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Plans For Downtown Regional Theater in Trouble

A planned 2,000-seat regional theater is now in jeopardy after court ruling to dissolve redevelopment agencies.

Maybe the likes of Yo-Yo Ma and the American Ballet Theatre will never make its way into town to perform.

A planned in downtown Livermore is now in jeopardy after Thursday's state Supreme Court's redevelopment decision, according to a report from the Bay Area News Group.

Thursday morning the California Supreme Court upheld the legislature's vote to dissolve the agency. It also struck down a bill the legislature passed to allow such agencies to continue to exist if they paid part of their revenue to the state.

"This could have devastating effects on whether (the theater) can ever move forward," said Livermore Mayor John Marchand.

—Paul Thissen, Bay Area News Group reporter

View the rest of Thissen's report here.

Livermore's redevelopment agency was expected to pay for two-thirds of the $184 million project through tax increments it expects to receive over 30 years.

Other funding for the regional theater was expected to come from waste revenues from the Altamont and Vasco Landfill, facility fees, capital fund raising and operating surpluses, according to a city staff report.

The regional theater project is part of a 2004 agreement between the redevelopment agency, the city and the Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center to bring three performing-arts venues to Livermore.

Two projects have been completed: the on Eighth Street and the  downtown.

Officials planned for the regional theater to feature Broadway-type shows that the much smaller Bankhead Theater cannot handle. A city staff report said a regional theater would attract visitors from throughout the Bay Area and Central Valley.

Other Livermore Patch articles:

Steve A. January 09, 2012 at 07:10 AM
Don't you know the first rule of the 1%? When gambling, use other people's money! I agree about the RDA, it cuts off one of their avenues to use other people's money.
Jason January 09, 2012 at 07:19 AM
Quite right Steve! They wouldn't guarantee their own wealth with this gamble. They have learned from a good master - the Federal Reserve - it's one big Ponzi Scheme.
Jason January 09, 2012 at 07:25 AM
is this petition still active?
Steve A. January 09, 2012 at 07:31 AM
I don't know the net worth of the players involved, but I would be surprised if it was enough to fund the whole regional theater, so other money would still be needed. This way, they aren't risking their own money, yet have it setup to make money if it should happen to succeed, perhaps even if it fails.
Jason January 09, 2012 at 07:52 AM
Mark - here is another reason - with a large Regional Theater - in come the unions - in this story below - City Opera is now defunct. New York City Opera Announces Musician Lockout
Ron Geren January 09, 2012 at 08:02 AM
Matt, this is why I asked the question regarding demographics and leads to: Is the community better served by providing an entertainment venue for a relatively small number of people who can afford expensive tickets and may spend their money in town or are we better served by a much greater number of people spending their money in downtown developed retail stores and service businesses on a daily basis, not tied to performance dates? The economic, cultural, and community issues are not easy, but it would sure help to see the economic differences quantified.
Jason January 09, 2012 at 09:16 AM
My vote is with the masses. What makes Livermore a great town has been it's strong middle class. The people of Livermore do not want the "small town character" of this town radically changed. They do not want Walnut Creek. I'm guessing something along the lines of Santanna Row would be very appealing. A Regional Theater out on the highway with a convention center attached might make sense as well. Keep the tall buildings away from downtown, and use the convention business to fill the theaters and hotels, and day visitors could go to the wineries. Also by staying on the highway, it's Bart accessible. A complex of this type on the north side of 580 at N. Livermore Ave. would be a good spot as it's not too far from downtown, but also not near residential areas either. However, Friends of Livermore would be a problem.
Steve A. January 09, 2012 at 09:20 AM
I hadn't thought about unions. Is the Bankhead a union house? Will the regional theater be a union house? I have dealt with union labor before, and to put it simply, I will never again if I have any say about it. Between rules about who could do what and the absurd costs, it was insane. Maybe unions for theaters are different, but I doubt it.
Jason January 09, 2012 at 09:24 AM
No Steve, the Bankhead is not Union, although I bet their grossly underpaid staff wishes they were. But the Regional Theater would definitely be union.
Steve A. January 09, 2012 at 09:34 AM
I would be interested if the higher union labor costs are taken into account in the reports lenalex talks about. From what I have read here, I get the impression the reports minimize the potential downsides, or at least a lot of people think so.
Rich Buckley January 09, 2012 at 03:06 PM
Mark is on to a disturbing truth. There are other mechanisms for funding, difficult as they may be to organize. I suspect there exists working rules of thumb to forecast expected donor financial contributions based on city demographics. The Santana Row concept could go from Dom's all the way back to South Livermore Ave and perhaps include some sort or utilization of South L Street on the surface of what is now South L Street between Railroad Ave and say First Street and include underground public and private parking. This would be very feasible with the existing vested interests of Swenson-et.al. as the west end lead developer for this part of downtown. This is Swenson's forte in construction style. The trouble seems to be all .... More to follow
Ruth McKernan January 09, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Broadway productions and Produc"tions that have SAG (Screen Actors Guild) people required the "House" uinon. There are "Off" Broadway productions that can be very successful ventures but once a house is Union, they are union.
Rich Buckley January 09, 2012 at 03:36 PM
The trouble seems to be visible to all, and the midwife serving our current delivery is opting for a C-Section for our baby when nature appears to be telling us She will produce a still-born if we insist on immediate delivery. This result was never wanted, but here it is nonetheless. As hard as it is to face, a choice must be made: C-Section or Natural without induced labor? Unless we take measure of our situation now, we will never know what opportunities remain unborn.
les January 09, 2012 at 04:06 PM
What Mr. Alexander doesn't tell you is that eight of nine consultants' reports were against the regional theater; the eight one said the city was better off building a Whole Earth Foods store because it would bring in more money than the regional theater. The eight report also warned that the city would be on the hook for the cost of the theater after two or three years, which is when it would start to fail. He also forgot to tell you that all of the reports were paid for by the publisher of the Independent, who is pushing the regional theater as well as bringing BART to downtown. This is the same group who hijacked $36 million from redevelopment money to build the Bankhead Theater, which is still $23 million in debt. This group has this wide-eyed notion that if you bring Broadway productions to Livermore, people will attend and frequent downtown Livermore. As much as I enjoy theater, opera, ballet and such, I will always attend San Francisco productions. Small-town theater should stay small town. Yes, the city did do a survey of other regional theaters but in its haste, forgot to check into mass transit in those cities; and remember, BART was then part of the Regional Theater equation. Take BART out of the picture, and what do you have for attendance?
a local citizen January 09, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Here are more documents from city council meetings regarding the Regional Theater. Per the plan. "Regional Performing Arts Theater. As previously discussed, the proposed Theater could indirectly cause some population growth in the City through the creation of 10 new jobs. The creation of new jobs would marginally increase the demand for additional housing in the City. As the Theater would not substantially induce population growth in the City, the project is also not expected to create a substantial demand for additional housing." http://www.cityoflivermore.net/civica/filebank/blobdload.asp?BlobID=6367 Documents Amended and restated DDA 1-28-2011 http://97.65.184.12/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=117725&dbid=0 Regional Theater Market analysis Report 12-5-2008 http://97.65.184.12/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=70744&searchid=deef8563-f199-4f53-ac18-f3c152451b33&dbid=0 Report and admendent to DDA to guarantee theater with General Fund city council meeting 2-14-11 http://97.65.184.12/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=117919&searchid=deef8563-f199-4f53-ac18-f3c152451b33&dbid=0 Report on Economic conditions and revised financial plan. City council meeting 3-23-09 http://97.65.184.12/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=74911&searchid=deef8563-f199-4f53-ac18-f3c152451b33&dbid=0
a local citizen January 09, 2012 at 04:44 PM
Approved minutes for the 2-14-11 city council meeting regarding using the General Fund to back the regional theater. See who votes yes or no and why. http://97.65.184.12/WebLink8/DocView.aspx?id=119353&dbid=0
Raleigh January 09, 2012 at 04:45 PM
LVPAC has been able to monopolize the money from the Altamont and Vasco Landfill settlement. Under Kamena et al, millions of dollars that are to be given to the whole community have been signed over to LVPAC and year after year the money flow is uninterrupted. Originally, it was to build the Bankhead, but the money flow to LVPAC has never been diverted. This money could be used to prop up schools with GATE programs, ESL, close the technology gap, etc. This money has the ability to open libraries and extend library hours. This money could be used for citizens, senior to the very young, for parks and recreation programs and for preserving more land. This money could be used for a true art and cultural program that takes arts to the schools and across the curriculum instead of Saturday night soirees. But the money is dedicated to the LVPAC where it is spent on supporting consultant reports, etc. that support the Regional Theater. Despite or perhaps because of being the prime beneficiary of the millions from the Vasco and Altamont Landfill, LVPAC has become a bloated monster screaming and demanding more and more dollars to further enrich its very limited agenda.
Livermore resident January 09, 2012 at 06:48 PM
As long as Mayor Seppala is in charge, nothing will change: LVPAC will take the money, regardless of what Livermore needs…. Unfortunately, our City Council is more a LoVe PACk than a real City Council.
lenalex January 09, 2012 at 07:19 PM
Ms. Pratt, 1. LVPAC is a not-profit organization as are most arts groups. Earned income covers approximately 60% of operating expenses; the balance comes from community donations. If we have more income than expected, the difference goes into programming, such as the Friday Nights Live series of 15 free community concerts we presented in front of the Bankhead last summer. I regret to tell you that there are no profit streams. 2. The Bankhead’s ticket fees are neither illegal nor unreasonable and are no different than those charged at other Bay area venues. Telephone and internet convenience fees help pay the salaries of the employees who work in the ticket office and handle those orders. The suit that you describe involves for-profit ticketing services. 3. By definition, the telephone and internet convenience fees only apply to telephone and internet orders, not at the ticket windows. 4. The Bankhead ticket office is open from noon to 6pm Tuesday through Saturday on non-performance days. On performance days, the ticket office is open through the first intermission. So, on a weeknight that would be noon to 8:30pm and on weekends, noon to 9pm. On Sunday matinee days, the ticket office is open from noon to 3pm. Len Alexander Executive Director LVPAC
lenalex January 09, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Mrs. McKernan, Actually the key unions involved in Broadway productions are Actors' Equity, for the performers, and IATSE, for the stagehands. SAG covers movies and some television productions. Actors' Equity agreements are with the individual shows, while IATSE is with the venue. The regional theater will be an IATSE house, at least for those shows carrying a yellow card. The Bankhead will remain non-union. Len Alexander Executive Director LVPAC
lenalex January 09, 2012 at 07:31 PM
Steve A., The cost of employing IATSE stagehands has been included in the budget forecasting for the regional theater. Len Alexander Executive Director LVPAC
Frank Hernandez January 10, 2012 at 02:52 AM
Mr. Alexander, I just did some net research and think you are wrong about the ticket fees. The lawsuit documents describe the tort as TicketMaster adding fees labeled as an independent fee, with a name implying it was not for income by them, but in reality was mostly or completely income. This was deemed a violation of California Law against unfair or deceptive business practices. No place that I saw does the suit say it was because TicketMaster was a for-profit business, nor does the California Law (sections 17200 and 17500, like Cynthia referenced) have an exclusion for non-profits. The argument that the Bankhead's practices are no different than other Bay Area theaters begs the point that the activity has just been ruled illegal by a California Superior Court, and like TicketMaster, anyone engaging in the same kind of practice is thereby also open to a lawsuit, except now with legal precedent to support them. If a telephone or internet order does not take $3.50 more labor to execute than an in-person order, then I think it equates directly with the TicketMaster lawsuit. (I say more labor because your Nov. 6 post says the fee is because you "have to physically process each order".) I don't think the argument "all the theaters do it" is a valid defense in court. Either it violates the law, or it doesn't, and the TicketMaster case seems clear to me.
Janet Brown January 10, 2012 at 05:40 AM
Knock Knock Who's there? The General. The General Who? The General Funds my Piggy Bank.
Ken Jacobs January 10, 2012 at 06:35 AM
Raleigh, In response to your post above "This money could be used for a true art and cultural program that takes arts to the schools"...I don't think this is what they want. In fact it appears to be the other way around. They take students out of school throughout the year and fill their theater with them during the day. The Music Man says ticket sales are up. Not surprising when they have their hands in our school system, and can take kids off campus whenever they decide to offer a production to them. At $10.00 a ticket that's quite a revenue booster. Should LVPAC be allowed to continually use the Livermore School System as a tool for profiteering? When you do the math on the hundreds of students they pull out of school each season...it's impressive. The students suffer as it is from holiday "itis". Every time you turn around there is another holiday (now Halloween is a day off from school), and yet they continue to find a way to take them out of their regular curriculum to attend an event at the Bankhead. I bet other businesses in town wish they could do this too. I'm sure local businesses would love to have hundreds of students pass through their turn styles with $10.00 to spend. Due to LVPAC's unique NON PROFIT status - the school district allows them access to the local children. They put on an inexpensive show for the kids, call it "art", charge $10.00 a ticket and make bank.
Ken Jacobs January 10, 2012 at 06:45 AM
Len, Is the cost of a Union strike also factored into the "studies"?
lenalex January 10, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Mr. Hernandez, Thanks for your comments. We'll continue to research this question, keeping your thoughts in mind. Len Alexander Executive Director LVPAC
Puck January 11, 2012 at 05:15 AM
Janet, great joke but wouldn't it be more politically correct this way. LVPAC: Knock Knock City Council: Who's there? LVPAC: The General. City Council: The General Who? LVPAC: The General Funds my Piggy Bank!
Sean January 11, 2012 at 05:37 AM
Thanks for posting Puck. The home page of the Livermore Patch is starting to look like a police lineup. Escaped suspect, police standoff with parolee, suspect in slaying tries as adult, school trustees deny charter school (OK, they are not technically criminals, but the way they have let the schools slide is criminal)
lenalex January 11, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Mr. Jacobs, Some facts about LVPAC’s school program: 1. LVPAC has no “special” relationship, such as you describe, with any of our local school districts. Several times each year we offer performance events at the Bankhead Theater that have a correlation to the state-wide school curriculum. This fall, we presented two school performances of MatheMagic, a nationally recognized program that teaches math and science. Each teacher or principal is free to make his or her own decision about whether to attend or not. The per student ticket price is $7. 2. At $7 per ticket, even if the performances sell out, the direct presentation costs are not covered. The shortfall is made up by contributions. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory provided a grant to LVPAC that helped to underwrite the MatheMagic performances. 3. In addition to theater performances, LVPAC, from time-to-time, provides visiting artist for workshops, master classes and performances in individual local school. In November, the Lakota Sioux Dance Theatre offered a school assembly program for the Rancho Las Positas Elementary School. These in-school events are provided free of charge to the participating schools and are underwritten by individual and corporate contributions to LVPAC’s education fund. Len Alexander Executive Director LVPAC
::thumbs up:: February 26, 2012 at 01:46 AM
Thank you! Didnt want it! BART hopefully is next!

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