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Livermore council paves way for condo complex in Isabel Neighborhood Specific Plan area

Triad project to consist of 112 units, focuses on sustainable energy and transit access
Triad Project rendering
Rendering of the planned layout for a 112-unit condo development in the Isabel Neighborhood Specific Plan area.

The Livermore City Council voted Monday to approve a resolution that charts the course for a new development consisting of more than 100 housing units and infrastructure aimed at utilizing and promoting cleaner energy sources for residents' transit needs.

"I'm very excited by the fact that it's the first neighborhood that I'm familiar with that's going to have purple pipe recycled water for irrigation ... all electric, EV charging stations and solar," Vice Mayor Gina Bonanno said during the hearing on the Triad project proposed for the Isabel neighborhood area.

"Our goal is to have this be a complete neighborhood, have grocery, retail, we might need a school out there at some point; we're going to have Valley Link, that's the plan. We have bus service, this is just such a great opportunity for us as a city," she continued.

The project's 112 units at North Canyons Parkway and Triad Place are set to range from 1,000 to 1,800 square feet, with 22 being reserved for households of median and moderate incomes. Twelve of the units will also be built with accessibility for seniors and others with mobility limitations in mind. Each building in the project is slated to be three stories.

Other features of the project include a 0.2-acre park, balconies and porches, and a 2,600-square-foot dog park, as well as a new sheltered bus stop on North Canyons Parkway and a bike lane.

Council members lauded the project's conformance to the requirements and vision of the Isabel Neighborhood Specific Plan (INSP), which aims to foster "development of a complete neighborhood with a mix of uses that is walkable, bikeable, and served by transit," according to city staff.

"The Isabel Neighborhood seeks to create a safe, vibrant, complete neighborhood; and support transit ridership and citywide goals for increased transportation options and housing choices," according to a staff report prepared by community development director Paul Spence for Monday's meeting.

In addition to aligning with the land-use requirements of the city's General Plan and the vision of the INSP in particular, Spence notes in the report that the location of the property is well-situated among existing employment and educational infrastructure in the area.

"The project supports policies established in the Land Use, Housing, Community Character, and Climate Change elements by redeveloping an infill site near transit with market rate and affordable units near jobs and educational opportunities -- e.g., Las Positas College," Spence wrote.

The proposed development from applicant DeNova Homes would be the first new development under the INSP.

"When I was on the Planning Commission ... four or five years ago, we first started hearing about the Isabel Neighborhood Specific Plan, and it's just very exciting to see the first project," Bonanno said. "And to my knowledge this is the first project, first of what I hope will be many so we can get that neighborhood built out."

Currently, the approximately 5-acre property at the northwest corner of North Canyons Parkway and Triad Place slated for development under the proposed project is vacant, sitting within an office park and surrounded by a private access drive and parking lot.

"In support of the city's general plan, climate action, and specific plan, the project will incorporate sustainability measures into its operations and design," assistant planner Jake Potter said in Monday's presentation.

"For example, the project will be all electric, and proposes rooftop PV arrays that would provide electricity without local emissions," he added. "Garages would be EV charger ready and there will be three EV chargers on site. Recycled water will be used for all irrigation throughout the project ... all plants will be medium or low water users, and many plant species will be natives pollinators which are conducive and well suited to Livermore's climate."

Potter also emphasized the area's location along the bus line, giving future residents alternative transit options to reach centrally located educational, commercial, and technological hubs such as downtown, the Livermore Lab and Las Positas College, as well as a means of connecting to the BART line.

The council's vote approving the project was 3-0, with Mayor Bob Woerner and District 3 Councilmember Brittni Kiick absent from the night's meeting. The trio also endorsed city staff's recommendation of a California Environmental Quality Act exemption for the project, under guidelines that include provisions for projects near transit-oriented areas and those that fit within a municipality's existing general plan.

Councilmember Trish Munro highlighted her excitement about the project, but also noted that the changing landscape regarding sustainable, transit-oriented housing could make the new project one of many.

"When I look at the way that the future has been integrated into this in sustainable ways, part of me says 'wow, look at us going forward' and the other part of me says 'you know, by the time this is built, my bet is there will be more stuff,'" Munro said. "So the plus-minus of technology, right?"

In keeping with the theme of development in the Isabel neighborhood area, the council also approved a request to authorize negotiations for a development agreement with applicant Isabel Portola Owner LLC for a proposed mixed-use development in the area.

The proposed project would house residential, office and commercial endeavors on a 45-acre property that falls under the INSP, with the proposed uses aligning with those envisioned under the plan, according to city staff.

While the 3-0 vote allows for the project to move to the next steps of the planning process, it signifies an agreement for negotiations only, with the council maintaining discretion on the project's future planning and implementation.

"Staff would return and be discussing the draft terms of the development agreement as well as the site plan for the proposed property," associate planner Ashley Vera said, when asked about next steps following approval of the item. "We would also discuss whether the approach is to go through the site plan review process, but ultimately you would see us returning with a draft document showing a site plan in conformance ... with the specific plan, and we would bring that back for your review."

Vera added that it would be at least a couple of months before the item returns to the City Council, likely in the fall.