LENNERTZ COYLE & ASSOCIATES
Urban Designers & Town Planners
321 SW 4th Ave. Portland, Oregon 97204
503.228.9240 Fax 503.228.2010

Memorandum

DATE:             February 16, 2001
TO:                  Jim Kennedy, Contra Costa County
FROM:            Bill Lennertz, Jeff Thierfelder
PROJECT:       Pleasant Hill BART Station Master Plan
RE:                  Public Comments at the Kick-off Meeting

The following is a summary of the public comments that were received at the project kick-off meeting on January 16th, 2001.


SCALE OF BUILDINGS
There was strong sentiment that the area around the BART station should provide a sense of place; that it shouldn’t look like “Anywhere, USA.”  Residents recommended that the blocks be small and walkable, and that buildings should front on streets not parking lots.  The architecture should have variety, but be made to look compatible and complementary.

There was strong support for some kind of village center or town square where residents could gather together for events and feel part of a community.  As one mentioned, “somewhere to meet you neighbors.” 

Most felt that buildings should be “human-scaled,” that high-rise buildings should be avoided when possible.  If towers were located on the site, they should be clustered close to the station, with buildings stepping down toward the perimeter of the site.  One person mentioned a desire to see parks on top of tall buildings.

Some people felt that connections from the buildings directly to the station level, with platform improvements and connections to the parking structures, would be a good idea.


PROGRAMMING
Generally, participants felt that the station area should contain mostly local serving uses and should not become a regional destination.  They encouraged a mixture of uses (similar to downtown Walnut Creek) that would generate activities throughout the day and night.  This mixing could occur via vertical mixed-use buildings (two or more uses in the same building) or through a horizontal mixing of uses (single use buildings in close proximity to other single use buildings of a different sort).

Many people felt strongly that the station area needed a community center or public space that could be used for community events.  It was felt that the area needed an “easy place to identify and meet.”  This could either be a community building structure or an open public plaza or square.  Other ideas for public uses included:  a concert hall, a community theater, a library, a post office, a new swim club/exercise facility, small science observatory, a fountain, a bowling alley, a playground (with a dog park), and a roller rink.

Certain commercial uses were also seen as desirable.  Participants encouraged small retail shops such as coffee shops, book stores, bike shops, dry cleaners, florists: uses that would appeal to locals and not generate large quantities of additional traffic.  Other suggested commercial uses included a grocery store, a bank (with ATM machines), restaurants, delis, bakeries, a daycare center, and a clinic.  Also, there was a need expressed for local serving, affordable office space.

Housing was another suggested use in the area.  Some participants expressed the desire to see some affordable housing near the station.  Others wanted to see the inclusion of senior facilities, with housing and meeting space. 


TRAFFIC & PARKING
Parking, not surprisingly, turned out to be a major source of discussion.  Many felt that however the parking is handled, it not be a “dead place” as it is currently perceived.  There were conflicting opinions about whether there is currently enough parking at the station or not.  Some felt more should be added, others felt there was already too much.  Many requested the addition of more structured and secure parking as part of the project, including, if possible, space for other nearby uses that need more parking.  Several participants expressed concern about the short-term availability of parking during the construction phase of the project.  One participant expressed the view that since the FHWA funded the on-site parking structure, it cannot be restricted solely to BART patrons and should be open to all.

Public transit was also part of the parking discussion.  Participants encouraged the consultant team to think about how to promote increased use of the current public transit system to alleviate the parking demand.  Some ideas expressed included the creation of off-site parking structures (conversions of the old Montgomery-Wards shopping center and the old Co-op building, for example) that would provide free parking for BART riders.  These would be connected to the station via free shuttle buses.  This program would be in conjunction with charging patrons for parking on-site, thus rewarding those who were willing to take the shuttle bus.  Many supported the idea of charging for on-site parking at the station as a way to encourage more BART patrons to arrive by bus or via carpool.

Perhaps the largest concern among participants was the fear that the new development would increase the load on already congestion streets in the area.  There were many general comments that encouraged the consultant team to look holistically at the regional transportation system, in particular traffic flow from Bancroft to Mayhew to the Las Juntas Freeway.  Most felt that we should encourage non-residents to use the arterials, leaving the local roads less congested.  Others complained that there are too many dead-end streets, and the connectivity is important.  Of particular concern was the impact of new development on Treat Boulevard, which many described as “very congested” and a “neighborhood divider.”  People mentioned that the intersections at Treat Boulevard and Oak Street and at Treat Boulevard and I-680 are particularly bad.  Several mentioned that it’s impossible to merge left and avoid being forced onto I-680 when turning right from Oak Street onto Treat Boulevard.  Many people had suggestions and comments about Jones Road:  some felt that it should connect to Treat Boulevard, others felt that Jones Road south of Treat Boulevard should be realigned.  A few complained that traffic backs up (along Jones Road) waiting for pedestrians to cross.  One participant felt that the intersection where the BART tracks cross Jones Road is “deadly” and should be examined.

Pedestrian access and movement around the area was another source of concern.  Many participants felt that the interaction between pedestrians and traffic is currently very poor.  They complained that the bus lanes are difficult to walk over, and that Oak Street is too wide for pedestrians.  They encouraged us to think about pedestrian connections to the surrounding neighborhoods, and the make the walk into the station safe, interesting and convenient.


SAFETY
Citizens hoped that the new development would provide enough activity and “eyes on the street” that the area around the station would be safe and have low crime rates.  Many complained that it is currently a nighttime wasteland.  They wanted to make sure that all modes of transportation are accommodated in a safe way, including bicycling and walking.

Some citizens worried that the development might increase the crime rate my bringing in more people from other areas.  In particular, at least one participant worried that thieves might ride BART to enter the area and burglarize local residences.


ALTERNATIVES TO THE CAR
Many participants reiterated the theme that alternatives to the automobile should be encouraged and emphasized on the site.  Many ideas on how to do this were volunteered, including:   increased educational efforts, incentives for public transit use, more frequent late night bus service, airport shuttles, a light rail system as a complement to BART, better bike/pedestrian connections to the site, and improved bike facilities.  Current bike and pedestrian connections to the site were seen as poor and unpleasant.

In addition to increasing transit and bike use, many participants mentioned the idea of making the connections to the station walkable and interesting, encouraging pedestrian activity as much as possible.  They wanted to see a clear, safe route through the area that connects nearby housing, retail, and office uses with the station and parking garages.  Recommended physical upgrades included softer trails (not concrete), better lighting (white not yellow), handicapped accessible sidewalks and pedestrian bridges, intersection improvements on Treat Boulevard and other dangerous crossing areas, bridge or tunnel access across the 1-608 Freeway toward North Main and across Treat at Jones and Oak.

Some favored the idea of bicycle access separated from automobile traffic and pedestrian areas, with dedicated bicycle lanes on Treat Boulevard and Oak Street.

Many comments mentioned that idea of linkages to other existing transit systems, including connecting to neighboring communities in Walnut Creek, Concord, and Pleasant Hill, as well as surrounding residential areas.


IRON HORSE TRAIL
Most participants in the meeting felt that the Iron Horse Trail should be integrated into the project in some manner, consistent with the Regional Trail System (ex. Colony Park).  They wanted to see many uses connected by the trail (eg. Swim club, buses, BART, hotel, fitness center, etc.).  One idea was for a possible respite area along the East side of the Trail just North of Treat Boulevard that could be named for Del Hambre.  Other ideas to incorporate included a community garden and an integration of the proposed pedestrian/bike overpass over Treat Boulevard.

NATURAL ENVIRONMENT
Some residents had strong sentiments about how the natural environment should be addressed.  Of most concern was the safety of the large Oak trees on the corner of Oak and Treat Boulevard, as well as the preservation of views of Mount Diablo to the West.  Some were concerned that development on the East side of the project would block the views of those on the West side.

Many people were excited about the idea of increased public open space and parks, but some participants worried about the timing issues involved with implementing “green space” along the trail.

Other suggestions included attempting to mitigate the strong winds that come from the Southwest and blocking the freeway noise from the adjacent I-680 freeway.  Eventually, in twenty years or so, one participant wanted to see the neighborhood generating some of its own electric power.


COMMUNITY QUESTIONS & CONCERNS
Below are the questions and concerns we heard about the process and other miscellaneous items related to the project:

- How do we keep “New Urbanism” from creating a stereotypical image of an urban area and contributing to the sameness of America?

- I am very concerned about Bill saying “we solved this by bringing the buildings to the street.”

- Will the green space be built according to the Specific Plan?

- How will this development affect the surrounding property values?

- People are not familiar with what is already planned for the development South of Treat Blvd off the BART Station site.

- For future on-site meetings:  It is too dark to walk at night to meetings from the site and the walk from the station to the meeting is circuitous.

- Construction for the project should be done through a labor agreement with Contra Costa Building Traders.

 

Appendix:  Verbatim Comments


BUILT FORMS:
Human scale, sense of neighborhood & community

“Make it look like California, not Anywhere, USA”

Local serving uses, not a regional destination

Smaller blocks, walkable with mixture of uses (downtown Walnut Creek)

Building frontage on streets, not parking

Horizontal and vertical mix of uses to generate activities throughout the day and night

Village center, gathering place, town square feel

Higher activities closer to the station and parking further out, up to 1/4 mi.

Architectural variety, but with aesthetics that blend together buildings with character

No more high-rises

Tallest buildings West of the station lower buildings on East side

Roof top parks, elevated open space


PROGRAMMING:
Community center, gathering space, with meeting room facilities

Swim club/exercise facility, there are no close substitutes to losing the current club

Affordable housing near the station

Affordable office space

Bank/ATM

Small retail such as coffee shops, book stores, post office, bike shop, dry cleaner, florist

appeal to locals so we do not end up with more traffic

Grocery store

Restaurants, cafes, delis, bakery, serving local office space, close to BART

Day care, playground, small science observatory, and other services/spaces for kids

Dog park

Library

Concert hall, community theater

Smaller art-house independent theater, no cinema multiplex

A fountain, easy place to identify & meet (Walnut Creek example)

Senior facilities, housing/meeting space

Bowling ally or roller rink, some physical or social aspects

Healthcare component

Pleasant Hill redevelopment connect to Old Wards shopping center (North off map) and old Co-op building (West off map across freeway)

Hotel/motel is not a viable use for the property on the Northeast corner of Jones & Treat (demise of Amerisuites)


TRAFFIC & PARKING:
Provide parking that is not a “dead place”

Conflicting opinions regarding parking availability, majority requested adding more

More levels or entire buildings of structured/security parking

Parking demands of BART are not being met

Provide off-site BART parking, shuttle drivers onto site

Encourage using public transportation

Parking fees, carpool/vanpool preferences

Other nearby parking uses want access to BART lots

Traffic is congested on Treat Blvd, it’s a neighborhood divider but a necessary artery

Bad intersection at Treat & Oak, and Treat & I-680

Its impossible to merge left and avoid being forced onto I-680 North

Connect Jones Road to Treat Blvd

Pedestrians and traffic interacting

Bus lanes are too difficult to walk over

Oak Street is too wide for pedestrians

Traffic backs up (along Jones) waiting for pedestrians

Deadly intersection at BART tracks and Jones

Consider wide-spread traffic impacts from the design

Traffic flow from Bancroft—Mayhew—Las Juntas freeway

Clear local roads, keep non-residents on the main arteries

Jones Road between Oak and Treat Blvd

Too many dead-end streets

Realignment of Jones Road, South of Treat Blvd.

Concerns about what parking would be available during construction

FHWA funded on site parking structure, it cannot be restricted to BART patrons only or be used to meet local parking zone requirements

 

BART STATION CHARACTER:
Create a place to meet neighbors, not a nighttime wasteland, add uses across the tracks from the station, perhaps build on top

Improve the platform, longer length, connection from parking structure levels

Provide lockers for luggage, lockers and/or parking for bicycles, scooters

 

COMMUNITY SAFETY:
Must feel safe walking and bicycling

May increase crime, especially from Monument

Thieves brought via BART to local residential houses

20 year vision, secure with low crime, safe area

 

PUBLIC TRANSIT:
Provide Incentives for public transit, alternatives to park & ride for to BART

Ridership education needed

BART Station serves as anchor for transit connections through the area

Link station with nearby residential

More frequent late night bus service

Airport shuttles

Connect to neighboring communities, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill downtown

Light rail

Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill, & Concord to feed the BART system

Alleviate traffic on Treat Blvd

 

PEDESTRIANS & BICYCLES:
Make access to Pleasant Hill BART pedestrian friendly with a walkable community, provide “town square” feel.

Bike/pedestrian circulation is currently disconnected, unpleasant

Make a clear, safe route through the area, connect nearby housing and retail

Better lighting, white not yellow

Softer trails, not concrete

Handicap access sidewalks

Improve the dangerous intersections on Treat Blvd

Bridge or tunnel at Oak and at Jones, the bridge idea was more favored

Bridge or tunnel across freeway towards N Main

Other dangerous areas crossing Jones, especially at the Northeast site corner

Improve bicycle facilities, trails and parking

Bike access not in traffic or pedestrian area, bike lanes on Treat and Oak

Any overhead bridges should be level enough for a handicap bike to make it up and over


IRON HORSE TRAIL:
Continue and integrate the Iron Horse Trail through the site in a manner consistent with the Regional Trail system (ex:  Colony Park).  The Regional Trail connects swim club, buses, BART, hotel, fitness center, and historic buildings along side.

Improve the intersection between the trail and Treat Blvd (underpass or bridge)

Provide a respite area along the East side, just North of Treat (named for Del Hambre)

Possible community garden space

 

ENVIRONMENT:
20 year vision, deciduous shade trees, no palms, native and drought resistant, flowers, shrubs, park benches, bike parking, bike trails, human scale

Timing of green space implementation along trail

Improve the open and green spaces, but preserve the existing Oak trees, especially at the edges (Southwest corner of site, Northwest corner of site and the last open space along BART Tracks in the Northeast corner of site)

Save the beautiful view of Mt. Diablo from the BART Station tracks

Provide more views, not the East side blocking West side views

20 year vision, neighborhood generates some of its own electric power

Block the Southwest wind, it is too windy

Buffer the noise level of I-680 and the traffic through the site

 

COMMUNITY QUESTIONS & CONCERNS:
How to keep “new urbanism” from creating a stereotypical image of an urban area and contributing to the sameness of America?

I am very concerned about Bill saying “we solved this by bringing the buildings to the street.”

Will the green space be built to specific plan?

How will this development affect property values?

People are not familiar with what is already planned for the development South of Treat Blvd off the BART Station site.

For future on-site meetings:  It is too dark to walk at night to meeting from site and the walk from station to meeting was circuitous.

Project labor agreement with Contra Costa Building Traders for construction

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