The Golden Rain Foundation Board of Directors voted 7-2 Thursday morning to go forward with 10+ million dollar plans for an event center at Creekside, Rossmoor.
The vote, which concluded with a polite round of applause in the Peacock Hall, came after dozens of residents of the retirement community spoke for and against. Board members Barbara Jordan and Mel Wall voted no.
Many residents spoke against the plan because of concerns about:
- threats to the environment
Many spoke for the proposal, saying the planning process was comprehensive over recent years and all concerns had been addressed.
Director Jim Giffin said Rossmoor's secret is that the retirement community is an active place, and the event center will open new opportunities for the arts. He said Rossmoor was "very safe" in borrowing long term for a long-term project.
Giffin acknowledged the parking/traffic issues, saying residents would have to put up with 10- to 15-minute delays for big events.
Jordan, voting no, said she was satisfied with the plans, but acknowledged "anger in the community." She advocated delaying the vote on the project until the community could be surveyed.
Wall said he believed the event center would be a nice improvement for Rossmoor. But, he added, when he knocked on doors and surveyed residents (220, he estimated), he found 85 percent were against the event center and 65 percent were against because of the wobbly economy.
"That bothered me," Wall said and — listening to the 85 percent, he said — he was voting no.
There were varying estimates of support. Director Don Liddle said he had checked with residents in person and by email, and found less than 25 percent were against the event center.
Rossmoor needs to expand its recreation opportunities and the event center is progress, said board President Susan Williamson: "People are living longer and doing more, both physically and mentally. It's obvious that we will need more than we did in 1965."
After giving the go-ahead, the board approved a Creekside Event Center Project phase budget of $10.75 million. It also awarded the prime contractor bid to Huff Construction in the amount of $7.32. Huff was the second lowest bidder, but there was some concern about a lower bidder's choice of subcontractors and high charges for change orders, administrators said.
For more than an hour, residents traded pro and con comments in three-minute bursts. David Wilcox complimented the board members for their patience.
"If the price is right, I urge you to finish what you started," Wilcox said. "Contractors are hungry for work — the time is now … The performing arts clubs could use a first-class facility — the time is now."
The event center, said Pat Baker, was "the dream of a select few." It will commit Rossmoor to $12 million in debt, she said, the biggest debt load in its history. "Please do not make an unpopular decision," she urged.
A dozen or so activists against the event center were miffed that they were turned away from the Peacock Hall a few minutes before the morning meeting because of capacity reached in the hall, a security guard said.
"This is like a pat on the head," said Mary Anne Clark. "You're supposed to walk away … no integrity …"
Some 75 people, at the peak, listened to an audio feed of the meeting in the Fireside Room.
After the 2 1/2 hour meeting, activists from Save Our Stanley huddled in the courtyard outside the Peacock Hall talking over the potential for a lawsuit against the event center project. They have been looking into details about representations made about Rossmoor development in the approval process by the city of Walnut Creek.