LIVERMORE — The City of Livermore has exceeded state requirements for new housing projects for people with moderate to above moderate incomes, but has not met targets that provide for those with low and extremely low incomes, city planners reported during Monday night’s council meeting.
Livermore Associate Planner Tricia Pontau told the council that since the current eight-year housing plan began in 2015, the city issued 1,893 building permits for projects deemed affordable for people with higher incomes — above the state target of 1,416 — but had issued just 184 permits for people with extremely low and low incomes, far below the state’s aim of 1,129 in that category.
Pontau said the permits for more expensive homes help meet the state’s need for housing. However, like other communities in the Bay Area and throughout California, the city is behind in its quest to develop affordable housing for those with lower incomes.
“We are not unique,” Pontau said.
Starting prices for new townhouses and condominiums in Livermore range from the mid-$700,000 to mid-$900,000. Starting prices for new single-family detached homes range from the low $800,000 to more than $1 million, a council report stated.
Despite a lag in building affordable housing, Pontau said the city does have enough land zoned for more housing with a requirement that 15% be deemed affordable for low- and moderate-income households. At least 7.5% of those units must be for low-income households or an in lieu fee must be paid.
The state deems extremely low and low income to range from $27,000 to $70,000 for rental properties, depending on the size of the family, the number of rooms in the residence, and rental price. Similarly, very low to low income ranges from $45,700 to $112,800 for a home purchase, depending on the size of the family, number of rooms, and home price.
In 2020, Pontau said, the COVID-19 pandemic slowed progress in issuing building permits to just 167, below the normal 300-430 range of previous years. About half of the permits issued were for single-family attached homes — condominiums and townhomes — at market rate, and about 20% were for multi-family rental units — apartments, also at market rate. The bulk of the remaining permits were issued for “accessory dwelling units,” commonly known as granny units, which cannot be sold separately, Pontau reported.
Pontau explained that each new proposed project has requirements to include percentages of affordable housing, such as 20% in the Isabel Neighborhood Specific Plan and 10% in the Downtown Specific Plan.
Although behind in its desire to accommodate some of the state’s affordable housing targets, Pontau said the city has “more than enough land zoned in the city to meet these (state) numbers.”
“We have an excess of units,” Pontau said. “It’s just a matter of finding developers and people who both want to come develop, and we can get it to the point where we can issue permits,” Pontau continued. “We provide more than enough space and opportunity. It’s just sort of what the market is calling for what developers want to move on. We do have plenty of space and opportunity to meet these.”
Councilmember Brittni Kiick commended the city for doing its part to ensure standards are met.
“We’re just waiting on the market to fill the gap,” Kiick said.
Pontau provided updates on housing projects underway:
Chestnut Square: A 44-unit market-rate townhouse project that began construction in 2020;
Auburn Grove: 100 townhomes under construction with 15 designated as low and moderate income units;
Legacy Livermore: 222 market-rate rental units under construction on First Street with 14,000-square-feet of retail space;
Goodness Village at Crosswinds Church: 28 tiny homes for the homeless under a temporary use permit;
Avance Apartments: 44 affordable units for people with developmental disabilities. The project, which has financial support through a loan from the city, closed necessary financing to begin construction;
Vineyard housing: 24 low-income housing units approved in May with a portion for people with disabilities and those experiencing homelessness;
Isabel Neighborhood Specific Plan: A plan for 4,095 residential units adopted in November with a goal of 25% affordability in the project;
Downtown housing: A 140-unit senior project to be developed by SAHA/Interfaith Housing on Pacific Avenue that should come before the city’s planning commission and city council later this year;
Rehabilitation project: The city plans to acquire market rate housing and convert a 162-unit building into housing for low-to-middle incomes.
Councilwoman Trish Munro said the projects need to be celebrated.
“The need is endless,” she said. “I am proud that we are doing what we are doing … We’re going forward. It sure would be nice to find sources to make this easier to serve more people.”
Solar for the LARPD
In other action, the city approved a lease for the Livermore Area Recreation and Park District (LARPD) to allow SSI Development Co. to construct, operate and maintain a solar system on new shade structures over a portion of the Loyola Avenue parking lot at the Robert Livermore Community Center until 2055. The action extends an existing lease approved in 2004 to operate until 2024. The solar shade, which will cover about 2.5 acres of the site, will allow LARPD to buy electricity for the community center at reduced rates and provide shade over a portion of its parking lot.
Support for Mental Health
The council unanimously allocated $107,165 from the city's general fund to join Dublin and Pleasanton in providing funding for the Axis Community Health Mental Health Urgent Care pilot project. The project will provide mental health services to residents of the three cities regardless of income or insurance status. The program, first using virtual appointments and eventually in-person visits, will begin in May from 3 to 8 p.m. weekdays for people aged 5 and up. Services will be available for individuals, couples and families. The center expects to handle about 500 patients in the first year.
Funding for Iron Horse Trail
Woerner announced that he had been in a recent meeting with the East Bay Regional Park District. He learned there might be a chance to secure funding for the Iron Horse Trail; the city will then evaluate to what extend it can cooperate with the district to create trail connections.
"One of the things that came out of that conversation I realized afterwards in talking with Paul Spence (Livermore community development director) is that pieces of the Iron Horse Trail are higher priority than others, but some of those pieces have issues with respect to just trying to get the rights of way,” Woerner said. “It’s one of these chicken and egg things, where – if we had the rights of way – when a funding opportunity came up, we could take advantage of it. But we don’t have the rights of way, and it’s going to take a while.”
He requested that the city consider this topic at its upcoming budget and priority workshop. He wanted a better understanding of the Iron Horse Trail connections and what rights of way the city needs to obtain.