Valet Parking Wins Livermore City Council Vote 5-0 | Livermore News
LIVERMORE — Livermore City Council on Monday approved a plan that included a $1.9 million loan to a downtown hotel developer to buy land to be used as a valet parking lot.
The 5-0 approval of the Amended Divestiture, Development and Loan Agreement (DDLA) that will allow “2205 Railroad Avenue LLC” – a Davis-based Presidio LLC – to contribute a four-story, 125 to 135 hotel rooms at the corner of Railroad and South Livermore Avenues by December 31, 2025.
Under the agreement, the developer will receive the loan from the city to purchase a 33,600 square foot privately owned property at the corner of K Street and Railroad Avenue.
The loan – which is to be repaid in a lump sum at 3.5% interest when the hotel opens by 2025 – will allow 2205 Railroad Avenue LLC to build a valet lot at approximately one-tenth of mile from the hotel, replacing its original plan of underground parking.
Residents and business owners of Livermore have desired a quality hotel as the centerpiece of the city’s revitalized downtown for many years.
“We’ve been trying to get this done for a long time,” Mayor Bob Woerner said ahead of the council vote. “There were the obstacles that were thrown at us. And I think it’s time to go here.
Paul Spence, Livermore’s community development manager, said the town’s planning commission should be able to review the hotel’s architectural designs in March, with the town council hearing to follow in April.
The “Wine Country Hotel at the Bankhead” project proved controversial from its inception with debates over whether it should be located on the east side of Livermore Avenue near the Bankhead Theater or on the west side adjacent to a park open.
Community groups opposed to the location of the hotel obtained enough signatures to place the question on the March 2020 ballot. Based on the downtown designs presented at the time, voters approved the P measure. to allow construction of the hotel on the east side by a vote of 2 to 1.
Under the plan approved Monday, the city will sell city-owned land for the hotel site at Presidio for $71,000. The hotel will include meeting space, a rooftop pool, fitness center and outdoor courtyard.
Presidio will spend $30,000 a year on Stockmen’s Park maintenance, build a new solid waste management facility to serve the entire block, make road improvements, allow the public to use its rooftop terrace and rent the project site for public parking until construction begins, Spence mentioned.
While the hotel was approved in the 2020 vote, Monday’s approval from the DDLA added hotel valet parking to the deal.
Many supported the hotel’s valet deal so the hotel could move forward without further discussion regarding parking. Further delay, they said, would hurt downtown and the fragile Livermore Vineyards, which need a downtown hotel to attract tourists. Supporters further said that referendums and the citizens’ initiative had already delayed the hotel.
Those who oppose the hotel’s valet parking deal said they support the hotel. However, they believe the lot at 2080 Railroad Avenue could be put to better use, such as affordable housing, and alternative parking solutions could be found. Also, they didn’t think the city should spend taxpayers’ money at a time when the city lacked funds for maintenance. The Save Livermore Downtown (SLD) representative said the facts show that citizen voting measures could not have influenced the decision to abandon underground parking.
David Kent, chair of the governance committee of the Tri-Valley Conservancy board, said it was good that everyone was now supporting the hotel. Kent said a hotel was vital to a vibrant town center when its development was first suggested in the 1990s, and has remained so 25 years later. He said the delays had damaged winemakers and small business owners who had invested in the city center while expecting a hotel to be built.
Dawn Argula, CEO and President of the Livermore Valley Chamber of Commerce, asked council to approve the parking plan because “the hotel’s strong need has not abated.”
A hotel, she said, will attract visitors to downtown Livermore and the Livermore Valley wine region. Argula cited a recently released report from UC Davis that the wine industry needs “overnight visitor accommodations to support a vibrant wine economy.”
“Within the next five years, the sustainability of winegrowers will be threatened,” Argula said. “The construction of this hotel will be a major step forward in supporting a sustainable wine region.”
Lynn Naylor, CEO of Innovation Tri-Valley, a coalition of employers, research lab educators, tech company workers and city leaders, said the hotel plan was identified in the plan 2002 City Center Specification as a “Critical Catalyst Project”.
“That, of course, was 20 years ago,” Naylor said. “The hotel is long overdue and an integral part of the regional plan to both attract a vital tourist audience and meet the needs of our businesses.”
Lori Souza, a resident since 1979, accused a “small but vocal opposition” to the hotel project of wasting taxpayers’ money on delay tactics.
“The people of Livermore voted in favor of this hotel project by a decisive margin in March 2020,” Souza said. “It is time to move forward with this important project. This is what citizens want. This is what our community needs. And that is what is important for our economic health.
On the other side, Jim Hutchins said he supported building a hotel downtown, but called the loan a “misuse of city funds” and said the Railroad Avenue parcel should be used for something else.
“Does Presidio not have the money to build the hotel without a bailout from the city, or does the city give the loan to Presidio as an inducement to encumber a plot at the heart of the Eden Housing disagreement ?” Hutchins asked. “Given the lack of transparency in how this deal was created, the public is in the dark.”
Karalee Brune said she was not opposed to the hotel, but was “appalled by this senseless ploy”.
“If this developer is so poorly funded that they’re not able to get money from more traditional sources, I think there’s something wrong,” Brune said.
Jean King of SLD said his group supported the hotel, but not the parking lot. King took issue with the staff report’s conclusion that citizens are responsible for the loss of underground parking. See SLD Statement in the box on page 10.
Ahead of the council vote, Vice Mayor Gina Bonanno said the hotel was the cornerstone to completing the downtown project. She thanked the developer for sticking with the city and said she approved of the loan arrangement.
“Here we are in 2022; we have yet another opportunity to move the ball down the pitch and get the hotel built,” Bonanno said. “We won’t have an infinite number of opportunities to do that.”
Councilwoman Trish Munro said the project makes “fiscal sense.”
City Councilman Bob Carling pointed out that most people who spoke at the meeting were in favor of building a hotel, even if they weren’t in favor of the parking plan.
“It’s financially sound,” Carling said. “I’m very supportive of that.”