The Livermore-Pleasanton Elks Lodge in Springtown was packed with over 200 community members last week eager to hear the city's plans for development in the neighborhood located in the foothills of northeast Livermore.
The conversation around Springtown's future has recently resurfaced after an approved 2017 Open Space Plan was put on hold by the city due to a lack of funding available at the time to begin building. The city aims to bring a number of public, outdoor amenities to the residential community over the course of several phases.
While public works director Scott Lanphier confirmed during the April 26 meeting that the city is not changing the previously approved plan, the purpose of the event was to refresh residents' memories of it, answer questions and gather updated input about the proposed near-term improvements in Phase 1 of implementing the plan with the roughly $1 million that has been identified for the project thus far.
Some of the proposed developments in Phase 1 that were presented during the meeting include a community garden, shade structures, bike racks, multi-purpose fields, a Frisbee/disc golf course, picnic/playground areas and pickleball courts.
The city initiated the process to convert the 85-acre former golf course located in the heart of Springtown into an open space when the nine-hole course was closed in 2015. The property was locked into the existing open space designation by voter approval of Measure FF in the 2016 general election.
The Springtown Open Space Plan was prepared with assistance by Livermore Area Recreation and Park District and adopted by City Council in 2017. City officials said the study that led to the approved plan included community input through workshops and comments on the draft plan. The master plan was estimated to cost as much as $27 million at the time.
"I remember coming to this part of the city when I was interviewing and really realizing how disconnected the community was from the rest of the city and also how much potential you have in the open space," said City Manager Marianna Marysheva, who is approaching one year with the city this month.
She said that at that time, she was made aware of the Open Space Plan and the projected cost.
"The master plan is so expensive but you know what, we don't need to have the entire $30 million to improve this. So staff -- we have a brilliant staff -- put our heads together and said, 'Where do we have funds and how much do we have?' and it is possible that we may have a million or two of funding that is shared by the city and the parks district," she said, noting that they are still working to confirm exactly how much is available but even though it may not be much, it's enough for a start.
Several residents shared questions and comments during the roughly two-hour meeting, including one community member who highlighted that although the plan has been approved since 2017, there are some residents who didn't fully agree with it back then and still don't today due to a number of concerns including traffic, maintenance of the new amenities and parking, among other potential issues.
Many other residents expressed that while they do agree with the plan and are glad to see it moving forward, they are also worried about some of the same issues and how it will affect their day-to-day lives.
A number of audience members shared their public support for the addition of a disc golf course, citing the potential to bring tournaments to the city and more community members from other neighborhoods to Springtown. On the other hand, some other residents questioned whether tournaments and more visitors would be a good thing or would exacerbate the traffic and parking woes that they're already concerned about.
There were also concerns expressed about attracting unhoused residents to take shelter underneath the proposed shaded structures or at new picnic and playground areas.
Others were generally skeptical about the project actually moving ahead this time.
Addressing Marysheva and Lanphier -- who started with the city in 2019 -- resident Terry Stillwell said, "I think that you guys weren't here when this all started rolling, so I don't think you understand maybe that the people in Springtown have a tendency to feel like we're the bald-headed stepchildren of the city. I don't think we feel that our parks get the same level of maintenance as the parks in the more affluent communities do within Livermore."
She continued, "When this first started, we had high-density, low-income housing proposed for the open space, which the community came together and made very clear that was not going to happen on our watch. So if you walked into this meeting and you're feeling a little bit of hostility, it's because of our lack of trust that we've had with the previous administration over the process to bring us to where we are today."
She added that she and her neighbors want to make sure that "the promises that were made are going to be kept."
Prior to last week's meeting, officials also presented conceptual drawings of the proposed improvements to the community at the Climate & Environmental Expo that took place in Springtown on April 19.
As part of the city's efforts to beautify Springtown, the Department of Public Works already implemented some minor improvements at the Springtown Branch Library last year, including adding drought tolerant plantings, mulch and new signage in front of the library.
The city is continuing to collect public feedback about the Open Space Plan on its website. Officials told Livermore Vine that upon gathering additional community input, staff will engage in any necessary environmental analyses and presentations at City Council and LARPD meetings.
More information about the Springtown Open Space plan can be found here.