LIVERMORE – A proposed scheme for the town center will be presented to council next week at a meeting which could span more than a day.
Livermore Mayor Bob Woerner told a recent council session that the May 24 hearing for Eden Housing – the proposed 130-unit, four-story affordable housing project for the city’s downtown – could take more than a day due to the expected number of public speakers.
The housing complex has had its share of controversy within the community. Those who support him want housing now; those opposed to the plans want housing moved across the street to allow for parking on the vacated land and create more units on the new location.
Supporters called the project desperately needed, saying it would create more diversity in the city, build housing for a local workforce, provide construction jobs for union members and develop affordable housing for respond to state mandates. The project is supported by several anti-poverty and environmental organizations in Livermore and Bay Area, including the Livermore Housing Authority, East Bay Housing Organizations, the Tri-Valley Anti-Poverty Collaborative and the Greenbelt Alliance. Speakers from the Livermore Chamber of Commerce, as well as Wine Country business owners, have attended meetings on the subject to also show their support.
“While it’s easy for affluent residents to sit in their $800,000 homes and write angrily about the seriousness of the downtown plan, others in our community are in desperate need of affordable housing. “, wrote Livermore resident Meredith Hendrix in a recent letter to the editor. “I’m 29, work full-time as a manager at a local nonprofit, have a bachelor’s degree from a prestigious university, and struggle to live in Livermore. The only way I could afford to live here on my $45,000 a year salary is to live with three other roommates in the cheapest apartment we could find. Every year the rent goes up, pushing us even further from the Tri-Valley.
The project, however, faces strong opposition from those who say the proposal would destroy the character of the town center and create more traffic and parking problems in the area, hurting local businesses. Many have called for the housing complex to be moved to Railroad Avenue to increase the number of affordable units available to low-income residents, while leaving the space open for a community park.
Former Livermore councilman Doug Horner called on the city to build “better housing than this for our workforce.” Horner was a strong supporter of Measure P, which was passed in March 2020.
“I hope, for the love of Livermore, that the City Council listens to their conscience and admits that this project is substandard in its design and does not reflect the quality present in the rest of Livermore’s core,” Hoerner wrote. in a letter to the editor. . “I recommend we pause and develop a new option that avoids building this bland behemoth in the center of our downtown.”
A community group – Save Livermore Downtown (SLD) – alleged that the project violated established city laws, which should have prohibited the planning commission from recommending the project for approval to council on April 20.
Ruth Gasten, spokeswoman for SLD, said her group had received legal advice from Latham & Watkins, a law firm that practices land use law. The group released a statement concluding that the current Eden plan does not meet the density requirements of the specific plan and needed several density bonuses to achieve relief from parking, setback, massing and design standards. These points are published in detail on http://bit.ly/Indy_CommissionMeeting.
Last Tuesday, Livermore City Attorney Jason Alcala responded by saying he had not received any legal analysis or opinion from Latham & Watkins regarding the project.
“The position of the Livermore City Attorney’s Office is that the planning commission’s recommendation on the project is consistent with state housing laws and city land use regulations,” continued Alcala.
Council members Robert Carling and Brittni Kiick said this week that their comments regarding the LTC project or demands will be made public at the May 24 meeting.
In city documents submitted ahead of the May 24 meeting, staff wrote that “local governments are required to approve applications under the state density bonus law if the project applicant ( Eden) seeks relief under these provisions unless specific conditions not applicable here arise.
The report goes on to state that as a 100% affordable project within half a mile of a major transit stop, Eden qualifies for the following density bonus benefits: 1) a density bonus that prohibits the city from imposing a maximum density limit; 2) an increase of up to three stories or 33 feet in building height standards; 3) four inducements or concessions to change development standards (Eden requested only one inducement to waive setback requirements); and 4) exemption from all required parking standards.
“No physical changes have been made to the project since the review by the planning commission: the applicant is still proposing the same density, the same height, the same setbacks and the same parking that the planning commission has determined as conforming to city standards,” the staff report said. “However, in response to community feedback, the applicant has submitted a density bonus application to provide additional basis for the city to approve the project as proposed.”
The staff report further states that the board has determined that the proposed project is exempt from review under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
As the May 24 date approaches, the community continues to see its share of conversation surrounding the topic. Memes have sprung up around social media and physical signs have popped up all over town – both for and against the project’s current plans.
Regarding Woerner’s statement that the meeting could take longer than a day due to the number of speakers, resident Jim Hutchins expressed his own concerns. Vice Mayor Trish Munro and Carling confirmed this week that speakers are not required to announce which city they reside in. Hutchins said that presented a problem.
“Until last year, if someone wanted to flood the comments, they would have had to physically bring hot bodies into the boardroom,” Hutchins said. “Today we have a multi-million dollar corporation that has tens of thousands of people in their properties across multiple states who are directly pressuring them through their systems and through social media to attend a meeting virtually where no one will be able to see them or know where they are, and if they have more ties to Livermore than their owner has told them to zoom in and talk.