In the public comment portion of Tuesday night’s Walnut Creek City Council meeting, six people spoke in favor of the Walnut Creek BART Transit Village project and one that spoke out against it.
Jay Hoyer, president of the Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce, said the project is long overdue.
“I don’t recall any of the projects we’ve had, from plaza to Burton Village, even to John Muir’s campus, taking this long and undergoing so much scrutiny. Is it a perfect project? No. But you have to move on. It is an example — in anyone’s definition — of smart growth.”
Gail Murray, who represents Walnut Creek on the BART Board of Directors, outlined some reasons why she thinks the project will help Walnut Creek and BART.
“We have 16.5 acres here that have just been sitting here as a parking lot,” said Murray. “For 40 years, they’ve been a parking lot. That really isn’t the best use of the public investment in this land. By having development on this property, BART will get a return which will go into improving our system. It will also increase ridership on BART. It will now put this property back on the tax rolls. (Walnut Creek) will be getting property tax from this. Because we are a public institution, we weren’t paying any property tax.”
“This is the sort of development we’d like to see throughout the Bay Area,” said Matt Vander Sluis, senior field representative with Greenbelt Alliance. The open space advocacy group
enthusiastically recommended the project’s approval because it provides housing close to public transit and does not require building upon open spaces.
Tom O’Brien, who lives near the Walnut Creek BART station, said the city didn’t demand enough public benefits to justify amending its general plan.
“A drive by the vacant shops at the Pleasant Hill BART station should convince you that such revenue cannot be counted upon,” said O’Brien. “The project is likely to cost the city money. Even if you believe that the completed project won’t significantly impact traffic, the period of construction certainly will. Over 200 BART parking spaces will be lost during Phase 1. This will be a humongous mess. No improvements to the station itself are offered.”
Aram Hodess, business manager of the Local 159 Plumbers and Steamfitters Union, said the project will put construction workers back to work.
“The project promises to create local, well-paid construction jobs which are desperately needed in this county,” said Hodess.
Stephen Rusher, a retail leasing specialist with Cornish and Carey, a commercial retail business in Walnut Creek, said that he thinks the plan includes a good plan for placement of retail within the mixed-use project.
“If you are going to include retail, make it something special. One of the things that I really like is that they focused that retail along that Mt. Diablo corridor. It’s a natural path of traffic.”
Ron Brown, another longtime Walnut Creek resident, and open-space preservation advocate, said this is the type of project that has turned Walnut Creek from a dull city, into one that is vibrant.
“It’s going to be a major gateway in and out of the community,” said Brown.