The Livermore City Council on Monday campaigned strongly for their vision of downtown redevelopment, arguing that anything else will unravel a carefully-laid plan which includes signed development deals, development process steps, and ensuring there is adequate parking during construction.
They also raised the specter of new state housing laws they say could halt construction and jeopardize either of the competing visions for downtown from ever being realized.
“This isn’t going to be resolved easily,” Councilman Bob Woerner said.
The issues were raised as part of a discussion of factual information related to an upcoming referendum and initiative that would allow voters to change the course of Livermore’s downtown redevelopment.
Supporters of the residents’ Central Park Plan said the city’s comparisons were one-sided and considered only potential delays their plan could cause, without noting any number of possible solutions that would allow it to proceed as quickly as the city’s plan.
The city and residents’ group are locked in a long, heated battle over different hotel, parking, housing and park proposals for an 8-acre site in the downtown core. The city plan includes a hotel on the east side of Livermore Avenue; the residents group wants a hotel built on the west side. They differ in what kind of hotel each wants, where parking and housing should go, and how much park each plan should include.
Livermore voters on March 3 will decide whether to uphold or reject the city’s hotel development agreement it signed with Presidio Companies. Then, on Nov. 3, voters will choose which downtown plan they want.
On Monday, city planners compared timelines and the phasing of construction under the current plan and an alternative plan. They concluded physical construction under the initiative could not begin until spring 2025, because planned parking garages on L Street and I Street would have to be completed first in order to maintain enough parking for downtown businesses during the construction period.
Opponents disagree that either garage has to be completed before a west side hotel begins, because temporary surface parking space can be leased during the construction of the Westside Hotel from property owners north of Railroad Avenue, between L and K Streets, and east of K Street along the railroad tracks.
Construction on the hotel next to the Bankhead Theater can begin this fall and can proceed without completion of the garages, according to the city.
Paul Spence, head of community development, said the current parking construction timeline and construction of various elements of the city plan are mapped out to maintain the current level of parking throughout the duration of project construction. He said development of anything on the northwest side before the L and I Street Garages were built would result in losing more than 300 required downtown parking spaces during construction.
Planning Manager Steve Stewart concluded that the Central Park Plan, if approved by voters, could not begin hotel construction until spring of 2025. His schedule assumed that some of the development partners would drop out and the city would need to find replacements.
According to Jean King, a key supporter of the residents’ plan, in addition to the westside hotel being able to move forward before the completion of either the I Street or L Street Garages, the retail near Stockmen’s Park can proceed in whatever time frame that the City has approved for its plan. The 95 spaces across Livermore Avenue would remain in place. Housing, Quest Science Center and the Black Box Theater are a number of years off in both plans.
Woerner again pointed to concerns he has about whether new state housing laws will snarl downtown redevelopment in years of litigation if the city’s plan for the area is rejected by voters in March and November. That could threaten $14 million in affordable housing money the city received from a county bond measure, he said.
King objected to a decision by the Council late Monday night to consolidate two agenda items. She said the move was unfair because it limited the time she was allowed to speak about the referendum and initiative to a total of three minutes instead of six.
King also objected to a portion of the city’s presentation she called misleading. The presentation, which drew some gasps from the audience, showed an altered conceptual drawing of her group’s plan projected onto a large screen. The altered image showed a single-story cultural center, drawn to scale, spilling onto an area her group’s plan designates as a park.
The initiative specifically prohibits intrusion of any uses crossing the boundaries of the Central Park and Stockmen’s Park, King said after the meeting. The initiative does not allow the Quest Science Center to spread beyond its designated site, but allows it to be built as high as three stories.
Jeff Kaskey, another supporter of the Central Park Plan, said the city’s presentation muddied the waters and failed to inform voters that a yes vote on Measure P will lock in the city’s plan and prevent voters in November from weighing in. “A yes vote makes the November initiative vote irrelevant,” he said in a written statement read to the City Council.