LIVERMORE — The attorney representing community group Save Livermore Downtown submitted a letter to the city, outlining the legal issues surrounding the council’s approval of the $1.9 million loan to Presidio’s limited liability company, called “2205 Railroad Avenue LLC.”
The loan — unanimously approved by the council on Jan. 10 — will aid the Presidio company’s LLC in its completion of a valet hotel parking lot at 2080 Railroad Avenue, situated about a tenth of a mile from the hotel site.
In a letter submitted ahead of the public hearing, Winston Stromberg of Latham & Watkins LLP had urged the council to reject the proposed amendments to the Disposition, Development and Loan Agreement (DDLA) with 2205 Railroad Avenue LLC. He reported the use of the project parcel for off-site parking to be inconsistent with the Specific Plan.
“The Downtown Specific Plan states that for commercial, retail, office, and non-residential uses in the Downtown Core plan area — where the hotel would be situated — ‘[r]equired parking shall be provided on-site, by payment of an in-lieu fee, off-site within the Downtown Core, or any combination thereof,’” wrote Stromberg. “While the hotel is within the Downtown Core, 2080 Railroad Avenue is not.”
He pointed out that the Downtown Core is centered on the city’s historic crossroads, at the intersection of First Street and Livermore Avenue; its northern boundary is Railroad Avenue from M Street to Livermore Avenue.
“To that end, 2080 Railroad Avenue is actually within the ‘Downtown Neighborhood - North Side’ area of the Downtown Specific Plan, which is not in the Downtown Core,” Stromberg continued. “Because the 2080 Railroad Avenue site is outside of the Downtown Core, the hotel project as envisioned in the proposed DDLA is inconsistent with the Specific Plan, in that it would allow off-site parking for the hotel in an unlawful location.”
City Manager Marc Roberts addressed the issue during the hearing, when asked by Mayor Bob Woerner if — by approving the amendment to the DDLA — the council would be in compliance with all elements of the downtown zoning.
“The question was raised having to do with the location of where the valet parking lot actually is,” Roberts said. “The item that was discussed had to do with where the actual car is picked up from, so in the case of valet parking, it's where the pickup point is that is within your downtown core. Yes, this project complies with your downtown specific plan requirements.”
Stromberg responded by noting that parking isn’t determined by the location where a car is picked up; it is determined by the location where the car is parked. City Attorney Jason Alcala did not respond to requests for comment before press time.
In his letter, Stromberg called the $1.9 million an exorbitant loan, which constitutes an “illegal expenditure of, waste of, or injury to, the estate, funds, or other property of [the city].”
“In other words, this ‘loan’ would be a waste of taxpayer funds,” Stromberg continued.
He further pointed out that 2205 Railroad Avenue LLC was not exempt from the Surplus Land Act, which provides government agencies with a protocol for making use of excess public lands. The council’s vote to approve the DDLA amendment in part found the LLC exempt from this act.
“However, while the hotel property may be exempt under the current version of the Surplus Land Act set forth in 2019’s Assembly Bill 1486 and the accompanying Surplus Land Act Guidelines implementing it, Government Code sections 54234(a)(1) and (b)(1) are clear that the Surplus Land Act as it existed on December 31, 2019, still applies,” Stromberg continued. “Here, the city’s staff report does nothing to demonstrate that the city complied with the prior version of the Surplus Land Act in proposing to dispose of the property to 2205 Railroad Avenue LLC. Generally, the prior version of the Surplus Land Act required a city, prior to disposing of surplus land, to offer that land for sale or lease for affordable housing, park and recreational purposes, and school district facilities or open space.”