The Livermore City Council is set to weigh in on the proposed 130-unit affordable housing development planned for downtown on Monday (May 24).
The proposal by developer Eden Housing has been embroiled in a community debate with supporters eager for the project to move forward and opponents urging the city to consider an alternative plan.
Eden Housing will present to the council its plans for a new community consisting of homes ranging from one to three bedrooms for low-income families and the local workforce at the southeast corner of the Railroad Avenue and L Street intersection, a site that formerly housed a Lucky store.
The units would be reserved for residents with incomes between 20% and 60% of the Alameda County area median income, which includes individuals earning less than $55,000 a year and less than $78,000 a year for a family of four.
The plan consists of two four-story buildings with units that range in size from 500 to approximately 1,000 square feet, according to a staff report presented to the Livermore Planning Commission on April 20.
Both buildings would occupy a combined footprint of about 38,000 square feet and would include various amenities like lobbies, recreation rooms and laundry facilities. About 31,000 square feet of land between and to the southeast of the two buildings would be allocated to Veterans Park, which would be open to the public.
Two private underground parking garages are also a part of the proposal, with additional parking reserved for residents of the complex in the nearby L Street public garage.
The new downtown project is at the center of a community debate with some residents objecting to the size and location of the estimated 2.5-acre development. Opponents argued at last month's Planning Commission meeting that a vacant parcel across Railroad Avenue would be a more suitable location for a project of this size and scope.
Among those who think an alternative location is a better option for this project is community group Save Livermore Downtown, which is circulating a petition calling upon the city and the developer to present a new plan "with a destination park, affordable units that include workforce housing and no mass of 3 and 4 story buildings in our city center!" the petition reads.
"We strongly support more affordable housing for this project and we would place it not directly in the city center but nearby, across Railroad Avenue. That would allow a destination community park to be enjoyed in the center of the downtown," the group told the Weekly in an email.
The group's website cites traffic congestion and inadequate parking among its concerns about the project, along with the concern that having four story buildings in the area "will change the character of Livermore's comfortable, open downtown."
The current project site was initially purchased by the city with a plan in sight to build affordable housing there. Eden Housing has also secured $14.4 million from Alameda County's Measure A1 bond fund for the project, which relies upon the city's commitment to build affordable housing at the proposed location.
The Railroad Avenue site that opponents are advocating for as an alternative is not owned by the city.
"The city bought the land in 2007 using funds specifically designated for affordable housing, so this site has been intended to be affordable housing for more than a decade," Eden Housing President Linda Mandolini told the Weekly.
She said that the city wanted to build affordable housing downtown to overcome the challenge of finding places in town for the workforce to live.
"The city's own waiting list for affordable housing with the housing authority is 13,000 households," Mandolini said, adding that there are more than 100 unhoused children attending Livermore schools. "The need is current and it's urgent," she said.
Challengers of the project have also expressed concern that the current proposal is different from the initial conceptual design that was approved by City Council in 2018 that featured four separate buildings and a larger park.
City staff told the Planning Commission that the reasoning for some of the design changes since the conceptual stage were because state affordable housing grant funding requirements called for changes in the mix of units, unit sizes and common areas compared to what was initially considered for the project.
Save Livermore Downtown argues that if the council pushes the project forward, it would be going against the opinions of "the vast majority of Livermore residents, as evidenced by a poll taken just weeks ago that shows a 4 to 1 majority opposing the project." The results of the survey, which was facilitated by the group and conducted by David Binder Research, are housed on the group's website.
Supporters of the plan argue that more affordable housing is needed in the city and shouldn't be delayed for fears that further postponement could result in the loss of state funding for the project.
Unify Livermore CEO Asa Strout said his organization supports the project as a "vital element to the completion of the Livermore downtown."
He added, "All 130 units will go to people who already live in Livermore or already work in Livermore and that is really why this project is so important. Keeping our community together is essential to maintaining a vibrant Livermore."
Livermore Downtown Inc. Executive Director Rachael Snedecor said the downtown business community welcomes the project.
"For many, many years we have really embraced the idea of having additional workforce housing in the downtown area because not only does it help them live and work downtown -- which is an awesome addition to the downtown neighborhood -- it also provides that consumer base," she said, adding that the people who work downtown also patronize the neighboring businesses for their needs, including errands on their lunch breaks and dinner after work.
"You can't bring it fast enough for us," she said.
Mayor Bob Woerner said he expects the hearing to span two days with Monday being dedicated to the presentation and public comment -- which he will ask speakers to limit to one minute -- followed by council deliberations on Tuesday starting at 2 p.m.
More information and access links to the meeting are available here.