CONCORD -- A community workshop to comment on the plan that envisions the downtown area decades into the future is slated Oct. 7.
The Priority Development Area immediately surrounds Todos Santos Plaza and is part of the Downtown Specific Plan. The new combination of proposed housing, office and commercial zoning was a key topic of discussion after senior planner Joan Ryan's presentation at the City Council meeting Sept. 24.
The plan promotes mid- and high-density housing near BART by adding approximately 3,200 housing units to the downtown over a 25-30 year timeline, according to Ryan's progress update.
Councilman Ron Leone and Vice Mayor Tim Grayson form the Downtown Specific Plan Steering Committee that has been consulting with city planners on the plan draft.
The look of hypothetical buildings, economic viability and the ratio of residential to commercial became topics of discussion between planners and council members.
Planners provided pictures of developments in other communities representing the density and building mass that they had in mind. The council clearly did not like the look of those examples, and Ryan agreed to find images more in keeping with Concord's identity and Spanish history.
Planners envision approximately 55 percent of the future downtown area for residential development, 32 percent for offices and 12 percent for retail.
Concerned about the economic viability of the plan, Councilwoman Laura Hoffmeister reminded planners, "Housing does not pay for parks and police. It is those business taxes that make it happen."
"Each household is $400 short to provide services," Hoffmeister said, asking rhetorically, "Would we increase taxes?"
Grayson asked planners to revise the plan map because he believes some areas that look like open space, are not.
"The challenge for the committee is to stay on point where we can commit to a plan that can be implemented," he said.
Leone agreed, and said he is not as concerned about the large amount of residential housing, noting that there is vacant office and retail space in town now.
Councilman Edi Birsan was concerned that the plan is so far along without having received more public input.
"I am not convinced that our matrix and our anticipated goals are aligned," he said.
Ryan told the council that notification letters about the Oct. 7 workshop would be sent to all property owners within the plan area.
"We should notify the residents, not just the property owners," Birsan said.
He also suggested that it would be helpful if planners could use more local data such as the Renaissance development in downtown Concord, rather than regional averages.
For example, he mentioned finding out where and how often downtown residents dine out, shop, drive and use public transportation. Also data on the age and resident family composition could be helpful.
Specific plan steering committee members defended the city's outreach effort.
Ryan explained that there have been two publicly noticed workshops, and Grayson said residents could attend committee meetings as well. Both of them noted the cost (consultants at workshops) and time limitations that have been budgeted for the process.
Completed Downtown Specific and PDA plans would help facilitate Concord's eligibility for federal and state grants in the future, and enable a streamlined California Environmental Quality Act review for future development projects, according to city planners.
The planning process that began in January includes input from BART, transit, water, county health services and other special agencies, and is expected to take about 21 months, including time for an environmental impact report, according to Ryan.
Ryan expects to "check-in" with the City Council with another presentation in May, when the draft environmental impact document will be complete.
Reach Dana Guzzetti at firstname.lastname@example.org call 925-202-9292.
The second community workshop on the Downtown Concord Specific Plan is 6:30-8 p.m. Oct. 7, at Salvio Pacheco Square, 2151 Salvio St., second floor, Suite 201.