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LIVERMORE — Since a Dec. 7 Livermore City Council workshop, Save Livermore Downtown (SLD) has been developing an alternative to the Eden Housing development plan for the community to consider.

The group is now issuing a press release to publicize its findings for a Downtown Alternative.

During the workshop, representatives of SLD noted that Eden Housing presented a development plan that was “dramatically different from the one that had been publicized ever since March 23, 2018.”

“The new 130-unit residential development would harm the city center in ways that were never imagined,” said Ruth Gasten, SLD spokesperson.

In its press release, SLD outlines the major problems Eden’s plan would bring to the downtown:

  • Residential housing, 4-stories high, and up to a block long, would be moved closer to L Street, matching the massive development across the street.
  • The narrowed park between the high apartment buildings appears to be private space, not a draw for the public.
  • Parking would be inadequate, at least 43% less than City residential standards.
  • Traffic congestion would increase, as those circling the downtown look for empty stalls.
  • The promised workforce housing for teachers, police and firefighters has been eliminated.

A look at the Downtown Alternative shows that ways can be found to avoid the damaging elements in the Eden plan by moving its housing units across Railroad Avenue to the north.

“Then, an exceptional park – a community gathering space – could be created on the old Lucky site,” Gasten continued.

The Lucky site refers to the center of the downtown between Railroad Avenue and Veterans Way, and L Street and the extension of K Street.

“The well-researched facts in the proposal belie dismissive statements that nothing can be done, and that, anyway, it’s too late,” said Gasten, referring to statements issued during various public meetings.

“Recently, Mayor Bob Woerner has been advancing the position that he has no choice but to approve Eden Housing’s current project proposal. In fact, he does,” Gasten said. “Let’s look at his argument, and what’s behind it.”

Gasten pointed to the Dec. 7, 2020, workshop that Woerner set up to address the Eden Housing project. At this meeting, he said that Eden’s plan was consistent with the city’s requirements; he urged the council to move forward with it.

During a March 1, 2021, council meeting, Woerner stated that Eden will likely “come in with a project that meets the requirements, and we don’t have a lot of discretion there.”

“In other words, Mayor Bob Woerner would have us believe that his hands are tied,” Gasten said. “The council can only make ministerial decisions, not legislative actions, such as requiring Eden to move its housing off the Lucky site.

“However, it was first the council’s decision not to change Eden’s current plan; then, it was Eden’s decision to follow the council."

Last November, SLD members reported they learned that Eden was open to looking at the advantages of relocating its housing across Railroad Avenue to the north, although the move was complicated and the schedule tight. As a result, SLD stated that it promptly requested a meeting. On Jan. 4, an hour-long discussion took place with top Eden Housing executives, SLD said.

“An Eden officer stated that the nonprofit was not in a position to relocate its housing in opposition to the council’s wishes,” Gasten continued. “Without support from the council, Eden could not investigate moving Eden’s units across Railroad Avenue. The executive noted that instead of receiving support for a change in plans, they had been guided to continue with their current project on the Lucky site.

“In other words, a city representative directed Eden to stay the course. Now, the city is saying that the law requires the council to approve what Eden wants.

“In addition, Woerner is misquoting the applicable law; the council is not prevented from changing the Specific Plan so that Eden Housing would be required to move off the Lucky site.”

SLD is encouraging community members wishing both to preserve Livermore’s character, as well as create more affordable housing, to speak out.

“The public needs to make clear that the council and Eden need to work together to relocate the housing units,” the group stated in its release. “The Downtown Alternative presented here is just one viable option. SLD hopes that the alternative will begin a discussion with Eden Housing, the council and citizens that leads to a consensus, a win for both Eden Housing and the community.”

The elements of SLD’s Downtown Alternative are presented below.

A Downtown Alternative

The centerpiece of the Downtown Alternative involves the relocation of 130 units off the old Lucky site to seven parcels north of Railroad Avenue between L Street and Livermore Avenue. The buildings fronting the north side of Railroad Avenue between K Street and Livermore Avenue would remain as they are, as well as several next to Livermore Avenue on the southern half of the block between the railroad tracks and Railroad Avenue. The number of units on the seven parcels could be increased by an additional 100 – for a total of 230 units.

Community benefits:

  • Massive residential buildings 4-stories high and up to a block long would be moved off the town center, retaining Livermore’s character.
  • A welcoming park is created in the heart of the community.
  • Workforce housing for teachers would be included.
  • With appropriate private parking provided, Eden’s tenants and guests would not impact public parking.
  • Traffic jams caused by the Eden project on nearby streets would be avoided.

Feasibility:

  • Funding for land acquisition is reasonable.
  • The City’s density and parking requirements can be met.
  • Legal issues limiting the relocation of residential units are addressed.
  • With an increased number of units, Eden’s $14.4M A1 County loan is likely to be retained.
  • New County A1 loan deadline stretches out Eden’s schedule.

Eden Housing benefits:

  • Enlarging the number of units increases Eden’s chances of securing additional grant funding.
  • Residents would have easy access to a remarkable park and an extended Iron Horse Trail.
  • Appropriate parking for residents would be provided at a dramatically reduced cost per stall.
  • Proximity to transit, shopping and schools would remain.
  • Providing a win-win, Eden would secure broad public support.

To view SLD’s complete Downtown Alternative, visit www.savelivermoredowntown.com.

“Although some improvements certainly will be made to future Eden Housing proposals on the Lucky site, the overriding problem would remain – a massive housing development on what should be a park at the focal point of the city. This will not be solved until the housing units are relocated,” Gasten said. “All parties will benefit from a plan that brings the community together. The mayor and councilmembers need to make clear to Eden that they and the community encourage Eden to look at the benefits of transferring its project to the area north of Railroad Avenue, or to any other appropriate site, and then, move forward with it.

“Decades from now, citizens will look back to honor those who preserved the quality of our downtown, and at the same time helped the disadvantaged – truly an accomplishment for all to celebrate.”