Guest Opinion: Debunking the Central Park Plan petition in Livermore

Concerned resident urges petition-signers with second thoughts to pursue formal withdrawal process

Considering the huge need for affordable housing, I feel I must refute the Central Park Plan's recent Independent ad, "Five Reasons to Sign the New Petition!", in order of listing (though not importance).

1. "A Bigger, Better Park." How can a linear park that displaces the city's affordable apartments be better? Why not count the green spaces surrounding the city's apartment buildings? Nearby Carnegie Park is small, compact, and wrapped around a large building, yet it offers plenty of space for kids to roll in the grass and adults to shop at farmers' markets.

Studies have shown that people feel safer in compact urban parks with fewer secluded spots for predators and drug dealers to lurk. As for the environment, inexpensive apartments for local workers reduce pollution from commuters who must seek less costly shelter in the Central Valley. Plus, parkland costs more to maintain.

2. "More Convenient Parking." Note that the city does plan to add some more parking spaces near the Bankhead Theater -- but hey, not everyone is going to the Bankhead every night.

The L Street Garage and the new Veterans Way will offer very convenient parking for people heading for the restaurants and shops on First Street, Stockmen's Park, the Black Box Theater, and the Science and Society Center (perhaps with shuttles to the hotel and the Bankhead if needed).

3. "More Appropriate Housing." Appropriate for . . . WHOM?? The 84 apartments in the Central Park Plan are so small they can barely accommodate two people; a couple expecting a baby would have to search for new digs unless they are willing to share their cramped bedroom with offspring indefinitely.

The wording is confusing: in real-estate parlance, a single apartment is a Unit; there can be many units in a multi-story apartment building. When you say the 400 sq.ft. apartments in your plan are "3-story units," that implies that there might be a 10 x 10-ft. kitchen on the first floor, a small bedroom of the same size on the second; the bathroom and maybe a closet on the third floor, with the remaining space taken up by staircases.

The city plan's 130 studio, one- and two-bedroom, one-story apartments, to be built and managed by a nonprofit affordable-housing developer, will have varied rents to accommodate families earning at or somewhat below the median income level in our area. Right now those families just can't afford the average market-rate rent for a two-bedroom apartment, and other affordable multi-family complexes in our area have been forced to close their long waiting lists.

The ad also states, "In the Central Park Plan, 46 affordable units will also be available on Pacific Avenue." That is totally misleading: the only new units planned for Pacific Avenue are to be built by Interfaith Housing in conjunction with a nonprofit developer, and will be restricted to seniors over 62 -- no younger people or kids allowed! They are hardly equivalent to the 130 family units planned by the city.

CPP proponents often claim there's lots more housing to be built on the Groth lot across L Street. But those will all be market-rate rentals, which means most teachers, firemen and other people with good, steady jobs in Livermore can't afford them. The Central Park Plan blithely ignores the severity of the housing crisis, probably because most of its proponents have never had to struggle to shelter their families.

4. "A High-Quality Hotel." More rooms make a hotel better? Some of the world's most exclusive hotels are small. A restaurant? Guests would have many nearby dining options. Do we need a large, sprawling hotel for wealthy tourists more than we need affordable housing for our children and grandchildren?

5. "Financially Feasible and No Delays." Ha. What a fantasy! Aside for the expense and time for a ballot initiative, do you have any idea how long it takes to get environmental reports, zoning changes, and Planning Commission and City Council approval for different projects?

And don't forget the city will also have to pay back millions of affordable housing dollars they used to buy the land if their 130 apartments aren't built. The total costs would affect the city's ability to pay our first responders, among other things.

If you've already signed the "Protect the Central Park Plan" petition and since changed your mind, you can download and fill out the City's "Withdrawal of Signature from Petition" form on the city website. Promptly email it to

Editor's note: Livermore resident Laning Thompson is an affordable housing advocate, an officer of Interfaith Housing, Inc. and a member of the Tri-Valley Anti-Poverty Collaborative Housing Committee.

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Like this comment
Posted by Pete
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Aug 19, 2019 at 10:48 pm

135 rooms(Eastside Hotel) = 200-300 people, Bankhead Theater= 500 people, Livermore Cinemas= 300+ people equates to 1000-1100 or more, not counting workers, volunteers and other patrons to existing businesses. If placing the Hotel on the Westside is so bad, it only illustrates that Pleasanton prepares itself better for the future. At least if you stay at the Rose Hotel, leaving to attend our Firehouse Theater or finding dining creates a social interaction amongst our residents that Livermore’s will be without to showcase their Community. Thanks Pleasanton...did not realize we had it so good.

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