Council OKs Plan to Fund Livermore Airport Noise Monitoring

A plan to pay for Livermore Municipal Airport noise monitoring with money from both the city's general fund and an airport users fund was approved late Monday night by the City Council.

The city will also ask Pleasanton and Dublin for contributions if monitoring equipment is installed in those cities.

The council on Monday night also tightened regulations for conversion of apartments into condominiums in response to a growing number of apartment owners wanting to convert rentals into units to sell.

Residents near the airport, including Purnham Sheth, told the council Monday that costs should be borne by airport tenants, not by Livermore's general fund. Sheth told the council those victimized by noise shouldn't have to pay for monitoring.

Pilots disagreed. Ralph Cloud, chairman of the airport advisory commission, argued Monday the cost should be borne by people demanding the monitoring. He said a "punitive tax on airport users" would eventually choke the airport's ability to remain financially solvent.

Mayor Marshall Kamena said the council's vote was a compromise between the two approaches.

Under the condo-conversion plan, the number of Livermore apartments that can be converted to condos each year will be limited to 3 percent of the city's available stock of rental units, for a maximum of 150.

Also, the City Council could not approve a conversion if it caused the number of rental units in Livermore to drop below 16 percent of the city's total housing stock.

If a conversion would result in a citywide drop of rental stock to less than 16 percent off its total housing, any developer proposing to convert five or more units would have to build a like number of rental units somewhere else in the city.

"It's a good idea not to freeze out apartment renters," Kamena said.

Concerns, however, that units converted to condos will be snagged by investors and speculators, rather than first-time homebuyers, prompted the council to ask for a review of the situation in one year.

Currently, Livermore has about 4,650 rental apartment units, making up about 15.5 percent of the city's housing stock. That amount provides "a healthy mix of housing types needed to serve the city's population," according to a report from Community Development Director Marc Roberts.

Livermore is just one of many cities in the region attempting to limit the loss of rental housing.

"As the for-sale housing market has remained strong, many apartment complexes across the Bay Area have converted rental units into for-sale units due to the high profit margin," Roberts said.

Currently, limited relocation benefits are provided to seniors and low-income tenants whose rental units are converted to condos. But the new rules extend relocation benefits to all tenants, and increase beyond six months the time displaced families with children in school could remain in a converted unit.