November 28, 2001

TO:       Interested Parties

FROM:  Jim Kennedy, Redevelopment Agency Director

RE:        Pleasant Hill BART Property Charrette – Response to Questions

Dear Friends: 

Here are promised responses to various questions and concerns that Charrette participants raised at the October 30th presentation of design Codes or in subsequent correspondence.

On Thursday, December 6th, from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. there will be another public meeting to address additional questions and hear additional community comments.  It will take place in the Walnut Creek Civic Park Community Center, 1375 Civic Drive (at the corner of North Broadway).  A map showing the meeting location is included.

This meeting will conclude the local meetings associated with the PH BART Station property Charrette process.  The Board of Supervisors/Redevelopment Agency Governing Board will consider acceptance of the Summary Report and related Charrette documents as part of its December 18, 2001 afternoon calendar (1:00 p.m. start time). 

This Charrette is, however, only the first of two steps in land use planning for a transit community on the 18 acres of BART land surrounding the Pleasant Hill Station.  Undertaking the Charrette was the first step.  As most readers already know, a charrette is a unique approach to developing land use policy and design solutions.  It is a means of eliciting the participation and direct involvement of people who have an interest in the overall development of a project, including local citizens, land and business owners, designers, agencies and officials.  It involves several days of intense on-site education, interchange and design work and a final design concept that incorporates the ideas and accommodates the interests of a broad range of participants. 

It is important to remember that a charrette does not supplant the conventional land use planning and approval process.  All of the legally prescribed and long-established procedures and safeguards of the conventional process, including opportunities for public review and comment, remain in place.

The charrette is in addition to and in advance of that conventional process.  It is essentially a creative preliminary planning process for a specific project that enables everyone who has an interest to participate almost from the beginning.  It contrasts sharply with the traditional exclusionary approach in which the developer envisions what is to be done with the land, sketches out the preliminary development plan and then brings it to the governmental authority for approval, an approach that effectively limits public participation to deferred comments on what the developer has already decided.

What a charrette produces is much like a preliminary development plan, but with the benefit of extensive public participation.  In fact, the product of the PH BART Charrette, as set out in the  Regulating Codes, will be the preliminary development plan.

By any measure, the PH BART Charrette has been exceptionally inclusive and intensive, and the Charrette team has been extraordinarily responsive.  Since the process began in January, more than 500 residents, commuters, business owners, station-area employees, community leaders, government officials, and others have spent more than 30 hours in meetings and other Charrette events.   In addition, the doors of the on-site design studio were open for people to drop in for more than 70 hours.  When participants wanted more information, it was provided.  When people wanted to explore special issues, such as traffic impacts, the Iron Horse Trail overcrossing design, and implications for the swim club, the Charrette team provided special breakout sessions.  Charrette leaders made themselves available for individual questions and comments after every meeting, were accessible to participants in the intervals between meetings, and conscientiously endeavored to be responsive.

The second step is the formal land use approval process.   This second step will begin early next year upon submittal of an application for land use approvals by the developer — Millennium Partners.  The basic events that make up this process have already been outlined in recent Charrette material.  They include: the developer’s submission of an application for preliminary development plan (or rezoning); a California Environmental Quality Act determination; County staff review of the preliminary development plan for consistency with legal requirements and adopted policy; hearings on the preliminary development plan/rezoning before the County Planning Commission; Board of Supervisors hearings and determinations.  Later, there will be hearings on the final development plan or FDP for all or portions of the site before the Planning Commission.  The FDP is the time when the precise site plan and architectural detailing is proposed and reviewed.

All interested parties will have opportunities to submit comments to both the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors, and advance notice of the hearings will be sent to all Charrette participants.

Your continued interest and participation is appreciated.