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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.

sherry daniels February 15, 2011 at 02:54 PM
What a waste of money! Why not build a shpping center with clothing stores or a park? Something the citizens of Livermore could use rather than bring more traffic and congestion into our small downtown area?!!! Stupid!!!!!!!!!
a local citizen February 15, 2011 at 03:12 PM
What a mistake. If they current city council members didn't have such big egos and didn't feed upon how many people told them they would leave a "legacy behind" they would not have risked our General Fund. How stupid! When the Oakland Raiders wanted to come back to Oakland from LA, they did so only if there were renovations at the Coliseum. The Al Davis told the Alameda County Supervisors that the cost of the renovations would be paid for with the sale of PSLs (Personal Seat Licenses) and county funds would not be used unless the were not enough PSLs sold. Al Davis told the Supervisors that would never happen. Well, guess what? The Raiders did not sell enough PSLs. It did happen and we, the residents of Alameda County are still paying for the those renovations at the Oakland Coliseum with our tax dollars. This issue with the Regional Theater reminds me of the Raiders-Alameda County debacle. I don't want my tax dollars to pay for entertainment. http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/assignment_7&id=7170954
Kristofer Noceda (Editor) February 15, 2011 at 04:01 PM
Hi Sherry. Thanks for your comment. The council and redevelopment agency on Monday also approved the Paragon Outlets project to be constructed in the west side of town. We are working on a story on that decision as well. Here's the latest details we have reported on re: the outlets/shopping center: http://patch.com/A-cJFz
JoAnne February 15, 2011 at 04:42 PM
Good luck to the regional theater project! It is my hope that the financing of the regional theater will work and that Governor Brown’s plan to retake the redevelopment money will remain an empty threat without any backlash legislation against the general funds of Livermore and cities like Livermore who “secured” the redevelopment funds. It is my hope that other communities are willing to surrender their redevelopment funds to the state of California so that the Livermore schools and public safety can have the state funding necessary to avoid further cuts. It is my hope that many people from Modesto, Stockton, etc. will want to forget the high unemployment rate & the foreclosure problems to enjoy a night of culture and feasting in Livermore and spend the predicted $300 so that the theater remains afloat. It is my hope that the mayor & majority of the council will not regret ignoring the staff advice and soliciting the advice from the LVPAC lawyers. It is my hope that the promise of protecting the general funds will mean more than the promise of not using general funds.
Charlee February 15, 2011 at 05:04 PM
I sat in those council meetings listening to gray-haired person after gray-haired person and I can't help but feel that Kamina and others will not be around to see the long-term effects of their unwise (although notably optimistic) choices. I'm thinking of this theater and the downtown BART station and how the next generation (mine) are going to be saddled with their decisions, about which we were never consulted. Hubris; it's bold, unqualified hubris and I'll be picking up the tab when LVPAC and the city council have long since picked out their rest homes. You sold the cow to pay for a bunch of magic beans ladies and gentlemen.
Sonya February 15, 2011 at 06:16 PM
Waste of money. Money should be used for Livermore schools and public safety. Not that.
Ken Rovasio February 15, 2011 at 06:54 PM
It is a shame that people on here are so against what Livermore wants to do. Change is a wonderful thing for our city. I have lived in Livermore for 41 years and I am so excited about the changes Livermore has made. People complained about the new downtown when they started the process, but I haven't heard anyone complain now that it is done. I spen a lot of time in the downtown area with my family. We know many business owners due to our frequent visits to their establishment. Look at the revenue that will be generated by having a new theater, and the many different acts we can see without driving to San Francisco. Go to the meetings and get involved. See what the plan is and how it will redefine Livermore. I am all for the NEW LIVERMORE!
Livermore_Fan February 15, 2011 at 10:07 PM
We aere so lucky to have a city with vision. The theater will be great asset despite what some frightened and uniformed people are saying. It's surprising to me that people are STILL saying after all this time thet we should use "the money" for this or that when the truth of the matter is that this money can only be used for downtown redebvelopment projects. Please be informed before you whine. And kudos to the city and LVPAC and all the enlightened citizens who have perservered to see this through!
Paisley February 16, 2011 at 12:23 AM
Why not fill the shopping centers we have now? Like the Mervyns building, or the furniture store. Or the vast amount of empty retail and office space space. The only way you do that is through demand. The only way you create demand is by making it so people want to come to your town and spend money. Schools and public safety do not create revenue.
Linda Ryan February 16, 2011 at 03:43 AM
Before you post, you should listen to the council meetings and read up on it. Uninformed opinions are just that. Specifically, be informed as to how the monies could possibly be used, what would happen to them if there isn't a decision on the books now (meaning, the State taking RDA $), and especially check out the staff report from last night's meeting. They did extrapolations that make the whole thing a lot more palatable. Sure, everyone wants more money for schools - this isn't a possibility with RDA money. Has to come from a different source. It's hard for any person in the public eye right now - there are hard decisions being made everywhere.
Steven February 16, 2011 at 05:43 AM
"And kudos to the city and LVPAC and all the enlightened citizens who have perservered to see this through!" Why is it enlightened? Cities frequently shell out taxpayer money for stadiums, theatres, and other venues and then are on the hook when the promised revenue doesn't appear. Why will this be any different? Pissing away public money on projects of limited appeal isn't enlightment, just foolishness.
Livermore Beagle February 16, 2011 at 06:36 AM
The funnier fact is that the city is breaking the law by violating the California State constitution by securing LVPAC's debt with the city's credit/general fund "SEC. 6. The Legislature shall have no power to give or to lend, or to authorize the giving or lending, of the credit of the State, or of any county, city and county, city, township or other political corporation or subdivision of the State now existing, or that may be hereafter established, in aid of or to any person, association, or corporation, whether municipal or otherwise, or to pledge the credit thereof, in any manner whatever, for the payment of the liabilities of any individual, association, municipal or other corporation whatever" http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/.const/.article_16
Charlee February 16, 2011 at 06:47 AM
Good thing the city council is enlightened enough for all of us because I don't know how I could tie my shoes without their superior leadership. I get it, okay. I can see how exciting a theater is and how important a legacy this will be for certain moneyed citizens and termed-out politicians, but there is no way which this can be classed as a responsible decision. Change is not what I fear and vision is not what I lack, and to say otherwise undermines the basic empathy for the opposition which is necessary for effective governance. @Livermore_Fan: The council isn't enlightened, they just happen to agree with you. Big difference.
JoAnne February 16, 2011 at 06:49 AM
A dissenting opinion is not always an uninformed opinion! To oppose the theater was not a statement of being anti-arts or against culture; it was a different viewpoint of how the theater should be funded. Please recall that the people of Livermore were promised that city funds would not be used, which was why the DDA had to be amended to allow the general funds to be used as backing for the theater. At the city council meeting, the confusion of what could happen to the redevelopment funds was clearly stated by the city manager & there was a movement to put in an additional closing clause if the state moved to take away the redevelopment money. Gov.Brown is concerned that the state education system has taken the major brunt of the cuts. A nasty political trick, used by both sides, that holds our children’s education hostage. The impact of Brown taking RDA funding on the financing of the theater was not one of the many financial stress tests demonstrated. It is absolutely correct to state that RDA funds cannot be used for schools, but by the state taking RDA funds, the governor and legislators have the ability to reassign the dollars formerly in RDA’s control to fund schools, public safety, etc. It is time to move forward and while it is disappointing that the citizens of Livermore were not allowed to vote on such a major decision using their general funds, the council and mayor voted.
Anne February 16, 2011 at 08:04 AM
This is the most disturbing piece of information given in the article: "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." There are too many "ifs" and "expected" items related to this deal--but no sure thing. I attend events at the Bankhead and have rarely seen a full house. I am angry and disappointed that our city council has decided to use our city's general fund as collateral for a private enterprise.
Paisley February 16, 2011 at 05:14 PM
What do you think about the rock gym? It's something the city funds with an even narrower focus than a theater.
Charlee February 16, 2011 at 06:28 PM
I HAD been wondering about that. Thanks for citing the law.
Livermore Beagle February 17, 2011 at 02:52 AM
The rock gym is at least used by familes for less than $15/person on the weekends... So that would be $60/family which is FAR less than a SINGLE ticket at the theater.... I don't know many people under the age of 40 who could afford to attend the theater on a regular basis, or would would even care to.
Livermore citizen February 17, 2011 at 03:29 AM
Only time will tell if this theater lives up to all the hopes its supporters have for it. However, I couldn't believe that after asking for city staff opinion regarding the "out clause" and receiving that opinion multiple times by multiple staffers (with proposed language included) late Monday night, four council members chose to not amend the language in the agreement to better serve their constituents. It was rather enlightening to watch the LVPAC lawyer push them into ignoring the advice of the city staff - a city staff who said that the LVPAC language did not protect the city the way the staffs' proposed language would? Only Doug Horner represented all the citizens of Livermore on Monday night, by finally just voting "no" when city exposure to bond sales that might not have Redevelopment Agency funding was not protected in the manner that the city staff felt was appropriate.
BluRav Driver February 17, 2011 at 04:33 AM
I am a gray haired person, who opposes the theater. I went to the meeting and it was obvious the mayor did not want to hear from the opposition - in fact he said that at an earlier meeting. I am concerned about the indebtedness, and moving forward when the state funding is not certain is unwise. Even the city attorney said that. Unfortunately I think too many residents do not realize what is happening and how it will impact them....And why does the theater get the income from the dumps?
Brian Baker February 17, 2011 at 10:35 PM
I am very much in favor of the regional arts theater. This is a very well-reasoned argument for using RDA funds strategically to provide longer term tax funding revenue stream coming from an improved downtown arts community, notoriety, city prestige, pro-business climate for start-ups looking for a great place for their employee base to live. Keep up the great work, Livermore City Council.
serriber February 18, 2011 at 02:33 PM
I think "the legislature" in the referenced government code is applicable to our senate and assembly, not the Livermore city council. Am I wrong?
BluRav Driver February 18, 2011 at 07:29 PM
If you check out the LAO report on RDAs there is no evidence that they bring in other non-taxpayer money to an area.
Livermore Beagle February 24, 2011 at 06:47 AM
@serriber: the city is bound to uphold the state constitution... heck their oath of office even includes a part that states that they will uphold the U.S. and State Constitution.
serriber February 24, 2011 at 08:09 AM
Of course the council must uphold the constitution - that's why councilmembers say the pledge of allegiance at each council meeting. However, the code you referenced appears to specifically govern the actions of *state* legislature, not municipalities.
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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