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Livermore: Downtown initiative validated; council orders analysis of alternative plan

City faces adopting 'Central Park Plan' or sending downtown debate to the ballot

The Livermore City Council certified the validity of a resident-submitted petition challenging the council's Downtown Specific Plan on Monday night, opening the door for city voters to possibly make the ultimate call through the ballot box.

The initiative petition contained 8,111 signatures in total, and the Alameda County Registrar of Voters' Office conducted a sample examination and determined the petition achieved the minimum threshold of 5,269 valid signatures (10% of registered Livermore voters), according to city staff.

During their regular meeting Monday, council members unanimously decided to delay a final decision on whether to rescind their plan in favor of the initiative proposal or send the issue to the ballot, and instead they directed city staff prepare to an informational report -- referred to as a "9212 report" -- on the petition and proposed plan alternative.

The topic is expected to return to the council for consideration during the Aug. 26 regular meeting.

"What we need is information and we, for the approved downtown plan, we went through a lot of that analysis, the cost of the infrastructure," Livermore Mayor John Marchand said at Monday's meeting, which was attended by nearly 100 residents.

"And I think as I've mentioned before, the (design) drawing associated with the initiative -- we don't have that information; we don't have the costs, the traffic impacts," Marchand said, later adding: "I think people need to understand what the costs are associated with both the city plan and the drawing associated with the initiative. We need to make sure that all of those will be included in the report."

Approximately 40 residents spoke to the council Monday night, debating the pros and cons of the city's plan and that of the petitioners, with roughly half vocalizing support for each side.

A key point of contention for the petitioners, from the resident group Better Livermore and supported by Friends of Livermore, is advocating for the replacement of a proposed boutique hotel next to the city's iconic Bankhead Theater with a large central park and moving the proposed hotel to the west side of South Livermore Avenue.

The council held an hours-long hearing last week before authorizing city staff to move forward with a development agreement with PresidioCo East Bay and/or 2205 Railroad Avenue, LLC for proceeding with a boutique hotel next to the Bankhead. The council adopted an ordinance confirming the agreement on Monday's consent calendar.

In addition to the hotel, which would hold 135 rooms on a 1.4-acre site at 2205 Railroad Ave., Livermore's Downtown Specific Plan contemplates a black box theater, science museum, shopping and retail options, additional parking, 130 units of affordable housing and a large new park named in honor of the Livermore Stockmen's Rodeo Association.

But supporters of the initiative petition think city voters should make the final decision on which downtown plan to proceed with.

"I ask you not to adopt (the city's) development agreement for a hotel on the east side. By adopting, you are interfering in the voters' right to choose a better plan," said Jean King, chair of the Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center board of directors, although she did stress that comments represented her personal opinion. "Put the 'Central Park Plan' on the ballot let the voters vote and then adopt the development agreement for the downtown plan that the voters want."

Unify Livermore, a group that backs the city-approved downtown plan, has criticized the petition proponents for pushing an unvetted plan and has accused them of using misinformation to garner support for their alternative.

During the meeting, Marchand called out the Central Park Plan for a lack of detail and public outreach, saying, "People keep referring to it as the citizens' plan, the Central Park Plan; it's a drawing. Where were the scheduled workshops and public hearings in the development of that drawing? I never heard of one ... I never saw any public outreach on it."

"Financial sustainability, to those of us sitting up here, is really important so where is the financial sustainability on this drawing? There were no public hearings there was no analysis no traffic analysis," the mayor added.

Now presented with the initiative petition, city staff will now prepare a "9212 report" to analyze the proponents' petitioners' plan alternative and review the plan's fiscal impact, effects on land use, infrastructure funding, effects on the city's General Plan and other factors such as traffic impacts and potential effects on local businesses.

After the report is reviewed at the Aug. 26 meeting, the council will have the choice of adopting the petitioners' proposal without alteration, placing the measure on the Nov. 3, 2020 regular municipal election ballot or calling a special election that must be held within the following 88 days.

City staff added that the report is estimated to cost approximately $100,000.

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Comments

Like this comment
Posted by Jim Kelly
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 1, 2019 at 5:21 pm

In Down Town Livermore there is always a need for improvement , but with over building homes and places to live , that look great but the need for Bart to run close by ,commuter traffic is getting worse every day


Like this comment
Posted by Talk2fabian
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 1, 2019 at 7:44 pm

I think the "central park motto"
Less housing
Better larger park.
Better location of hotel and better hotel
Pool location.
More parking

Makes sense but yes it will take longer and cost more money. Good things take longer and in the end are usually better. I'm sure the city wants it the other way. If an assessment could be placed to defer the additional cost I think it's worth it because it wont be much per household.


1 person likes this
Posted by Dave
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 2, 2019 at 5:51 am

Dear Livermore City Supervisors, I witnessed one of your recent meetings on television where certain members stated they had not heard any dissent on the City Supervisors and Mayors plan. I know many families in Livermore and we ALL dislike the City Supervisor plan. We also ALL dislike the continual sell out of our city to “developers for high density housing”. There is a considerable degree of distrust in the Mayor and Supervisors how all of these “development plans” get approved that nobody wants. You are turning Livermore into a second Dublin. Please let the citizens vote on this plan. Please also fix your email system, it doesn’t work and you will get inundated with feedback and be better able to gauge the level of disgust your citizens have with your actions. We can’t all attend town hall meetings but open communication with an email system that works would be great so we can openly direct our displeasure to your members regarding your suspicious conduct with “developers”. Thank you from a concerned citizen who is watching you destroy this nice town with high density housing projects which many of us suspect your are deriving personal financial benefits from.


Like this comment
Posted by RDJR
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 2, 2019 at 7:26 am

Talk2fabian Good things take longer, this has been in the works for 20 years! A east side hotel will allow for a larger park. Their hotel location is worse on Railroad Avenue, no hotel developer has said they would build there. It's a poor location. We already pay enough taxes, I seriously doubt voters will pay more for someones private plan. The current city plan under construction is fully funded already. Talk to any of the downtown businesses, they do not want their poor design. Also, 150 units per acre homes they propose will be the highest density in the Tri-Valley, triple the highest of Dublin!

Dave, email LivermoreCityCouncil@cityoflivermore.net it goes to all of them. I get responses when i mail them. Not all respond, but some do.


Like this comment
Posted by sjd
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 2, 2019 at 8:43 am

Dave,

You understand that this initiative vote creates higher density housing, right? 440 sqft micro apartments.


Like this comment
Posted by Louise Olsen
a resident of Jensen Tract
on Aug 2, 2019 at 1:32 pm

will someone PLEASE state, in straightforward language what exactly are the illicit $ gains that the mayor or city council members getting under the table so to speak, from the current downtown development plan? I hear the accusation, but never the meat of this potential fraud. I am a home owner and wish this whole arguement could cut to the chase, what EXACTLY is better about this alternative plan? and, what EXACTLY is objectionable about the current plan? both seem to create unwanted burdensome traffic, which is ALREADY A PROBLEM


Like this comment
Posted by David
a resident of Alisal Elementary School
on Aug 6, 2019 at 6:43 pm

David is a registered user.

I wonder how many have moved here within the past 10-15 years to raise a family. Don’t you like the new restaurants and retail plus festivals, theatres and nightlife? Don’t you want a new boutique hotel downtown? That means more traffic and the same is true for a Pleasanton and Danville, the other historic downtowns. It is growing everywhere in the Bay Area due to tech jobs, the weather and plain Calif living. I would think hotel operators would have selected the alternative location already if it were viable. So we run the risk of no swanky hotel but maybe we get a boring BW in the future. These decisions have taken too long as everyone wants their own personal approval. If I were a developer or landowner downtown, I’d put in a basic plan for a strip mall and say forget the headaches.


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