Proponents of the Central Park Plan are removing their downtown redevelopment proposal from the November ballot, citing optimism that their top goals and those of the city can both be met.
An announcement from the measure’s sponsors was released Saturday.
“In the interest of finding common ground and bringing the community together, the Citizens for a Livermore Central Park (CLCP), sponsors of the Central Park Plan initiative, have been meeting with city leaders for the past six months to bridge the differences in their plans,” Bill Dunlop, chair of the citizens committee, reported.
The resulting vision of the downtown leaves intact much of the city’s approved downtown plan, including a hotel located east of Livermore Avenue, Stockmen’s Park and surrounding development, and Veteran’s Way with parking south of it.
Central Park Plan proponents believe that city leaders will support transferring planned housing from the Downtown Core site to nearby lots north of Railroad Avenue that could accommodate more affordable units, a move that would enable the expansion of the proposed downtown park; adding a paid parking facility near Livermore Avenue funded by private investors, possibly underground beneath the hotel; and encouraging a destination hotel, up to four-stories, enlarged from the current three-story plan.
Livermore Vice Mayor Bob Woerner, a key player and advocate for the city’s redevelopment plan, called the news “wonderful”.
“I’m very glad that we now have this opportunity to bring the community together,” said Woerner after reviewing the group’s statement. “Unfortunately, we’re dealing with the pandemic, which will require us to re-evaluate our timing for our plan.”
On Monday, with the council’s full support, Woerner asked the city manager to come back to the council in the future with a four-story option for the hotel at the discretion of the developer.
For nearly a year, the Central Park initiative, which sought to modify Livermore’s approved downtown plan, has been at the center of political wrangling between citizen activists and city officials who vigorously defended their plan for 8.2 acres of public land slated for redevelopment.
City officials argued that approval of the initiative would unravel years of careful planning, and, at best, add years of delays and millions in additional costs to taxpayers. They also said under the initiative’s timeline, new housing laws could threaten local planning control, resulting in the state forcing the development of high-density affordable housing on the project site.
Last fall, the city’s elections official sued five Livermore residents over ballot argument language and asked a judge to strike terms she claimed were false and misleading.
Many of the informal discussions were privately conducted by a professional mediator, Dunlop wrote. He noted that talks have now progressed to the point where the group is willing to drop the initiative and share its support for the following:
● Hotel location: A hotel sited on the eastside of Livermore Avenue.
● Hotel height: A destination hotel that rises up to four stories.
● Stockmen’s Park: The location of Stockmen’s Park and the development surrounding it between Livermore Avenue and the K Street extension as shown in the City Plan.
● Veterans Way: The current location of Veterans Way and the parking south of it.
Addressing his group’s interests, Dunlop stated: “We are optimistic that city leaders will be open to these concepts as the downtown revitalization unfolds.”
Dunlop then referenced the following top Central Park Plan objectives the CLCP believes the city will support:
● Parking: A paid parking facility off Livermore Avenue funded by private investors. Participation of the Eastside Hotel developer and others in discussions of a parking structure under the hotel, or on a site nearby, would be encouraged. The hotel’s need for valet parking could be eliminated.
● Hotel branding: Return of the hotel to the high-quality Marriott Autograph brand or one similar. A destination hotel, enlarged up to four stories, will enhance wineries, businesses and cultural amenities, and with its higher room rates, bring more hotel taxes to the city’s general fund.
● Housing: Residential developer’s consideration of moving its housing to a nearby location. Some or all of the 130 three- and four-story affordable housing units shown in the city’s Downtown Plan could be relocated to properties north of Railroad Avenue between L Street and Livermore Avenue, an area already zoned residential. A study of this site shows that the 130 units in the City Plan could be accommodated, along with another 100 to 200. The higher number of units, with their proximity to the Downtown Center and public transit, could make the relocation attractive to the city’s affordable housing developer. A larger, active park would then be possible for visitors and residents to enjoy in the heart of our city.
The group also committed not to file a lawsuit against the City of Livermore. CLCP believed that the city violated voters’ constitutional rights related to initiatives when it entered into a Development Agreement with the eastside hotel developer after the Central Park Plan initiative with its westside hotel qualified for a place on the November ballot.
The Development Agreement was referended by the proponents of the Central Park Plan, and placed on the ballot last March. Measure P, as it was called, locked in the location of the hotel next to the Bankhead Theater on the eastside of Livermore Avenue. The measure won by a 2-to-1 margin.
"In March, we heard from the voters, and the voters overwhelmingly supported the City's Approved Downtown Plan," Mayor John Marchand said. "It is to everyone's benefit that the Central Park group is ending their divisive and expensive campaign. I look forward to working with them as we unite Livermore and work together to implement the community's vision for our downtown."
California’s election law gives proponents of city and county voter initiatives the ability to withdraw measures any time up to 88 days before an election, even after signatures are submitted and a petition earns its way onto the ballot. The rationale behind the 2018 law was to encourage compromise by giving proponents of ballot measures an extended opportunity to work within the legislative process to find a solution to the issues addressed in the initiative.
Dunlop concluded, “In addition to moving forward together with a single downtown plan, our newly united community can better deal with the health and economic crisis caused by the pandemic.”