By Tim Hunt
Livermore's regional theater plans take another hitUploaded: Nov 15, 2012
It's been an interesting couple of months for senior Livermore officials.
Last week, they celebrated the long-awaited opening of the Paragon Outlets at El Charro Road and Interstate 580, a center that over time will bring lots of sales tax revenue to the city with no impact on its residents other than those who travel on the freeway. Its location is similar to Stoneridge Mall in Pleasanton that produces plenty of sales tax with limited impact on residents other than those living on its periphery.
Both communities' downtowns operate independently and have their own type of charm and business challenges.
Livermore's very ambitious plans downtown hit a major roadblock earlier in the fall when the city was formally notified that the state Finance Dept. review had disallowed $147 million in redevelopment funds for the regional performing arts center. The successor agency to the redevelopment agency (made up of elected officials from local agenciesthe city, the park district, the school district and the county) had concluded the money for the theater was an existing commitment that needed to be honored after the state eliminated redevelopment agencies.
A consultant for the Dept. of Finance notified Livermore City Manager Marc Roberts that it was denying the claim that an agreement between the city's redevelopment agency and the non-profit organization running the theater because the bonds had not been sold. If that denial of the $147 million holds, that probably ends the dream of the 2,000-seat theater on what's now the vacant lot off Railroad Avenue between North Livermore Avenue and L Street.
The state consultant who signed the letter to Roberts was Steve Szalay, most recently the interim county administrator for Sacramento County. Szalay ran four counties, including Alameda County, during his long career as well as serving as the executive officer of the statewide association of counties.
Few people know city and county finances better.
Troy Brown, Livermore's assistant city manager, expressed frustration with the process and said that the city would engage in discussions with the Dept. of Finance to see if it could move the situation to a favorable resolution. The frustration is understandable given that everyone is essentially inventing the process as they move through it.
The city's position is that the theater, despite no bonds being sold or ground being broken, still can be paid for with tax increment money because of a development agreement.
Whether that viewpoint will prevail will be determined over the coming months or years.
Meanwhile, Livermore officials are dancing with delight after a massive opening last weekend of the upscale Paragon mall, which is the Livermore Valley's first destination shopping center.
Stoneridge mall in Pleasanton has a decent-sized footprint from which is draws most of its customers, but it's never been a place that people would drive an hour or more to spend their dollars. Paragon has done that for Livermore and mucked up travel in both directions on Interstate 580 as well as the surface streets around the center proper.
Making things more difficult is that the only Pleasanton access is on the freeway because the Stoneridge Drive extension to El Charro Road is not scheduled to be completed until next fall.
Once the grand opening pandemonium and the holiday shopping season pass, then we all can figure out the traffic impact. The center is expected to produce $2 million in local sales tax revenue annually, but the Livermore general fund will net only about $400,000 for years due to a sales tax sharing agreement with the developer as well as the cost of policing and other city services for the site.