Livermore Latest California City to Create Income-Based Housing in Downtown

Riders pedal through downtown Livermore, Calif., during the third stage of the Tour of Cal
AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Activists have been trying to make Livermore a place where people are matched with housing based on income for decades, and now the city council has unanimously voted to build 130 homes in the city’s downtown and only available to tenants who are not earning high salaries.

One council member chided critics who “perpetuate the negative stigma associated with affordable housing.”

“It’s less dense and less tall and has more parking than is allowed under state density bonus laws,” Councilwoman Regina Bonanno said in a San Francisco Chronicle report, adding that people who come downtown for shopping shouldn’t object to “walking a couple of extra blocks so somebody else can have a place to live.”

The Chronicle reported on how the 2.5-acre area – that has been vacant since it was designated for this kind of housing since 2007 – will be developed:

The developer, Eden Housing, was selected in 2018 and has received $14.4 million in bond funding from Alameda County for the project. In addition the two four-story residential buildings the project will include a 0.7-acre park, a small science museum and a black box theater.

The vote followed a lengthy public hearing Monday night in which many residents expressed discomfort with how expensive Livermore is becoming and concern that the cost of housing has put the city out of reach for a generation of public servants and service industry workers instrumental in keeping the city going.

The units would be reserved for people and families earning less than 60% of Alameda County’s area median income — that means to be eligible a single person could earn no more than $54,840, while a four-person family could earn no more than $104,400, according to the county.

The Chronicle reported on how critics of the project drew fire from supporters. Commissioner John Stein said at an April hearing on the development.

I really don’t want to see the downtown become a ghetto of affordable housing. I think it should be distributed throughout the city and if we see high-density housing downtown, it should be market rate with maybe 20% affordable rather than entirely affordable.

 “At Monday’s meeting some residents continued to argue that downtown should be for tourists and shoppers and not for residential development,” the Chronicle reported.

Resident Melanie Reed said at the meeting:

The majority of Livermore residents do not want high-density housing smack in the middle or our downtown. Our downtown is cute and welcoming because it doesn’t include high-density, stacked housing. Over-development is not going to be appealing to Livermore residents or visitors.

Another unidentified homeowner said the development made no sense because the new residents will not have “income sufficient enough to patronize our downtown restaurants and bars.”

“If the city wants to provide low-income housing, I don’t think it should be concentrated in our downtown area,” he said.

The owner of a Livermore winery said people who work in the city should be able to live there.

“They are part of the fabric of the city,” Stephen Kent said. “If they cannot afford to live here the city loses its vibrancy, it loses its lifeblood.”

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