LIVERMORE — This week’s Livermore City Council meeting saw five public hearings gain unanimous support from the council.
During the five-hour Oct. 26 meeting, the council reviewed and approved staff recommendations regarding a vesting tentative tract map, development agreements, a commercial development named Greenville Plaza, and affordable housing.
Four-Story Downtown Hotel
The hearing brought before the council the consideration of an amendment that would allow the downtown hotel to build four stories instead of three. The council unanimously approved the Planning Commission and staff’s recommendation to adopt the Aug. 25, 2020 addendum to the Downtown Specific Plan 2009 subsequent Environmental Impact Report (EIR), along with a resolution approving a Specific Plan Amendment to amend provisions of the Downtown Specific Plan.
Paul Spence, community development director said the hotel developer wants to move forward despite the impact COVID-19 has had on the hospitality industry.
“Any new development project is going to have to think about COVID,” he said.
Woerner chimed in to note several design and financing factors remain to be seen but added the four stories of the hotel were preferred based on the views offered to clientele.
Downtown Development Agreements
The Development Agreement (DA) hearings brought before the council the recommendation to authorize the execution of the DAs with Red Bear Property Management Inc. to construct the Downtown Commercial Project; Shakespeare Associates, Inc. for the Downtown Black Box Theater Project; and Quest Science Center for the Downtown Livermore Science and Society Center Project. The Development Agreement with Eden Housing Inc. for the Downtown Workforce Housing project was removed from the agenda.
Woerner asked City Manager Marc Roberts a question regarding the Eden Housing item.
“Would it be possible by the end of the year to give us a memo on the schedule drivers for what we have to do next?” Woerner asked. “We have a certain amount of time that we have to build the housing in order to lock in the grants that have been given ... I’d like to know what are our schedule constraints with respect to the housing part of this, and I would also like to know what that implies with the decision with respect to the I Street garage and the L Street garage.”
Roberts confirmed he could provide that information in memo form by the end of the year. Marchand added that since there has been chatter about possibly moving the housing, an understanding of the timeline to build the housing would be helpful.
The council unanimously approved the development agreements.
The council made unanimous approval of the Greenville Plaza, a commercial development that consists of a convenience store, drive-thru restaurant, a carwash, and a 12-stall gas station with canopy. The area abuts westbound Interstate 580, between Laughlin and North Greenville roads and, although outside the city limits, sits within the city’s Urban Growth Boundary. It will be annexed to the city.
Applicant Ali Amidy said he bought the property almost 20 years ago and expressed gratitude toward the council for working with him on the project.
The council’s vote approved an annexation and prezoning, zoning map amendment, general plan amendment, variance, conditional use permit and site plan design review.
The city council also approved adjustments on affordable housing. Following staff’s recommendation, the city will establish new maximum income limits for incomes ranging from extremely low to moderate; establish maximum for-sale housing prices for the 2021 Affordable Housing Program and update rent limits for city-restricted affordable units; and update the affordable housing in-lieu fee for residential development from $28.52 to $29.23 per square foot effective Jan. 1.
Fran Reisner, housing programs manager, explained that the city adopts new income limits for households participating in rental and homeownership programs annually. Councilmember Trish Munro pointed out that the council should also consider land trusts and other forms of funding to create more sustainable means for procuring affordable housing.
Vesting Tentative Tract Map
During the first hearing, the council approved a request for a Vesting Tentative Tract Map to subdivide three city-owned parcels within the Downtown Specific Plan Area, creating nine separate parcels in the northern portion of the block bound by Railroad Avenue, South Livermore Avenue, First Street and South L Street. The nine parcels include: future residential housing; the science center; Black Box Theater; Stockmen’s Park; two parcels for future commercial use; the future L Street garage; a paved alley for emergency vehicles, public utility and public access; and Veterans Way.
Before the vote, Vice Mayor Bob Woerner said that many of the elements the council was reviewing are years away.
“There could be some change in thinking,” Woerner said. “So, I just want to make sure that if there are slight adjustments that occur in the future, that we can easily accommodate that, even if it means adjusting some of the locations of some of these parcels a little bit.”
Spence confirmed that the council would be able to shift property lines and parcels in the future.
An Update on the Bankhead
Executive Director Chris Carter offered a look at the Bankhead Theater’s status during the pandemic. Since closing on March 13 and rescheduling events as far out as summer 2022, the nonprofit group has suffered a programming loss of about $700,000. But thanks to community fundraising and the Bankhead’s first-ever estate gift — altogether pulling in nearly $2 million — the theater is now posting an operating profit of over $200,000.
"While we have been fortunate to get to this point, we are by no means out of the woods,” Carter said after the meeting. “There is a great amount of uncertainty as to when venues can reopen at full capacity, and the longer we have to wait, the more difficult our position will be.”
The group switched to online programs with Vineyard Vibes at Retzlaff Vineyards, showing artist performances for free to the community. Those viewing can make a choice to donate to the organization and/or the individual artists.
Beginning next week, a portion of the theater — the art lobby — will open for the first time since March. Under the county’s guidelines, the lobby is considered retail and permitted to open to the public.