The threat of Livermore being forced to cram high density apartments into its downtown plan is gone. For now, at least.
For the third consecutive year, SB 50 failed to advance in Sacramento, which means the statewide proposal—that could override local zoning control to allow denser housing development near transit—will not rewrite local zoning maps throughout the state.
It also means that it no longer poses an immediate threat to either of the proposed downtown redevelopment proposals Livermore voters are being asked to decide this year.
The news buoyed members of the grassroots citizens’ group, who accuse the City Council of using the proposed law—and its perceived threat of usurping the city’s land use authority—as a boogeyman to scare away support for its No on P campaign on March 3, and its downtown rezoning initiative on Nov. 3.
“The misinformation campaign around SB 50 is just one of the many misleading scare tactics being used by the city plan supporters,” said Tamara Reus, with Protect the Central Park, the No on P campaign.
Reus stated that Measure P supporters are also falsely claiming that new legislation, AB 1486 and SB 330, will force the city to put large multi-story housing complexes in the downtown development area covered by the initiative. “Thorough analysis of these laws confirms that... the new housing legislation, AB 1486 and SB 330, would not affect the Central Park Plan,” she said.
AB 1486, which amends the Surplus Land Act, provides a process for cities to dispose of surplus land. It does not force the development of affordable housing or any other particular land use; in addition, the government code’s Economic Opportunity provisions, among others, give cities other options to the Surplus Land Act, Reus said in an email.
As for SB 330, the bill excepts downzoning limits as long as the city changes its land use plan to add housing elsewhere. Therefore, “SB 330 is also a nonissue,” she said.
Last month, Councilman Bob Woerner raised concerns about the state zoning and housing legislation at the Jan. 13 City Council meeting and in a letter to the nonprofit LVPAC, which runs the city-owned Bankhead Theater, where he urged them to affirm the city’s agreement with a developer to build a hotel next door.
Woerner did not mention SB 50 by name in his letter, and said its defeat is irrelevant and does nothing to diminish the concerns he raised.
“I just wish we could have an honest conversation,” Woerner said.
For months, the City Council and the citizens’ group have battled over how eight acres in the city’s downtown should be developed. The two plans contain similar elements, but the differences — such as the quality and location of a hotel — are worth fighting for.
The city signed an agreement with a developer to put a hotel on the east side of Livermore Avenue; the residents’ group wants the hotel built on the west side. They differ in what kind of hotel each wants, where parking and housing should go, and how much park each plan includes.
Livermore voters on March 3 will decide whether to uphold or reject the city’s hotel development agreement with Presidio Companies. Then, on Nov. 3, voters will choose which downtown plan they want.
Those backing the city’s plan have accused the citizens’ group of removing signs and tossing a stink bomb during a “Yes on P” fundraiser. Members of the citizens’ group, most of whom have lived in the city for many decades and are senior citizens, said they have not committed or supported any of the alleged vandalism that’s being reported.
Meanwhile, the City Council is scheduled on Feb. 10 to discuss a proposal to place another initiative on the Nov. 3 ballot, also dealing with the future of development downtown. As of press time, no details of the scheduled discussion were available from the city. Woerner runs the council’s subcommittee on initiatives. He remained vague on what he is proposing.
“You’ll have to wait until Monday,” he said.