One of my favorite sights in Livermore is the aqua pool slide perched high and dry on the roof of Valley Pool, on Railroad Avenue. It's a reminder to passers-by of time spent splashing and swimming at the pool, an effective promotion for Valley Pool's business and is one of the vernacular icons of Livermore.
Even though I have memories of being in-n-out of the pool during the heat of summer vacation, I decided to do this painting on a chilly day. My goal was to depict the street scene in the diffuse light, bare trees and distant ground fog. The stop signs at the Railroad and North K Street intersection give a sense of the building's size.
The telephone poles diminish in height and contrast against the sky, to suggest their receding into the distance. As a contrast to the bleak weather, the unexpected whimsy of the pool slide and its playful color suggest the promise of summer.
The painting that's titled "Valley Pool" is also a statement about California Redevelopment Agencies, or what I refer to as "De-development Agencies". My ability to sit in a mid-block parking lot for this vista of Railroad Avenue would not have been possible until the winter of 2008-9, when the City of Livermore demolished the Lucky's Shopping Center.
The land was to go to LVPAC, the private theater developer which said that construction funding was imminent. At the left edge of the painting there is the remaining wall fragment. In the foreground are piles of debris to be hauled away. By springtime, the site had been bladed flat by bulldozers.
All of this activity was the result of Livermore's Redevelopment Agency. The Agency was established in 1982 with the goal of removing blight. The City could declare anyone's business or property blight and use Eminent Domain to shut down their business and acquire their building or land.
Unsure about the stability of ownership, demoralized with the prospect of losing their investment of time and capital, businesses either left town or chose not to maintain or refurbish their properties. Taxes that normally would have gone for civic purposes such as schools and parks, were set aside by the city for the Redevelopment Agencies to buy buildings and land to resell below market value to a private developer. Anxious that the City appear successful about their decisions, they would be artificially stimulate business activity with financial incentives, changes of zoning, or acquiesce to a developer because the City was afraid the project would leave and go to another town that was making a better offer.
(Watch the accompanying video to see a March 2012 interview with home and business owners.)
This 2011 link shows Assemblyman Chris Norby and former Livermore City Manager Linda Barton discussing Redevelopment Agencies at the Sacramento Press Club: http://www.calchannel.com/channel/viewvideo/1999.
With the shuttering of all of California's Redevelopment Agencies in 2012, the special interests who hoped to benefit from the incentives have been left "High and Dry".