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City Faces Revised Plan For BART Transit Village

Developer updates Walnut Creek council; draft environmental report expected by December.

The sour economy put an ambitious development plan for a Walnut Creek BART transit village on hold, but the hold seems to be barred after a Tuesday City Council meeting.

Development representatives filled in the Walnut Creek City Council  on revised plans and pointed toward necessary city approvals on the 16-acre lot in spring 2012.

A development agreement between the city and developers Walnut Creek Transit Lifestyle Associates, an affiliate of apartment developer BRE Properties, awaits the results of an Environmental Impact Report on the project. The timetable is for a draft EIR to be ready by December, with a 45-day comment period to follow, said Scott Harriman, principal planner for the city.

The plans call for five commercial and/or residential buildings on the property. There are provisions for 600 residential apartment units, 22,000 square feet of retail and 16,700 square feet of "flex space," which could be used for residential or commercial — depending on the need as the plans progress in coming years.

Council member Kristina Lawson expressed concern about the "flex space."

"We should drive the market here," she said. "We should make sure retail works here."

She thought planners should look a mile and a quarter to the north and check in with leaders on the Contra Costa Centre transit village at Pleasant Hill BART. "Retail space there may not be working as well as it could," Lawson said.

The economics "were not there" for some of the office space envisioned in the original Walnut Creek project, so the revision is less dense, developer Frank Arthur told the council.

Resident Primo Facchini said he thought the community would benefit from the project.

Scott Littlehale, representing Carpenters Local Union 152 in Contra Costa County, suggested the council take advantage of development agreement negotiations to ensure that the project employ workers with higher skills and higher wages that can sustain a family in the Bay Area. The agreement should also take measures to alleviate the "squeeze" on middle income housing, he said.

"Our rents will be market rents," Arthur said. He added that a Project Labor Agreement is in place on the project addressing the quality of labor on the project.

Mayor Cindy Silva said she expected reasonable rents at the transit village because of the location. The rental units, she said, would attract families that use BART and don't rely on cars.

Sale of one parcel?

BART is weighing the sale of one parcel on the property to the developer. The privatizing of the parcel could result, potentially, in an annual $135,000 to $150,000 in tax increment revenue coming to the city, said Harriman.

If the parcel is sold, the city and BART will need to talk and draw up agreements on the division of law enforcement responsibilities, especially emergency response. Even without the sale, law enforcement discussions are necessary with the existing agreements 30 to 40 years old, City Manager Ken Nordhoff said.

The plans call for a BART police station to be located in one building on the property.

BART is pursuing grants to finance a parking garage to accommodate the new development and link it on upper levels to the existing BART garage.

Some features of the plan:

  • A new entry drive off North California Boulevard.
  • Basement parking for residential and commercial use in some buildings.
  • A bike pavilion along Ygnacio Valley Road.
  • Buildings would top out at 50 feet, the height of the existing BART parking garage.
  • The commercial building at North California Boulevard and Pringle Avenue is envisioned as space for a popular restaurant.
  • A sign saying "Welcome to Walnut Creek" would be on a wall facing motorists exiting Interstate 680 for Ygnacio Valley Road.
Nutcreek Booster September 23, 2011 at 01:25 AM
Some form of this project would be good for Walnut Creek. We need more projects like this. Yes, it is more high density, something the slow- or no-growth-ers will object to. But Walnut Creek is not a bedroom community, small town any more. It's urban. Or it's becoming urban. That's not going to change. That's the reality for towns around the country and around the world. By 2030, 70 percent of the world's population will live in urban centers. We can't stop this change, but we can be smart about how this change comes to our community. I trust that the city council will make a cautious and wise decision about this.
Nutcreek Booster September 23, 2011 at 01:26 AM
I look forward to continuing to hear about this project. Thanks for the report.
mikedude September 24, 2011 at 12:01 AM
I'm surprised this is moving forward at all, considering how desolate the "Contra Costa Centre" is. The Avalon apartments are expensive, yet terribly insulated and the street noise from Treat Blvd is horrible. An entire section of the project (I don't even know what it was supposed to be?) was never even started and just has a barricade around a giant dirt patch. Quite the (not) lovely view from the BART station. There have literally been NO retail leases signed until very recently. A small Starbucks and an insurance place are opening soon.. good luck to them, considering there's zero foot traffic. As much as the city council wants to believe this project will be a success, they seriously overestimate the number of people (especially FAMILIES) that would find these rental units attractive and the number of retail locations that would be interested in opening there.
michael frederick September 24, 2011 at 06:17 PM
Nutcreek Booster, Thanks for the update on world population trends. What's population in WC and CA been doing over the last decade? How's the state and local economy? How does Contra Costa Centre's obvious success dovetail into your global perspective? From your commentary, you obviously don't follow WC or City Hall much: "I trust that the city council will make a cautious and wise decision about this." Actually, BRE pumped $15K into Silva's reelection, via WALPAC, to assure this is not the case. Mayor Silva: "The rental units, she said, would attract families that use BART and don't rely on cars." Over five years ago during GP2025 deliberations, I PUBLICLY informed Planners Silva and Simmons that neighboring cities, such as Danville, use a student generation rate (kids) of one-third for multi-family units as compared to single family homes. You can probably even knock this figure down further for an urban environment... For her to pretend such is not the case just showcases her as intellectually detached or dishonest, AT BEST. Or, her definition of "family" involves any two or more mammals. Walnut Creek elects leaders to represent Walnut Creek -- not ABAG, MTC, CA, USA, or nuts circling the planet on a satellite. Walnut Creek welfare left out of the equation is as bothersome as leaders who pretend to be oblivious to facts and information they obviously should know. There's something going on there that precludes "a cautious and wise decision."

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