THEY'VE DONE it again.
On May 19, members of the Walnut Creek City Council sided with a Los Angeles developer. Rather than requiring mitigation for Macerich's project impacts, the council is accepting their proposal without question.
The council approved Macerich's expansion of Broadway Plaza without dealing with the serious traffic and parking problems which will be made worse by a 92,000-square-foot store.
In order to speed this project forward, the council gave the developer carte blanche. Fortunately, state law allows the people to have the final say. While we would have preferred a consensus plan for this site, the city's "damn the torpedoes" attitude leaves us no choice but to act.
We must all act now before it's too late.
In reapproving the latest Macerich proposal, the council has done a pitiful job of representing the residents' interests. First, notwithstanding the pleas of many who demanded that the developer be required to provide the same level of physical parking as others have been forced to do, Macerich is once again being let off the hook.
Instead of requiring the construction of a new parking garage, the council is allowing the mechanical stacking of hundred of cars and SUVs, a parking solution usually seen at used-car lots. As even the Contra Costa Times acknowledges, this parking scheme is unproven and could result in serious unforeseen problems with no remedy available.
Second, as anyone who works, shops or drives through downtown knows, traffic is a serious problem. We're already approaching gridlock. It's wrong to force the public to endure even worse congestion solely to benefit one developer.
Third, while Macerich claims Neiman Marcus will be the tenant, there are zero guarantees that this will happen. In fact, once the council's actions are finalized, the only protection that we will have against a big-box retailer coming into downtown is the developer's verbal promise. If Macerich changes its mind, or if Neiman Marcus pulls out, we could be left with virtually any retailer and the city will have given away its ability to prevent it.
Lastly, since the council tries to justify its actions as a way to collect more sales tax dollars, why are there no requirements that this project bring in at least as much revenue as needed to provide city services? Walnut Creek is facing multimillion dollar deficits. The council has proved that they can't live within their means. Nonetheless, this one-sided approval is no solution. We can't afford more mistakes.
To protect the Walnut Creek we cherish, we've formed a community group, RAMPART, Residents and Advocates for More Parking and Reduced Traffic, which will work to accomplish two objectives.
First, we will once again circulate petitions to overturn the latest round of city giveaways. Second, we will bring forth a voter initiative which will 1) establish proper planning standards for downtown, 2) mandate that new projects bring in at least as much revenue as is required to provide city services, and 3) require a vote of the people for significant expansions of downtown in areas already congested with traffic.
Some people have vilified us because The Taubman Co. has funded our right to dissent, but the real culprits here are Los Angeles-based Macerich and Texas-based Neiman Marcus who appear to be taking advantage of the city.
The City Council has now shown for a second time that they can't, or won't, do their job responsibly.
Join us and help RAMPART provide the protection the residents need to ensure a continued high quality of life for the entire community and to allow for appropriate, reasonable economic development downtown. Walnut Creek deserves no less.
Hinshaw and King are Walnut Creek residents. King is a former member of the city's Planning Commission.