At the Livermore City Council special meeting on May 30, applicants were interviewed for an opening on the Livermore Planning Commission. On a 4-1 vote, former Councilmember John Stein was chosen to fill the vacancy. Supporting Planning Commissioner Loretta Kaskey who last served in February, Council member Bob Coomber voted no.
Previous applicants at a February 21 Special Meeting who were not chosen for the two positions open at that time were reconsidered along with new applicants. Those wishing reevaluation were Loretta Kaskey, Bob Kluball and John Stein. The two new applicants were Paul Halvorsen and Michael Miler.
Since the questions asked were to be the same as those asked at the February 21 meeting, the council decided only to interview the new applicants.
Can you tell about any experience you have that is relevant to serving on the planning commission?
Paul Halvorsen mentioned working in a variety of retail, hospitality and customer-based career work. He noted that for six months during construction, he was the onsite landlord and representative contact for the San Francisco Outlet Mall in Livermore interfacing with all the general contractors. Born here, he has seen old Livermore and has a “hunger and desire to see a newer and more modern city”.
Michael Miller pointed to his five years of experience working at Las Positas College handling issues related to building structures, facilities, traffic issues and procurement. This included looking at blueprints, architecture designs and working with engineers.
How would you meet the community’s goals in reviewing site design and architecture of new site proposals?
Halvorsen observed that the Lennar development in the heart of Livermore would not have looked like Livermore. He pointed out that using guidelines, staff was able to increase Blacksmith Square. These are the changes that excite the citizens. Other considerations should include a focus from 4th Street to Railroad Avenue, expanding the area to create as vibrant an experience as is found on First Street. Designating those areas for high-volume hospitality focused experiences would encourage economic growth.
Miller responded that his expertise in understanding the scope of projects, considering individual needs, making assessments and providing information to allow projects to proceed were his strong points.
There will be four other planners as well as residents and builders, with whom you will be dealing. Each involves a range of personalities. How will you handle disagreements?
When dealing with the planning commissioners as well as the public, I would determine where their point of view was coming from versus my feelings, and not try to steamroll an issue through, Halvorsen noted. This is counterproductive. Listening, asking questions and fully understanding the topic is important.
Disagreements, asserted Miller, could be settled by following the appropriate standards and guidelines. The opinions of others are valuable. Everything can be resolved. “Dealing with conflict has never been an issue.”
MAIN PLANNING GOALS
What do you perceive to be the main planning issues over the next few years, and how should Livermore approach them?
Halvorsen observed that a baseline has to be set that everyone can agree on, one that “will drive the how and the why of what Livermore is going to do.” We need to continue the development of healthy communities, districts and neighborhoods. The downtown development is a challenge and an opportunity. “Understanding what we are going to do will give us the best outcome.”
Miller noted that Livermore has done a good job in approaching the downtown. “The project is truly an asset.” All solutions center around development timing, scope and boundaries. Addressing parking is going to be a continuing issue until the entire project is finished. For the city to reach its goals, “open forums and community involvement to educate the public on the developments are vital”.
UNIQUE LIVERMORE CHARACTERISTICS
What are some of the unique characteristics that help to define Livermore? What is the commission’s role in preserving or enhancing these defining features?
The growing hospitality industry, as well as the wineries, have been embraced by longstanding citizens and those who have moved here, Halvorsen observed. The planning commission’s role is to keep a finger on the pulse of the public, plus gather feedback from a wide variety of voices and people’s groups. “The planning commission is the sounding board for that”.
Miller remarked Livermore is quite unique with agriculture, wineries, the lab and quirky things, like the totem pole. The role in enhancing and defining those features is going to maintain the sense of Livermore, while making decisions supported by the community.
PRIMARY RESPONSIBILITY, REASON TO BE CHOSEN
What do you see as a primary responsibility as a planning commissioner, and why should we select you?
Halvorsen stressed that his primary role would be to have a “finger on the pulse” of the citizens, as well as to serve the city and the neighborhood’s beliefs and feelings. He would also be a sounding board for the city for planning, building and design. Halvorsen stated he was excited to become a part of modernizing and developing Livermore for the generations to come.
Miller answered that his primary responsibility would be to assist in molding the city for the future. The planning commission aids in that process. Miller complemented the direction the city has gone in expanding and growing, looking into low income housing, veterans’ resources and other planning.
On the first round, Stein received two votes, Kuball one, Kaskey one, and Miller one. On the second round, Mayor John Marchand and Councilmembers Carling, Munro and Woerner voted for John Stein to fill the vacancy, with Coomber opposed.
Munro initially voted for Miller because she liked what he said about Livermore, talked about what Livermore meant to him and his sense of where Livermore was going. Coomber noted that Kaskey has served on the planning commission and has experience. “She should be appointed based on her past performance and not on the interview”. Marchand voted for Kuball on the basis of his previous interview.
Carling voted for Stein because he believed that of the five applicants, Stein was the most well informed. Woerner supported Stein, noting that he was the only one who brought up that the planning commission needed to be more forward thinking than reactive. Both Carling and Woerner observed Stein easily and fully answered all the questions presented. His vast experience and perspective would be valuable. After further dialogue, Marchand and Munro agreed that Stein would be an asset for the planning commission.