After more than two hours of public comment Monday night, the Livermore City Council reconvened Tuesday afternoon and unanimously approved Eden Housing’s proposal for 130 units of low-income housing downtown.
Mayor Bob Woerner said:
“The city has invested years of effort and millions in housing dollars in this site, and we need to proceed now.”
Woerner said what’s more “it’s the right thing to do.”
The four-story project will be built on 2.5 acres on the corner of South L Street and Railroad Avenue. The one-to-three bedroom units will vary from 500 to about 1,000 square feet each and will go to Livermore residents making less than $55,000 a year as individuals and up to $78,000 a year for families of four.
During the housing crisis in the expensive Bay Area, the project is seen as a place for teachers, medical workers and others who work in Livermore to avoid long commutes or stay in the community in which they grew up.
Councilmember Bob Carling said:
“I think the chair of the planning commission expressed it best when he said a Livermore teacher supporting a family of three would still qualify for housing here, after eight years of employment in the Livermore School District. … Think about that. That they would qualify after eight years.”
The city, which owns the property that was the former home of a Lucky grocery store, planned affordable housing for the site as far back as 2003. Eden secured $14.4 million for the project through Alameda County’s A1 bond, contingent on the city putting low-income housing there.
The housing will occupy about 38,000 square feet, including lobbies, recreation areas and laundry rooms. Another 31,000 square feet between buildings will go to a still-to-be-designed public park.
The council found the project conforms with the city’s downtown plan and its general plan. Members pointed out state law would’ve allowed Eden to make the project denser, taller and provide no parking, but the developer made it more attractive to the city.
Vice Mayor Trish Munro said the council was only required to rule as to whether the project met all the necessary conditions. Some critics said they supported affordable housing, but farther from downtown.
“I’m simply being asked to confirm Eden Housing has met the conditions to build.”
“I’m convinced that they have not only met, but exceeded, those conditions. All of the boxes have been checked.”
More than 100 people spoke on the matter during public comment Monday night. While, according to Munro, about two-thirds of the comments supported the plan, the other third was very vocal in opposition.
Many speakers said the project – which will include two underground parking garages and a dedicated spot for every unit – would make downtown parking even more problematic. Some disagreed with the design, while others said they worried about how the project would affect their property values. At least one resident said people who can’t afford to reside in Livermore should live elsewhere.
“I believe we have a legal, and a moral, obligation to fulfill our commitment to those decisions set forth some years ago.”
Woerner said rejecting the project could mean at least $6 million in fines from the state, as well as lawsuits from area affordable housing advocates. He said a no vote “would be an absolutely irresponsible risk.”
The proposed development was at the center of controversy in late April when Planning Commissioner John Stein made disparaging comments in his opposition to the plan. Stein faced down and survived an expulsion vote 4-1 with a requirement that he complete a League of California Cities inclusion training session. The commissioner issued an official apology for what Carling called inexcusable and insensitive remarks.