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Regional Theater Now a "Risky" Reality

City Council and redevelopment agency approve a funding plan for a 2,000-seat theater in downtown Livermore.

City officials moved closer to attracting the likes of Yo-Yo Ma and the American Ballet Theatre to town.

At about midnight Monday, council members and the redevelopment agency decided to include the city's general fund into a financing plan for constructing a 2,000-seat regional theater in downtown Livermore. The approved plan is designed to provide surety to bondholders.

"This step starts to make it real," said Len Alexander, executive director for the Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center, which is pushing for the theater. "It is a step closer to reality — a huge step."

However, with that huge step comes a risk.

A risk, Alexander said, that is worth taking.

The redevelopment agency is paying for two-thirds of the $184 million project through tax increments it expects to receive over 30 years.

The governor's proposed state budget means there is no guarantee of those tax increments. 

Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to close a $25 billion projected deficit for fiscal year 2011-12 includes shuttering all state redevelopment agencies.

"There are many unknowns at this time," City Manager Linda Barton said. "There is no written proposal for us to analyze. We are in a difficult position."

Alexander said the clock is ticking for the project and that any delays could raise costs as construction rates increase.

The cost of financing is another variable that may pose a problem for the project, he said.

"We can't have more cost than revenue," he noted.

But if all things fall into place as planned, officials may be breaking ground on the project in July, Alexander said.

Other funding for the regional theater is 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 LVPAC to bring three performing-arts venues to Livermore.

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

Officials anticipate that the regional theater will 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.

An overwhelming majority of a standing-room only crowd that attended Monday's meeting spoke in favor of the project.

It was announced that 109 people attending the meeting requested to speak on the issue. About 25 of those speakers waived their time as the night wore on.

Many said they welcome the regional theater, and are excited at the prospect of it changing the face of Livermore and pumping millions into the economy.

The regional theater is planned on the site of the former downtown Lucky Supermarket on the southeast corner of the intersection of First Street and South Livermore Avenue.

It is something Maryann Brent has been waiting a decade for.

"I came here to see history being made," she said at Monday's council meeting. "I've been waiting for this for a long time."

A second reading and analysis of the theater's financing plan are required before the project can move forward, officials said. The council is scheduled to revisit the plan and take action at its Feb. 22 meeting.

Note: Council member Doug Horner was the lone opposing vote in Monday's decision.

John Stein February 28, 2011 at 12:24 AM
Actually California State Law prohibits any public agency from gifting of public funds. the only quuestion is can this bond measure be considered a "gift of public funds".
Chris May 12, 2011 at 01:44 AM
When do we get to vote out this joke of a city council and pathetic mayor?
JoAnne May 12, 2011 at 02:34 AM
November! It is so important that we examine how council members have voted and if they have continually voted to please LVPAC. Please note one council member, Doug Horner, did not vote for the regional theater using the general fund to back the bonds. Marchand originally asked for a protective clause for the city general fund, but when he saw that the LVPAC's lawyers opposed the protective clause then he withdrew his support for it. The city staff strongly supported the protective clause and stated this several times. Why would one withdraw their support for a clause that protects the general fund, especially, when the city staff who have the expertise to protect the city supported the protective clause? Isn't the general fund the source for the services that protect and promote our well being and quality of life worth protecting?
Brian Baker May 14, 2011 at 12:52 AM
You nay-sayer folks have a lot of paranoia in you. I just read the full submission of the report end to end to the council and the financial stress tests indicate we'll only need to dip into the general fund if we have a significant collapse to the economy, and even then it gets paid back by the RDA rather quickly, even in the "Scorched Earth Scenario" where all revenue generating vehicles take a nose dive all at once . The assumption is each revenue generating vehicle individually has 150% of their revenue available to cover their pro-rata share of the debt without dipping into the general fund. Live a little and relax a bit. Give change a try. You might want to read "Who Moved my Cheese" to deal with your management of change issues.
Jeffrey twocents May 14, 2011 at 01:03 AM
If this is such a great plan that is for the best interest of Livermore residents then why didn't we get a chance to vote? Many of the happy people looking forward to taking on this ill advised project will be dead and gone while I'm still paying for it. A project costing hundreds of millions should be voted on. Period.

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