Who Wants the WC BART Transit Village?

Plans for the WC BART Transit Village are moving steadily ahead. The Planning Commission is scheduled to recommend approval this Thursday. But why isn’t anyone stopping to ask who wants it?

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.

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.

WCWally September 23, 2012 at 03:20 AM
I could not agree more. The city could not pick a worse place in the entire city to place a new apartment community. And one needs to ask, as mentioned, whether another apartment community is really what our city needs. Any additional congestion in this section of town, and there would be additional congestion, is unthinkable. The area is already a complete saturated mess with what I consider the very worst of Walnut Creek - Ygnacio Valley Road. It would be a big mistake. And I agree any retail at the village will likely be unsuccessful or at a minimum will not on a daily basis contribute to better the life of Walnut Creek residents. I would strongly back a vote.
michael frederick September 23, 2012 at 08:13 AM
Obiwan, Thank you for bringing this to everyone's attention. The infantile “what’s good for business is good for the City” has been drummed into residents over decades. This is not necessarily so, as with lounges and their policing costs... It isn't with BART, either. On the front cover of WC history books, the kids are IN FRONT of the commercial whatever. Today, the Chamber assumes center stage with a trickle down message. In reality, Council ignores even public votes to exercise "expert" discretion and blow proceeds on monuments to itself and inane investments on more trickle. All of this receives a senile "well, they're the experts" and "they have experience"... Reality: I have more commercial experience than your combined Council -- who have ZERO. Experience at what, deferring to ABAG, MTC, BART, the Chamber, or Staff at every opportunity? Did you know Charlie Abrams, Mr. Highest and Best Use, voted to spot-zone "Stowe" Avenue because he didn't know the name of the city's most iconic building (Rovanpera -- front cover) nor the street names three blocks from City Hall? We have "leadership" that disparages WC to promote WC shopping! It prioritizes commercial and marginalizes residential. There's an adage in Real Estate: Location, Location, Location. Smart growth has smart elements -- ignoring location isn't one. It's also a good bet that continuing to elect the WC ignorant and indifferent doesn't promote WC -- just shopping.
Jojo Potato September 23, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Not a good idea for BART users. There will be less parking and more congestion, maybe less BART usage after all despite the preaching. And by the way, how's that Pleasant Hill station development working out? Empty retail spaces and empty vacant former parking lot where nothing has been built. The best they can do is Starbucks? But then maybe I don't care after been Offshored, OutSourced and generally laid off by the celebrated great American business managers.
Ralph Hoffmann September 23, 2012 at 07:36 PM
The next thing you know, someone will ask, "Who wants to keep the Almond Shuey neighborhood?"
Jim September 23, 2012 at 08:12 PM
Well done Obiwan. If you disagree with this project the Chamber's WALPAC endorsements should guide your vote. During the last election $15,000 came from the BART developer BRE to buy your vote for Cindy Silva. To date it has been money well spent. Now WALPAC (BRE) has endorsed Loella Haskew, Bob Simmons and Justin Wedel. There votes will help push the project through. Gary Skrel, who can often be found downtown sipping drinks with property and bar owner Jack Dudum, would love to see this project go through ($$$$$$). Mayor Simmons and Councilmember Skrel failed to get a development agreement with BRE to help pay for the increased costs to the city. They decided one wasn't needed. Strange how a week later the Mayor gets the Chamber endorsement. In its current form this project will take away money and services from YOUR neighborhood. The EIR and other documents spell it out plain as day. More cops will be needed, more money for public services, more traffic for anyone along Ygnacio and California and of course more customers for the downtown bars. Not much to celebrate. At least you can send a small message with your vote. Simmons and Haskew are in the bag for the Chamber. Wedel MAY be independent enough to take a harder look at this. And Barry Grove is a no-brainer since he is an outsider to the Chamber and probably wouldn't care what Charlie Abrams and BRE tell him to vote for.
obiwan September 23, 2012 at 10:57 PM
Ralph - I'm sure that developers have been whispering that very question in the City Council's ears for years now. And that would explain why the City never implemented the design guidelines for the areas encircling us - as they promised in the General Plan - but instead have devoted $150K worth or staff time to create a new West Downtown Specific Plan that could change our zoning. But so far, at least, the public discussions at the West Downtown Community meeting have gone in our favor.
srl99 September 23, 2012 at 11:06 PM
Who wants the project? Let's not forget the city "leaders" who will pad their resume's with this project, and maybe even get their names on the cornerstone. Is BART commiting to competent service? Not just after this project is built, but how about for the current BART customers?
Ralph Hoffmann September 23, 2012 at 11:27 PM
obiwan - I'm certain you're correct. In light of this, which of the 5 Council candidates on the ballot do you support?
obiwan September 24, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Ralph - I can think of a reason (sometimes more than one) to support each of the candidates. And I can think of a reason (sometimes more than one) to NOT support each of the candidates. At this point, I’m uncommitted. But when I decide, I'll be sure to let you know - so you can vote the other way.
Ralph Hoffmann September 24, 2012 at 01:02 AM
obiwan - Clever.
One more time with feeling September 24, 2012 at 02:51 AM
A $43,000,000 downtown library was built after twice not winning "the vote". Two City Managers told the the City Council we could not afford the downtown library without those bonds. Now we are stuck with $1.5 million annual operating costs we cannot afford and a useless "Foundation" that can't/won't raise $ to contribute to that effort. If we need to vote on anything, it is a "no confidence" vote...
JM Hogan September 26, 2012 at 08:40 PM
I am a regular BART rider. I just don't see any benefits for BART users at this point in time. If there were going to be better circulation or station improvements, I would be more optimistic. But all I see is dealing with years of construction and then nothing but apartments to look at instead of Mt Diablo in the morning from the platform.
michael frederick September 27, 2012 at 06:56 AM
Per JM, Can any BART rider think of ONE good feature that justifies this buildout? Is the proximity of better snack shacks and CC BART shopping enough to justify traffic, parking, congestion, and construction headaches? Does anyone forego WC BART for CC BART? Am I missing some obvious benefit that attracts ridership, to offset obvious features that repel it? If BART directors aren't working to improve the BART experience to drive up ridership, what are they doing? Do they know what business they are in? In commercial RE, our leases always contain a Bonus Value clause. This simply states that if our tenant subleases, extra rent goes to me! Yeah! The reason for this is that I have extended terms for a specifc use -- if he decides to sublet to a strip club, bar, ... -- well, I've taken the attraction of RE speculation out of his hands so he can focus on his business. The point is -- he needs to commit to his business of selling shoes, purses, ... not abandon it for real estate speculation. I think BART is acting like it is more in the RE business, than the commuter, which doesn't look good for its customer satisfaction ratings and ridership. If BART defers to ABAG and MTC the way the WC City Council has -- I think this will come at the expense of BART, just as it does for WC. BRE is at the table -- BART isn't. That's a big mistake. It is in BART's interest to do something appropriate at THIS location, that works for BART and not just ABAG.
obiwan September 28, 2012 at 08:03 PM
The BART Transit Village project was cleared by the Planning Commission last night. Several Commissioners expressed reservations about the lack of station improvements, no additional parking for BART customers, and inadequate storage space for the future apartment dwellers. It was clear, however, that the Commissioners' prime directive was to keep the project moving through the approval process. When the votes were cast, Commissioner Malkovich was the ONLY one who was willing vote no on a project that benefits from increased General Plan height limits and density with no guarantees for the additional parking and station improvements the public deserves.
One more time with feeling September 30, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Views will be obliterated. Vehicle fumes will increase even more. Birds will crash into the increased height of the buildings and die (assuming they can get through the fumes). The fees and taxes are shown to not be enough to cover the increase use of the new inhabitants resulting in fewer dollars for the downtown library (never mind public safety and all the other REAL requirements). Congratulations, Bob Brittain. This is *NOT* a "better Walnut Creek"... but it sure is a different one. You should be proud of your affiliation with the City Council and various commissions and their non-stop drive to auger this city into the ground.
Bob Brittain October 01, 2012 at 01:31 AM
One More Time, I have not made a comment on this article, yet you attack me anonymously again. Too bad you don't have sufficient courage in your convictions to sign your own name to your criticisms.
Ralph Hoffmann October 01, 2012 at 03:04 AM
You tell 'em Bob. I have the same problem!
One more time with feeling October 01, 2012 at 01:37 PM
Yup, Bob. You are right. And yet you continue to support the very people who choose to condemn the hard work your have done for open space, the library and the things that *could* make Walnut Creek a better (as opposed to *different*) place. You choose to support those who favor trashing the general budget in favor of spending on things we think we want as opposed to things we know we need. I have already explained I am a private person. That is my prerogative. You can call me out all you want. This does not change the truth. The name my parents gave me does not change the truth. And for what it is worth, we have met - and spoken - a few times.
Monarch Waystation October 10, 2012 at 06:07 PM
IDIOM: Can’t fight city hall Meaning: An ordinary person cannot win a struggle against an administrative system. Origin: In the United States, “city hall” represents the local government: the mayor, the legislative body, as well as the various agencies and departments. Today when we say “city hall” we mean any large organization such as a government, school system, or corporation. This expression claims that you can’t fight city hall, but that’s not always true. You van protest, picket, circulate petitions, make speeches, write letters, support candidates who express your views, or even run for mayor yourself! Kudo's, Obiwan!
Eric Presser October 14, 2012 at 08:55 PM
That was the first thing I thought of when the Almond Shuey neighbor was brought into this new plan. Does the words eminent domain mean anything to anyone??? Remember how the Supreme Court said it was OK for the city to take and give to private companies as long as some interest is served to the community. Imagine how many condos they could put up in the Almond Shuey area. They have already started!!!!!!!


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