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October 27, 2009

The No on Measure I "virtual office"?



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.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

If I'm the mall owner I'm not going to develop a site that has traffic gridlock and no parking. It doesn't make good business sense as you won't attract customers. The "no on I" group is attempting to prevent this mall owner (Broadway Plaza) from adding another store which in reality will put them far ahead of the competition (e.g. Taubaum) in the east bay.

To me Broadway Plaza has been a good corporate citizen and has kept the quality of their section of downtown high. Jazz concerts, season events etc. show they have an interest in maintaining a quality property. I don't believe they are ready to create a site with no parking and traffic gridlock.

Anonymous said...

SM,

If RAMPART has many supporters, why are they not listed on their website?

Also note that many local residents have contibuted monetarily to Yes for Walnut Creek and over 150 have walked door-to-door distributing information. The people against Measure I have not contributed any funding at all. 100% comes from Taubman.

The strategy of reducing traffic by killing jobs downtown is exceedingly strange, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

The developers must be having a good laugh at people contributing money to finance a private business rivalry.

Elizabeth said...

I'm annoyed that I can't vote on this because of my zip code? I thought I lived in Walnut Creek!!, but when I got my ballot to review, measure I isn't on there!

Soccer Mom said...

Elizabeth,
I can't vote either on Measure I. I live in a neighborhood very close to downtown, but I happen to live right outside the official city limits, in an area that is unincorporated and belongs to the county.
Yeah, the city boundaries are a bit wacky.

Jojo Potato said...

I'm voting no, and maybe not for an entirely rational reason. My daughters car got towed from the garage behind Starbucks at Main and Mt. Diablo and we had to pay $220 to get it back. She works at a store near there. Screw downtown, they have no idea how to take care of their privileged location in the city. No, No, No.

Anonymous said...

VOTING NO AS WELL

Notice the location of the YES on I signs, it is the EXACT same location as all of the city council member signs were. Same support group, same people lining their pockets. OF COURSE COUNCIL IS IN FAVOR OF, the kickbacks they get from developers like Macerich are unreal.

This project results in less surface parking (removal of parking behind PF Changs), makes smaller parking spaces in existing garage (restripping), adds mechancial lifts, are you kidding me, who is fitting the bill when these dont work or need maintenance. COMPLETE CHANGE TO GENERAL PLAN and INCREASES density of allowable building. Why they are being allowed to increase the density without TRULY developing more parking is really troubling.

In short, this is a project council NEEDS for multiple reasons: they OVERSPENT BIGTIME on the library, Macerich will take care of them with gifts and supporting their campaigns for future elections.

VOTE NO

Do not be blinded by the Yes money being spent. Please tell them to stay out of my mailbox.

What are city needs is another nice tenant in the existing space, end of story, not more building, more construction and less parking.

Anonymous said...

We can build it from all the print materials that have clogged my mailbox over the past few months. Sheesh!

I am voting yes. The no voters say that parking and gridlock are reasons to vote it down. To me, that makes the argument that it will be sucessful and bring in more revenues for the city. Don't like the parking or the gridlock? Park on the outskirts and take the downtown free shuttle.

Anonymous said...

11:55 am

Some of us live near the "outskirts" and must use the very streets that are impacted by continued growth downtown just to get somewhere else. No amount of supposed tax revenue is worth selling out for what is left of the soul of this town.

I too have noted the location of the huge YES signs in the downtown area. Just look at the planning commission reports for the last several years and you will find most of the names of the property owners there (sseking variencesk, etc.) who now sport the big signs in support. A good part of them do not live in Walnut Creek so they could care less how residents are affected by virtual gridlock downtown. People coming here to shop in high-end stores could also care less about gridlock as their shopping "needs" come first.

Anonymous said...

I have a NO on I sign that I hesitate to put up because of all the vitriol, partcularly from the Yes side. The No people are depicted as senior citizens who don't want change, or as people who only know how to say no. It's also suggested that those who don't support Measure I have never done anything to for the city and therefore somehow don't have a right to their opinions. There are many folks just like me who volunteer their time and energies on worthwhile endeavors that don't necessarily bring them attention down at city hall.

Anyone who disagrees with city hall is treated like the enemy. To my knowledge, no on at city hall has ever reached out to those with opposing views to reach some common ground. Instead,in my own case, I was called at home by a former member of the council and was scolded and ridiculed for expressing my opinion.

Is there any diplomacy left down at city hall?

Anonymous said...

Hey JoJo Potato,

Teach your daughter how to follow the rules and she won't get a ticket.

RAMPART may be behind all the towing as they want more parking...

Anonymous said...

10:55am with all of your retail mall development experience and knowledge I'm surprised you have time to read the blogs.

Anonymous said...

12:47pm

What virtual gridlock? I drive from HWY 24 on Mt. Diablo to the Safeway all times of the day. I haven't experienced gridlock. What is your definition (e.g. you have to wait for a pedestrian?).

Anonymous said...

Are you really seriously wondering why the NO side doesn't have a "real" campaign headquarters. Two reasons immediately pop into my mind.....#1 - renting empty office space even on a temporary basis is expensive. #2 - just who do you think would be brave enough to buck City Hall, the Chamber and Macrich by renting, or God forbid donating, their empty building to the NO folks? No brainer kids. No one is going to get caught supporting the perceived "bad" guys on this issues

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what happened to The DubC blog? It appears to be down.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:06,
It's the library's fault.

Anonymous said...

3:12 pm

Couldn't agree more. That damned library is causing all sorts of problems in this burg. Actually, it is the "Library Mentality" of the LIBRARYNISTAS that has divided
the citizens of Walnut Creek.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:21,
The Library Monster is coming after you on Halloween. Wooooo!

Anonymous said...

The No on I folks would be all in support for downtown stores if they would be virtual

Anonymous said...

How many people I wonder are really going to come out to vote? Ahhh Walnut Creek is such a special place! NM is our savior!

Anonymous said...

Wile E. Coyote,

Try to catch me on November 3rd.
Meep-meep!

The Roadrunner

Anonymous said...

JoJo Potato - Sounds like your daughter was towed from the parking garage at Plaza Escuela. If she works in one of the businesses there, she should have been given a permit to park there while she was at work. If she does not work in any of the businesses in Plaza Escuela, she should not have been parking in the garage. Parking is for employees and customers, with a 3 hour limit for customers.

Tate said...

There is no conjestion in down town Walnut Creek. Nor is there a parking problem. I am down there, driving through there, parking down there morning noon and night, every day weekends and holidays included. It takes all of 2-1/2 minutes, maybe 3 to find parking in the Locust parking structure and the few times it has a full sign in front, I try the Broadway parking structure and have never seen the top floor because of all the empty parking spaces below.

Stopping at the intersection of Mt. Diablo and Main street is because of a stop light. When its red, one has to stop. When it turns green, then one can go. It should not be confused with the mythical conjestion I keep hearing about. The rest of the streets, California Blvd, or Broadway? Clear as day.

Neiman Marcus is a huge positive to this town in terms of additional business and tax revenue. Vote YES for Measure I. It is good for this town.

Anonymous said...

The RAMPART fogies voted NO to the Lesher Center. What fun people.

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Anonymous said...

Yes on I ! Yes to increased tax revenues, yes to more retail choices, yes to the shoppers and visitors from outside WC who will come to the downtown and spend money at NM and other businesses as a result of their visit.

And NO! to the shady tactics, stealth financing and dishonest campaigning that we've seen from the No on Measure I forces!

Yes on I, yes on I, yes on I.

Anonymous said...

Still don't understand nor have I seen any written substantiation of the projected $400,000/year increase in sales tax revenues as claimed by Macerich and the supporters of Measure I.

Isn't it likely that many people who now shop at Nordstroms and other high dollar stores in Walnut Creek will buy from Neiman Marcus when and if it opens (no guarantees, remember)? Doesn't seem likely to me that shoppers will buy more just because there might be a Neimans one day. Simply put, doesn't it make sense that Nordstroms and other stores may see a reduction in their sales revenues because their shoppers have moved to Neimans to buy the same items? So where do they get the $400,000 number?

Hanging our hats on a possible $400,000/year increase in sales taxes to solve the city's current financial problems is foolhearty. How many years will it take to build and open Neimans? How soon will the economy rebound enough so that wealthy people will shop with pre-recession abondon in Walnut Creek so we can see the proposed increase in tax revenue?

Obviously not soon enough to coverup the council's voracious overspening over the last ten years.

Obviously not soon enough to even pay for the reported $1,000,000 that was spent developing the recently approved General Plan which the approval of Measure I will change forever.

I do believe that P.T. Barnum is the mentor for the campaign being waged by Macerich, City Hall and Measure I supporters. We should not allow ourselves to continue to be fooled by vague promises of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

Anonymous said...

10/28 10:57

So the mall developer wants a store that won't have any sales? Wow. Leave the financial projections to those you take the risk.
The 400K is only a proposed "pro" of the project. No guarantees exist in the business world.

What is your suggestion to resolve the situation in your mind? The financial model that shows the 400K?

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:57,

If you were correct about neighboring stores running each other out of business, we would not have any malls and places like Union Square would not exist.

I suspect you are Al Abrams, an expert at confusion with a 30-year career as an expert liar. I really enjoyed Doug Regalia's caricature of you in the Walnut Creek Journal today!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, not Big Al at all. Just someone who is not to pleased that outside developers have the City Council in their pockets.

Changing the newly minted General Plan forever is a big step and should not be decided at the polls.
That is the Council's job. Sort of like the folks in Sscramento who are too worried about retaining their positions to make controversial decisions and then putting another initiative on the ballot.

In the end of the day, I highly doubt that Nordstroms will go out of business because of a possible Neimans locating here but it certainly will feel the pinch because it will draw the same type of customers.

Anonymous said...

That's cool,

Big Al the Liar may not have posted your illogical rant. You just don't understand how business.

It is complicated and demands a lot of research.

BTW Macerich is part of our community, unlike the Taubman Corp. scum, owned by the Federal criminal and convict Al Taubman.

Anonymous said...

The Regalia cartoon, depicting Measure I opponents as a monster carrying a bloodied axe is a pathetic gesture...maybe last gasp gesture of a son attempting to legitimize his family's interference and unfair influence in this town. His father was the principle in a powerful law firm that represented major development and real estate interests in the area. With this kind of support, his mother became a very powerful council member whose pro development agenda, supported by her husband's interests, ran roughshod through this city.

Anonymous said...

12:43am

These are the people that take positions of power. Get over it and stop with the conspiracy theories OR take the job yourself.

:)

Anonymous said...

8:41 AM

Many of us will not prostitute ourselves to developers and local business interests just to inflate our egos and line our pockets.

These values would eliminate any chance of joining the "public" service circle of local elective office.

Anonymous said...

9:36 am,

Actually some of you prostituted yourselves to the Taubman Corporation and Federal criminal Albert Taubman!

Your cowardly slander of City leaders has no substance.

You guys never put up viable candidates for City Council. The Citizens for a BITTER Walnut Creek completely bungled the job and got tossed out quickly.

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Kimberly said...

Let me tell you that the coming of Marcus to Walnut Creek may raise the value of apartments in the area. I remember hearing a story like this one in Argentina. when I made my trip to South America. The rent an apartment in buenos aires increased a lot for inhabitants but it became a great deal for tourists! It was because the hot shppong malls were established there.
Kim