The Livermore City Council unanimously approved an amended and restated disposition, development and loan agreement (DDLA) with Davis-based hoteliers Presidio Companies to develop the downtown wine country hotel.
The agreement approved Monday night establishes the terms of the sale of the city-owned site to Presidio at the price of $71,521 as well as terms for a $1,923,750 loan to acquire an approximately 0.77-acre property at 2080 Railroad Ave. to develop a parking facility.
As longtime members of the City Council, Mayor Bob Woerner and Councilmember Bob Carling both expressed enthusiasm during the meeting to be making progress on this project as they've endured the years-long delay and community debates on the issue.
"This is the third different council I've been on that has dealt with this issue and supported it all along the way," Carling said. "I'm eager to vote yes on this and to move forward," he added.
Woerner echoed similar sentiments, "I've been on this council a long time. This is my 11th year and we've been trying to get this done for a long time and there have been the impediments that have been thrown at us and I think it's time to get going here," he said.
The council took its vote after hearing more than an hour of public comment from residents, downtown business owners, winegrowers and nonprofit leaders. While nearly all the speakers said they were in favor of the downtown hotel and finally moving the project forward after years of delay, there were many concerns raised about the plans for parking.
The original plans for the hotel initially included an underground parking facility with 120 spaces, however, city staff said that increased construction costs over the course of the project delay -- due to citizen-submitted referendum petitions and the COVID-19 pandemic -- led to the determination that an underground parking garage was no longer feasible.
This determination led to the newly approved solution for the city to loan Presidio $1.9 million to purchase a nearby plot of land to develop a surface valet parking facility.
Save Livermore Downtown spokesperson Jean King said during public comment that the referendums did not cause the project's delay. "The 2018 referendum had nothing to do with the hotel's parking requirements," she said, adding that the "developer's decision to pursue surface parking preceded both of the 2019 ballot measures."
"The reality is that the hotel developer wants surface parking instead of underground parking because it would save them millions of dollars," she continued.
She also urged the council to not approve the DDLA in her comments because she said the property they plan to use for the parking lot is inadequate based on the Downtown Specific Plan, which requires commercial uses in the downtown core to park off-site within the downtown core. "2080 Railroad is not in the downtown core," she said.
Later in the meeting, City Manager Marc Roberts confirmed that the parking plan does comply with the Downtown Specific Plan requirements. "The question was raised having to do with the location of where the valet parking lot actually is and the item that was discussed had to do with where the actual car is picked up from, so in the case of valet parking, it's where the pickup point is that is within your downtown core," Roberts said.
A number of other speakers during the meeting said that the parking lot for the hotel being on a separate side of the street from the hotel building would create traffic congestion on Railroad Avenue and would be an inconvenience for hotel guests who wouldn't be able to easily access their vehicles. Some speakers brought up an automated parking garage as an alternative that wouldn't take up as much space as a traditional parking lot.
Other speakers also questioned the need for the city to provide a loan to Presidio to construct the parking lot, arguing that the company should be able to afford to buy the land with its own funds.
The terms of the loan include a 3.5% interest rate, which reflects an agreement to lease the parcel back to the city for use as overflow parking while the new L Street parking garage is under construction, according to the staff presentation.
Those who spoke in favor of approving the DDLA agreement highlighted in their comments that the loan would be returned to the city with interest within three years and therefore would actually be a benefit to the city.
Supporters of the plan also expressed the need to move forward with the hotel project as a crucial step in finally completing the ongoing downtown revitalization plan.
Former mayor John Marchand criticized opponents of the project in his comments, referring to opposition tactics being used to stall its progress as "bad theater."
He added, "That's to be expected, since it's orchestrated by the leadership of the Bankhead Theater. Very simply, the reason for their opposition is the wine country hotel next to the Bankhead. They hope that if they can eliminate the parking, they can eliminate the hotel -- a hotel which was supported by over two-thirds of Livermore voters in Measure P."
In addition to the surface parking facility, plans for the completed four-story hotel include between 125-135 rooms with an approximately 3,300 square foot bar/lounge, 1,500-2,000 square foot meeting space, rooftop deck, fitness center, outdoor pool and an open courtyard and patio.
According to city staff's current timeline, the next steps include the Planning Commission and City Council review of the site plan and hotel design to occur in March and April of this year, respectively. Transfer of the property from the city to Presidio will also occur in April. Construction would begin no later than May 2024 and the hotel opening would be no later than December 2025.
A complete recording of Monday night's meeting is available here.