Each side in the race over Measure I claims that the other side is a funded by deep-pocket outside influences. Each side claims that the other side’s strings are being pulled by some grand puppet master, from outside the city, trying to exercise control over Walnut Creek’s economic and retail destiny.
Measure I is otherwise known as the Neiman Marcus debate. It asks Walnut Creek’s 42,000 voters whether they want a new, two-story 92,000 department store in Broadway Plaza. The store will most likely be a Neiman Marcus. There is no guarantee, but Neiman Marcus officials have said they are committed to coming to Walnut Creek.
By the way, if you want to view a handy-dandy Frequently Asked Questions guide to the whole issue, check out Elisabeth Nardi’s story in Monday’s Contra Costa Times.
Rival developers have heavily financed each side, spending more than $1 million combined. Those rival developers are Southern California-based Macerich, which owns Broadway Plaza, and Michigan-based Taubman Centers, which owns Sunvalley mall in Concord, and which was close to securing Neiman Marcus’ agreement to come to the planned San Ramon city center project.
The Yes on I people say that theirs is in the cause that is truly supported by locals, with more than 1,000 community leaders (including all five city council members), neighbors, and Rossmoor residents signing on to the Yes on I, Yes for Walnut Creek cause.
The No on I people say, on their website, that many residents support their cause, because they are concerned that the project will bring worse traffic, crowd downtown parking, and that Macerich’s “experimental” parking lifts and valet parking schemes “will now be allowed to spread throughout downtown.”
When it comes to local support, or, more accurately, a local presence, the Yes on I folks claim the upper hand, and specificaly in one respect. This is in regards to their headquarters versus the No on I headquarters--or its lack thereof.
Some Yes on I supporters recently contacted me to let me know that the headquarters for the No on I campaign is actually a “virtual office.”
Residents and Advocates for More Parking and Reduced Traffic (RAMPART), the anti-Measure I organization, lists its address in an office building on North California Boulevard. The office suite is operated by a business that rents out office space and “virtual office” space to individuals and small businesses.
I stopped by myself to check it out, asking the receptionist at the front desk of this eighth floor suite whether there were any RAMPART folks available to talk to about their campaign, or if they had any campaign literature available. She explained that no one with that organization is actually on site, and that, yes, they have rented out a “virtual office.”
On the Yes on I side, one supporter told me that their mailing address is a mailboxes shop near City Hall which is owned by the president of the Downtown Business Association, and who is one of the Yes for Walnut Creek’s volunteers. The Yes on I headquarters is at the former David M. Brian store in Broadway Plaza. This supporter added we “also have more than 175 volunteers working” on the campaign.
No on I spokesman Al Abrams responded to questions about the virtual office by saying: “That’s kind of a weird conclusion, based on the rental of temporary office space for a campaign, which is something that's done for all campaigns I've ever worked on in 30 years.”
He added: “The Yes on I people must be getting pretty desperate if that's the best argument they can make at this point in their campaign.”
Well, if you’re judging local support by who has managed to get the most campaign signs posted around downtown, and in the neighborhoods, the Yes on I side is scoring big time. Their signs are cropping up all over the place. (The above photos, by the way, were taken in front of homes in the same neighborhood near downtown.)
Meanwhile, I’ve only seen two modest No on I signs. They are posted in front of homes in residential neighborhoods near downtown, and the address of one of those homes is listed as being the home of Measure I opponent Selma King.