PLEASANT HILL BART 
PROPERTY CHARRETTE
RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS
NOVEMBER 28, 2001

1.0     The Charrette Process                          Page 3

2.0     Urban Design                        Page 8

3.0     The Regulating Codes/Architectural Standards                        Page 9

4.0     BART “Station Enhancements”                        Page 13

5.0     Traffic Concerns                        Page 14

6.0     Alternative Mode Concerns                        Page 16

7.0     Infrastructure Issues Including Parking                        Page 18

8.0    Economics                        Page 22

9.0    Project Finance                        Page 24

10.0   Civic Use/Public Amenities                        Page 24

11.0   Housing Concerns                        Page 25

12.0   Development Review/Permitting Concerns                        Page 27

 

 

1.0       The Charrette Process

1.01     The petition requesting the community have the right to vote on the final

           Charrette plan misrepresented the process.

                       – Robert Frederick        

The goal of the Charrette was to be an inclusive community based design program.  Based on the magnitude and diversity of attendance it succeeded in realizing this goal.  The petitions suggestion for a vote is misplaced with respect to the Charrette.  The outcome of the Charrette is determined by those who participated.  The subsequent development review process, which will include opportunities for additional public comment, is an opportunity for individuals and organizations to provide commentary prior to any land use decision being made.

1.02            The Charrette consultants want to help, and we should all be more polite.

                        Comments acknowledged and appreciated.

1.03            How are we doing on the timing schedule presented last time?

The completion of the Charrette, and the subsequent development review process is on the schedule presented during the October 30th Charrette meeting, which is presented below:

Next Steps - Dates are best estimates

§         December 6, 2001, 7:00 pm: Workshop to respond to Questions/concerns, Walnut Creek Civic Park Comm. Ctr, 1375 Civic Dr.

Summary Report

Walnut Creek, California                  Regulating Plan & Codes

§         December 18, 2001: Presentation of Charrette Summary Report to Board of Supervisors

§         January, 2002: Submittal of Preliminary Development Plan (PDP) by developer

§         February-March, 2002: Review Period of PDP

§         April, 2002: CEQA Determination

§         May-June, 2002: Planning Commission Hearings

§         July-August, 2002: Finalize business arrangements Between BART and Redevelopment Agency; Approve Ground Lease

§                     July-August, 2002: Board of Supervisors Hearing/Approval

 

1.04            Can we get a more realistic picture of the plan?

The purpose of the Charrette process is to develop a consensus on a vision.  The level of visualization will be further enhanced as the developer and their architect prepare their development applications.  The level of visual materials currently available for this project (at the concept stage) far exceeds any other project at a comparable stage.

1.05            What changes were made in the plan since the last meeting?

·         In response to concerns for the quality of housing in Block C along the tracks, a non-residential zone was created for the area within 50 feet eet of the tracks.   This zone is clearly marked on the Regulating Plan.

·         In order to mitigate for this loss in residential area, the two corners at Jones and the Park Block Street will allow four story apartments. 

·         In response to concerns for more housing, the townhouses will allow stacked two story units. 

·         In order to maintain the roofline of the townhouses as depicted in the Charrette, dormers are allowed as a means to inhabit the fourth floor (within the 52 foot height limit).

·         In response to interest in a discrete public building on the square, the public building on the Square in Block C is now a separate building

1.06            Where is the “Master Plan?”

The term “Master Plan” is the same as the “Community Plan.”  Future documents will eliminate the term “Master Plan.”

1.07            Can we vote on the process?

            See 1.01 above.

1.08            How can we ensure future uses if we use all the land?

The Code allows flexibility of uses during and after the build out.  It prescribes buildings types that are compatible with one another while allowing a range of uses.  This is the most effective methodology for ensuring the accommodation of future uses.  Furthermore, a fundamental premise of smart growth principles to address current transportation and land use issues, supports the use of the BART property as a mixed-use site.

1.09            Concerns regarding the fast timeline.

The Pleasant Hill BART Station Specific Plan was adopted in 1983.  Initial Development concepts for the BART property emerged in the mid-1980’s.  Subsequent concepts emerged in the mid-1990’s.  An initial community design program was conducted in 1999.  The design Charrette was conducted in 2001. The timeline has not been fast in order to expand community participation and community discussion prior to submittal of a land use application by the developer.  The additional five weeks to accept and respond to these questions is an example of this.

1.10            Why so many disclaimers?

The disclaimers are meant to highlight the fact that the Codes and the Regulating Plan are the final controlling documents of development.  One purpose of the illustrative drawings is to gain agreement on design direction as a basis for the Code writing.  The other purpose is to inspire and direct the quality of the build out.

1.11            Concerns regarding additional questions, and format for future meetings.

The additional meeting of December 6th, and this response document provided one-week in advance is an attempt to be responsive to these concerns.

1.12      The Charrette process, and the plan that was put together is “a first class plan for developing the PHBART (sic) area.”

            The plan was put together by the participants, and reflects a balancing of many interests.  The participants are to be congratulated.

1.13      The six-day February meetings were not conducted as promised.  The April follow-up emphasized esthetics (sic) rather than issues of traffic, parking, economics, and land use.

The Charrette Process was promised to be an interactive, open design session to create a vision for the station area that addressed the concerns and needs of all parties to the greatest extent possible.  Following are selected examples of the process in action.

 

·    The 5-day Charrette provided over 50 hours of open design studio time of the public to stop by, ask questions and review the designs with the consultants.  The door was always open.  Over 500 people chose to stop by. 

·    A total of over 85 hours of open public session were logged during the Charrette prep meetings, the Charrette, and the follow-up meetings to date.

·    During the Charrette the consultants were continually changing the designs and the process itself in response to public input.  In particular, an extra meeting was added on February 26th to review transportation issues.

·    In response to questions about current traffic volumes raised on Friday, the County installed counters in the station area on Monday.

·    In response to the Swim Club issues, ad hoc separate meetings were held with Club members during the Charrette.

1.14      Notification of the October 30th meeting was not adequate, and materials were only selectively distributed prior to the meeting.

Notification of the October 30th meeting was mailed by the County more than two weeks prior.  Staff provided advance notice of the meeting to the Walden leadership well in advance of the meeting.

The materials prepared for the October 30th meeting (the Summary Report, the Regulating Codes, and Architectural Standards) were distributed to over 350 parties one-week prior to the meeting, and were posted on the County’s Planning Website (cocoplans.org).  Walden leadership was aware of this.  In addition, the Newsletter was distributed to over 8,000 households within the vicinity.

Nonetheless, the additional meeting of December 6th is in response to concerns expressed regarding adequacy of time available.

1.15            The process was “stacked against the public.”

Understanding the Regulating Plan & Code’s is challenging, which is why October 30th was a first walk-through explanation.  The best process – fairest to the public -- is just what we have done, give them an opportunity to question its contents as educated reviewers. 

           

1.16      The Charrette outcome was no different than the prior 1999 community design program.

The previous community design program developed 4 alternative design solutions.  The Charrette is an evolving process focused on building a consensus to one design.  There are many differences between to the two.  The interview and selection of the Charrette Design and Technical Teams was opened to include Leadership from the Walden Association.  Prior to the charrette this Team had numerous meetings with all stakeholders.  Input was solicited from the broadest possible group. 

The Charrette design process was open and in a public environment that interested parties could literally look over the design and technical team’s shoulders.  The work in progress and critique sessions were open to the public.  The Technical Analysis was broadened beyond Urban Design Issues to include Traffic, Parking, Non Auto and transportation modes.   Because traffic and congestion are important issues, traffic around the Project was measured to see how it compared to volumes in the EIR.

The participation in the Charrette has been large and by a diversified mix of interested participants.  The results of this and other work have been presented in public sessions, posted on the Web and mailed to participants.  In addition the Charrette Design and Technical Team solicited questions so that interested parties can have any remaining questions answered. 

The process also facilitated discussion and new ideas in the following areas:

·         Swim Club

·         Replacement Parking

·         Local shuttle bus at the PH Station

·         Interaction of Bus / Taxi/ Bicycle/ Car Pool and Pedestrian Modes

·         Bridges Crossing Treat Boulevard

·         Station Improvements

·         Civic improvements and public spaces

·         Liner Building to buffer the parking structures

·         New Urbanist Concepts

·         Architectural Codes and Standards

·         The mix of uses on the project

·         50 “For Sale” Residential Units

This project has many competing elements.  The final design is a synthesis of these elements.  The Charrette was different from previous Community Design Programs, in that it created an environment for these many varied points of view to influence the project.

                                                    2001                             1999 Community

                                                 Charrette                              Design Program

 

                        Office (sq.ft.)       290,000-456,000                                   350,000-650,000

           

                        Residential

                          Rental Units           224-396                                            0-400                                              

                          For-Sale Units             50                              

                        Storefront/

                        Retail (sq.ft.)       42,000 sq.ft.                                           22,000-26,500

                        Civic (sq.ft.)        7,000 sq.ft.                                             30,000-60,000

 

2.0    Urban Design

2.01            Why don’t you put the 7-story building by the tracks?

The urban design concept incorporates the urban design policies of the Pleasant Hill BART Specific Plan by putting the lower height residential uses adjacent to existing residential uses to the east, and the higher office buildings adjacent to the west.  The 7 and 12-story buildings are situated on the property adjacent to the BART tracks.

2.02            Any steps to get rid of pigeons?

                        Pigeons are a problem at many of the BART stations.  BART Maintenance is

scheduled to do some work in December at the Pleasant Hill Station and will

address this concern, among others.

2.03            The tower’s are overdone, and look like a prison?

Station Square was inspired by the California mission tradition wherein towers are placed in association with public squares.  As a pair, they bring attention to the Station, the most public element of the plan. 

2.04            Any thought of 12-story residential instead of office?

The Charrette process resulted in a mix of uses that work together financially to create the amenities required for making a great place at the BART station.  The office component of the project financially supports the overall project more than if it were replaced by residential.  Thus, any decrease in office space on the site reduces the funds available for important place-making amenities such as the local serving retail, green space, and pedestrian friendly streets.

2.05            Emergency Access Plan

       

All buildings, including the Bart Station have at least two points of access for emergency vehicles. 

2.06            Wheelchair ramp requirements should be added.

Access to buildings will be in full compliance with county and Federal standards according to the American Disabilities Act.

2.07     Concerns regarding the elevation change between the office building on Block D and the parking structure/liner buildings on Block E.

               

Form-based codes seek to control only the most important physical attributes of a group of buildings. This often includes their alignment along a street, the disposition of space between them and their overall height. Typically such controls are not expressed as absolutes, but rather as ranges of acceptable values. For example, the Peter Katz presentation showed building heights along a street ranging from 2 to 8 stories.  The ultimate design objectives can vary from seeking an absolutely consistent eave line, requiring nearly uniform building heights to one that “punctuates” a key location with a tower that clearly rises above nearby buildings.

The Charrette plan has several objectives in mind with respect to manipulating building heights.    

 

·         The general disposition of building heights in Pleasant Hill BART Specific Plan moves from taller office buildings along the western part of Treat and Oak Road to much lower scale structures to the east. This gradation takes place over an extremely short horizontal distance, therefore the ability to provide for a gradual tapering of heights is limited.  Block D is directly adjacent to 7-10 story office buildings to the west.

·         Placing the tallest building at the center of the Station Area composition provides the greatest distance on all sides to “buffer” the visual impact of that height. 

·         The Charrette plan wisely chose to treat the building’s height as a positive compositional element. They aligned the building on axis with Station Square so that the entire composition of tower and forecourt would unify the scheme, bridging the divide created by the elevated BART tracks.  The BART tracks act as a significant barrier within the site, therefore a fairly powerful design gesture is needed to overcome their negative impact.

The end result of the Charrette plan is win/win, using what some might see as a negative (the height of a tall building) to mitigate a far greater urban design problem (a divided site).

 

3.0    The Regulating Codes/Architectural Standards

3.01      How will the Regulating Codes be integrated into the Specific Plan and the County General Plan?

The broad policies of the County General Plan and the Pleasant Hill BART Station Area Specific Plan are implemented through the County’s Zoning Ordinance, specifically through the implementation of the County’s Planned-Unit Development (P-1) zoning regulations and the Preliminary/Final Development Plan (site plan, architectural/design, landscaping, and signage review).  The Pleasant Hill BART Station Property Regulating Codes, which articulate a set of design and development standards for the development of the site, will constitute the P-1 zoning regulations and conditions of approval for the Preliminary Development Plan.  Any proposal for a Final Development Plan approval will then have to be consistent with the P-1 zoning – the Regulating Codes.

3.02            Why aren’t the BART improvements subject to the codes?

Like other regional and state agencies such as the University of California, BART is exempt from local land use codes. However, BART intends to work with the County and the private developer to examine a variety of physical improvements, which serve both transit needs and the need to have the station blend in more effectively with any surrounding development.

BART’s exemption from local code has been maintained from the inception of BART for very good reasons, including: The need for low maintenance physical elements that the taxpayer subsidizes the system; the need for interchangeability of elements, given the fact that BART operates almost 40 transit stations and must acquire goods and services according to State Contract Code; and the need for BART to comply with the State Fire Marshall, which oversees all of BART’s operation, not just that at the Pleasant Hill Station.

On the other hand, façade improvements which interface with the rest of the charrette plan should be designed in accordance with the charrette standards, particularly with respect to color and design. BART is currently conducting a comprehensive station study for the Pleasant Hill Station and is examining circulation and access, among other things. This represents an opportunity to accommodate both needed BART improvements and physical improvements to enable the station to better architecturally “fit” with the surrounding charrette plan.

3.03            Why aren’t sound standards in the codes?

Noise mitigation is governed by the County’s General Plan Noise Element, and implementing code and permit requirements.  Inclusion of such requirements in the codes is redundant (see also 5.04, 12.01).  Care has been taken in siting sensitive receptors in close proximity to noise generating activities (see also 11.01).

           

3.04            Is the height limit on Block B 5 stories?

The height limits in the Specific Plan for Block B are between 5 and 7 stories.  The conclusion of the Charrette was that five stories is the appropriate height to comply with the principle of height transition to surrounding development, in this case the residential neighborhood to the east.

3.05            The codes should allow solar panels on the roofs?

                        This can be accommodated.

That said, does anyone feel otherwise?  They aren’t pretty & their payback time is such that they are more of a statement than a % savings (compared with conservation/caulk) but I have no urbanistic problem with them at all.

3.06            Incorporate co-generation into the codes.

The codes address physical design of the structures.  The inclusion of co-generation features is more of an operations/financing issue, i.e., does it make sense given costs/benefits.

3.07            Incorporate energy conservation standards into the codes?

Energy conservation requirements are incorporated into the County Building Codes.  Title 24 requires energy ratings for windows and insulation for both commercial and residential buildings. The project will have to fully comply.

3.08     Incorporate detailed standards for the Station Square and Residential Green in the Codes.

            Standards incorporating specifications for form, and indirectly for use will be incorporated into the Codes.

3.09     The Regulating Plan allows buildings with 100’ of Treat Blvd. on Block B to be 7 stories, while the visuals depict only 4 stories.  Why the difference?  Since the Summary Report suggests 5-10 story buildings are infeasible, why provide for them?

            We have been corrected.  It is 5 stories. 

            The Principals and Regulations document primarily addresses urban design and place making issues.  From this perspective, it is appropriate to consider building for Block B that could be as tall as seven stories/108 feet (see page 18).  Although, based on recent market conditions buildings between five and ten stories are economically infeasible, these conditions could change over time.  By including some flexibility in the regulations, the developer can better respond to market conditions present at the time when building on Block B actually get built without violating the original intent of the plan.

3.10      Concern over the location of a Civic Building on the northeast corner of Oak & Treat – as a Civic use it lacks coding; concern for the health of Oak trees.

            Two options were drawn for this location during the Charrette Follow-up Meetings in April.  These options were in response to programming desires expressed by participants who were pedestrians and would be walking from the Oak Road corridor.  They expressed a desire for security measures via “eyes on the street.”  They are covered on page 55 of the Summary Report.  Option One features an arcade along the building facing the green, Option Two locates a restaurant in the green so as not do disturb the trees.              The Coding for that building has been changed to the more precise Shopfront to foster a retail presence on this part of the property.  This is in pursuit of the “eyes on the street” that keep public places such as this safe.  The building is further constrained to 1 storey, its maximum footprint is as per the Regulating Plan and the County Redevelopment Agency has committed to its construction being dependant on a finding by the County Arborist that the foundation will not damage the existing trees.  The construction of this plan should be an opportunity to improve the situation and long-term health of those trees through soil amendations and other techniques. The County’s tree preservation ordinance would also limit activity within in the drip line of the trees.  An arborist will be retained to review building plans and oversee development to ensure development would not result in impacts to the trees.

3.11      Concern about the Hotel use designated for Blocks A & C, and that such use was never discussed.

            The Specific Plan allows hotel uses within Area 12.  Lodging was discussed as an optional use throughout the Charrette for  Block A and along the square in Block C because it could provide supportive uses that are compatible for the square and the Retail Street, such as retail, and/or much need meeting space.  While a hotel use appears to be infeasible under present market conditions, these conditions could change, therefore the provision of this option is appropriate.

3.12            The concept of a “Town Architect” is not understood.

The Town Architect would be a resource to be used by the developer, the County, and the community in developing and reviewing/approving a final development proposal that would be consistent with the Regulating Codes. The Town Architect would be retained by the County, and paid for by the developer.

                       

3.13      Concern by regarding the codes not specifying design or use standards for civic buildings.

Civic Buildings and Monuments do have greater freedom of expression than the private buildings.  They are however constrained in several ways.  Their maximum footprint and placement is as per the Regulating Plan and the specific design must pass through the project Town Architect on its way to the County.  The Codes are being amended to make these parameters clear.  As has been said frequently throughout the Charrette a) the exact nature of the civic use is not yet defined; and b) civic building’s are “exceptional” buildings that require architectural freedom to accomplish their purpose of creating a sense of place.  Adherence to New Urbanist design philosophies will be provided for.

3.14            How does the code address the top floor of the parking structure?  How do the

                        Architectural Standards treat the top cornice of the parking structure?

The codes direct the resources of the developer to enhancing the streetscape and the relationship of the buildings to the street. There are no aesthetic controls for the view down onto the structure from above – only the economic incentive to the developer.  Prior experience in the Station Area suggest that mitigating this limited visual impact by landscaped trellis’ are problematic due to the intense summer heat.  The Architectural Standards provides for the parking structures to have a cornice in order to “close” the visual composition somewhat, as the eaves of a building do.

3.15            Clarify page 15 of the Code regarding Workplace Building Sites.

Workplace never touches Block B and never goes to more than 4 story’s (with the large exception of the 12 story Block D).  That has been corrected, see also related changes to Shopfront for Block B within 100 feet of Treat Max. Height is 5 storeys/65 feet.

3.16            Formatting concerns regarding pages 7,9,11 & 13 of the Architectural Standards.

The fault lies in the formatting: the final document will be set up as a booklet, printed on 2 sides.  In that arrangement, you would simultaneously see pages 7 and 8.

 

 

4.0    BART “Station Enhancements”

4.01            How is visual coherence between the BART Station enhancements and the private

development achieved, and how are the enhancements to the BART Station to be

financed?

Enhancements to the BART rail station will be accomplished concurrent with the private improvements. The Charrette plan identified a range of options for incorporating the desired enhancement into the overall design program.  So long as enhancements are limited to façade treatments (façade treatments do not trigger State safety code compliance issues), they can be accomplished reasonably cost effectively.  The conceptual plan of finance provides for Redevelopment funds to pay for various Station Area enhancements.  The Station enhancements would be part of he public/private partnership financing arrangement. 

Financing could also come from a variety of outside sources including federal and/or state grant funds designed to facilitate smart growth/transit-oriented development.  All parties will need to be opportunistic and creative in seeking necessary funds.  In addition, as BART completes its comprehensive station plan, needed circulation and access improvements will be designed and fund sources identified (e.g., grant funds). It is anticipated that both the comprehensive station planning effort and charrette effort will result in physical improvements that serve multiple objectives, enabling the County, BART and the private developer to access a greater variety of fund sources to design and implement the improvements.  There is no expectation that BART’s core revenues for operations (fare box revenue, sales tax receipts, and property tax receipts) will be used for Station aesthetic enhancements.

The fact that the BART Station itself is exempt from the Regulations is not only correct, but necessary for BART to maintain and operate a regional transit system. BART’s exemption from local code has been maintained from the inception of BART for very good reasons, including: The need for low maintenance physical elements, given the fact that the taxpayer subsidizes the system; the need for interchangeability of elements, given the fact that BART operates almost 40 transit stations and must acquire goods and services according to State Contract Code; the need for BART to comply with the State Fire Marshall, which oversees all of BART’s operation, not just that at the Pleasant Hill Station.

Having underscored BART’s exemption from any local codes and regulations, BART still intends to work with the County and private developer to assess and implement reasonable modifications to its station. Again, BART has undertaken a comprehensive station planning effort to assess improvements needed at and within the Pleasant Hill station. It is anticipated that these needed improvements will serve multiple objectives and can be implemented in concert with the charrette plan.

 

5.0    Traffic

5.01            What plans are there to mitigate traffic impacts, including traffic concerns at

intersections north of BART Station Area?

The County funded a study to evaluate traffic conditions on all routes to the BART station as part of the 1998 Amendments to the Pleasant Hill BART Station Area Specific Plan.  At the request of the City of Pleasant Hill, the study was managed by the Contra Costa Transportation Authority.  The traffic standards of the affected jurisdictions were used consistent with the requirements of the Measure C-88 Growth Management Program. 

The study included an evaluation of access routes north of the station.  Upgrades to the Treat Boulevard/Bancroft Road area and to Geary Boulevard were identified that would enhance access.  However, these upgrades were not needed to meet adopted traffic standards of the affected jurisdictions.   The City of Walnut Creek is proceeding with upgrades for the full length of Geary Boulevard.  Construction of the first phase is scheduled by the city to begin next year. Widening of Buskirk Avenue and realigning the North Main Street/Oak Park Boulevard intersections were determined to enhance access,  But these upgrades were not needed to meet adopted traffic standards of the affected jurisdictions.  Although funding was identified for these projects, the City of Pleasant Hill elected not to implement them. 

The County’s Environmental Impact Report for the Specific Plan amendments included a commitment to modifications for the Wayne/Oak Road intersection and the Buskirk Avenue/Geraldine Drive area.  That action also included an obligation to work with Concord, Pleasant Hill and Walnut Creek on traffic calming measures in surrounding neighborhoods if needed in the future.

In 2000, the City of Pleasant Hill evaluated access routes north of the BART station as part of their proposed redevelopment project for the Contra Costa Shopping Center.  The city assumed that Buskirk Avenue would be widened to four lanes and that capacity and alignment issues would be addressed when redevelopment plans for the affected properties are submitted.

Currently, the County is cooperating with the City of Concord to upgrade and signalize the Hookston/Bancroft Avenue intersection.  The City of Pleasant Hill is designing a signal coordination project for the North Main Street/Oak Park Boulevard area and construction is scheduled for 2004.

The expected trip generation for the proposed land use plan from the Charrette was compared to the trip generation for the alternatives analyzed in the traffic study.  The number of trips that would be generated would be lower than three of the four alternatives.  Therefore, the findings from the previous traffic study would be applicable for the number trips that would be generated by the land use from the Charrette.

The Specific Plan subsequently focused its transportation measures on enhancing access for buses, pedestrians and bicycles to the area (e.g. the proposed shuttle and the Iron Horse Trail Overcrossing).  The County is also working with BART to improve train service to the Concord and North Concord stations for those patrons that could use these stations as alternatives to the Pleasant Hill station.

5.02     The accessibility of the Station Area to the regional transportation network suggests that more activity should be focused here (smart growth principles).

The underlying principle of the Specific Plan, and the BART property Charrette outcome supports this statement.  A balancing of local and regional interests has been sought, and we believe struck.

5.03            Where is the traffic information that supports the removal of left turn lanes on Jones?

There will be four lanes along Jones Road, with an added turn lane near Treat

Boulevard so that the number of lanes on Jones Road near Treat Boulevard would remain the same.

There will be two lanes in each direction for the length of Jones Road, with left turns into the residential area from the left lane for northbound travel on Jones Road.  Traffic continuing north along Jones Road would be able to pass left-turning vehicles by traveling in the right-hand lane.  During off-peak times, on-street parking will be allowed on Jones since the full two lanes are only needed inbound to the parking structure in the a.m. peak period, and outbound in the evening peak. 

5.04     How are noise impacts addressed?

            The County General Plan contains policies and measures to ensure that the goals outlined in the Noise Element of the General Plan are met.  Policy 11-4 of the General Plan states the new multi-family housing projects, hotels and motels exposed to a DNL of 60 dB or greater have a detailed acoustical analysis describing how the project will provide an interior DNL of 45 dB or less.  A detailed acoustical analysis will be required of this project prior to consideration of the Final Development Plan.  Typical measures to minimize noise impacts of proposed development projects include site planning, architectural layout of buildings, noise barriers and construction modifications.  The construction modifications (use of insulation, double-pane windows, etc.) used to improve the energy efficiency of a building also reduce to interior noise in the building.

 

6.0        Alternative Mode Concerns (Bus, Taxi’s, Bicycle, Pedestrian).

6.01            The impacts by the bus on the quality of the square.

Bus patrons are an essential aspect of the public transportation/alternative mode setting that makes Pleasant Hill BART a transit center.  Their needs have to be accommodated.  Furthermore the viability of retail on the Square is dependent on it being close to transit population.   Bus stops are another way to deliver people to the square.  A bus will stop no more than 5 minutes for loading and unloading, thereby keeping their impacts to a minimum.  All bus layovers will take place remote from the square in the alley next to the tracks.

Station Square is, by design, an area for active use by many people.  It is not an area for passive recreation.  There are other spaces nearby for persons desiring such an experience.  It is expected that Station Square will be programmed to provide opportunities for both opportunistic and planned encounters, i.e., areas for seating and activities will promote human interaction.

6.02     What are the bike parking requirements of the County?  Should the requirement for bicycle parking be part of the codes?

There are no County-wide bicycle parking requirements.  However, the Pleasant Hill BART Station Area Specific Plan does address bicycle parking.  Policy 7 states “Developers shall provide for bicycle transportation, including safe and convenient bicycle storage, paths to the buildings and shower and locker facilities, where appropriate.”  In addition, one of the needs identified from the Charrette process was a bike station near the BART Station.  The bike station will be incorporated into one of the public buildings in the BART Station Area.

6.03            Pedestrian/Bicycle Access to areas west of I-680.

The Specific Plan proposes to upgrade pedestrian and bicycle circulation from the west via Treat Boulevard and Oak Park Boulevard.  Potential upgrades along Treat include enhancing the sidewalk on the freeway overcrossing to buffer pedestrians from the traffic, noise and weather.  Potential upgrades along Oak Park Boulevard include signing and striping bike lanes.  A signage system that would identify pedestrian and bicycle routes between the BART station and destinations west of I-680 is also under consideration.

6.04            Where is the taxi stand?  Kiss and Ride?  Why buses around the square?

The taxi stand, as well as the Kiss and Ride drop-off, has been moved to the north side of the BART platform, in order to avoid competing for curb space with buses.  The County Connection expressed a preference for discreet loading/unloading areas for these two alternative modes.  Taxi and Kiss & Ride users are frequent users and will quickly adjust to any pattern of access and egress.

6.05            Concerns that the pedestrian overcrossings at Oak and Treat are not represented.

The Specific Plan currently requires a pedestrian Overcrossing at Treat and Oak, linking to the BART property, and a pedestrian/bicycle Overcrossing at Treat and the Iron Horse Trail.  A first phase community design program was completed, and the engineering/design team is undertaking additional analysis to be able to complete the design/siting process.  A discussion/decision will have to be made as to whether it is appropriate/necessary to have a second Overcrossing, facility at Treat and Oak.  If the current Specific Plan requirement is sustained, the developer will be required to incorporate a pedestrian bridge landing on the BART side of Treat Blvd.  The visuals created during the latter part of the Charrette attempted to depict the presence of a pedestrian Overcrossing of Treat at Oak.

6.06            Shuttle servicer details?  How will the shuttle work?  How will it be funded?

The shuttle service will be funded by revenues from fee parking at the BART Station.  The 581 temporary parking spaces on the Iron Horse Trail will be replaced with fee parking; all other parking spots will be replaced with free parking unless BART changes its parking policy. 

The economics team preliminarily analyzed the feasibility of replacing the existing 581 temporary parking spaces on the Iron Horse Trail with fee parking in structures located on the site and providing additional funding to support a local shuttle bus. The following assumptions were used in the analysis:  development cost of $12,000 (which is on the low-end), current monthly rates for non-tenants of $160 per space increasing annually at 3%, expenses to maintain the parking spaces at equal to 35% of revenue, 65% of the construction cost paid for through debt financing at 7.00%, an equity requirement of about $2.5 million, a one year construction period, and 5% vacancy and credit loss.  This preliminary analysis suggests a “surplus” of over $200,000 a year to fund a shuttle service. 

 

 

7.0        Infrastructure Issues Including

7.01            What are the plans for Jones Road?  Del Hombre?

The Charrette Plan actually maintains the total land area devoted to the Iron Horse Trail and an easement for future light rail service on the Iron Horse Corridor.  In order to accommodate the new garage entrance, a portion of the trail area is moved northward to just south of Las Juntas.  The plan also recommends a more efficient use of Del Hombre.  When the properties facing the northern end of Del Hombre and Roble Road redevelop, a modified access plan can be created for the Honeytrail area.  This will allow the southern portion of the Del Hombre right-of-way to be converted to Greenspace, as shown in the Charrette Plan.

7.02     Concerns that changing the location to the garage from Jones will significantly change the Plan and therefore needs to be decided before the plan moves forward.

Access to the garage requires further study.  Whether the developer decides to move the entrance location will not significantly effect the development.  This can be accommodated through design.  One option is to access the garage through the block.

BART is initiating a comprehensive station plan to assess, among other things, circulation and access. BART intends to work with both the County and the private developer to comprehensively assess the viability of either shifting the garage entrance from Jones Road or modifying the development footprint to accommodate the existing entrance. In either case, it is anticipated that a final solution will be part of the private developer’s submittal to the County and BART next summer.

7.03            Concerns regarding street widths being reduced from 12’ to 10-11’.

The standard lane width is 12 feet.  However, lane widths of 11 feet or possibly 10 feet may be acceptable, based on the amount of traffic, the speed of travel and the number of large vehicles, such as trucks and buses.  The Caltrans Highway Design Manual defers to the AASHTO “Green Book” or “Policy on Geometric Design of Highways and Streets,”  Chapter V – Local Roads and Streets, Local Urban Streets, for dimensions of local streets and roads.  According to AASHTO, “Street lanes for moving traffic preferably should be at least 3.0m [9’ 10”] wide.  Where feasible they should be 3.3 m wide [10’ 10”], and in industrial areas they should be 3.6m wide [11’ 10”].  Where available or attainable width of right-of-way imposes severe limitations, 2.7 m [8’ 10”] lanes can be used in residential areas, as can 3.3m [10’ 10”] lanes in industrial areas.”  Modern traffic calming practice has a strong preference for narrow lane widths as a tool of slowing motor vehicle traffic and improving pedestrian safety.  Around the BART Station, we have proposed 11’ lanes where buses and high volumes of traffic are present, and 10’ lanes along the quieter residential streets.

7.04     Why does the Summary Report suggest that the BART patron (replacement of permanent and temporary spaces) parking may be sited subject to additional studies?

The Charrette Program included a conceptual level of analysis of the BART parking

Structure expansion.  A parking consultant was employed to be as certain as one can be at this point, nonetheless, the precise and final design/configuration will have to be accomplished before it can be definitively represented that 100% of the replacement program can be accommodated in the expanded BART parking structure.  If it cannot, other parking structures on Blocks A,B, or C would be employed to provide the additional replacement parking (which would be the paid replacement parking for the temporary spaces).

It is not necessary to specifically identify the access location to the garage from Jones Road immediately. Ninety percent of the charrette plan can move forward without stipulating exactly where the garage entrance is to be located from Jones Road. For example, in the event that the garage entrance from Jones Road does not change, the site plan in the vicinity of the entrance can be modified to accommodate this access by shifting the residential/retail development further west.

7.05            Concerns regarding Jones Road realignment.  Where does the Greenspace go?

                        See 7.01 and 7.02 above.

7.06            Are sidewalks needed along the Iron Horse Corridor adjacent to the east side of Jones?

The need for a sidewalk along the side of Jones Road adjacent to the Iron Horse Trail will be evaluated as part of the detailed plans for Jones Road and for the Iron Horse Trail.  It may be that a sidewalk is not needed directly adjacent to the Trail.

7.08            Along the Residential Green 8’ sidewalks are not needed.

The width of sidewalks along the residential green will be evaluated as part of the detailed plans.  It will be important to provide well-designed pedestrian and bicycle access and circulation to and from the site and throughout the site.

7.09            Why is Jones Road north of Treat reduced to two lanes with no median?

                       

There will be two lanes in each direction for the length of Jones Road, with left turns into the residential area from the left lane for northbound travel on Jones Road.  Traffic continuing north along Jones Road would be able to pass left-turning vehicles by traveling in the right-hand lane.  Off-peak parking would need to be prohibited along a portion of Jones Road to allow for vehicles to travel in the right-hand lane when necessary. 

7.10            The current supply of BART parking should be maintained, or increased.

The BART policy of retaining all BART patron spaces as part of a development program is fully complied with (see also 9.01).  The charrette plan calls for replacing all of BART’s surface parking to enable the private development to be constructed. In addition, the 581 temporary spaces are being permanently replaced as part of a paid parking program (see also 8.03).  As part of BART’s strategic planning effort over the past few years, the District has determined that it should emphasize access of all modes, not just the single-occupant automobile.

The debate over whether or not to use BART’s land for additional parking structures rather than mixed-use development has been ongoing since the Specific Plan for the station area was adopted in the mid-1980’s. The fundamental decision that has been faced throughout the debate is whether to build a mixed-use community that is directly served by the core transit system via pedestrian connections and which can effectively connect the transit station to the surrounding community, or to build a large amount of parking capacity which serves a different, more distant community by car. There are pros and cons to both aside of the debate. The prime objective is to provide an attractive environment for those who wish to take advantage of the public transit infrastructure that exists in the Bay Area and to enable employees and residents of the area around the Pleasant Hill station to access the system without needing an automobile. It is, in fact, building your market next to your service, much the way the railroads did during the 1800’s. 

Increasing the amount of parking at the BART station is not only expensive, it will also promote continued development in outlying areas which creates a greater burden on society than development at the station. Development in outlying areas necessitates the need for additional infrastructure (roads, sewers, utilities, etc.) with both a capital and continuing operating cost. Placing development at current infrastructure reduces the sprawl of development. Development in outlying areas results in the demand for automobiles – there simply is no other way to move around. This uses more energy and creates more pollution than development at rail stations. Accessing transit service at the Pleasant Hill BART Station can be through a variety of modes, including bus, carpool, privately subsidized shuttle services, walking, bicycling. Devoting scarce public resources to enable an individual to park an automobile for 12 hours every day versus creating a sustainable, livable community is not a decision elected officials are willing to make.

Lastly it should be noted that there are already 3450 parking spaces at the Pleasant Hill BART Station, the largest number in the entire BART system.  With the additional 581 spaces to replace the Iron Horse Trail removal, there will be a total of  4031 spaces for BART patrons. 

7.11      How will the parking for BART airline customers be handled? Will that parking be taken from the pool of BART parking, the pay-BART parking, or the private businesses?

In preparing for the opening of the San Francisco Airport Extension, BART has been analyzing where “long-term” parking spaces will be provided from a systemwide perspective. Not every BART station will have long-term parking to serve airport patrons. Initially BART has designated 200 spaces at the North Concord Station for long term paid parking to serve those on the Concord line. That station was chosen because it had excess parking spaces that were not being used on a daily basis.  If the program is successful, it could be expanded to other stations, including Pleasant Hill.  However, wherever the long term parking is expanded, BART would make an effort to maintain the existing number of daily use spaces through the use of attendant parking or other means.

 

 

8.0        Economics

8.01        What will the range of rents be?  Price of homes?

The office rents used in the financial analysis for the proposed project range from $3.50 to $3.75 a square foot.  The retail rents range from $1.50 to $2.50 per square foot depending on the size, location, and anticipated use of the proposed retail.  The residential rents for the proposed project range from $1300 to $3200 per month.  For-sale units are underwritten to sell for just under $200 a square foot.

However, the rental and for-sale residential products will not be mixed within buildings.  Therefore, individual lenders may be financing only one type of project, such as a single building of flats.  In addition, the for-sale units will include fee-simple title to the land, i.e., buyers will be able to buy  both the building and the underlying ground as they would in any condominium project.  There will be no ground leases for the for-sale units as these are very difficult to finance.

In determining the rents and prices used for the Charrette, the economics team researched comparables projects both within the local market and at other similar transit oriented locations in the Bay Area.  Although the rents and sales prices used in the financial model reflect market conditions as of February 2001and conditions have changed radically since then, this project will not be built for several years, during which time the market is likely to stabilize and improve. 

       

8.02        Impact of economic changes – Can we fill office?

The market for office space has historically been cyclical.  The current downturn follows a period of very high rents and a very low vacancy rate.  Thus, the current lower rents and higher vacancy rate in the office buildings at the Pleasant Hill BART station are not unexpected.  Moreover, by the time the office for this project is built, the economic picture could be very different yet again.  The financial analysis used in the charrette process considered these nuances of the market and its potential impacts in its determination of the future feasibility of office at the Pleasant Hill BART station.  In addition, according to the Association of Bay Area Governments, Contra Costa County is projected to add approximately 140,000 new jobs over the next 20 years.  A significant proportion of these jobs are expected to be in businesses that will generate demand for office space, and preferably at locations well served by transit.

8.03        Why paid parking?

Presently, the only BART parking that will be for a fee are the spaces that replace the 581 temporary parking spaces currently on the Iron Horse Trail.  The 1481 surface spaces on BART property will continue to be free unless BART changes its parking policy.  The fee parking will support building the replacement for the 581 temporary spaces and a shuttle service for the local area to the BART Station.  Without paid parking, there would be no identified funding source for these parking spaces and the shuttle.  Implementing a shuttle service will encourage people to use and enjoy the Station Area without creating a demand for more parking or increasing neighborhood traffic.  BART policy allows for paid parking for net new permanent parking.

A significant advantage that paid parking allows is a guarantee that BART patrons will be able to find a space at any time of day at the station.  Currently, parking at the station typically fills very early in the morning, with a few spaces reserved for parking after 10:00 a.m.  Patrons who wish to arrive at the station at 8:30 or 9:00 a.m. have no place to park.  Allowing for paid reserved parking or paid midmorning parking will provide new access to the station that currently does not exist.  Such a paid parking program has been extremely popular at the West Oakland BART Station.

8.04            Why so little retail space?

In considering the retail component of the project it is critical to understand that the charrette participants expressed a strong preference for local- rather than regional-serving retail at this site.  Therefore, the retail program was developed based on a conceptual tenanting plan that would include primarily small users, “mom and pop” stores not national chains, and uses that could serve the every day needs of local residents and workers.  While the retail should be high enough quality to become a “destination,” it was not the first goal of this project to have the retail uses be a primary use, but more a secondary use that would serve as an amenity to the residential and office users.

Given these parameters, the retail experts consulted as part of the Charrette process supported the consultants initial conclusions that the amount of retail proposed at the Pleasant Hill BART station reflects the maximum that the market can support in addition to the existing and soon-to-be completed retail near the proposed project.  Adding more retail without enough demand early in the project would result in empty storefronts and a deconcentration of retail that would negatively impact all the retail in the area.  Such a negative impact would challenge the station area’s ability to create the sense of place critical to its long-term viability and success. 

If the station area succeeds in establishing itself as a great place over time, then the market demand for retail would expand.  Such an expansion could lead to more retail in the ground floor of the office buildings as well as other spaces within the station area.  The demand for this second generation of retail may result in the future conversion of office and residential space into retail.  One of the design

goals for the buildings is that they be built with this type of flexibility in mind.

 

 

9.0    Project Finance

9.01      Why/how is the County paying $27 million for the BART patron replacement parking program?  $8 million for public improvements?  $2 million for acquisition of the Swim Club.

BART policy requires 1-1 replacement of all BART patron parking lots on the surface due to development.  The cost of replacing this parking cannot be carried by a project that has the desired mix/intensity of uses.  Prior analysis suggested that politically controversial projects such as the entertainment retail project, an all office project, or a large regional retail center could carry most, if not all, of the replacement parking costs.  In order to complete a project that is consistent with smart growth principles, and fully addresses the obligation to BART and its patrons another public funding source – the County Redevelopment Agency is being utilized.

The general understanding of the Agency for sometime has been its role as a Financer of up to $8 million of public improvements on the BART property.  The revenue sources are Agency tax increment revenues from development on the BART property.  The financial agreements between the parties will specify how those funds get introduced and used.

The $2 million to purchase the Las Juntas Swim Club is to be borrowed by the Agency from the County, and does not involve or affect the BART property.

9.02     What role does revenue play in this area being annexed to the City of Walnut Creek?

The annexation of the area to the City of Walnut Creek will be determined by the highly complex interplay of the City’s ability to cover incremental service costs, the desires of the property owners – residential and commercial, protection of development entitlements, revenue neutrality to the County, and return on investment to the County.  The factor that largely determines the annexation of the residential area surrounding the Station Area is the post Proposition 13 phenomena that residential uses alone do not cover the costs of servicing areas subject to annexation, i.e., most residential areas alone are a financial liability to public agencies today.

10.0   Civic Use/Public Amenities

10.01            Is the Station Square mostly concrete or a green?

Station Square is envisioned as mostly green.  Hard surfaces would be used for walkways and possibly a sitting area.

10.02            A childcare center is not a civic use, rather is a public use?

Agreed.  Civic uses could include educational, cultural, or governmental facilities that will be determined.

10.03            Who will plant trees along Oak Road and Treat Blvd.?

Trees will be planted by the developer on the east side of Oak and on the North side of Treat, according to the Station Area Code.  Trees across the street from the project are shown on the plans as a suggestion for a preferred design.  These trees could be planted through a joint effort by the county and the property owner.

 

 

11.0   Housing Concerns

11.01            Why is housing proposed next to the BART tracks?

In response to concerns for the quality of housing in Block C a non-residential zone was created for the area within 50’ of the tracks.

11.02            Concerns about the size of residential units.

The development program should provide for a diversity of housing, as exists in the Station Area today (see chart below).  Dwelling unit size could range from approximately 450 square feet to over 1,400 square feet (for townhouses).  The percentage of efficiency or studio units would not be very high.  It should be noted that should a senior housing project be an aspect of the BART development, smaller units would be a higher percentage of the total.

 

Summary of Residential Rental Properties* - Pleasant

Hill BART Station Area

Unit Type/Size   No. of Units   % of Total
Studios (475-510 sq.ft.)   162  8.3%
1 bedroom (601-796 sq.ft.)  1,157  59.2%
2 bedroom (850-1,000 sq.ft.)  610   31.2%
3 bedroom (1,150 sq.ft.) 26  1.3%
Total  1,955  100%

*Developments include Bay Landing (360 units); Coggins Square (87 units); Park Regency (892 units); Station Park (106 units); and Treat Commons (510 units).

11.03            How will the provision of 50 for-sale units be assured?

Ultimate disposition of BART property, including any ground lease with Millennium Partners and/or sale of BART land for the cited 50 units, is a BART Board of Directors decision. It is recognized that for-sale residential units on leased ground may not be financially feasible. Thus, BART staff has expressed a willingness to recommend the sale of property to enable the for-sale units to be financed.

As Millennium Partners further defines it’s project for submittal to the County, and, subsequent to environmental certification by the BART Board of Directors, BART staff will request BART Board approval of the terms and conditions of any property disposition. Currently, BART staff has indicated that they will recommend sale of property sufficient to enable the 50 units of for-sale housing to be financed, built and sold. This decision by BART staff, which ultimately must be considered and approved by the BART Board of Directors, has been made due to the community’s strong desire to have some for-sale residential product in the overall charrette plan.

BART staff would prefer to recommend disposition of BART property using a long-term ground lease. In building the BART system, public funds were used to pay for the Pleasant Hill BART Station. Recognizing that the public continues to subsidize BART’s transit operation, and recognizing that the BART station and its service provides a financial benefit to all developers who build next to BART, BART staff believe that one way to secure a financial return from the public investment is to dispose of property using a ground lease; increases in land value due specifically to the provision of BART service can be recaptured through this mechanism over time and returned to support BART’s transit service. Further, a ground lease clearly affords BART the ability to maintain that any use of its property next to a transit station remains transit-oriented. Sale of land provides a one-time financial reward only and it does not assure continued transit-oriented use of the property. It also needs to be clearly understood that the County Redevelopment Agency acquired numerous smaller property lots around the BART station to assemble sufficient ground to enable the private sector to develop what exists today; selling off property to enable for-sale housing to be introduced reverses the County’s action of the mid-1980’s. Finally, there are approximately 2,260             residential units within ¼ of a mile of the Pleasant Hill BART Station, with 88% as rentals and 12% as for-sale. Adding 50 for-sale units (approximately 18% of the minimum residential units – 274) to this mix will not measurably impact this ratio.

Notwithstanding the above, because of the stated desire of charrette participants to see some for-sale residential product in the ultimate Millennium Partners’ plan, BART staff remain committed to recommend the 50 for-sale units to the BART Board of Directors.

                       

11.04    What are the proposed numbers of low-income units that will be built on the BART property?

Consistent with smart growth principles the housing program will include a diversity of housing types, sizes, and affordability levels.  The minimum State Redevelopment Law mandate is that 15% of new units constructed be affordable units for low and moderate-income households.  Most of the primary financing programs for mixed income projects require a minimum 20% of the units be affordable to lower income households.

 

12.0        Development Review/Permitting Concerns

12.01            Will sound of BART be reduced on windows? Buildings?

The County’s General Plan Noise Element will require noise impacts to be abated to adopted standards.  Mitigation measures (which could include insulation and multi-pane glass, among other things) will be determined during the final development plan and building permit stage.

12.02            How do new plans relate to Specific Plan?

The Charrette concept conforms to the Specific Plan in almost all respects.  The following changes to the Specific Plan would be needed to conform the project to the Plan:

·         Modify land use matrix for Areas 11/12 to allow residential without a land use permit (page 22, Figure 6);

·         Modify street setbacks (page 50, Policy 1);

·         Modify property line setbacks (page 51, Policy 1 & 4); and

·         Modify BART Property discussion to modify bridge to reflect north bridge landing at grade (page 63, Paragraph 3 & 4).

12.03            What are the County requirements with respect to street trees?

The Pleasant Hill BART Station Area Specific Plan policy regarding street trees calls for the use of Platanus Acer folia (London Plane Trees) as the primary street tree.  Other tree specimens may be appropriate and are encouraged.  Both the Specific Plan and the Landscape standards call for trees to be planted at a maximum spacing of 30 ft.   

12.04            What is the role of the Pleasant Hill BART Steering Committee?

The Steering Committee’s charge as reaffirmed by the Board of Supervisor’s in August 1997 as follows:

·         That the Pleasant Hill BART Station Area Steering Committee (hereafter “Steering Committee”) is charged with evaluating implementation activities related to the Pleasant Hill BART Station Area Specific Plan, including amendments to the Specific Plan;

·         That the Steering Committee is advisory to the Board of Supervisors;

·         That the Steering Committee is subject to the Ralph M. Brown Act, and the County’s Better Government Ordinance;

·         That the Steering Committee is comprised of nominees of the County of Contra Costa, the Bay Area Rapid Transit District, the City of Concord, the City of Pleasant Hill, the City of Walnut Creek, the Walden District Improvement Association, and the Contra Costa Centre Association;

·         That the Steering Committee seek consensus on matters before it, and, if necessary, apply formal procedures, including motions and votes.  All members of the Steering Committee are voting members; and

·         That a quorum of the Steering Committee consists of 51% of the appointed members, which must include at least one of the County representatives.

The Steering Committee is not part of the land use application review process.

12.05            What are the parking requirements for residential and office uses?

            The Pleasant Hill BART Specific Plan specifies maximum parking ratios as follows:

                        Office              3.3/1,000 sq. ft. of net rentable area

                        Retail               4.5/1,000 sq. ft. of net rentable area

                        Housing            1.5 spaces per dwelling unit (recent projects permitted at 1.35 spaces/dwelling unit.)