street before you reach what you'd call a residential neighborhood.
And as for my other "simplistic" observation about Livermore vs Pleasanton, the trails, freeway access, wineries were all here 20 years ago, and Livermore's Downtown was The Vine's two theaters, and Dom's when you needed a pocket-knife. The difference has been investment! Livermore continues to invest in its Downtown, and Pleasanton has not.


Like this comment
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 26, 2019 at 9:42 am

Glad we can get past the facts at this point.

You define commercial core so narrowly as to get the result you want. In fact your own definition bounded by McLeod defines Paxti's and the Livermore cinema outside of the commercial core.

Yes, Livermore has had those things for 20 years - and has invested in its downtown in many forms. If you had said investment to begin with, I would have agreed with you. They've invested in getting through traffic off 1st Street, and they've spent money preserving fountains and small parks.

But that's not what you said. Your prescription that the problem with Pleasanton is mixed use and parking is what is simplistic.


Like this comment
Posted by srinivas n
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 26, 2019 at 7:58 pm

@sjd: "city plan has hotel next to Bankhead. FOL Plan has parking there - which will causes backups on Railroad there.". Why will parking cause backups? I see no backups on S. Livermore ave just north of 1st Street even though there's a block of parking there. Also I would imagine a hotel would cause more backups (depending on layout) with people dropping off and picking up and perhaps seeing the hotel's ripoff prices for parking and then circling around the neighborhood. (Not knocking any particular hotel but I've yet to see a hotel without ripoff parking rates, boutique hotels being even worse offenders with their "valet only" parking


Like this comment
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 27, 2019 at 10:00 am

Srinivas,
In general, there are 4 entrances to that parking lot as it exists today, from all faces of the block. That would not be possible with this new garage, of course. Additionally, those block faces are long which means you can have good queue lines without blocking traffic. And because on entrance would be on the same block as the other garage, you would have an even higher concentration of cars on that section of the street for any event.

The hotel has only one third of the number of units as the parking garage has spaces. The trip generation of drop offs and supplies doesn't make up for that really. And in any case there will be an alley drop off zone behind the hotel.

Hope that helps.


2 people like this
Posted by RDJR
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 28, 2019 at 1:50 pm

Another fact Friends of Livermore fails to mention, their plan costs more without a funding source. Rough estimate is around $25 million. They will need to move the new street, Veterans Way, expand Rail Road Avenue, and find funding for the ill-placed parking garage.

Guess who will be funding that increase? I don't think they have private money committed. It's coming out of our tax dollars or future tax dollars.

No thanks.


6 people like this
Posted by Frankie
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Jul 28, 2019 at 7:10 pm

Frankie is a registered user.

The fact that people posting here do not understand the competing plans after multi plan revisions based on lengthy public workshops, task force meetings, and public hearings over a substantial amount of time shows why the voters should let the elected City Council make the decision since they are much more informed than the average resident voter. Sad but it is true and that is why FOL use faulty petition gathering tactics to get it on the ballot. They know the majority of people who will actually vote on a local issue alone are a “just say no” to everything special interest group and all they need is a simple majority. Example: You can have only 20k people vote which is high and 10,001 people make the decision for over 90,000 population. DO NOT BE DUPED. Let the City Council do their job based on public hearings!!!


2 people like this
Posted by RDJR
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 29, 2019 at 8:15 am

Frankie, adding to your statement, FoL made the last election ENTIRELY about the downtown. Spending over $500,000! to associate the incumbent with the current plan. He won by a landslide. When they ousted council members in 2016, they declared that is was a referendum on the downtown. When it doesn't go their way, silence...


2 people like this
Posted by DKHSK
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Jul 29, 2019 at 9:28 am

DKHSK is a registered user.

OMG.

Two special interest groups fighting each other to dictate the future of downtown development, and government is right in the middle playing both sides.

The land in question is in a commercial zone. It was zoned commercial by the very government that is pitting both sides against each other, ironically.

How's about we let the land speculator, as long as he receives no funding whatsoever from the taxpayer and pursuant to all laws and regulations, do what he wants with the land? If he makes money and the business thrives and expands, then that's good for city coffers. If he doesn't, then he loses and the next investor gets a shot at trying something else.

Having the citizens vote on yet another project in this area (remember Costco?) is just a stupid idea.

Let the investor build what he wants, don't take my money or time to do it, and maybe, just maybe, we might find another useful establishment to visit.

Dan


2 people like this
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 29, 2019 at 3:07 pm

DKHSK,
No, that's just not what is happening.

The city is unanimously behind the existing plan.

The existing parcel is not zoned commercial, it is zoned mixed use.
Web Link

The parcel is owned by the city since it was purchased in 2006 with a mix of redevelopment state and local dollars.


4 people like this
Posted by RDJR
a resident of Livermore
on Jul 30, 2019 at 7:20 am

DKHSK,

It's not like developers have been knocking down the door to build anything there. There is enough commercial in the downtown core, the dirt lot is not a money making site. Only one hotel developer bid on the project. Livermore is lucky to still have them around at this point. Any do-over will set it back another 20 years.


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

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