Group starts new petition to reverse city's plans for downtown Livermore

Opponents now pursing referendum in addition to their initiative on downtown

A local group opposed to a new boutique hotel in downtown Livermore are working to reverse the City Council's recent approval of the plans and have organized a signature-gathering drive in hopes of bringing a referendum to voters.

The referendum proponents, opposed to the overall city-endorsed vision for revitalizing downtown, have already submitted an initiative petition in the hopes of getting their alternative "Central Park Plan" on the ballot.

If the referendum petition is successful, it could set the stage for dueling downtown plans on the same upcoming ballot -- for Livermore residents to vote on each development proposal individually.

Tamara Reus, chair of Protect the Central Park Vote, told the Weekly that the referendum is a necessary step to "ensure the vote on the initiative is meaningful."

"The problem is the City Council went ahead with developing an agreement for a hotel that's in direct conflict with the Central Park Plan," Reus said. "If they move forward with a hotel on the east side (of Livermore Avenue), it nullifies our plan."

Last month, the council sealed a development agreement for a 65,000-square-foot, 135-room, high-end hotel with a rooftop deck and 1,400-2,000 square feet of conference room set on a 1.4-acre parcel at 2205 Railroad Ave. next door to the Bankhead Theater.

A hotel in the downtown area has been a marquee feature of Livermore's Downtown Specific Plan since 2004, as well as more parking, shopping and retail, a science museum, a blackbox theater, 130 units of affordable housing and a large community park name for the Livermore Stockmen's Rodeo Association.

Both supporters and opponents of the project attended en masse the July 29 council meeting, with the hotel development agreement on the consent calendar the same night as the council debated what to do with the Central Park Plan initiative petition.

The next day, July 30, the recently formed Citizens for a Livermore Central Park (led key members from Better Livermore and Friends of Livermore) had started the process to collect signatures from registered local voters to qualify for a referendum on the development agreement.

The Alameda County Registrar of Voters' Office recently verified almost 7,000 signatures from another petition that the group circulated that advocated for a ballot initiative on their Central Park Plan, an alternative proposal for downtown that would move the hotel on to the west side of Livermore Avenue and add a new park next door to the Bankhead.

At their July 29 last meeting, the council members requested a report from staff with cost estimates for the group's initiative proposal, plus details on effects on land use, infrastructure funding, effects on the city's General Plan and other factors such as traffic.

If the group collects enough signatures for the referendum, the council could either reverse their own decision or put it on the ballot and let the voters decide.

Mayor John Marchand and supporters of the city's downtown plan said they think the referendum effort will be unsuccessful; multiple residents have said that signature gatherers during the initiative petition had misled or outright lied to them about the city's plan.

"A lot of folks that I've talked with are very put-off by the aggression of these signature gatherers, and are tired of having these petitions shoved in their face," Marchand told the Weekly, adding that he and the other council members who won last year's election had heavily campaigned on their promises to transform downtown Livermore.

"This community elected this council to make land-use decisions for this community, and we're now seeing a small group of people trying to change that process," the mayor added.

The opponents' plan also includes a parking garage that Marchand said would be an additional multi-million expense that has "no funding mechanism."

The Protect the Central Park Vote group said they're trying to teach residents about their reason for pursuing a new petition and are confident that residents will sign it "once they understand ... how the city is trying to undermine them," according to Reus.

She insisted that the group provides "accurate information" including data and ads with footnotes, and denied misleading the public.

"They're accusing us of misinformation and we can point to misinformation from them," Reus said. She did not provide details but added "there's a lot of allegations coming from the opposition that are without any foundation."

At least 10% of registered Livermore voters -- or 5,269 signatures -- are needed to qualify the referendum. They will have 30 days from July 29, the date of the council's decision, to collect enough signatures.

The city also has 30 days to produce their report analyzing the initiative, then decide whether to adopt the Protect the Central Park Vote group's plan or bring it to an election. Should they choose an election instead, voters would then decide in either the next general election in November 2020 or in a special election that could cost nearly $800,000, according to Marchand.

Reus did not have a current signature count for the referendum petition available but said "it's going well."

What is democracy worth to you?
Support local journalism.


2 people like this
Posted by Rich Buckley
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 14, 2019 at 6:59 am

As a small business owner in downtown Livermore over the past 45+ years, I signed to support the referendum. The Central Park Committee Plan is a far superior plan. To illustrate and explain The Central Park Committee Plan I’m putting together a series of short videos to help voters observe the differences. Part 4 is a short 3 minute video on the plan Web Link

4 people like this
Posted by RDJR
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 14, 2019 at 7:33 am

Rich Buckley, your business (real estate) does not depend on the City Plan being built. All of the businesses that people enjoy are in support of the City Plan. Jean and Joan recently met with a group of downtown businesses (first time in YEARS) and it did not go well. Many of the business owners walked out on them after not getting ANY answers to their questions.

Your video is chop packed full of misinformation. I would stick to talking about chemtrails.

3 people like this
Posted by Randal Hill
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 14, 2019 at 8:23 am

With regard to the Livermore down town referendum:

I'm with the city council. Legislation by ballot initiative isn't the way to get things done.
If you aren't happy with the city council then spend time electing a council member who supports your views.
I strongly urge standing with the city council and rejecting aggressive "pan handling" signature gatherers.

3 people like this
Posted by RDJR
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 14, 2019 at 8:52 am

Ms. Reus’s statement that they provide “accurate information” is in fact not accurate. When she and Joan/Jean met with the downtown business owners, they stated that there is plenty of time to alter the hotel location because an east side hotel could not be built until the expansion of the I Street garage is complete. Essentially giving them until late 2022 to continue to mess with the design.

This is a false statement. The hotel can begin construction in early 2020. If they would take a moment to leave the back room of the Independent building to walk across the street, they would see a timeline of construction posted by the City at Livermorium Park. Clearly states hotel construction in 2020.

Misleading statements are the norm for her group. Confuse and destroy is their game.

2 people like this
Posted by John Wyatt
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 14, 2019 at 9:06 am

Rich, why do you not allow comments on your youtube video? You have a lot of misleading statements and a few straight out lies.

1) There is no developer in waiting for a "west side hotel". That was proven here: Web Link

2) No other plan can be put in place as fast as the cities plan. Just putting it to a vote would delay downtown development longer. Let alone all the contracts and proposals that would have to be redone.

3) You say the Science center would benefit from foot traffic. Foot traffic to where? That trail would lead to soon to be built apartments.

4) The central park plan is not supported by any business with a storefront downtown (except the independent).

I am not surprised by someone playing loose with the facts that is a believer in chem trails.

8 people like this
Posted by Livermore Parent
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 14, 2019 at 10:56 am

The referendum should be supported no matter which plan you like - choice is good. It is not like the town council members and mayor have any special talents or experience that gives them a God-given absolute power over us.

The main issue I see with the alternate plan is in regards to Bill Dunlop, the president of the alternate groups. Bill Dunlop just used his personal reputation to push through a $245 Million school facilities bond in Livermore promising that none of the proceeds would be used for administrator pensions and salaries. Guess what happened the first year - $688,296 was spent on administrator salaries and pensions - and millions for an office in the Livermore hills for our $400k+ a year school Superintendent Kelly Bowers.
Web Link

Bill Dunlop did endorse more recently a school board member who kicked out an incumbent and now his wife is on the bond facilities oversight committee. Change has not come quick but it better come soon, otherwise people may think that if Bill Dunlop lied about the Livermore School bond then he is lying about the alternate plan.

3 people like this
Posted by RDJR
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 14, 2019 at 11:39 am

Livermore Parent, no one is arguing the right to choose. A small group (3 people) are abusing the system with paid signature gatherers in order to try to get their way. The City process was totally transparent, took many years, and made the best choices based on available funding. It’s a waste of taxpayers dollars to continually use the referendum or initiative process to delay and destroy projects. Millions will be spent addressing their referendums.

If it were truly resident driven due to displeasure with a Council decision, they would not need the hired guns to collect signatures.

1 person likes this
Posted by Rich Buckley
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 14, 2019 at 12:00 pm

RDJR Thank you for your comment. You may be right. The evidence seems to indicate otherwise, however. My yearly revenues have been increasing on the downtown So my prosperity does seem to correlate positively to the prosperity of the businesses downtown.

However, "the downtown" to me is defined more or less as a map outlined by 4th Street on the South boundary, Pepper Tree Plaza center on the West boundary, Chestnut Street on the North Boundary and the First Street overpass on the East Boundary.

It's vitally important that at this point in my life I push to do the right thing as I am given to see the right thing. I call it seeking truth. The truth as I see it is my community is being lead in the wrong direction on the downtown by an inexperienced City Council. I support the superior plan of the Central Park Committee and I have sign the referendum petition.

In support of a prosperous downtown, my minor efforts have been to prepare 5 YouTube Videos entitled, "Livermore Referendum Central Park Plan", Parts 1 through Part 5. The videos are offered by me to dispassionately discuss the merits of the plan, point out oversights of the City Council (without malice) and offer insight into what makes the Central Park Plan a better plan. I post these videos where allowed on social media where people can and do comment, just like this site we are on now. I'm actually surprised my little videos are getting so much attention.

2 people like this
Posted by RDJR
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 14, 2019 at 4:01 pm

Rich, inexperienced City Council? Their collective service to the community greatly overshadows three people designing a concept in the dark recesses of the independent building.

I will give you a chance to display your greater knowledge of the "truth" as you put it. please answer one simple question.

How do you propose to fund the $25 million shortfall created by your supported concept? Bonus question, add another $10 million to the total when the Stockmen's Association pull their deal due to violation of their contract.

Like this comment
Posted by Rich Buckley
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 16, 2019 at 1:37 pm

RDJR, Thank you again for your engaging questions. I covered some of your question in 5 short videos on YouTube under the heading "Livermore Referendum Central Park Plan" Part Six was just released a few moments ago Web Link. I address using the Sunken Gardens as a pressure relief value for development in videos 3, 4, and 5. In Video 6 I just focus on the Residential Element of the Livermore Referendum Central Park Plan.

Like this comment
Posted by RDJR
a resident of Livermore
on Aug 16, 2019 at 2:34 pm

Rich, typical tactics of the group and their supporters. Never directly answer a simple question. Can’t answer the cost question? So you direct me to six videos on YouTube?

I proved my point.

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

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

Differentiating Grief from Clinical Depression
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 2,146 views

Seeing God move supernaturally in Brazil
By Tim Hunt | 32 comments | 931 views