With the presidential primaries stealing most headlines for the upcoming March election, a years-long battle over the future of downtown Livermore will have at least one aspect resolved with Measure P on the ballot.
Placed on the ballot after a citizen-submitted referendum petition, Measure P specifically relates to a development agreement with a hotelier approved by the Livermore City Council last summer that would advance the city's plan to place a yet-unnamed "wine country hotel" next to the Bankhead Theater on the east side of Livermore Avenue.
One facet of the lengthy and complex downtown debate, at its most basic a Yes vote on Measure P would approve the downtown hotel agreement while a No vote would deny that project proposal to leave the property available for other redevelopment or even remaining as an open parking lot.
The formal opposition campaign disagrees with the hotel location and size under the city's plan, preferring an alternate hotel concept for the west side of Livermore Avenue that is key to the opponents' "Central Park Plan" initiative scheduled to appear on the citywide ballot in November.
For many voters, the Measure P election on March 3 is seen as a way to endorse either the city's downtown redevelopment plan (a Yes vote) or the alternate concept introduced last summer (a No vote) -- through the lens of the hotel location.
Measure P will be decided by a simple majority.
Proposed for 2205 Railroad Ave., the project locating the downtown hotel next to the Bankhead calls for a three-story hotel consisting of between 125-135 rooms, approximately 1,400 to 2,000 square feet of conference space, a bar/lounge area, fitness room, pool and a fully or partially public rooftop deck area covering a total area of approximately 70,000 square feet.
The approval of the hotel agreement -- to be developed by Presidio Co. and operated by AC Marriott Hotels -- has brought significant debate at City Council meetings and other gatherings in Livermore due to it being the centerpiece of Livermore's long-desired downtown redevelopment
Soon after the council approved the hotel agreement in July 2019, a local group named Citizens for a Livermore Central Park opposed to the city's hotel plan started a referendum petition seeking to overturn the decision.
Eventually garnering enough votes to place the issue on the March 3 ballot, opponents argue that not only would it be better to have a larger hotel consisting of up to 160 rooms and located on the west side of Livermore Avenue, but the existing property next to the Bankhead could best be utilized as a multi-use parking structure that includes a first-floor restaurant.
Opponents further disagree with the hotel location due to it being the centerpiece of the city-approved Downtown Specific Plan, which Citizens for a Livermore Central Park oppose in favor of their own vision for downtown -- their so-called "Central Park Plan."
"Practically speaking, Measure P is about much more than a hotel. The City Council created a downtown redevelopment plan that overlooked the preferences of the majority of citizens who participated in its public outreach process," No on P campaign leader Tamara Reus told the Weekly.
"If Measure P passes, it would undermine the right to have a meaningful opportunity to vote on the Central Park Plan," she added. "The people deserve to have an up or down vote on the Central Park Plan without a conflicting development agreement that muddies the waters."
Opponents claim that not only was the city's approval of the hotel agreement done in order to block the Central Park Plan, but that community input was not considered when approving the city plan.
Measure P supporters instead argue the hotel plan has been well thought-out and analyzed through the city's rigorous review process that included input from community members, unlike the Central Park Plan and hotel idea that some city leaders call a conceptual "drawing" containing false claims created by a small dissenting group.
"Voters should say Yes to Measure P because it will allow the city to make immediate progress towards building a beautiful wine country hotel adjacent to the Bankhead Theater. It's a thoroughly developed plan with a reputable developer, and is sized appropriately for our economy," Lori Souza, a leader of the Yes on Measure P campaign, told the Weekly.
According to the ballot argument supporting Measure P, not only is the hotel a fiscally responsible design that will lead to greater traffic circulation and benefits for local businesses, but it was created using input from thousands of Livermore residents.
The ballot argument adds that the hotel is the crown jewel of the city's Downtown Specific Plan, which Measure P proponents say offers more parking, retail, open space and less dense housing than the Central Park Plan.
"The wine country hotel at the Bankhead is the anchor for Stockmen's Park which enabled the success of the entire downtown project," added Asa Strout, co-manager of Unify Livermore -- a resident group in support of Measure P.
But still looming is the initiative measure scheduled to appear on Livermore voters' November ballot. While Measure P relates specifically to the city's development agreement for the downtown hotel next to the Bankhead, November's initiative will ask residents to approve or deny the resident-submitted Central Park Plan alternative over the council's Downtown Specific Plan.
The initiative plan also involves placing the downtown hotel on the west side of Livermore Avenue instead of the city's location on the east side.
The impact of the final Measure P decision on the November initiative remains unclear, though Measure P supporters say a Yes vote in March will enable Presidio to begin the development process for the hotel project.
To learn more about Measure P, including the full arguments for and against, visit www.cityoflivermore.net/citygov/clerk/elections.