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July 13, 2009

Walnut Creek’s BART transit village: a development project I look forward to hearing more about

Over the next six months, the city will hold a series of public meetings to look at plans to build nearly 600 new homes, in the form of apartment units and live-work spaces, and a commuter parking garage, as well as retail and office space around the BART station.

I think it sounds like an interesting project, one that the city has spent a lot of time on. Four years. Most intriguing to me is that it fits into the Smart Growth idea espoused by both economists and environmentalists.

Sure, a project like this presents more evidence that Walnut Creek isn’t Mayberry anymore. It’s urban, dense, and big. It will add about 470,000 square feet of new housing, retail and office construction. But, according to the city staff report, these new buildings fit within the parameters of the General Plan, and building heights would adhere to the 50-foot maximum established for the site by Measure A, the 1985 height limit initiative.

Will the project bring more traffic and congestion into town? Possibly. However, the project is located in a place that will encourage its residents to use public transit to get to work and to walk the short distance into downtown to shop, eat out, and go out for movies and other entertainment.

Over the past few years, I’ve read various reports by business leaders and East Bay economic experts who all say our regional economy can’t sustain itself in the long term if individual communities don’t provide sufficient housing for the people who want to work in them. Having masses of people spending hours in traffic, commuting long distances from where they can afford to live, just isn't cost-effective or healthy--for individuals, individuals, the environment, and society as a whole.

Transit villages built around BART stations are part of the Smart Growth wave of suburbia's present and future.

Nearly 600 apartment units won't fulfill the life-style demands of all the people who want to live in or near Walnut Creek, but it’s a start. Yes, this project, with its apartment housing, won't address the need of young families who want a spacious single family home and a yard, but Walnut Creek is pretty much built out and doesn’t any room to build a large number of such homes anymore. And these young families—unless dad or mom or both have well-paying professional jobs, or trust funds—can’t afford to buy in Walnut Creek anyway. And that's true, even with the housing market crash.

According to the staff report, prepared for Wednesday night’s Design Review Commission, the project will also feature public open space, public art, and publicly accessible views of Mount Diablo.

This project still has a ways to go, including studies on environmental impact and traffic flow around the 16.8-acre site, before it’s finally approved.

Also, we’ll need to see how it’s going to look. The project aims be “physically and visually integrated into the city” and to “create an attractive, livable neighborhood.”

Let’s hope that’s the case.

For more information about the project, and the proposed public meeting schedule, here's the link to the agenda.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am surprised there has been no posts on the 6/24 and 7/13 Contra Costa Times articles relating to the Michael Gressett case.

Anonymous said...

I do not like this BART transit village idea. I think it's a bad one. Selling home, leaving this town for good.

Anonymous said...

Bye, Bye. Don't unpack when you get to the next place since it's probably going to change also.

Anonymous said...

Anon 2:55 - wrong topic, that case has nothing to do with the transit village.

Soccer Mom said...

Anon 2:55 a.m. Yeah, you're off topic, but I'll look for those Michael Gressett articles. It's just me doing this blog in my spare time, so, alas, I can't cover everything. But the Gressett case, I agree, is an intersting one.

Anonymous said...

I think the the idea of smart growth is only that, an idea. I don't believe the city has done a very good job of enforcing affordability requirements of the new developments. In fact I have heard that the citty allows the developers to pay a buy out to get around the low income quota, which really does not fit with the concept of having a local work force as retail restaurant jobs really don't pay all that much. Its obvious to me too that BART + Transit village = working elsewhere not WC. Also, When will the city be concerned about the quality of life in WC? The Police are already claiming to be over burdened by the bar scene, and who knows what the schools are going to need going fwd. 600 units assume maybe 100-200 kids...where is buena vista elementary going to put them? In portables on the new ball field? I under stand we need growth and all...but the mercer 555yvr, and the other new building next to the marriot, and the planned building at treat and main...how much do we need really?

The presentation for the transit village praises Fruitvale bart and 14th street as models for this project. I dare the city council to take a month off and go live in either location for 30 days and report back on the experience (using bart and walking as the main sources of transport)

DumbAsBricks said...

Ooooh Interesting topic!

Where to start? First drive by the Pleasant Hill BART station and take a look around at the monstrosity sitting atop the old parking lot on the east side of the platform. If that is not enough, just try to find a parking stop after 9am any day of the week. You will be lucky to find ANYTHING. What a waste of time, money, and opportunity. Insufficient to say the least.

Once you get over that example of a wonderfully executed general plan, take a look at the progress on YVR. Very inefficient use of prime real estate. Not only that the timing and marketability of the developments was WAY off.

Finally, let us consider the viability of BART. The BART I ride is hit or miss on reliability, air conditioning, and a place to sit. Last time I rode, I sat on a seat that had been aggressively cleaned (and still it looked dirty, but didn't smell bad) and the foam was wore out. We are placing our chips on this? Where are the people gonna park when BART doesn't work out? Last I heard, BART wasn't looking to add a lot of trains to it's commuter schedules.

It is too early in the morning for this. I'll come back later.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:27

"Its obvious to me too that BART + Transit village = working elsewhere not WC. Also, When will the city be concerned about the quality of life in WC? The Police are already claiming to be over burdened by the bar scene, and who knows what the schools are going to need going fwd. 600 units assume maybe 100-200 kids..."

Its obvious to me that most of the people in WC don't work in WC but elsewhere. And the quality of life question, why did the quality of life drop when you moved to WC? Do you or did you have kids? What did the schools do when your kids wanted to go to school?


Why do I have that feeling that its not so much the development you worry about but the fact that it might attract people who might look a little bit different than you to WC?

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:38

I am disappointed that you seem to misunderstand my point. I find in ironic that you have attributed a "look" to me, what do you think I look like, and why do you attribute my comment to having a bias toward anyone ethnically or economically or otherwise? I think your comment says more about you than me.

My comment on "it being obvious..." was in direct response to SoccerMom's "Over the past few years, I’ve read various reports by business leaders and East Bay economic experts who all say our regional economy can’t sustain itself in the long term if individual communities don’t provide sufficient housing for the people who want to work in them. Having masses of people spending hours in traffic, commuting long distances from where they can afford to live, just isn't cost-effective or healthy--for individuals, individuals, the environment, and society as a whole."

The fact remains that there are a lot of developments around WC that are not hurting for available space. Also please understand that if one argues that the transit village is needed so that people can live in AND work in Walnut Creek seems to be cross purposed, and a red herring. Maybe I am a simpleton but a transit village seems to sort of imply commuting. Perhaps I am more against the BS excuses for why we need this or that? And I think it is a GD Shame that WC allows developers to get out of their "low income" commitment with a "buy out" to the city.

With regard to the quality of life, look no further to the POLICE DEPT's own actions regarding the bar scene downtown, and the staggering of closing times. The WCPD have openly stated that they DO NOT have enough man power to serve the community effectively when they are consumed with breaking up fights. My point in this example is this, if we keep piling on more residents without the bumping up the public resources like police and schools, we will surely erode the quality of life in the neighborhoods.

Anonymous said...

Oh and ANON 7:38

From this very blog please see:

http://crazyinsuburbia.blogspot.com/2009/04/police-fed-up-with-late-night-drunks-so.html

Jojo Potato said...

Maybe it's just me, but when I see all the signs around Pleasant Hill BART for the "Transit Centre" I just want to barf. Spelling something differently does not make it more European or better. Please observe myself and my friends adjusting these signs with the help of some spray paint.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:54 I guess I must have hit a little bit of a nerve with my comment.

But look at your response: "if we keep piling on more residents without the bumping up the public resources like police and schools, we will surely erode the quality of life in the neighborhoods"

You seem to want no growth (or as you say pilling on more residents). I don't know about you maybe you have a lot of independent wealth. Most people don't and their wealth (including mine) is based on 401(k), their homes, and maybe for some pensions. This wealth is dependent on growth, whether you like it or not. You can see these days what happens when die economy contracts.

So most of us need growth and that includes growth to WC as well. I have accepted the fact that WC will and grow and has to grow. What I want to city and its leader is to direct that growth in a smart way and yes I do think the concept of a transit village seems like a good idea rather than allowing high density housing in the residential areas.

Now I never said that growth would not require hiring more services, this is true for now as it was true when you decided to make WC your home.

As to people who seem so opposed to new housing ideas, I do think that some bias very well might be at the root of their thinking. I used you more as an example for people using your arguments; of course I should have it made clear that I don't know you personally so I don't know whether you personally have a bias against people different from you.

But than again in my defense in your response did refer to the new residents who might become our neighbors in WC as being piled on and somehow seem to link them to bar brawls in downtown?

Anonymous said...

Hit a nerve, no not really. You are the one with the nerve, to make assumption after assumption and value judgments about me and the proposed new residents.
Even when you try to back off a little bit you make cracks about me being independently wealthy and stating you don't know if I have a bias against people that are different from me...so tell me who are these people that are different from me? Please tell me more about me!!!

But let me try to be emphatic here, right now the city is doing a particularly poor job in my opinion of maintaining its own status quo. They seem to be selling out for the fast buck at every turn. Downtown is littered with empty store fronts, the new developments are not selling as hoped, the NEW retail space is sitting empty, and they want to build more!! The availability of basic services are being affected by poor decision making around the number of liquor licenses (look at the link i sent earlier) not to mention until very recently WC was the ONLY city in the east bay that DIDNT have a license requirement for massage parlors (read prostitution). The leadership doesn't really seem to be up to smart growth just yet. And until the City Council figures out how to represent ALL of the residents fairly and not cater exclusively to business interests I am going to question their motives.

Anonymous said...

"so tell me who are these people that are different from me?" Those would be the people you say are being piled on our community. People who are in your words not the status quo of Walnut Creek.

By the way I might be wrong but I don't think the city wants to build stores and housing. I think it is developers who want to do that.

But I think you should enjoy the wonderful evening tonight, take a stroll downtown, hey maybe you can get one of these massages. It might do wonders for your nerves.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the PH development looks weirdly huge right now, but I'm actually looking forward to seeing how it does once completed.

I'm really curious as to what kinds of retail will be there. If my dreams came true, it'd have a decent coffee shop, produce outlet, post office, bookstore, card shop, wine shop, a mom&pop market, some take-out food, some restaurants, and/or all those other necessities or last-minute items you might need on the way to or from work or on the way to a social engagement. I hope the same will be true for the downtown WC BART transit village.

In theory, the density idea is totally logical and could really work. Put the stores there; people are there anyway to use BART.

And in the case of the PH transit village, the surrounding blocks are chockablock with condos (I should know, I'm in one), but NO stores or conveniences within easy walking distance. This is mind-boggling to me, especially after living in San Francisco for 25 years. I didn't even own a car while I lived in SF -- didn't need one. Everything I needed was one to five blocks away -- restaurants galore, a movie theater, produce, grocery, post office, ATM, hardware store, drugstore, even a pet supply store and a nursery. I actually still haven't bought a car, but if transit villages don't take off, I may have to. The suburbs are built for cars. I can only hope the transit villages will be some relief from that.

Dan Simoes said...

Slightly off topic, but is the Pleasant Hill BART village condos? Rentals? Are the retail stores leased out by BART, by the developer, or sold? Is there a portion of the project that is "low income housing" as I heard one resident describe it?

I agree with comments about the quality of BART, but perhaps these projects will direct some additional funds into BART.

javieth said...

I usually go with my family to a some village specially because we like to know the people and the places. I believe the people are more helpful and kind than people of the city.
I love to go with my couple, he usually buy viagra and we enjoy too much our privacy.

kimberly said...

I love the village where there aren´t a lot delincuence, I prefer the quiet place and with too much vegetation. That is why i was interested in this blog, is really interesting and helpful. Actually i was looking houses because i am really interested, and i found costa rica homes for sale i think is wonderful.

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