Resolutions authorizing staff to proceed with the negotiation of terms for Development Agreements with Red Bear Property Management, Livermore Science and Society Center, Eden Housing and Shakespeare’s Associates were approved by the Livermore City Council at its July 23 meeting, continued from July 22. The vote was unanimous, with Councilmember Trish Munro recused because of a possible conflict of interest.
Livermore Planning Manager Steve Stewart stated, “In light of the recent initiative that would rewrite the zoning for the downtown plan, the other parties who have an interest in the downtown development are requesting development agreements for their respective uses. The development agreements would be in addition to the agreements between the city and the parties that the council previously approved.”
The development agreements would include the terms, permitted land use, intensity, height, provisions for public uses, amenities, and performance schedules.
The Central Park Plan initiative has qualified for the ballot.
During the public forum, 15 were against and 27 spoke in favor of the development agreements.
Those opposing the agreements argued that a vote on the initiative should take place prior to finalizing the plan for downtown, and noted that moving forward is an effort to defeat the goals of the initiative.
Tamara Reus questioned the council’s motives for initiating additional development agreements. “The obvious purpose is to defeat the people’s right to enact legislation by initiative. Any such action is unconstitutional. We are not afraid of you. We will file a referendum against any action that is inconsistent with the Central Park Plan.”
Jean King asked the council not to pass the resolution authorizing negotiations of terms for a development agreement with Eden Housing. “The public does not want housing dominating this important element of the downtown. Signing a development agreement at this time would be putting the cart before the horse, and lead to problems down the road.” She added, “I talked to one of the largest hotel developers in the country and he is interested in the westside hotel if Presidio is not interested.” The westside hotel would be sited in a large portion of the area that the City plan gives to Eden Housing.
Reading a statement from Vic Avilla, Doris Ryon said, “Livermore’s legacy has been open space. Open space downtown attracts businesses, families and children. Putting residences on park properties takes away from the open space.”
Maryann Brent told the council, “Abandon the development agreement for the housing, retail and cultural facilities until after votes for the Central Park Plan initiative can be counted. It is clear to the Livermore voting public that you intend to block the initiative. Remember, you run the city at the pleasure of Livermore voters.”
William Dunlop asserted, “Voters will use the referendum power to reject any development agreement the city council contrives to undermine the Central Park Plan. The action to authorize negotiations for additional development agreements is another effort to cut off the rights of Livermore voters. We will not permit the council to undermine the will of the people. The California constitution protects our rights.”
Jeffrey Sinsheimer, the attorney representing the Friends of Livermore and Citizens for a Livermore Central Park, paraphrased his statement from the previous council meeting. He said, “The council may not proceed with any development agreement that arises from this resolution that annuls the voters’ right to adopt the Central Park Plan. Article IV Section 1 of the Constitution reserves the power to legislate through an initiative. The council has expressed overt and blatant hostility to the initiative process in a manner that is contrary to the California Constitution.”
Addressing City Councilmembers, Jeff Kaskey said, “You represent all of the city’s people — on all sides of this multifaceted issue. Instead you attack people using provably false statements, including that no one wanted micro units. The Development Agreement does not block the ability to vote; it annuls the effect of that vote.”
Those speaking in favor of the agreements urged the council to move forward, asserting that the initiative’s plan was not created through a public process.
Lynn Naylor of Innovation Tri-Valley supported the City Plan urging the council to “take the next steps tonight with development agreements for all four of the community partners to help bring the community’s vision to life.”
Livermore Downtown Executive Director Rachael Snedecor stated that the downtown business owners thanked the council “for not giving in to the disrespectful non-inclusive planning that seems to take us off track.”
Livermore Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO Dawn Argula voiced approval for staff to begin negotiating development agreements. “The City Plan will be the next transformation of the downtown and take us to the next level,” she said. “Thank you so much for doing your job.”
First Street Alehouse owner Brook Witherspoon said that the current, approved City Plan is the most thoughtful, financially responsible, inclusive plan.
Laura Batti, Chair of Shakespeare’s Associates, declared “Let’s move forward with this next step and leverage the support being offered by the many individuals and groups who want to collaborate on a wonderful legacy for the community.” Elizabeth Trutner spoke for herself and Brian Balazs, both board members of Shakespeare’s Associates, pointing out that members of the general public are not city planners. The council has the obligation to do the fiscally responsible thing. “The adoption of the Central Park Plan would be contrary to your fiduciary obligations to the public.”
Dennis O’Brien asked for the council’s help and support of the Livermore Science and Society Center by authorizing the development agreement negotiations. Vaughn Draggoo, a board member of the Science Center, gave the history of the Center’s goals, which involve middle school students. Gary Dreifuerst asked for the city to go ahead with their plans. Monya Lane, CEO, thanked the council for their consideration. Alan Burnham, President and CFO of the Science Center, also spoke for the agreement.
Andrea Osgood, Vice President of Development for Eden Housing, a non-profit affordable housing developer, explained that the organization delivers housing for low-income residents, seniors and people with special needs. Osgood reported that all of the wait lists are now closed. He added, “We have been a partner with the city since 1991, and own and operate four developments. We are looking forward to this partnership with the city.”
“Most importantly, what we need is more housing. Our children and grandchildren can’t afford to live here,” said Carol Garrick of the Tri-Valley Anti-Poverty Collaborative. “The council’s plan is to be commended for its attention to our housing needs. Housing is an essential service that you as the council know belongs in your duties.”
David Kent noted that several of the development agreements deal with the completion of Stockmen’s Park, including power, the outdoor stage, public restrooms, the lobby, box office, and the concessionaires. “Without it there is no Stockmen’s Park. It is just a village green,” he said, adding that he was shocked and saddened by attacks on infill development, which could have a future impact on urban growth boundaries.
The council weighed in with comments and questions of their own.
Vice Mayor Robert Carling wanted to know whether the DA process being taken is legal.
Assistant City Attorney Gabrielle Janssens stated that it is not illegal.
Councilmember Bob Woerner stated, “This initiative is about zoning and does not appropriate any funds for any project. A lot of what is going on here is not about getting anything done; it’s about getting nothing done.
“We are not stopping any abilities to change the zoning. When the zoning changes, whatever is there is non-conforming.” Woerner noted that he’d like staff to put out a memo, “to help people understand what an initiative, a referendum and what zoning is about, versus a plan. There is a lot of confusion being put out there, and I don’t think it is accidental.”
Woerner added that if the units were downsized, as in the Central Park Plan, the same amount of monetary credit for the affordable units would amount to a $5 million loss to the city coffers due to the complexity of the financing and the degradation of the quality of the units. “The city’s plan made a reasonable compromise from the original plan for 420 affordable housing units. Now it is 130 which is financially good for the city and morally is good,” he said.
Councilmember Bob Coomber, referencing one commenter, said that he, too, “sees and feels the anger, the distrust, and the failure to understand why the city wants to move forward with what we are trying to do. In the last couple of weeks, I have had people telling me I’ve been bought by developers. I am not going to be intimidated into slowing down this city’s future. It’s impossible to get housing here. I’m done with this whole process; I want to move forward.”
Carling stated that actions speak louder than words. “I don’t believe for an instant the people backing the initiative care about affordable housing for the people in this community. We have a lot of young people who are desperate to live downtown. Our police officers, teachers and nurses all need good places to live — and not these tiny micro units or some place stuck down on Pacific Avenue.”
Woerner pointed out that the Stockmen were promised not just a plot of land, but a prominent park with cultural amenities. “We want to honor that and move forward with negotiations with the other potential partners on the development agreements to fulfill the promise.”
Marchand asserted there was never an opportunity for the public to speak to the Central Park Plan. “If people don’t have to pay for something, everybody loves it.” He said, “The drawing has never had any analysis done behind it.”