The politics behind the Livermore City Council’s discussion of a parcel tax was evident on Monday. The council provided no information to the public in advance of the meeting, or at the meeting, to support a parcel tax. The council used its position to stoke fears, aided by the misleading mailers put out by the supporters of Measure P. With the election only a few weeks away, threatening a parcel tax measure misinforms voters, many of whom are already completing their ballots.
A parcel tax would not have to be placed on the ballot until August. The council won’t have additional information until April or possibly May, after the vote on Measure P is over. There was no need for the council to discuss this issue now, except to scare people into voting in favor of Measure P.
The city has not even revealed the amounts it will be spending for the City Plan. This makes a full comparison of the financial impacts of each plan impossible. Another reason to question the council’s underlying motivation.
Let’s be clear. A parcel tax is NOT needed to implement the Central Park Plan.
The Central Park Plan will generate $1.2 million per year in taxes and fees, according to a study prepared by Willdan Financial Services, a national firm. Willdan took into account the fact that the Central Park Plan provides a full-service westside hotel, including160 rooms with a high room rate and top-quality restaurant, parking fees, and additional retail. With over $35 million in revenue over 30 years, this is more than enough to cover added costs in the Central Park Plan.
Second, in order to provide parking near Livermore Avenue where it is needed, the Central Park Plan places the same number of stalls in three garages that the City Plan places in two. Because of this variation, the additional expense is $2.5 million, not $23 million. Again, the $1.2 million annual increase in revenues will offset the expense.
Third, some have said that the proposed parcel tax is needed to help with residential development financing if the Central Park Plan is approved. Eden Housing has been awarded $14 million by Alameda County for its 130-unit affordable-housing project. However, if the 130 units were built north of Railroad Avenue instead, Eden could still secure the county’s $14 million. This area is across from the downtown plan site, with walkable access to downtown businesses. It could accommodate significantly more affordable housing than currently planned and could thereby exceed the county’s funding criteria, as well as being good for Livermore. No need for a parcel tax.
And last, the $4 million in any remaining affordable-housing obligation could be addressed by up-zoning other land for affordable housing, such as the area north of Railroad. Any portion of the obligation that is not covered by the 84 affordable units in the Central Park Plan can be met by adding 46 or more units there. The city can use the same strategy for the Central Park Plan that it used in relocating housing to Pacific Avenue in the Stockmen’s Agreement, still benefiting the city’s affordable-housing fund.
Of course, if Measure P passes, it will fix the hotel location on the east side of Livermore Avenue, in direct conflict with the Central Park Plan, with its better hotel, better park, and better parking. Is the city council so afraid that Measure P will be defeated this March that it rushed to discuss an unwarranted parcel tax for the November ballot? Don’t let this threat dissuade you from voting “No” on Measure P.