A recently formed committee, Citizens for a Livermore Central Park, reported that they are filing an initiative with the City of Livermore this week that outlines a new plan for the center of the city. Within the next two weeks, they expect to begin collecting signatures for the initiative to qualify it for the ballot. Once the required signatures are gathered, the initiative will be put to a vote of the people. In effect, residents will be able to choose between the city’s existing downtown plan and an alternative.

Bill Dunlop, chair of the organization, stated in a press release, “The Central Park Plan provides better parks and better parking, for a better Livermore. The City Council was given a once in a lifetime opportunity to create something special on the 8.2 acres of city owned land in the downtown core; they failed to do so.”

He explained, “The council ignored what the majority of citizens said they wanted in the city’s Outreach Process. As a result, more than 6400 voters signed a referendum petition last year expecting to vote on the city’s plan, but the council declined to put the referendum on the ballot. Because referendums by law are limited in scope, the council was able to adopt the referendum, then work around it to maintain virtually all of the elements that community members had opposed.

“By turning to the initiative process, ‘we, the people’ can now choose the plan that is best for our community,” Dunlop stated.

He continued, “The Livermore Central Park Plan area is located on the former Lucky site and the portion of the Livermore Valley Center west of the Bankhead Theater. The entire development will be limited to three stories."

According to Dunlop, the Plan accomplishes the following:

• Creates a signature Central Park stretching from the Bankhead Park Plaza to L Street, with wandering paths, art panels, game areas, a children’s playground and shaded seating;

• Retains Stockmen’s Park, an open grassy area that can support events and provide seating for performances on an outdoor stage;

• Constructs convenient parking near Livermore Avenue, the entertainment center of the city;

• Addresses the need for affordable housing, but locates units on the edge of the park, not sprawling over it;

• Allows for a relaxed, wine country hotel on the west side of Livermore Avenue with views of the Central Park and open hills beyond;

• Adds to Livermore’s reputation as a cultural hub by encouraging the creation of a Black Box Theater and Center for Science, Culture and Education; and

• Provides for the development of interesting shops and restaurants along Livermore Avenue, creating a connection with existing First Street businesses.

Those who support the downtown plan approved by the council, believe that the results of the last election were an endorsement by the majority of voters of decisions made by the city council.

The incumbents who were re-elected, John Marchand and Bob Woerner, were the top vote getters. "It is gratifying to see that the overwhelming majority of voters approve of what the City Council is doing," Marchand is quoted as saying. "Under my leadership, the city has been able to achieve goals and fulfill promises that have been sought for decades."

During the election, Woerner stated, “The approved (Downtown) Plan reflects a tremendous amount of community input and thoughtfully balances all the competing priorities and is financially responsible. I am still open to further refinements during implementation. For example, optimizing the housing element and open space configuration in the northwest corner will probably occur as the conceptual design is turned into reality.”

Marchand declared, “I absolutely support the downtown plan.” He added that the last three votes on the downtown plan were unanimous. "We had competing priorities. Number 2 on the priority list was to maintain and protect Blacksmith Square and the downtown character. The location of the hotel was number 7 on the priority list. No one wanted a large hotel looming over Blacksmith Square. The only way to achieve those two conflicting priorities was to put the hotel on the east side of South Livermore Ave.”

Dunlop believes that because of the flexibility embedded in the Central Park Plan, it will not delay downtown development.

He concluded, “In the past, Livermore citizens have successfully fought for urban growth boundary initiatives to block urban sprawl from destroying our surrounding vineyards, ranchlands and scenic hills. The community needs to turn to an initiative measure again. This time, it must prevent four-story developments from taking over what should be an inspiring Central Park enlivened by recreational, cultural and commercial destinations at the very heart of our community.”

Dunlop said that volunteers wishing to collect signatures to place the Central Park Plan on the ballot should call 925-243-7098 or visit betterlivermore.com