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On the local beat again tonight at the #Livermore city council meeting. Tonight Council decides what to do about the initiative to redesign downtown from the Council-approved concept. Follow along here for updates.
Citizens forum up first. Local business owner describes closed door meeting with Joan Seppala and co a couple of weeks ago. Says he asked for copies of economic analysis for the Central Park Plan (CPP), list of supportive businesses, and likely delays. Was provided w/ nothing.
Next up owner of Simply Fondue, who was at the same meeting. Says he doesn't understand why the initiative language and the "Central Park drawing" don't match, and that the park space in the image is much larger than the initiative describes. Says he left meeting with no new info
Greg Scott, homeless advocate, accompanied by recently homeless woman who he is happy to say has finally received housing. Scott cites recent HEAP of almost $500k as evidence of resources being available, but doubts it will make a dent.
Proponent of CPP is advocating for the approved market rate apartment complex at First and L streets in downtown be required to have affordable units. She is now talking about someone who called her a liar at a July meeting and saying she is owed an apology.
Livermore Downtown director reading a message from Nancy Bankhead, the family for whom the LVPAC managed Bankhead Theater is named. She has resigned from the board of LVPAC because of "the Bankhead is not a place for politics."
Current speaker and 50 year resident says he witnessed someone physically threaten another person last meeting, and makes emotional plea to discuss matters like adults.
Current speaker representing a large contingent of attendees who have come to raise awareness about the death of a young woman killed on East Ave after being hit by a vehicle. She is asking for increased safety considerations for pedestrians and cyclists.
Next speaker is the sister of the victim, echoing the call for increased safety.
Victims best friend also asking for City to take a new look at the East Ave crosswalk.
Next speaker lives right by the crash site and is describing in some detail what she heard the night of the crash. She is complaining about the high rate of speeding and lack of bike lanes. Says downtown controversy is "sucking the oxygen" out of the city.
Next speaker says he came to council the last time someone was killed, and was told "it would be looked into." Notes that speed wasn't a problem, alcohol wasn't involved, and asks council to not let this happen again.
Regular cycling and ped advocate says no one deserves to die from these kinds of accidents.
Rep from @BikeEastBay asking council to "think big" about policy changes that can be made to "make mistakes less deadly" for pedestrians.
@BikeEastBay Previous speaker who has recently gotten off the streets and into housing advocating for more help for homeless veterans.
@BikeEastBay As the family of victim Yaneli Morales prepares to leave, CM Munro interrupts citizens forum to offer condolences to the family and ask staff for an update on East Ave's place in the active transportation plan. Staff says a comprehensive study is needed bc of lack of consensus.
@BikeEastBay Citizens forum resuming with head of Unify Livermore asking for a full review of the paid signature gathers efforts, citing one reported instance of a gatherer threatening to shoot someone who disagreed with them and challenged their information.
@BikeEastBay Meeting regular Karl Wente says "we're better than this" but acknowledges his role in the battle for downtown. Celebrates the emergence of activism in his generation.
@BikeEastBay Citizens forum over. Mayor speaking now, says he's reviving his "fact finding" from a few meetings ago. He's taking umbrage with a truncated quote in The Independent that he says misrepresented his statement about why he didn't participate in the downtown steering committee.
@BikeEastBay Mayor criticizing journalistic standards of The Independent, citing an article that removes references the Veterans Park and the Stockmen statue. The article apparently also describes the City plan as prioritizing housing and the CPP prioritizing open space.
Mayor says as we will learn tonight, the City plan has more parking and more open space than the CPP.
Consent calendar up next. First speaker is homeless advocate Greg Scott, noting that one homeless resident killed another recently, and asks if we really have the political will to address homelessness.
City of Livermore housing and human services manager attempting to clarify what "unspent funds" actually means, and sorry folks, you'll have to watch the video. 🤷‍♂️
Mr. Wente offers a quote of Gandhi that we should be judged by how we treat our most destitute. Would like to see continued urgency.
Consent calendar approved unanimously
Next up is the main event: 9212 report, which analyzes the effects of the Central Park Plan Initiative. As recap, the initiative was certified last month as having gathered the required number of signatures.
Council then had the option to adopt it, send it to election (special or general), or request the 9212 report, which they did. City clerk is giving this overview, noting that December is the earliest possible special election date and teh election would cost $800,000.
Planning manager Steve Stewart is now giving an overview of the development sites, the approved plan, and the outreach process. He is taking care to note the "market supported" scale of items like retail, which consultants have warned can be overbuilt.
Moving pretty fast, so bear with me.
Stewart giving overview of zoning sub-districts referenced in the initiative, and showing the "illustrative" picture included by the CPP organizers. Stewart notes that the lack of specifics in the initiative, and the fact that the initiative and the drawing don't match, makes...
...it hard to do an apples to apples comparison with the Council-approved plan. This is the second time this had come up tonight. The initiative offers allowable uses that do not necessarily match the placement or scale of uses in the drawing.
Here are the key features of the CPP initiative
In each use case, the analysis assumes the maximum square footage allowable in the initiative language.
Looks like the Council-approved plan has about a half acre more open space than the CPP
Going into Key Learnings from the Downtown Steering committee, which were formed from opinions by industry experts evaluating what kinds and amounts of uses the local market could support.
Stewart noting significant inconsistencies between the CPP and the Key learnings, with retail being overbuilt, the hotel not facing onto Livermore Ave and being too large, and open space not being "well organized."
Housing in CPP also identified as major challenge, with Stewart noting that the number and size of the units would likely not satisfy the ~$15 million debt. Also states that the unit type and size would not be as competitive for financing as other projects.
Presumably, if the 84 units couldn't get financing and were not built, the full debt would need to be repaid.
Staff and consultants are estimating a delay of four years after the election if the initiative is approved by voters. Basically back to square one looking for partners, doing design work, redoing environmental, etc.
Staff is recommending the council not adopt the initiative, and direct staff to prepare a more comprehensive report of the effects of the initiative.
On to council comments and questions.
VM Carling is asking about total parking spaces in both plans. Staff says CPP provides 45 more spaces in total, but also generates more parking demand. Approved plan provides 99 *surplus* parking spaces, to the CPP's 29 surplus spaces.
CM Munro asking about impacts to downtown businesses from extended delay. Staff comments that uncertainty is challenging for businesses, and additional construction delays interrupt business.
CM Coomber recalls ad in The Independent stating "no delays and financial feasible," and asks if staff believes that. Staff says significant delays will ensue.
CM Woerner is concerned about unseen delays from lawsuits and the possibility of tax measures that would be required to fund the CPP.
CM Munro notes the enormous amount of staff time this project would require if started over, citing other projects that require staff attention.
Mayor comments that the initiative removes references to "affordable" housing, and asks staff to evaluate the costs to the City if 84 units were built instead of the 130 units in the Approved plan.
Staff says they will evaluate in the next report.
Public comment up next. I will summarize themes but not planning to dictate all 30 speakers testimony.
First couple of speakers pro CPP, current one references "major hotel developer waiting in the wings" as evidence that the four your projected delay is "manufactured" and a "scare tactic." Says I street garage is not in the CPP, which I did not know.
I'm not a public procurement expert, but it's not clear to me that the City Council could just choose a secret hotel developer to build a west side hotel, as the CPP team seems to be advocating.
Two CPPers have said the vote should be in March during the primary to save the $640-800k for a special election. City Attorney clarifying that March is not an election within election code rules. Must be November 2020 or a special election.
Pro approved plan speakers including First Street Alehouse owner noting the negative impacts to downtown businesses of continued delay. Alehouse owner says CPP would eliminate their back patio and impact rear access.
Interesting comment begins with a statement that the council should adopt the initiative tonight if they want certainty, and ends with "can't the council find a compromise?"
There is a lot of "you ignored the will of the people" tonight in reference to council not approving a west side hotel after the public outreach process. I'm genuinely curious what these folks think the last election was about.
CPP group not giving up on March primary election for the initiative. Now citing an unnamed "expert in legislative actions" opinion that March is allowed. Providing election code section for City Attorney review.
City Attorney clarifies that that section of the election code only applies to referendums, not initiatives. CM Woerner clearly irked at the continuous undermining of city staff by unnamed "experts."
General sentiments in the room:
- Everyone should be nicer (but I'm not going to change)
- The People want ____________
- The other side is ignoring the people
More accusations that the city is rigging this and choosing not to have the election in March. Lots of non-attorneys weighing in on a pretty complex legal matter.
Seems to be implication in current speakers comments that there is something sinister about the council voting unanimously. Followed by criticizing council for criticizing Joan Seppala.
Public comment closed. Council comment up now.
CM Woerner pointing out that 41% of Central Park overlaps with Stockmen Park, and has the City Attorney clarify that renaming any portion of Stockmen Park would violate the agreement between the City and the Stockmen Association.
CM Coomber commenting on complaints that the Council "didn't follow public opinion," says the Council has to consider other things like financial feasibility. He says there will not be three parking structures unless people want their property taxes to go up.
CM Coomber is pretty fired up. Clearly irritated at what he sees as eleventh hour disruptions.
CM Woerner says he finds the 9212 report to be very informative and accurate, and based on its contents he sees no way to adopt it. He says adopting it would cost more money and give us less parking and less open space.
VM Carling responding to comments that the city wouldn't have to do another public outreach program by pointing out that the initiative says many different things can go many different places. Example: area next to Bankhead could be parking garage or museum.
His feeling is that more outreach *would* be required to know what to put where. Carling also points out that citizens will be voting on the initiative language, not the pictures that have been circulated, so the picture can't simply be implemented.
VM Carling saying safety is his utmost concern, and he has asked the leaders of the CPP what they plan to do about threats of violence form signature gatherers. He has received no response.
Mayor asks the audience for a show of hands who participated in the public outreach process. Lots of hands. Asks who participated in the drawing of the CPP. Two hands: Joan Seppala and Jean King.
Mayor expounded for quite a while about the fact that the city approved plan was chosen by duly elected leaders, not by a small group.
Unanimous approval for accepting the 9212 report AND placing the initiative on the Nov 3, 2020 ballot. Subcommittee of Mayor Marchand and VM Carling created to prepare rebuttal language.
Staff also being directed to gather additional information on financials, housing, business impacts, etc.
Council reports of meetings attended still going, but I'm signing off y'all.
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