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Just because we hear you …

The Public Hearings for the Walnut Creek BART Transit Village Project roll along with no public input … even when it’s offered.

Thursday night I attended a Planning Commission “Study Session” on the BART Transit Village.  OK, I know that only wackos who like to hear themselves talk into a microphone go to Public Meetings, but I don’t sing well enough to try karaoke.

I’m fortunate - I can walk to the Walnut Creek BART station.  But I feel sorry for all of those BART riders and freeway commuters who drive up and down Ygnacio Valley Road every weekday.  Construction of the BART Transit Village will make their lives miserable for years to come.  When the new garage is being constructed, the 225 parking spaces on the southwest corner of the BART lot will be unavailable – patrons will have to park somewhere blocks away.  And I’ve never seen a construction project yet that doesn’t block sidewalks, and sometimes a lane or two of traffic.  Construction companies love to send flagmen out into the roadway to halt everything while large trucks pull on and off the site.  And the roads around the BART station are already a mess.

At the Public Hearing, I expressed the opinion that since commuters are going to suffer years of construction-related traffic woes, the project, when it’s finally completed, should be required to provide some additional BART parking.  I also asked for details on a line in the Staff Report that seemed rather evasive.  In the section about parking for BART patrons, the Staff Report says …

  “The replacement parking plan represents one-to-one replacement of existing spaces plus potential to add up to 100 additional parking spaces”

I asked the Planning Commissioners what this statement meant.  To me, “up to 100” could be zero.  I asked whether the new spaces would be compact or full size.  I asked whether the new spaces were in the new garage, or were achieved by re-striping the existing parking structure – something BART could do whether the Transit Village is built or not.

After my comment and questions, acting Commission Chair Darling asked the developer’s representative if he would like to respond to anything I asked.  The developer’s representative said no.  The Commissioners then went on with their business.

A Public Hearing is the place where the public can be heard.  But just because they hear you doesn’t mean that anyone has to respond.  The Walnut Creek BART Transit Village Project rolls on…

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Julie Jepsen-Grant August 25, 2012 at 11:55 AM
Thank you, Obiwan, for keeping us informed AND entertained. Again, your cartoons are brilliant! Keep them coming and I will continue reading Patch. Have you tried any Jedi mind tricks to get them to respond? :) You know they are just going to redouble their efforts.
Paula Miller August 25, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Good for you Obiwan! So glad a "local" (who may just be affected by all of this construction business) was there to ask a few questions. And, important questions they were. They deserved an answer, both from the developer and the Commissioners who should have been asking the same questions. There is a huge difference between LISTENING and HEARING. The Council and Commissioners in Walnut Creek may do a lot of listening but they very seldom actually HEAR what members of the public, who take the time to appear before them, have to say. Worse yet is their ability to ignore what they have HEARD when plowing ahead on their charted course. Keep up the good work and thanks for being there!
One more time with feeling August 25, 2012 at 05:45 PM
Obiwan, Thank you for standing up, being a voice of reason, paying attention and sharing your experience. I have every confidence they heard you. With apologies to Paula Miller, It appears their challenge is with comprehension. I expect they are so focused on ramming this through they do not care about, or just ignore, the many substantial issues at the North Walnut Creek BART station. OMTWF (PS, Great editorial cartoon!)
Pete Johnson August 26, 2012 at 11:18 PM
Thanks for reporting this. Its discouraging that the developer and staff would not clarify the issue and commissioners did not pursue it. A cynic might say why bother taking the time to attend a session. Avoiding my cynical side, I wonder why more of us don't attend these sessions and submit comments. If the public does not participate with questions and suggestions, "they" will just go their merry way and build the BART Transit Village and all those apartment buildings to the maximum size they can get away with. I would still like to think some in the review process will listen, hear, comprehend and maybe even take heed. I better stop before my cynical side slips back in.... Hope to see you, Obiwan, at future hearings including the West Downtown Specific Plan in your Almond--Shuey neighborhood. Pete Johnson
David P August 27, 2012 at 06:20 PM
Hi Obi - I will start off first with -- nice artwork...and thanks for giving me a bit more hair than I actually have. And the caption is a bit incorrect: It is the applicant's option to respond or not to respond after public comment. They apparently felt they had no response to your thoughts...maybe because they agree, and maybe because they don't, but your comment should be directed at them. I like to believe that the PC has both listened to and actually heard comments from the public on this project. There have been numerous enhancements based on city input, and that from the public, particularly on bicycle access which is sometimes not a priority with some developers. I also believe the PC, especially Mr. Malkovich, has numerous times stated that additional parking would be beneficial to this project. I agree that "up to 100 spaces" can mean 0 to 100, but I do not believe that the city would allow them to add 0 - but that is something to keep on the radar. To Pete -- Maybe we should have said something to again remind the applicant of the transportation needs of the community, but it has been said numerous times. I'm not sure adding 100, 200 or even more spaces would make the project any better or worse...but it would allow more people to park at the station and increase traffic that much more. Further, I am optimistic that street delays around the project during construction will be minimal, and that is also something for the city to keep on the radar. -more-
David P August 27, 2012 at 06:21 PM
(2) Temporary parking will definitely be an issue, and the applicant is looking at alternatives; I'm hoping something more than adequate and possibly even longer-term than this project. I thought my suggestion of parking in Shadelands or another remote area with a shuttle to WC BART could also help alleviate the traffic along YVR. Remember that the YVR (and Treat) traffic is not all WC people, but includes those from Concord, Clayton, etc. This is a big project, and I live about one mile away, so I would hope that there are many long-term benefits, also. I do use BART when going into SF and other areas for work and play, and would also like to see a great project that provides great benefits. To OMTWF, the PC is not ramming anything through or ignoring (at least not intentionally) any issues here -- at least I am not and do not believe the others are, either. This is a big project with lots of items and impact, so it will continue to evolve as we move forward. And although I really do appreciate everyone's comments about where we are NOT meeting your expectations, maybe you can balance it with where the city is making some good moves on this project (and others, too) so we can continue in that direction. By the way, I am always open to meeting with people one-on-one to hear your opinions. Just let me know when and where, please, and remember I like to meet for coffee; I'll let the Mayor do the walking chats. Thanks for the opportunity to respond. Dave
David P August 27, 2012 at 06:25 PM
Tom - Can I get an artist-autographed copy of the drawing? It will be a reminder of what I should, must and continue to aim to do. Just leave the extra hair on there! :-) Dave
obiwan August 27, 2012 at 09:33 PM
David P - First off, thank you for having the guts to participate in this forum. I wish that more of our Commissioners and Council members were as up front as you are. I guess that I have higher expectations of our Planning Commissioners than to just sit back and allow an applicant to be less than forthright about their intentions. I have seen on other occasions where a comment made by a member of the public goes unanswered UNTIL a Commissioner asks it. Applicants don't generally blow off comments from the Commissioners whose votes they need to get the project approved. I could have used some backup. I got none. I understand that a developer will wish to present their project in the best light. But approval or denial of the project should be based upon straight-forward, factual information. You say that you don't think the City will accept zero, but I haven't seen a line drawn in the sand, at least not publicly. And if the "additional" spaces turn out to be re-striping and adding compact spaces in the existing garage, which BART could do anyway if they thought that compact spaces were a good idea, WHY is the City perpetuating the myth that this has anything to do with the BART Transit Village? When the Commissioners aren't passionate about getting the facts out, it calls the whole process into question. It makes it seem to an outsider like the fix is in.
obiwan August 27, 2012 at 09:37 PM
I'll try to dig up some artsy-quality paper and print you off a copy.
JM Hogan August 28, 2012 at 02:09 PM
Everything that I have ever read about the 100 extra spaces was that they were from restriping the existing garage. I don't recall ever reading that there would be more spaces than before other than restriping the existing garage. It seems like this should have been a simple question for the developer to answer.

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