Contra Costa County Seal

Contra Costa County
Community Development Department
Redevelopment Division
The Pleasant Hill BART
Station Design Charrette

Answers to Frequently Asked Questions 

What is a Charrette?

A Charrette is the most efficient and effective method for deriving policy and design solutions through mutual consensus, without compromising quality.  A Charrette is a three to seven day period of intense design work involving all key participants, including designers, local citizens, land and business owners, and agencies and officials, all of whom will contribute to the development of a detailed and finished design.  This shared achievement creates a momentum that enables the project to survive future political and economic challenges.

The Charrette presents an alternative to the otherwise time-consuming, linear, and sequential design process, which typically occurs in most design projects. The conventional process can take anywhere from several months to a year.  In contrast, the Charrette method streamlines this process, condensing the duration of design time down to about a week, by bringing all those who have influence on a project's design together in the same place.

The Charrette was developed as a means of eliciting the participation and direct involvement of all those having a vested interest in the overall development of the project. The Charrette team establishes a full working office on or near the site, complete with drafting equipment, supplies, computers, copiers, and fax machines. Design, engineering, production, marketing, sales, and all levels of management are assembled for the session.  Members of the design team allot time throughout the week to meet with local citizens, officials, and approval board representatives, to incorporate their concerns.  Thus, the Charrette produces a plan that reflects mutual authorship and a vision shared by all participants. 

Officials, having contributed to the design, are now in a position to both understand and support the final plan.  The Charrette creates an atmosphere of a town meeting or workshop; it becomes the medium to inform and educate the public, encompass their contributions, clarify design decisions, and moderate any conflicts that arise in the ensuing approval process.

Working on the site is also an invaluable aid to efficiency and creativity.  Team members can simply lay down their pens and walk outside to see the configurations of existing roads, buildings, trees and wetlands.  Most importantly, simultaneous brainstorming and negotiation during a Charrette can positively change minds and facilitate unexpected concepts or solutions to problems. Usually, ideas generated and considered are far greater in number and value than those under conventional planning methods.  A superior product is achieved during this unique, shared effort, adding immeasurably to the potential for the project’s long-term success.


Who should participate?

Anyone and everyone is invited to participate in this exciting process.  The entire process is open to the public.  To make the Charrette a success, we need a broad turn-out of community members.  Stakeholders for this project include anyone that could potentially be affected by the new development, including neighborhood residents, BART users, local business owners, employees working in the area, property owners, local government agencies, community leaders and activists.  We invite anyone with an interest in the project to participate as fully as their schedule allows.  We literally can’t do this without you.


What if I can’t attend every meeting?

Just come to as many as you can.  Even attending one meeting is better than none.  To really participate in a meaningful way, you will need to be there in person.  We will make sure that, at the beginning of each workshop, we will bring attendees up to speed about what happened at the previous meetings.  You can also drop by the Design Studio at Embassy Suites (at 1345 Treat Blvd., Walnut Creek) at any time between 9:00 AM and 9:00 PM from February 22nd through February 27th to see what is going on and watch as the plan is created. 

You can also log-on to or go to the Contra Costa County main page ( and look under “What’s New.”  If you simply cannot attend the workshops, we are working with Contra Costa TV to video-tape the sessions for later replay on Channel 19. And of course, you may always send us paper or electronic mail with any input.

Why is it important for me to participate?

The Charrette is a unique process that literally takes the ideas, opinions, input, insights and concerns of the people who participate into consideration, to create a better plan than one developed in isolation. By participating in this process, you really can make a difference!

Who is supporting the process?

This event has generated excitement among many local leaders.  Among them, Contra Costa County Supervisors Donna Gerber and Mark DeSaulnier and BART Director Dan Richard have taken leadership roles in the project.  The process is also supported by Millennium Partners, a development company that will be working with BART and the County to implement the final results of the Charrette.

Who is on the Charrette team?

There is a multi-disciplinary team of professional consultants assembled for this project, all of whom have extensive experience and expertise in a variety of different specialty areas.  The team includes:

Lennertz Coyle & Associates, Architects and Town Planners (
Peter Katz, Author and New Urbanism Consultant
Fehr & Peers Associates, Transportation Planners
Nelson / Nygaard, Transit Consultants
Strategic Economics, Urban Economic Development Consultants
CSG Advisors Incorporated, Financial Advisors
Communities By Design, Community Outreach Consultants
Ove Arup, Bridge Design/Engineering

Some of the work for the Charrette will be done individually by team members, some by small teams focused on particular issues, and some by the whole group working together.  All will be present and participating in the actual Charrette between February 22 - 27, 2001.

What parts of the Pleasant Hill BART station area will be covered in the Charrette?

The focus of the Charrette will be the BART-owned property at the Pleasant Hill BART station, specifically the “permanent” surface parking lots on the northwest and southeast sides of the stations itself. These are parcels 11 and 12 (as defined in the Specific Plan).  Don’t worry about the 1,294 or so spaces on those lots disappearing (permanent replacement spaces will be provided on-site with structured parking).

The Charrette will also look at ultimate uses of the Las Juntas Swim Club property and the preliminary design concepts for the proposed pedestrian/bicycle bridges over Treat Boulevard.  Other related topics will be addressed as they arise through the Charrette process.

Are there limitations on what can be proposed?

The only limitations that will restrict the Charrette process are that there will be development on the BART land as set forth in the Pleasant Hill BART Specific Plan, that the development will be consistent with the basic concept of transit-oriented development, and that the design for the development will be reasonably consistent with the precepts of new urbanism.  Certainly, there are a number of things that could affect either the final product of the Charrette or what is actually built, such as policies set out in the Specific Plan or any contractual development rights that BART may have.  Those things, however, will not limit what the Charrette participants and team can consider or recommend.

What will happen at the kick-off meeting on January 16th, 2001?

On January 16th, from 7:00 - 9:00 PM, at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Walnut Creek (across from the BART station at 1345 Treat Blvd.), there will be an important “kick-off” meeting for the Charrette.  The purpose of the kick-off meeting is to introduce the team and the project, and to invite as much input as possible from attending stakeholders.  Highlights of the meeting will include an explanation of the principles of New Urbanism that will guide the design of the project, a clarification of how this process relates to previous public processes, brief reports on the existing economic and transportation conditions around the site, and small group work with stakeholders to learn about the issues of concern.  The meeting will conclude with a look at the next steps in the process, and an invitation to attend the Charrette in February.

What will happen during the Charrette from February 22nd to 27th, 2001?

The Pleasant Hill BART Charrette is a six-day intensive process that will take place between February 22nd and 27th.  During that time, all of the professional consultants will work diligently in an on-site design studio to produce a master plan for the Pleasant Hill BART Station Area.  While stakeholders are invited to stop in at any time - the Design Studio will be open from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM from February 22nd through February 27th at the Embassy Suites Hotel – the best times to participate are during the three public workshops:

The first workshop will be held on Thursday, Feb. 22nd from 6:30pm – 9:00pm,
The second workshop will be on Saturday, Feb. 24th from 4:30pm - 6:30pm, and
The final public workshop will be on Tuesday, Feb. 27th from 6:30pm – 9:00pm.  The draft final plan and perspective drawings will be presented at this meeting.

All workshops will be held at the Embassy Suites Hotel, 1345 Treat Blvd., in Walnut Creek.  If you cannot make it to one or more of the events, you are still invited to participate as much as you are able.

How does the Charrette relate to the Pleasant Hill BART Station Area Specific Plan?

The Charrette builds off of the policies, objectives, and standards of the Pleasant Hill BART Specific Plan, an amendment of which was adopted by the Contra Costa Board of Supervisors on October 6, 1998.  While the Specific Plan provides a framework, the Charrette master plan will be more detailed than the Specific Plan, including refined designs for streets and parking lots, public open spaces, building massing and character, and allowed uses.  The goal of the current charrette is to conclude with a land use plan and design that would serve as the basis for the BART property developer to proceed with an application for rezoning the site.

How is this process different from the last “charrette?”

The term “charrette” is now being applied to many kinds of public processes, and is not always used appropriately.  Many of these processes lack several critical factors that make true Charrettes so effective.  Charrettes always attempt to include a broad range of stakeholders, including those that are in a position to implement the plan.  Charrettes work in short feed-back loops, and participants quickly see their suggestions incorporated into an evolving masterplan.  Charrettes allow the inclusion of a broad range of issues that will affect the plan.  And finally, Charrettes are conducted by an interdisciplinary team that can provide expertise in many disciplines.  The interaction between these professionals, and the collaborative interaction between the professionals and the stakeholders, creates a synergy that produces real-world solutions that work on many levels.

How will the participants be guaranteed that the results of this planning process will be honored?

Unfortunately, there is never a guarantee.  Circumstances including the regional context, local economic markets, transportation dynamics, and politics can change.  By analyzing and understanding these dynamic conditions the results of the charrette will more accurately reflect current conditions.  Historically, however, the plans that have been honored over time are the ones that have represented the vision of many parties.  A true collaborative process inspires and empowers people, and results in a plan that meets the needs of all stakeholders, including the citizens, the business community, local governmental agencies, and the developer.  The best way to guarantee that this plan gets implemented is to help us spread the word about the process in order to get good participation in which everyone’s interests are considered.

What is meant by the term “new urbanism?”

In the late 1980s, a new approach to the creation and revitalization of communities began to emerge in North America. Based on the development patterns used prior to World War II, the New Urbanism seeks to reintegrate the components of modern life - housing, workplace, shopping and recreation - into compact, pedestrian-friendly, mixed-use neighborhoods linked by transit and set in a larger regional open space framework. The New Urbanism is an alternative to suburban sprawl, a form of low-density development that consists of large, single-use "pods"-office parks, housing subdivisions, apartment complexes, shopping centers-all of which must be accessed by private automobile.

The major principles of New Urbanism are:

All development should be in the form of compact, walkable neighborhoods and/or districts. Such places should have clearly defined centers and edges. The center should include a public space - such as a square, green or an important street intersection - and public buildings - such a library, church or community center, a transit stop and retail businesses.
Neighborhoods and districts should be compact (typically no more than one quarter mile from center to edge) and detailed to encourage pedestrian activity without excluding automobiles altogether. Streets should be laid out as an interconnected network (usually in a grid or modified grid pattern), forming coherent blocks where building entrances front the street rather than parking lots. Public transit should connect neighborhoods to each other, and the surrounding region.
A diverse mix of activities (residences, shops, schools, workplaces and parks, etc.) should occur in proximity. Also, a wide spectrum of housing options should enable people of a broad range of incomes, ages, and family types to live within a single neighborhood/district. Large developments featuring a single use or serving a single market segment should be avoided.
Civic buildings, such as government offices, churches and libraries, should be sited in prominent locations. Open spaces, such as parks, playgrounds, squares, and greenbelts should be provided in convenient locations throughout a neighborhood.

(Text from the Congress for the New Urbanism:

How can I get more information?

For more information, please contact:

Jim Kennedy
Redevelopment Director
Contra Costa County
651 Pine Street, 4th Floor, North Wing
Martinez, CA 94553

phone:  (925) 335-1275

fax:  (925) 335-1265


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