Note: Joan Seppala, Founder and Publisher of The Independent, has been active as a grassroots leader of the Central Park Plan.

The signatures for the Central Park Plan initiative were certified on July 19 last year, qualifying the initiative for the ballot. On July 29, the Livermore City Council entered into a Development Agreement with Presidio DEV LLC, its hotel developer. The Council wanted to secure Presidio’s rights to build a hotel on the east side of Livermore Avenue next to the Bankhead Theater before citizens could have a chance to vote in November for approval of the Central Park Plan with its west side hotel. The Council’s goal was — and is — to make the November vote meaningless. The Council’s action undermines our State constitutional right to enact the Central Park Plan initiative as intended.

Not wishing to have the Council’s abuse of power go unchallenged, community members supporting the Central Park Plan collected the signatures to referend the Presidio Development Agreement, the measure on the ballot this March 3. A No on P majority would terminate the Presidio Development Agreement, allowing voters this November to weigh the Central Park Plan against the City Plan.

After an extensive Outreach Process costing taxpayers $500,000, the City produced a downtown plan involving parking, park, housing and hotel that ignored the interests of Livermore citizens. Community participants ranked parking as their Number 1 priority, open space as Number 3 and housing last, as Number 10.

The Council spends little time explaining the advantages of the City Plan, but it’s important for the community to make a comparison with the Central Park Plan.

The City Plan removes parking on both sides of Livermore Avenue where it’s most needed, and does not sufficiently replace the lost spaces or accommodate those required for the new proposed uses. The Central Park Plan, on the other hand, provides parking that meets the demand in a multi-use facility on the east side of Livermore Avenue.

Much of the City’s open space includes lawn area in between private three- and four-story 130 housing units. The Central Park Plan creates recreational open space from the Bankhead Park Plaza to L Street, and places its 84 three-story housing units on the edge of the park. In contrast, the City prioritizes housing over park by placing its units on the land that the Central Park Plan reserves for open space.

The quality of the hotels and their financial contribution to the City should also be compared. The City Plan supports Presidio’s development, which was downgraded from the promised Marriott Autograph brand to a mid-level hotel, a lack-luster image for our downtown and wine region. But the wine country, resort hotel in the citizens’ plan on the west side overlooking the Central Park would turn Livermore into a Bay Area destination.

According to a Willdan Financial Services report, the Central Park Plan will benefit the city’s general fund more than the City Plan primarily because of the hotel’s larger number of rooms and higher room rates.

Perhaps, the fact that the City Plan runs counter to the findings of the Outreach Process causes some council members and their followers to resort to scare tactics. They are trying to divert attention away from the major flaws in their Plan by frightening voters into thinking that state laws will block the City from implementing the Central Park Plan. They have cited four bills – SB 50, SB 330, AB 1486 and AB 1763. None would impact the Central Park Pan.

They also claim that the Central Park Plan will cause a four-year delay. The Central Park Plan can proceed in virtually the same time frame as the City Plan.

We need to take back our city, as we did with Urban Growth Boundary initiatives in years past. In those times, commercial interests advocating for sprawl development were controlling Livermore’s city government. Now, Council actions are subverting a citizen-led vision of development for the heart of our community, one first expressed in the Council’s Outreach Process.

If you wish to preserve our constitutional rights so that a meaningful election will be held in November, vote No on P.