The Livermore City Council approved a negotiating rights agreement with Sonnenblick Development LLC on a proposal to build a luxury hotel in downtown Livermore.
The council vote was unanimous, with some concerns about potential massing to be addressed in the near future.
The negotiations will provide terms for the purchase of property located at the southeast corner of Railroad Avenue and South Livermore Avenue. The site is currently occupied by SpeeDee Oil Change and a parking lot.
The property is designated as a hotel site in the Downtown Specific Plan. The developer has been involved with prior hotel projects including the Loews Santa Monica Hotel, the Waldorf Astoria Boca Raton Restort, and Le Rivage Resort & Spa in Sacramento. Proposed in Livermore is a four story, 192 room hotel with a restaurant, bar, meeting rooms, fitness center, pool and spa. The hotel will resemble a cluster of buildings.
Councilmember Laureen Turner requested a clarification on who owns the property. She also said she was concerned about the size of the structure and aesthetics, asking if the council could make changes in the proposal when it comes before it.
Eric Uranga, Assistant Community Development Director, explained that the size, type and look of the hotel would be part of the negotiation process. The terms and conditions of the agreement would come back to the council for approval.
Uranga explained that the site was previously owned by the Redevelopment Agency. It was transferred to the city earlier this year. Uranga stated, “It is in jeopardy. The ownership will be reviewed by an oversight committee, which will determine whether the land should be disposed of or if it can be held by the city.”
Councilmember Stewart Gary asked that the city take a look at all of the rooms and conference space that would be needed in the downtown. If not all of the rooms and meeting space required could not be accommodate on the proposed site, would the city need to provide a nearby parcel.
Gary also wanted the city to have a say in who would operate the hotel. He suggested that there are more boutique operators available than those listed by Sonnenblick. “Let’s go fishing,” he stated.
Councilmember Bob Woener also wanted to take a look at the massing of the proposed hotel as soon as possible. He wanted the council involved in the actual design before it had gone too far. “It is important to involve us in what it looks like,” he declared.
The negotiations are scheduled over a period of four months. That allows time for further design development and plans for a finance package to proceed. The council would have two more looks at a design before it would be finalized.
In the application, Sonnenblick writes, “Our vision is to develop a first class luxury hotel on a property that we believe is the finest site in the entire City of Livermore. Because it is also the gateway to the downtown area, it must make an architectural statement, instead of having a plain vanilla facade.”
According to Robert Sonnenblick, the hotel would draw visitors from the surrounding businesses and industries in the region, including the wine industry. Proposed are street level retail and/or restaurant space. The five potential operators for the Livermore hotel are Hilton, Marriott, Intercontinental Hotel Group, Hyatt and Starwood.