June 16, 2009

Petitioner Wars Part II: Neiman Marcus foes win the latest round

Contra Costa Times Elisabeth Nardi reports that a referendum blocking the City Council’s decision to allow Neiman Marcus to come to Broadway Plaza gathered more than enough signatures to head to the ballot.

The group opposing Neiman Marcus on Tuesday turned in a total of 7,263 signatures, while only needing 4,226, Nardi writes. The city has until July 29 to verify the signatures. Then the referendum must go before the City Council, which has to decide whether to put the matter up to a citywide vote. Oh, what a bitter pill that could be for City Council members to swallow, to let this referendum go through.

You can read more from the Times here.

By the way, this referendum is backed by a group with a--yes--somewhat wacky acronym as its title. The group calls itself Residents and Advocates for More Parking and Reduced Traffic (or RAMPART).

Who thinks these things up? As my son and his buddies would say: Whatev--

This RAMPART group includes Walnut Creek city residents Ann Hinshaw and Selma King (a former city planning commissioner), who have asserted that Walnut Creek City Council members failed to do their job responsibly in approving the Neiman Marcus proposal.

Those gathering signatures for the referendum to block Neiman Marcus were hired by a private company funded by Taubman, a rival mall company that owns Sunvalley Mall in Concord and is the potential retail developer for San Ramon City Centre.

But this anti-Neiman Marcus-signature-gathering effort shouldn't be confused with a signature-gathering campaign by those who support the proposal to bring the Texas-based luxury retailer to Walnut Creek.

The pro-Neiman Marcus signature gatherers are supporting their own ballot initiative, which is backed by Macerich, the owners of Broadway Plaza. And their initiative is basically the same plan submitted and approved by the City Council in May.

However, as an astute reader pointed out, as I've reported earlier--and as the Times acknowledged in its story today--this plan doesn't actually guarantee that Neiman Marcus will come to Walnut Creek.

The iniatiave, according to a reader, says that a store, "SUCH AS Neiman Marcus" will be built as a third anchor department store for Broadway Plaza.

The Times says the agreement "gives Macerich vesting rights for a major anchor store at Mt. Diablo Boulevard and South Main Street for the next five to 10 years."

In any event, Neiman Marcus boosters have had their own signature gatherers out, wearing bright yellow T-shirts, hitting the streets of Walnut Creek, starting Saturday. That petition will be circulated for the next three weeks.


Anonymous said...

As has been said before, they could be in construction right now if Macerich had submitted a plan that met the standards set by the General Plan.

DumbAsBricks said...

I agree. Now the question is, do we even both to hold a vote? What a waste of resources.

Masterlock said...

I can't wait until this is over one way or another.

Soccer Mom said...

Me neither.

Anonymous said...

So Taubman wants to block NM. So if they win at the ballot box an anchor store can be built as long as NM doesn't occupy it. This is odd.

RAMPART, hmmm why do you need more parking if you have less traffic? I might recommend this group provide ideas to the transportation department on ideas for reducing congestion. Have a RAMPART group perform a study of how long it really takes to cross town at different times of day. Is the 15min to Blockbuster trip really true? What stop lights need adjusting etc. Go to other cities and find best practices.

Don't be another group that opposes everything and doesn't provide solutions! And a solution is not to stop developing a town.

Anonymous said...

The solution,1:55PM, is to build within the guidelines of the General Plan. Kind of simple when you think about it. Maybe someone can ask Macerich why they don't make it easy on themselves and City Hall and build a biilding with a density of .75 like Crate and Barrel and other neighbors. Across the street, Tiffaney's density of .85 is reasonable. But Macerich originally asked for and got a 2. density and later, because of the referendum, came down to 1.75, an unreasonable size for downtown.

There are plans on the drawing board at City Hall for underutilized lots in vicinity of downtown.There needs to be a balance of our infrastructure with future development including the NM project. Let's continue to grow but within reasonable limits as our General Plan clearly provides.

John Muir said it best "...not blind opposition to progress but opposition to blind progress..."

Anonymous said...

3:25 unfortunately the general doesn't allow for a major store such as NM. Even you have to understand that in order for a store like MN to survive it has to have a minimal size and of course with that size comes the requirement to provide parking. What you are suggesting is that the general plan would only allow for a smaller store, which would not be a NM.
So the question for the city was would it be wise to grant an exemption to allow for a store like NM to be built.

So the question people will have to ask whether attracting a store like NM would be attractive for WC or not.

Based on the arguments by RAMPART (traffic and parking) I would conclude that this would be a magnet for downtown Walnut Creek and attract more people which seems to be good for business, certainly better than the abandoned storefronts we see popping up everywhere.
Furthermore seeing the effort competing developers are putting into this questions makes me believe it is a good deal for Walnut Creek.

I also notice that many opponents to growth are identical with the people who oppose strict parking enforcement (which of course would create more parking since it turns over parking space) or claim it takes 15 minutes from where I live to Blockbuster (which I know is not true.

Anonymous said...

The General Plan has always allowed exemptions. They happen all the time! The General Plan is not like the US Constitution that requires extraordinary effort to refine.
The City Council refined the General Plan for a new project last night with no opposition. Where were these great Guardians of the General Plan last night?

Anonymous said...

To 6:48PM Do you mean amended? I'm not sure what refine means in regards to the General Plan. However,in chapter 1, the GP is referred to as the city's "constitution.

At a recent council meeting one of the city planners was asked how many times the previous General Plan had been amended and I believe she said 4 or 5 times (that would be over a span of approx 20 years). My guess is that the previous GP didn't take almost 2 years, thousands of hours of citizen imput and $1,000,000 to compile, so yes, some residents take its guidelines seriously. Some amendments are to be expected but asking to more than double the allowable density in the center of downtown is wrong.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 6:48 -

The amendment to the General Plan that was passed last night is a whole different issue (very minor) than the ones that were made for the Neiman Marcus project and you know it.

Last night the Council made an intelligent decision that entailed a land swap that made an existing builing out of compliance with the General Plan by only a little bit. A reasonable solution was found and it did not involve any chnages in parking requirements.

Macerich/Neiman Marcus came to the Council last year with plans that they jolly well knew far exceeded the FARs and parking requirements of the General Plan. The Council, in their greed and speed, did not even consider how the general public was going to react to such radical changes and exceptions for one project. Citizens soon recognized that this action would then establish a precedent for any future developments in the downtown area. Hence the uprising.

It has been said many times in the past few months but bears repeating.....if the Council and Macerich had really listened to the testimony of many concerned citizens during the first hearings last year a whole lot of drama, wasted time and money could have been averted.

Do you think that anyone has learned anything from this experience? I sure hope so.

Anonymous said...

We should always be learning something... They underestimated the reaction, so they updated the plans based on the concerns, let's move on.

Anonymous said...

Sadly all this is promoting me to not shop in Walnut Creek. Parking is bad enough, but to add a another large store? Why not keep NM within the existing available space. If you put valet parking, you will loose customers, not gain. Let us keep the downtown WC charm, let us go back to it.

Today at CVC on Bancroft there were two gentlemen, one for NM and the other Not. Both were very polite and I choose to say I was not a WC resident so I could just get in the store :) Sorry, not into these petitions and sadly I can't wait for this to be over too. Do I think NM is good for WC? No I don't. Most of us are middle income and I do prefer a store that is reasonably priced, not over the top expensive and one that works with the small town appeal. Thank goodness I like on line shopping now, much better!

Anonymous said...

Go back to what it was? With all those walnut trucks cluttering up the streets. No thanks.

One part of town is nice small shops the other part is a shopping mall. We don't have to shop there and they won't put in stores that everyone likes. I like Target some like Nordstorms. If you don't like Nordstorms don't go but don't think it should be shut down for you.

I always find parking, where do you attempt to park?

Anonymous said...

"Let us keep the downtown WC charm, let us go back to it."
Preventing NM will not get you back there. Have a look at downtown Oakland boarded up storefonts particuarly after the Emporium store went out of business.

"Parking is bad enough" I lived in WC for 20 years and otherthan maybe two or three times during a per X-mas shoping frenzy it has never taken me more than 10 minutes to find an unrestricted free parking spot in WC. There is simply no parking problem in WC for any shoping district of this size.

"Do I think NM is good for WC? No I don't. Most of us are middle income and I do prefer a store that is reasonably priced" You don't need to shop at NM to profit from NM. All downtown business will profit from a vibrant downtown people will spend money in all kinds of stores and restaurants if the downtown is attractive. An attractive downtown generates revenues for the city.

Anonymous said...

The Citizens for a Better Walnut Creek were kicked out of office about twenty years ago. Some of them are trying for a comeback with funding from the Taubman Corporation.
Fortunately, the demographics have changed and, in the end, they will fail.
I am in the process of tracking down locations of Taubman malls nationwide so that I can advise my friends and relatives to boycott them no matter where they are. And, I will ask them to pass on the shameful story to their friends.
What goes around comes around.

Anonymous said...

Yes, "an attractive downtown generates revenue" but a building twice the size of the new library in the center of downtown doesn't sound very attractive. Those who support this project seem to suggest that those who question the NM project want to turn back the clock. The impression I get is that they simply want growth that is appropriate for the space that's left for development in downtown WC.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 7:00 pm

Right on!

"Growth that is appropriate". What a novel idea and so sensible.

What is really scary is that we are even having this lengthly discussion at all.

Is there no one in city government who really cares about an uncrowded downtown retail area? Why do we need more narrow sidewalks that become canyons from very large buildings abutting them?

No, we can't go back, but we can go forward with realistic planning that will make shopping and walking around town more pleasant.

Anonymous said...

I guess that's where some of us just disagree. I don't have any problem to get a little bit more urban like feel in the downtown shopping area, but I want the residential areas and particularly the Open Space area protected. If a dense downtown helps to bring in the revenue to afford the luxury of Open Space I welcome NM into town.

Just look what is happening to the state right now, we are short on money and so many of us are willing to sacrifice State Parks. Once you close them and don't maintain them it will be a short step to sell them to developers for revenue. I just don't want the same development for the City of Walnut Creek.

Anonymous said...

The anti-City mercenaries came to my door today and I followed them.

8 of 9 of my neighbors signed the pro Neiman Marcus initiative instead of the anti-WC measure.

Please sign the petition by the people wearing YELLOW shirts saying Yes on the front and Support Neiman Marcus at Broadway Plaza on the back.

Let's work together for Walnut Creek and stop this usurpation of our local government. We elect a City Council and fire them if needed. Let's not waste money @ $300K per election voting on every project that comes down the line!

Anonymous said...

Hi Soccer Mom, did the CCTimes acknowledge the fact that Neiman Marcus might not end up coming to WC? Macerich could build but there's no guaranty that NM will occupy. Your post said it would be in the Times, did I just miss it?

Anonymous said...

One of the Anti-Walnut Creek/Anti-Neiman Marcus henchmen threw the female manager of the Farmers Market in Shadelands on the ground this morning when she tried to get him to mave a table out of the Fire Lane. The perp was arrested by the WCPD. More shame on Taubman and their supporters.

Anonymous said...

When will the citizens of Walnut Creek start to take their City back and stop outside interest to dictate how the City should be run?

Anonymous said...

The citizens of Walnut Creek ARE taking back their city thanks to Taubman. All the years of frustration with the influence of developer$$ and now one of them has come forth with $$ that give residents a voice. We LOVE IT! It's been a great opportunity to turn the tables and force city hall to recognize the fact that there is a Silent Majority in WC who question the vision and direction this city has taken and whose dreams for sensible growth are a possibility.

Anonymous said...

"The citizens of Walnut Creek ARE taking back their city thanks to Taubman."

Oh that's precious, just precious.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:13 How about that oppressed silent majority? Where were they during city counsel election? They couldn't elect a single representative? Oh no they couldn't be bothered to vote they were too busy shopping at Sun Valley Mall on election day.

Anonymous said...

"The citizens of Walnut Creek ARE taking back their city thanks to Taubman. All the years of frustration with the influence of developer$$ and now one of them has come forth with $$ that give residents a voice. We LOVE IT!"

So, Anon 11:13pm, you condone verbal and now physical abuse of our residents by the Taubman Taliban? How far are you willing to go? Will you cheer from the sidelines as Taubman destroys Walnut Creek in order to "save it" for you?

Anonymous said...