The Livermore Planning Commission’s May 2 decision to recommend that the city council alter the South Livermore Valley Specific Plan (SLVSP) to accommodate development of a 30-room hotel was wrong.
We believe the city council should reject the recommendation and send the hotel project back to the architect’s drawing board. While we support a long-desired Wine Country Inn, the SLVSP’s rules were not meant to be broken because a developer does not want to abide by them.
Entrepreneur Michelle Boss’s proposal to build the two-story hotel at Hansen and Arroyo roads would include a restaurant and bar, a caretaker’s house with a pool, a business center, meeting rooms and a parking lot. It would satisfy a vision for the area within the SLVSP, a document adopted more than 20 years ago to manage development while keeping the area’s rural feel.
The document includes design rules for structures, including the requirement that setbacks from roads are 100 feet. Boss’s hotel has a setback of 50 feet from Hansen Road.
Friends of South Livermore filed suit in Alameda County Superior Court to stop the Inn as planned. Although a county judge rejected the group’s argument, California’s 1st District Court of Appeal agreed. The SLVSP, the court said, specifically demanded 100-foot setbacks. They overruled the city council’s approval and sent it back to the lower court. Boss told The Independent that she and the city would work together to figure out a solution.
Did Boss and city planners rework the design to create a 100-foot setback? No. Instead, the city staff suggested changing the language in the SLVSP to “clarify that the current zoning applies to the property and allows a 50-foot setback.” The planning commission approved that language and recommended the city council do so as well when it meets May 22. That would enable the hotel project to move forward as planned, despite the judge’s ruling.
We concur with a resident, who told the planning commission, “Rather than requiring the applicant to conform to the rules, the City is changing the (Specific Plan) to conform to the applicant’s plan.”
The city council should reject the new language, enforce the city’s own rules, and ask Boss to return with a hotel plan that meets them.