LIVERMORE — The city council this week enacted the next stage of the water shortage contingency plan, bringing the city to a 15% mandatory conservation level.
The council’s unanimous vote on Sept. 27 declared a water shortage emergency; enacted Stage 2 of the water shortage contingency plan at a 15% mandatory level effective Oct. 1, 2021; implemented Stage 1 water conservation rates effective Oct. 1, 2021; and authorized the city manager to take whatever actions are necessary and appropriate to carry out the purpose and intent of the resolution. Vice Mayor Trish Munro was absent for the vote.
Anthony Smith, Livermore’s acting water division manager, explained that Stage 2 activation would restrict outdoor watering to the hours of 6 p.m. to 9 a.m., at a maximum of three days per week on an even/odd address-based schedule. According to the city’s staff report, Stage 1 conservation rates will increase variable charges by 10%; Stage 2 rates would increase those same variable charges by 20%. Under Stage 1 rates, the monthly bill for an average single-family home that does not reduce water usage would increase by $1.99 per month, or 2.2%, continued the report.
Smith further detailed the state of emergency in California.
“Earlier this year, the governor declared a drought and asked Californians to reduce their water usage. This began as a call for a 10% reduction and then increased to 15%,” Smith said. “Following two dry years, reservoirs throughout the state are at historic lows.”
Smith went on to note that on Sept. 1, the Zone 7 Board of Directors declared a water shortage and called for a 15% water reduction. As a water wholesaler, Zone 7 officials said at the time that the agency could not implement a mandate among its retailers, which are the City of Livermore, the City of Pleasanton, California Water Service Company, and Dublin San Ramon Services District. However, it encouraged those retailers to enact mandates of their own.
“Zone 7 activated their water shortage contingency plan at Stage 2, and staff recommends that the city follow suit,” Smith said prior to the council vote. “Zone 7 typically sources a majority of the Tri-Valley’s water from the State Water Project, which is pumped in from the Delta. The Department of Water Resources has previously notified State Water Project contractors to expect only 5% of their requests this year and that there may be periods of time next year that contractors will get no water … Staff believes that the Stage 2 activation, coupled with a robust public outreach and education campaign, will allow the city to meet the 15% overall reduction target.”
During public comment, speaker John Marchand — a former Livermore mayor — raised various questions.
“How much has the total water consumption of Livermore’s water enterprise gone up since the last drought?” Marchand asked. “Livermore has added thousands of residents and hundreds of new housing units since the last drought. How does Livermore’s current annual per capita consumption compare today to our per capita consumption in 2014 before the last drought? … Many of us modified our lifestyles and still use conservation methods that we adopted during the drought; we have not returned to our previous use levels.”
He went on to note that during the last drought, Livermore led the state in water conservation by cutting back 40%.
“But we kept Lizzie Fountain on because that is where the children played,” he said. “The children that play there do not have swimming pools. Many do not even have backyards. But by reducing the hours of operation and the number of fountains, we still reduced outdoor water use by the 50% target.”
City Manager Marc Roberts noted that the 15% is calculated by the total volume of the water enterprise, rather than on individual users.
“Individuals are not where the focus is because, in certain circumstances, they have hardened their water use, so from that perspective, there will not be penalties or fines or a ticket if you’ve already gone through fixed leaks or reduced your demand,” Roberts explained. “Our overall water demand since the previous drought actually still remains below where it was … we’ve had additional savings.”
Councilmember Gina Bonanno said that going from getting water from the snow melt to taking it out of “our bathtub” was like taking money out of the bank. She asked if the schools and Livermore Area Recreation and Park District (LARPD) would work with the city to achieve water reduction. Roberts said “absolutely.”
“During our last drought, LARPD and the school district worked with the city, and all three agencies reduced our water by more than the minimum that was requested through all of our landscaped areas,” Roberts explained. “LARPD and the school district are a critical partner in helping us get to those goals, because both of those agencies have large turf fields and use an enormous amount of water.”
Councilmember Robert Carling asked which year will be used as a baseline from which the 15% is calculated. Roberts responded to say the baseline year is 2020.
Mayor Bob Woerner wanted to know how often the city should report out the water reduction progress. Roberts suggested at least monthly, as data captured in shorter time periods than that would not be as meaningful.
Councilmember Brittni Kiick asked for an update on her previous request for the city to convert turf where possible throughout the city. Roberts reported that the city has already started with the civic center campus, removing grass in certain areas, with a goal of removing between 15% and 20% in the first pass in non-play areas.
Infrastructure Improvements, Stormwater Update
Meanwhile, the council approved the issuance of bonds to finance improvements for Trevarno Road’s private sewer and water systems, which were constructed in 1915 and have had numerous problems. The city expects to pay $107,838 for the General Benefit portion of the improvements.
The council also received an update on the Asset Management and Stormwater Program. Debbie Bell, Public Works management analyst, reminded the council that asset management had been set as a city goal and priority in 2015, 2017, 2019 and 2021.
Bell detailed the work staff has undergone to improve stormwater management, including engaging a consultant, developing a citywide approach and consulting with Zone 7. She further noted the city is implementing options to reduce funding needs, such as replacing high-maintenance assets with lower-maintenance alternatives or selling community-owned assets.
To read the complete staff report, visit https://bit.ly/Indy_AssetUpdate.
Closed Session Considerations
For its closed session, the council was set to consider existing litigation, labor matters and possible negotiations with Presidio Companies LLC and 2205 Railroad Avenue LLC regarding a development agreement. An amendment to the disposition and development agreement would allow for the construction of a downtown hotel, as well as a possible loan from the city to Presidio to aid in acquiring a parcel for hotel parking, the burned down Pool Supply store site on the northwest corner of the intersection of Railroad Avenue and K Street.
At the start of the meeting, the council heard comments from the public on these closed session items. Maryann Brent said in the past, there have been concerns about traffic along Railroad and Livermore avenues generated by the hotel and Eden Housing, an affordable housing complex slated for downtown. She asked whether there will be extra traffic and congestion at the Railroad Avenue and Livermore intersection caused by guests and valet parking. Every time guests want to summon their cars, two trips will be generated, she said. She wanted to know if the city must provide a new traffic review for the California Environmental Quality Act to include the new I Street Garage and the proposed hotel valet parking site on Railroad Avenue.
Another public speaker, Jean King, said the consideration of purchasing property for valet parking for the hotel should have been conducted in a regular public session.
Using this prime location for one level of surface parking does nothing to revitalize the downtown area, she stated. She went on to say that the proposed Alternative Plan shows a structured, robotic parking garage with required parking for the residents and extra spaces that could be used for valet parking. The garage could be planned to serve both the hotel and the 230 affordable residential units, she said, further adding that the Pool Supply site would then be part of a plan with a purpose greater than valet parking.
During the matters initiated portion of the council meeting, Woerner raised the issue of the humanitarian crisis concerning Afghan refugees.
“I’ve been asked to see if there’s something that we can do,” he said. “I would ask staff what might be appropriate for us to do in light of the situation with these refugees.”