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By Tim Hunt

Huge hurdle for Livermore theater project

Uploaded: Nov 18, 2013

Proponents of the 2,000-seat regional performing arts center in Livermore were dealt another setback last month when a Sacramento County judge ruled against the Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center.

The future of the ambitious center became tenuous when the Legislature and Governor Brown eliminated redevelopment agencies in 2012. The legislation allowed agencies to fulfill pre-existing obligations. Seeing that the Legislature was likely to pass the bill, Livermore, as well as many other agencies, entered in what they hoped would be binding agreements to obligate redevelopment funds.

When the city submitted those obligations (totaling $122 million) to the state, the Dept. of Finance consultant (former Alameda County Chief Administrative Officer Steve Szalay) disallowed the claim because no bonds had been sold and construction had not started on the theater.

Judge Eugene Balonon agreed with the state so now the center leadership is talking to its lawyers and looking at its options. The center is now led by its new executive director, Ted Giatas, who moved north from Palm Desert in Southern California.

Without the redevelopment funds, the center leadership faces a huge challenge to line up the financing for the theater. Utilizing redevelopment did not require a public vote, a majority of the City Council was sufficient. Should the center and the city turn to a bond issue, that will take a vote of the public and one heck of a sales campaign to convince people that it would be a good investment of public funds.

Incidentally, one good investment with redevelopment funds has been the facelift given to part of First Street in downtown Livermore. It's become a hub of entertainment and dining to the point that the city now is undertaking a thorough parking study to evaluate how to best serve customers. The study could potentially lead to another parking structure or even parking meters (heaven forbid).