LIVERMORE -- In front of a standing-room-only crowd, the Livermore planning commission voted Tuesday against a request from Sunset Development Co. for a change to the city's general plan, recommending the City Council deny the proposal for 87 homes in South Livermore.
During a marathon meeting that drew about 200 people, commissioners voted 3-2 not to endorse a general plan amendment for Sunset Crossings, which calls for 49 single-family homes and 38 townhomes at the northeast corner of Holmes Street and Concannon Boulevard.
Many speakers said the project would alter the neighborhood's "livability" and set a precedent for losing open space.
"Open space is character-defining in Livermore," said commission Chair Loretta Kaskey in explaining her "no" vote. "The characteristic (in the area) is balanced. I don't see a reason to change the way it looks by bringing in a wall of residences on Holmes."
The meeting, which lasted late into the night, drew more than 20 speakers, most of whom opposed the project and its potential effect on traffic, schools, neighborhood ambience, water use and small businesses in South Livermore.
The project would require demolition of Sunset Office Plaza, a complex of 10 buildings with 75,000 square feet of office space. The complex was completed in 1978.
"It will be very detrimental to these businesses and to those clients to lose these facilities," said office park neighbor Joan Mumma. "It's completely inappropriate and doesn't fit with the neighborhood."
Nearby resident and plaza employee Jan Brovont said opponents gathered about 1,500 names on a petition to stop the development.
"High density condos are not going to enhance Livermore's wine country," Brovont said.
The commission voted unanimously to recommend planning and zoning changes for Sunset's smaller Catalina Crossing project -- a complex of 31 townhomes planned for the southwest corner of Catalina Drive and Barcelona Street -- to move forward. The townhomes would replace the Livermore Financial Center, a complex of four office buildings completed in 1971.
Sunset Development officials said they are pursuing homes on the properties because the office parks are no longer economically viable. Sunset's senior vice president Chris Truebridge said the projects would also provide much-needed housing and proactively avoid urban blight.
"It's clear the current commercial market has moved downtown," Truebridge said. "The highest and best use for this property is residential."
The commission's decision went against the recommendations of the city planning staff, which found Sunset Crossings "consistent with the established land use pattern," and lacking a significant impact on traffic, schools or small businesses.
Commissioners Steven Spedowfski and Neal Pann voted in favor of recommending the general plan amendment, citing a need for balance between jobs and residences.
"Our urban growth boundary means we're going to be doing higher density housing," Pann said. "This project provides that."
If Sunset decides to forge ahead with the projects, the City Council is tentatively scheduled to consider them at its July 14 meeting.
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.