LIVERMORE — Ending years of discussions and delays, the Livermore City Council on Monday approved plans for a complete neighborhood of nearly 4,100 homes, with parks, office and retail space within walking distance of a train station to be built on the 580 Freeway.
The Isabel Neighborhood Specific Plan, which will develop over the next 20 years on 1,100 acres of mostly vacant land around Isabel Avenue, passed with a 5-0 vote.
"I think this is an exciting project," Councilman Bob Carling said. "I can imagine the staff that work for the city finding it unusual to start with essentially a clean slate and designing a whole community."
The project for a “safe, vibrant neighborhood” includes 4,095 condominiums, townhomes and apartments; office campuses; areas for retail, including banks, restaurants, nail salons and a grocery store; ground-floor businesses including coffee shops, fitness centers and daycare; three neighborhood parks; sports fields, hiking trails, pedestrian bridges and undercrossings; room for a K-12 school; and open plazas for community events like farmers' markets.
“This really is exciting," Mayor John Marchand said. "It presents an opportunity to provide a neighborhood and to provide a housing and commercial mix that we don't have and enable us to bring in housing for a workforce that we cannot accommodate right now."
Initially approved two years ago, the plan was sidelined when BART dropped plans to extend its line into Livermore. Instead, the Tri-Valley-San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority, a consortium of 15 cities and public agencies created by the state legislature in 2017, came to the rescue, configuring plans for a light rail line to run from Pleasanton-Dublin through Livermore and over the Altamont Pass into Mountain House and Tracy.
The initial segment from the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station to Mountain House is expected to cost $1.6 billion. So far, the project has $590 million in committed funding, including $400 million of Measure BB sales tax revenue that was originally to be used for the BART extension to Livermore. Last month, the Alameda County Transportation Commission approved an amendment to shift the $400 million in Measure BB funding to the Valley Link project.
With a station to be built at Isabel Avenue by 2028, Livermore city officials brought the community development plan back to life.
Michael Tree, executive director of the Tri-Valley San Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority, called it a “model for other station area planning being conducted on the Valley Link alignment.”
“The Specific Plan creates beautiful, vibrant neighborhoods that will be in high demand,” Tree said. “Residents will enjoy high-quality passenger rail service that will offer a convenient transportation alternative that will decrease greenhouse gas emissions and congestion.”
Specifically, the plan sets 4,095 multi-family residential units along with:
1.7 million square feet of office space;
180,000 square feet for a business park;
327,000 square feet for neighborhood and general commercial businesses, such as gas stations, lodging and retail;
270,000 square feet for industrial use.
As outlined in the staff report, the structure height will range from two to six stories, depending on the use. For residential, the buildings to reach six stories high would include the core housing – high-density housing closest to Valley Link and walking distance to the station. For nonresidential, the buildings spelled out to reach three to six stories would include office and office core – again, those closest to Valley Link.
The Livermore Municipal Airport is located just southwest of the planning area. While the EIR does not predict significant conflicts, the Isabel Neighborhood Specific Plan modifies the Airport Protection Area to ensure new transit-oriented residential development conditions are met. New housing was previously barred from the protection area that extends from the runway 5,000 feet to the north, south and east toward Livermore and 7,100 feet to the west toward Pleasanton. The changes comply with state public health and safety guidance on land-use compatibility with airports, according to the city. The areas planned for new homes are outside the airport’s “noise contours” where airport-generated noise levels are considered acceptable. Sound attenuation measures would likely also be required to reduce interior noise levels.
The development, planners predict, could create an estimated 9,200 jobs.
Key to the plan is affordable housing, a significant issue in the Tri-Valley, where businesses find it difficult to attract employees because of the high cost of living. Of the planned residential units to be built, about 1,000 are set for affordable housing.
The plan calls for 15% of the housing units for moderate-income households — up to $143,000 for a family of four — and 5% for median-income households, up to $119,000 a year for a family of four.
Twenty percent of the rental units would have to provide moderate to very low incomes, unless in lieu fees were allowed. or provide in lieu fees.
The council’s vote included a provision that developers be encouraged to provide local construction jobs.
City Manager, Attorney Receive Pay Raises
Livermore’s City Manager Marc Roberts and City Attorney Jason Alcala received 2.5% raises Monday from their city council.
Roberts, who received a 5.65% raise last year — about $16,000 — when he signed a five-year contract, will earn about another $7,064 a year under a new deal, bringing his base salary to $289,611. Roberts signed a new contract through 2025.
Alcala, who received a $15,000 raise in 2019 for a base salary of $263,000 a year, will now make $269,575.
Councilmembers gave the men closed-door performance reviews last month. During Monday’s council meeting, they praised them for their work.
“You are doing beyond a remarkable job,” Mayor John Marchand said.
Added Councilman Bob Woerner, “These guys are really looking out for us.”
According to their contracts, which are public record, Roberts also receives a $500-per-month car allowance, deferred compensation and retiree health care benefits. Alcala receives a $400-per-month car allowance, along with deferred compensation and retiree health care benefits.
According to the California State Controller’s office, Roberts earned $289,801 in total wages in 2019, along with $101,685 in retirement and health care contributions. Alcala earned $280,897 in total wages, plus $108,199 in health care and retirement contributions.
Roberts has worked for the city for three decades, including the last eight years as city manager.
Alcala began work for the city in 2004, taking over as city attorney six years ago.