In 2017, the City Council conducted public workshops and outreach to residents to learn what the people wanted in Livermore’s Downtown. They compiled the results, and in November 2017 published a report. The report shows residents want:
- Maintain the small town, small-scale, historic character.
- Buildings should be low-rise, no more than 2- to 3-stories.
- Downtown Livermore needs a central green space.
- New development is going to exacerbate traffic.
- Housing is not appropriate in the center of downtown.
- Downtown Livermore should not have high density housing or become “like Dublin.”
In January 2018 the City Council adopted a Downtown Plan, and identified the downtown’s top four priorities, in order, are Parking, Community Character, Open Space, and Traffic. The city’s February 2018 Newsletter includes a diagram showing the plan for the development of the Lucky site. On the eastern half, it would include a science center, a black box theater, and some retail surrounding Stockman’s Park. The western half would include four modestly sized “workforce housing” buildings, with a spacious park between them. It says: “The plan provides a total of over 3.5 acres of public open space and includes a large linear green running from Livermore Avenue to L Street, creating a safe and comfortable place for residents to enjoy.” A revised diagram was released in March 2018 to visually improve the buildings’ representation.
While all of this was happening, in June 2017, Legacy Partners applied to the city to develop the former Groth Brothers site. The first public hearing was a Planning Commission meeting on March 6, 2018, and the City Council approved the development on June 11, 2018. Site preparation began mid-2019, and construction began early 2020.
In November 2018, the City Council approved an agreement with Eden Housing “to build 130 affordable workforce housing units” on the site, with “affordable rental housing for households earning up to 120% of Area Median Income”, and included teachers and first responders in the targeted renter groups.
In May 2019, a ballot measure qualified for the March 2020 ballot. Measure P was about the location of the hotel, but the Yes on P arguments led many to believe they were voting on the plan they were being shown, including the housing. You can see a copy of their website HERE on the archive.org site; it includes the March 2018 plan diagram, and the housing units were a major discussion point for the measure’s proponents. But in August 2019 the city released an Election Code 9212 Report which contained on page 8, paragraph 5, a description of changes. This shows Eden Housing and the city knew by the middle of 2019 the diagram wasn’t realistic.
On December 7, 2020, Eden Housing made a presentation to the City Council where they revealed major changes to the planned housing. The new plan:
- Has two large buildings in place of the previous four modest ones, with an increased footprint of 42%.
- Includes “One, two, and three-bedroom units” “to increase competitiveness”, rather than the “130 studio and one-bedroom units” approved in 2018.
- All of the units are now limited to low-income, very-low-income, and homeless, with a cap of 60% of Area Median Income, just half of the 120% cap approved in 2018. This new cap locks out police officers, firefighters, and all but entry-level teachers.
- The park between the buildings has been reduced in size about 32%, and roughly half of what remains is ‘hardscape’, meaning concrete or paving stones, not greenery.
- The underground parking has only 60% of the spaces that the city’s standards require. (1.5 spaces per one-bedroom and 1.75 spaces per two- or three-bedroom unit)
- The underground garage has a single access on L Street, which will cause traffic problems in an around downtown.
Use this slider to compare the old and new plans. Note: the bottom building is one building; the gap between the two halves on the diagram is a tunnel through the building on the first floor.
In addition, the city plans to build a five-level parking garage on L Street, a quarter block from First Street, which will rise up to 65 feet high. It is sure to dominate our First Street’s appearance and loom over it. A City Downtown Land Use Report says they should “Prohibit new development from looming over Blacksmith Square or First Street businesses.” That is exactly what the L Street Parking Garage will do.
The City Council also recently approved allowing up to 50% of the parking spaces in downtown parking structures to be narrowed to eight-feet wide, overriding the recommendation of their own Planning Commission which recommended limiting the smaller spaces to 35%. The three best selling vehicles in America, the Ford, Chevy, and Dodge full-size pickups, are all wider than eight feet mirror-to-mirror. The city will gain at most 50 parking spaces at the expense of many or most of their residents and visitors.
On April 20, 2021, a revised plan for the Eden Housing development was released and brought before the Planning Commission for approval. The revised plan reduced the footprint of the southern building and increased its height to four stories. It also removed the portion of the underground parking that was under the park that necessitated the hardscape. The result is less parking than before, so the project will utilize spaces in the L-Street Garage for additional resident parking as well as visitor parking. The city report claims the revised plan’s park is larger than the 2018 plan park, but that is based on defining the park as the area between the sidewalks, which the 2018 plan shows but the revised plan does not. The result is most but not all of the open area is considered park in the 2018 plan, while all of the open area is considered park in the revised plan, so it is not an apples-to-apples size comparison. When the same metric is used on both plans, the park has still decreased in size. Here is a slider comparing the revised plan to the approved 2018 plan.
On May 24, 2021, the City Council approved the Eden Housing development. It also declared that the project is exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), despite the known contamination of the site, contamination which in summer 2021 was found to be much worse than previously known and caused the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board to say Livermore’s remediation plan was inadequate. The Board has begun additional testing to determine the extend of contamination.
The Eden Housing project and the parking garage go against the city’s own report that residents want to “Maintain the small town, small-scale historic character,” that “Buildings should be low-rise, no more than 2- to 3-stories”, and they “needs to address how traffic moves through downtown; it is already congested.” Their report found people felt “Housing is not appropriate in the center of downtown.”
Placeworks: Downtown Public Engagement Final Report
Council Adopts Downtown Plan
November 26, 2018 City Council Agenda
Special Edition City Newsletter, Winter 2017-2018
December 7, 2020 City Council Agenda Special Meeting Workshop
Downtown Specific Plan – Chapter 8 – Parking Standards
May 11, 2020 City Council Meeting Agenda
Draft Downtown Land Use Concepts Evaluation Report
January 19, 2021 Planning Commission Agenda Summary
February 22, 2021 City Council Meeting