Friends of Livermore


A Brief History of North Livermore Valley

Since the 1960's, developers have attempted to target North Livermore Valley for massive housing tract developments. Livermore has defeated multiple attempts by land speculators/developers to inflict appalling urban sprawl on our city.

1969-1975 - Harlan Gelderman, a Danville developer-land speculator bought options on much of North Livermore before 1969. He came to the Livermore City Council in 1969 with a "New Town" plan for about 50,000 people in North Livermore. Such a massive plan was rejected even by our pro-growth City Council members. He then told us that either we do exactly what he wanted or he "would go to the County and shove it down our throats." He submitted his plan to the County in 1973.

In late 1974, the County Supervisors did shove "Geldertown" down our throats. However, at that time only three Livermore General Plan amendments were allowed per year, and the ammendment approved by the Supervisors was an illegal fourth. The City sued, and the County lost in 1975.

1976-1977 - By the time this was settled in court, the required EIR prepared, and the Supervisors ready to go again, the Board had changed. The final vote in 1977 was 3-to-2, with one wavering Supervisor finally voting for us, and Gelderman lost again.

1979-1984 - Gelderman died in 1979, but his successors came back to the Supervisors in 1981 with another 50,000-people plan, "Las Positas New Town." The Supervisors were about to approve this new plan. Shortly before, however, they had approved a ridge line development above Sunol. Sunol residents gathered 50,000 signatures in a month, and blocked that development. The Supervisors wanted to avoid bad publicity again from another referendum threatened by Livermore Valley residents. Therefore, they "let the voters decide," and put the "Las Postial New Town" on the 1984 ballot themselves. They assumed that the developers would outspend us by 20 or 30 to 1 and win easily.

Livermore's citizens and the Council majority fought this one tooth and nail. The developers DID outspend us about 20 to 1, but to their astonishment, they lost county-wide by a 2 to 1 margin.

1989 - Weyerhaeuser (in 1989) and the Lin family had bought out both earlier North Livermore speculators and the few real remaining farmers. Weyerhaeuser-Lin then came back to the County in the early 1990's with a plan for about 60,000 people.

Ultimately, the Supervisors approved a 35,000 plan in 1994 despite strong opposition. However, their EIR was so bad that Livermore sued the County, the County sued Livermore, and the developers sued the County and Livermore. Meanwhile, Livermore changed its General Plan in 1993 to accept about 37,000 people in North Livermore despite strong citizen opposition. The public strongly opposed the whole 37,000-people idea continuously throughout the 90's because the specific plan was still a disaster and the EIR defective.

1999-2002 - In 1999, the citizens' CAPP Initiative made the ballot. It would have prevented the City from annexing the North Livermore area by putting in a Livermore Urban Growth Boundary. It lost, in part because it also imposed some umpopular zoning limits on the Council. However, the most successful opposing argument was that a Livermore Urban Growth Boundary alone would just send the developers to the County to get something worse. A County-wide initiative should come first.

We tried that County-wide initiative, Measure D(2000), and got the necessary signatures. The developers spent $1.5M (that they report). However, the Sierra Club and many others raised $1.5M too, and in November 2000, we won Measure D(2000) by about 60/40 county-wide and defeated the developer-sponsored Measure C. Now developers can NOT go to the County without coming to all County voters first.

Now we needed a City initiative for an Urban Growth Boundary, with voter approval required to change it. This would avoid a local referendum every time a pro-developer City Council let developers breach that Urban Growth Boundary. We got twice as many signatures as needed. Our new Council majority took their legal option to adopt the Urban Growth Boundary in December 2002 without going to the voters on the initiative itself, but guaranteeing that Livermore voters WILL determine North Livermore's future.

2005 - Now, developers were required to take any proposal for development outside the Urban Growth Boundary directly to the Livermore voters. In 2005, Weyerhaeuser/Pardee Homes qualified a ballot initiative (employing illegal out-of-town signature gatherers) for their proposed "Livermore Trails" development (2,500 housing units) in North Livermore Valley. With obvious intent to run roughshod over the fledgling Urban Growth Boundary and set a precedent for other developers to follow, Pardee came in with a massively funded campaign ($3.5M+) modeled after tactics that had been successful for them in Southern California.

Despite confidence that corporate deep pockets could prevail over the will of the Livermore electorate, Pardee's Measure D(2005) ballot initiative, with opposition spearheaded by Friends of Livermore, went down in a crushing 72-to-28 percent defeat. The North Livermore Urban Growth Boundary withstood its first assault from developers with flying colors.


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