March 7, 2009

Neiman Marcus meeting Thursday night? How did it go?

Dear readers,
I had wanted to attend Thursday night's community meeting hosted by Walnut Creek regarding the Neiman Marcus proposal. The city was going to provide a summary of community comments that were received at two community workshops held on January 31 and February 11.

But alas, I couldn't get to the meeting. A combination of work deadline and child care issues kept me home. The city's Planning Commission will hold a public hearing this coming Thursday on the new Neiman Marcus proposal , at which the developer, Broadway Plaza owner Macerich, will share comments from those public workshops.

The Commission will listen to those comments, hear how and if Macerich plans to address them, and continue the matter until April 2, at which time the Commission will make a recommendation to the City Council on whether to allow General Plan and Zoning Map amendments necessary for the current proposal to go forward.

I'm also interested to hear from anyone who attended those workshops.

The reason: After I posted this, "After WC city leaders and Broadway Plaza (finally) listen to what people have to say, they receive more favorable feedback on Neiman Marcus, a reader complained about the format of the workshops, saying they actually limited honest, open feedback, and were perhaps designed to elicit positive response to the project.

Thoughts anyone?


Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as a real open dialogue when dealing with the city on any issue.

From personal experience on other issues, I can tell you that their "listening" programs are just a dog and pony show from the public relations staff in city hall. Their MO is to have participants divide up into focus groups with staff guiding the dicussions. Somehow(hah!)the people who are loyal to the city's side of the argument are spread out amongst all of the various groups so that they have input into to all the group's findings. The results of these discussions are truly amazing! They all come to the same conclusions and somehow are in agreement with the direction that the city was headed. Imagine that!

When you do this often enough then folks with honest and valid concerns about city projects get tired of being used as the whipping boys and don't bother to attend further meetings. So much for listening and open government!

Anonymous said...

This sounds exactly like the "neighborhood input" meetings the City of Concord planning dept. put on regarding the Design Guidelines in Canterbury Village.

Input is welcome as long as it agrees with what the planning dept is saying. If not, they cut you off and won't call on you again.

Democracy in action my ass.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't be there but at the overflow council meeting for the original plan there were many thoughtful comments from the public regarding the size of NM and its impact on downtown. However, during the meeting it was obvious that the council was ready to rubber stamp the project with no strings attached. They voted unanimously to approve suggesting that those who opposed couldn't deal with change.

Barry said...

I attended the Neiman Marcus/Macerich meeting on Thursday night. One question that was not addressed: Will Macerich be around long enough to even see the NM project go through? One year ago they were a $5 billion dollar company. Today, they are a $550 million company. As more retail in go under or move because they can't make the lease payment... Macerich may go bye bye themselves.

Barry said...

Out of the 40 people there, about 10 were city staff. No one cares. The talk was all about parking. In my opinion, WC better find other sources of revenue because the retail/restaurant consumer is dead for awhile. Personally I'd like to see more happy hour promotions and commercial real estate lowering rent. Maybe that would help stimulate the economy?!?

DumbAsBricks said...

Why is the city wasting time with such a risky proposition? How long will the building stand vacant when the company pulls back its expansion effort?

Could we not mitigate the loss of potential tax revenues by having several smaller and equally well funded retailers?

I understand the tried and true anchor mentality, but there are already two anchor stores (Macy's and Nordstrom) who are obviously in trouble.

The city leadership is really wasting going down this path. The revenue coming out of this will not be nearly as high as it could be. Foolish.

obiwan said...

The March 12th Planning Commission meeting provided more evidence that it's "business as usual" when it comes to rubber-stamping another Neiman Marcus proposal. The Commissioners heaped praise on Macerich for all their public outreach, even though the Macerich representative couldn't cite a single refinement to their plan that had been made in response to the public input they received at their recent outreach meetings. And an explanation of why the proposed parking plan (employee-only lifts and designated employee-only parking on level 5) even makes sense has yet to be presented.

Since the Broadway Shopping Center is open more than 8 hours every day, stores operate with overlapping shifts. The afternoon shift arrives before the morning shift leaves - thus, during shift changes, employee parking demand is about double what it would be at other times of the day. Under these circumstances ANY plan that divides up parking into customer-only and employee-only stalls is guaranteed to produce inefficiencies.

* If enough employee parking is reserved to accommodate the shift changes, then in early morning and late afternoon, when only one shift is working, half of the employee parking will be unused, but still unavailable to customers.

* If only enough employee parking is reserved to handle one shift, then afternoon shift workers will inevitably have to park elsewhere (most likely in the customer-only stalls), because the "employee only" stalls and lifts will be full with morning shift cars when they arrive. Then, when the morning shift leaves, the stalls they vacated will be unused but still unavailable to customers. (And on top of that - some customer parking will taken up by afternoon shift employees!)

Yet, Commission Chair Gerstner, for one, is willing to give Macerich a pass on the parking issue - stating that he is convinced that Macerich is going to be "very responsive" to any customer parking complaints. (And therefore, by inference, the Commission doesn't need to concern itself with gross and obvious flaws in the parking proposal.)

Time to ink up the rubber stamp.