Who wants the BART Transit Village? We know the developer wants to build it - that’s the business they’re in. And the Chamber of Commerce wants it. Some of those new residents are bound to spend money in town. The developer community and the Chamber finance the campaigns of candidates who chant the mantra “what’s good for business is good for the City” and they have been very successful in getting those candidates elected. But in this case, do the interests of the City and its residents really coincide with those of the Chamber?
The BART Transit Village will bring in new residents and new sales. But while downtown businesses will undoubtedly benefit, the City’s own Economic Development Manager has pointed out that the tax revenues to the City from new multi-family residential development fall over $400 per unit per year SHORT of covering the additional costs to the City in service demands. (Other California cities have projected the shortfall to be as much as $1,200 per unit per year.)
Some additional City revenues might possibly be generated by the retail/commercial space within the Transit Village, but the lack of commercial vitality at the Pleasant Hill BART station calls this into question. Unless a Community Facilities District is created to recover the City’s costs (and the City Council is dragging their feet on that), the City is likely to lose money on the Transit Village. That means more cuts to City services.
Beyond the City’s already strained finances, there’s the impact on tens of thousands of drivers to consider. Commuters can look forward to five or more years of construction with trucks and heavy equipment entering/leaving the already congested roadways around the BART Station. And in the early phases of construction, approximately 225 parking spaces will be LOST and those commuters will be forced to park blocks away in church lots or other remote locations.
When the dust has settled and the project is all done, the developer hasn’t promised any more BART parking spaces for commuters who have suffered through the construction phase. The developer has refused to sign on to a development agreement, and no one on the City Council has publicly stated that they won’t support the project without an agreement to provide additional BART parking.
And new residents mean new cars. Not everybody who lives in the BART Transit Village will have a job along the BART line. Not everybody will be willing or able to carry a bag of groceries while they hike back from Safeway on the far side of town. The residents of the BART Transit Village will still own cars. And this is a NEW source of traffic in one of the most badly congested parts of town.
The draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) claims no significant traffic impacts from this project, but that’s only because the methodology for evaluating Ygnacio Valley traffic congestion has been redefined. It no longer matters that several of the intersections around the BART Station operate at Level Of Service “F” (the worst possible ranking) – the City has now adopted a new “delay index” criterion that, with a little manipulation, proves everything is just fine. (Who believes that?)
The final issue is how the BART Transit Village will contribute, or not, to Walnut Creek’s social fabric. The Transit Village is a very urban place. There will be very few families. There are no yards for kids to play in. The target demographic is 25-35 year old, mostly singles. The downtown bar owners will love them, but these are not people who, in general, are ready to put down roots and integrate themselves into the community. Should a project this large cater exclusively to a Gen Y monoculture, or should we demand housing that supports more diversity in ages and family status – a broader demographic more in keeping with our suburban setting?
The BART Transit Village is likely to end up being a drain on the City’s financial resources. It will certainly add to commute times and traffic congestion on Ygnacio Valley Road. And when it is all done, there won’t be any additional parking for BART commuters. For City residents, it’s a loser.
Unfortunately, we can’t rely on our City Council to look out for the interests of the City and its residents as a whole. They only answer to their Chamber of Commerce backers.
The Walnut Creek BART Transit Village should be put up for a vote.