I was asking these questions in the wake of controversy over the Neiman Marcus proposal and continued concerns about the library project. I said I might select some of the comments to post as free-standing articles.
I received a great selection of comments: thoughtful, informed, impassioned. The comments were from people who clearly care about the community and represented different viewpoints. Here are three that I thought were complementary, and I will run others in the future,. I hope to allow a forum where residents can continue to debate and discuss issues related to the city's larger "vision thing." Thanks everyone who shared their comments.
From July 8, 2009 10:24 p.m.:
My vision for downtown has always been to maintain its character and charm with development that respects our uniqueness. We are beautifully located beneath Mt Diablo and its foothills. We have trees and alleys and some wonderful spots to sit and enjoy.
In my opinion, the Neiman Marcus project offers nothing to the character and charm of the downtown. They're tearing down perfectly good buildings and putting up a monument to greed. There is not a plaza, courtyard, fountain or even a roof garden in their plans. Instead we are offered walls that will come up to the sidewalk but bring in lots of $$$. People may stop coming when we start looking like every other mall and increased congestion makes us less convenient.
The Bart Transit Village will have 50 foot tall buildings in the existing parking lot east of the tracks. When visitors and commuters arrive at the station, instead of views of the mountain and foothills, they'll be welcomed by concrete walls. It would seem that with all this so called progress, we are giving up a lot of what makes us special. And yes, Soccer Mom, it feels like we're losing our soul to the almighty $$$$.
From July 8, 2009 12:18 p.m.
It would be nice if the city staff and politicians stuck to the General Plan so many contributed to. Some of us spent a lot of time participating and expect our contributions to the process to actually mean something.
Given that downtown is a dense (and growing denser) urban core, it is extremely important to me that the neighborhoods in Walnut Creek become more clearly defined and the character of those neighborhoods be preserved. San Francisco is a good model in way (though hopefully WC will never become that dense!). Each neighborhood in SF is like a town within the city of SF with character, local community, local participation, etc. Why not develop and define similar neighborhood communities in WC? And ... last but not least ... if city staff and council had respected neighborhood concerns about development in the recent past --- e.g., the Homestead Hilton project, the size of the library project, etc. --- there probably wouldn't as much brouhaha about Nieman Marcus...NM is just the final straw, imo.
I personally like the idea of NM downtown, btw.
From July 14, 2009 1 p.m.:
Have lived in WC about ten years now after living for several decades first in the country and then in a densely packed urban environment. Walnut Creek is my first suburban experience ...
However, it's not truly suburban anymore.
From what I can see in WC, the downtown is no longer a suburban downtown, yet many commenting here refer to downtown as if it is still suburban and seem to want to reclaim that feeling. It's way too late for that. The tide turned in Walnut Creek when the Brad Blake projects were built downtown. This is not going to get unbuilt, though there might be a lot of vacant store fronts in this economy for awhile.
I agree with the previous poster who mentioned WC neighborhoods ... Why not let the downtown continue to become more and more urban with high density housing, etc. and contain the density there and around the BART? Then focus attention on defining and preserving the neighborhoods throughout Walnut Creek (maybe those neighborhoods could each develop their own official mini-master plan even) ... That's what successful urban environments do. Examples: Portland, San Francisco, Chicago, etc. Let's accept the inevitable and focus our attention on impacting strongly identified neighborhoods.