Hilton Homewood Suites Proposal Revives Growth Worries in Pleasant Hill

Today the spectre of another voter growth limitation initiative looms over Pleasant Hill. Now more than ever, residents cherish the low-rise suburban look and feel of Pleasant Hill because it’s more liveable and desirable than more urbanized neighboring cities. Public officials who overlook this fact do so at their own peril.

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The Pleasant Hill City Council will consider a proposed 4-story, 50-ft. tall Hilton Homewood Suites at Ellinwood at its meeting on June 16, 2014.  The city says the project could generate an estimated $450,000 in annual tax revenues to benefit Pleasant Hill. The proposed Hilton Homewood Suites project in Pleasant Hill, California, has generated strong opposition from residents and rekindled community interest in growth control.

The Pleasant Hill City Council meets at 100 Gregory Lane, Pleasant Hill on Monday, June 16, 2014. The meeting begins at 7:30pm.  Plan to arrive early.  The controversy associated with the Hilton-Ellinwood project is likely to draw a big crowd.

Threatened Neighborhoods:  Political Déjà vu

Nearly thirty years ago, a 7-story hotel proposal in Pleasant Hill sparked a political firestorm, changing the course of the city’s history.  Then, as now, residents of this quiet bedroom community strenuously opposed the high-rise, high-density development characteristic of neighboring cities.

To 1980’s residents, the high-rise Hyatt hotel proposal, and the adjacent 84-ft Terraces office building already constructed, signaled transformation of quiet suburbia into an urban commercial center – a trend residents decisively rejected.

hilton-homewood-suites-ellinwoodToday’s Hilton-Ellinwood proposal has revived growth worries among residents who object to the project’s height and its bulky, massive appearance, as well as its traffic, parking, safety and noise impacts.  Critics object to the city’s fast-tracking of the project without adequate review of its impacts and its violation of both the letter and spirit of Pleasant Hill’s building height limit initiative passed by voters nearly 30 years ago.

Initiative to Slow Growth, Preserve Neighborhoods

In 1986 Pleasant Hill residents passed Measure B, a growth-control initiative to limit building height to 2½ stories and a maximum 35 ft.  Measure B was intended to preserve the city’s small-town charm and protect quiet neighborhoods from large-scale development, as well as to maintain the historic balance among different types and intensities of land uses.  The measure did this by restricting the City’s ability to grant General Plan amendments that increase densities or change land use, unless specific conditions are met.

Measure B required the City to “amend the General Plan, the Zoning Ordinances, and City Policies as necessary to conform to the letter, spirit and intent of all [its] provisions.”  While Measure B technically expired in 1996, its provisions have been incorporated into Pleasant Hill’s zoning laws and guide new development.

City Politics and “The Spirit of Measure B”

Following passage of Measure B, the slow-growth constituency elected a series of Councilmembers – including Terri Williamson, Kim Brandt and Mac Mace – who played key roles in shaping Pleasant Hill development, including its low-rise downtown retail district.  In 2010, Measure B co-author and proponent Terri Williamson resigned from the City Council after serving 27 years, leaving the City Council without its strongest controlled-growth supporter and advocate for the first time since Measure B’s passage.

Williamson confirmed by e-mail that the authors of Measure B intended that the height and story limits would apply to all building projects, including those in “planned unit developments” such as that proposed for the Hilton-Ellinwood parcel.  She also said Measure B’s height and story limits were intended to remain in place indefinitely adding,

If [Measure B limits] are seriously violated, it may be time to bring it back to the voters . . . I feel pretty sure it would pass again [since] it got such a high affirmative vote . . . .

Over the years the city has made exceptions to Measure B height limits to conform to the height of adjacent buildings or unique topography.  But the “spirit of Measure B” has been a consistent factor in the city’s land use policies, decisions and, notably, its elections.  Successful City Council candidates must at least pay lip service to the promise to “maintain Pleasant Hill’s small-town charm,” lest they run afoul of residents that steadfastly defend quiet suburbia from rezoning to increase density or change land use.

Developer Gets Profits.  City Gets Tax Revenues.  And Residents Get . . . the Shaft?

William Herrick of Herrick Properties, a Carlsbad-based group of family-owned companies that build and manage California hotels, owns the 2.43 acre parcel at the former site of the one-story Chevy’s restaurant on Ellinwood Drive.  Herrick seeks to rezone the site from retail-business use to a “planned unit district” (PUD), in order to build a hotel that is exempt from the height and density limits established by Measure B.

Specifically, the rezoning would allow the proposed hotel height to be 50 ft. (vs. 35 ft.), 4 stories (vs. 2.5) and have density more than twice allowed by the city’s zoning rules (increase in floor-area ratio from 0.4 to 0.9).  As proposed, the 50 ft. Hilton hotel would be substantially taller than any other building in the area.

Ellinwood homeowners have submitted a petition containing over 100 signatures of residents that oppose the Hilton project due to anticipated adverse impacts on property values and increased noise, crime and traffic.  Pleasant Hill has six hotels, including a Ramada Extended Stay hotel near the proposed Hilton site, which makes an additional hotel unnecessary, residents say.  In addition, homes in the quiet, park-like Ellinwood area are accessed by a two-lane road with no on-street parking, prompting concerns the proposed Hilton would worsen traffic congestion and parking shortages.

When the original concept plan for the Ellinwood Ranch area was developed, there was no consideration of locating a hotel there.  Instead, compatible uses — such as restaurants, which would be conveniently within walking distance for area residents — were envisioned.

Departure from Measure B Growth Limits

The main objection to rezoning is that it represents a fundamental departure from the way Pleasant Hill has handled PUDs since Measure B’s passage in 1986.  Project critics say Council approval of the Hilton rezoning application would be a radical break from the city’s past practice and policy.

Traditionally any deviation from zoning standards – including Measure B’s height limits – was justified based on the unique topography or compatibility with the height of buildings in the immediate area.  Thus far the city’s architectural review and planning commissions have not sought to identify special site characteristics or other factors to justify departure from city zoning rules, nor does the staff report before the City Council do so.

City Council approval of the rezoning request would establish a specific zone with development standards unique to the property.  Following rezoning approval, the developer would submit detailed development plans for final approval by the city’s architectural review and planning commissions.

Growth Limits Have Worked:  The Proof is All Around Us

Today the potential for another voter growth limitation initiative looms over Pleasant Hill.  Now more than ever, residents cherish the low-rise suburban look and feel of Pleasant Hill precisely because it’s more liveable and attractive than that of adjacent cities.  When neighborhoods are threatened anywhere in Pleasant Hill, residents throughout the city feel defensive and their support for protections from unrestrained growth and urbanization increases.

Growth limits didn’t ruin Pleasant Hill, as its opponents argued “back in the day.”  Measure B proved workable, as evidenced by the economic vitality and commercial success of today’s Pleasant Hill.

History has proven that successful development can occur without bending to the will of developers by compromising zoning standards.  And history has also shown that vigorous efforts to preserve and protect neighborhoods boosts Pleasant Hill’s appeal and enhances residential property values.

Do Pleasant Hill residents want a high-rise Hilton, visible from the freeway and towering over its surroundings, serving as its most visible landmark to passersby?  Do Ellinwood residents want their quiet neighborhood devalued and disrupted by a development that is incompatible with the area?  No and no.

 

 

 

 

 

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Michael Chavez Center becomes Monument Impact!

Mike Van Hofwegen - Monument ImpactI am excited to share with you our new agency name: Monument Impact. This name is the culmination of a three year process starting with discussions in 2011 that a year later merged two organizations, the Michael Chavez Center and Monument Community Partnership. The merger made it possible for us to improve in many ways: serving the community, integrating services, collaborating with schools, government and others, and working with residents to identify and address issues that are vital in our community. After months of input – from our board, staff, Taproot Foundation consultants, and most importantly, program participants and community stakeholders – the new name, tagline and logo were selected.

The name Monument Impact reflects both the population we serve and our goal to make a concrete, positive impact in everything we do. Our new tagline – Together, building a stronger community – conveys our vision to work with others in the community to build people up to overcome social and economic barriers and reach their true potential.

Though our name is new, our mission is still the same! We actively engage with the Monument community to provide training and tools in order for people to become economically self- sufficient, healthy and safe, civically engaged, connected to each other, and committed to life-long learning. 

What this means is captured in our new logo: the different colors represent the diversity of our community, the different sizes convey mentoring and training that result in the growth of individuals and the community, and the connection at the bottom symbolizes the strong community base which defines our work.

Why three figures? They represent the three pillars (program areas) that hold together and connect everything we do: economic development, civic engagement, and healthy community. We have learned from our hard working and resilient community members that we can’t be effective in one area without providing support with all three!

Economic Development embraces three programs: day labortechnology and career development. As a result of this work, some people are being trained in specific skills and are getting jobs, others are learning English, and many are crossing the digital divide  to connect with needed resources (and helping their children with homework!). In 2013 more than 500 people received skills training, at least 93 obtained temporary work, and 72 gained permanent employment!

Civic Engagement encompasses the many ways we work closely with community residents and the City of Concord to address issues that impact daily life. This includes everything from education about bedbugs to our youth development “Go Get It!” program. Our staff and volunteers provide free income tax services, support domestic violence and trafficking victims, carry out emergency response training, and facilitate a county wide network for a host of service providers. In all we do, we work with others to build a healthier, stronger Concord! In 2013 we helped 540 local residents to complete income tax returns and also provided tutoring, support and leadership development for 25 high school students working to make college part of their future!

Our Healthy Community program has been especially rewarding. Our approach is to “train the trainer” who then serves in the community as a resource. They work with schools, apartment complexes, and other community partners to provide nutrition and cooking classes, physical exercise opportunities such as walking and Zumba, and a community Health Fair that in 2013 served over 1,100 people! Families are getting healthier, especially as they learn about the risks of obesity and diabetes.

Last year we also collaborated with the San Francisco Giants to launch a Junior Giantsbaseball league for 150 Monument Community children ages 8-10! The Giants contributed the equipment but our staff gave many extra hours of their time to organize and manage the program. We are planning to continue this program again this year.

We are committed to providing the highest quality programs in the most cost effective way while diligently pursuing a broad base of support from government, businesses, foundations and faith based groups. But a major portion of our funding does come from generous supporters like you who care and invest in the work we do.

Right now our greatest financial need is for our Healthy Community Program, including Junior Giants. In June, a large grant we’ve relied on for the past three years will conclude.

I am asking for your help to continue this very important work. We need to raise a total of $30,000 to sustain this program through 2014.
Please consider making a donation today that will benefit many families who live and work in Concord. You truly can make a difference ….. Click on the Donation button now and together, we can build a stronger community!

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K-12 Schools Must Improve to Help East Bay Economy Stay Competitive

Last month Contra Costa County Supervisors were briefed on the region’s future job outlook by representatives from the Contra Costa Community College Districtthe county’s Workforce Development Board and the Contra Costa Council. These groups work with leaders from local industry to develop job training programs to meet employer needs. The discussion focused on job growth in the context of developing Contra Costa’s 75 miles of northern shoreline and its harbors between Richmond and Oakley.

Continue reading “K-12 Schools Must Improve to Help East Bay Economy Stay Competitive”

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DeSaulnier proposes making ABAG a commission with elected board members

State Senator Mark DeSaulnier today touted SB 1149, which, among other things, creates a directly elected Bay Area Regional Commission to replace ABAG/MTC that operates under a joint powers agreement that appoints 25 board members. In effect the move from a decentralized unaccountable agency to a centralized body with elected politicians could produce its own pluses and minuses. Continue reading “DeSaulnier proposes making ABAG a commission with elected board members”

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Rep Garamendi (CA-10) holds district Town Halls, Feb 16-19

Rep John Garamendi to hold district town halls in Concord (2/16), Moraga (2/17), Suisin City (2/18), and El Cerrito (2/19)

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Congressman Garamendi, Northern California’s only representative on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, will be available for dialogue on job creation, economic development, health care, transportation, or any other topics that interest his constituents.

– Tuesday, February 16 in Concord at the Plumbers and Steamfitters Hall (935 Detroit Ave.). The town hall will run from 6-7:30 pm.

– Wednesday, February 17 in Moraga at St. Mary’s College’s Soda Activity Center (1928 St. Mary’s Road). The town hall will run from 6-7:30 pm.

– Thursday, February 18 in Suisun City at the Suisun City Hall (701 Civic Center Blvd.). The town hall will run from 6-7:30 pm.

– Friday, February 19 in El Cerrito at El Cerrito City Hall (10890 San Pablo Ave.). The town hall will run from 6-7:30 pm.

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ACORN attacks Pittsburg Port

The radical communist group, ACORN, has invaded Pittsburg with plans to disrupt that city’s efforts to revitalize its Port area. It’s flyer describes worse case scenario scare tactics as it plans a kangaroo court organizational meeting on February 18, at 7:00 p.m., at the Pittsburg Elk Club on 200 Marina Blvd.

The flyer screams about potential apocalypse as Pittsburg responsibly exercises its right to work cooperatively with regional government, community, and business to create jobs and much needed revenue. As if Pittsburg is not aware of successful Port models and eager to build viable environmental and community safeguards.

che-guevaraUnfortunately, all ACORN can ever do is offer propaganda, manipulated communities, raised fists, a waving red flag, and the smell of gasoline.

The good citizens should speak the truth at this meeting and let ACORN know they are a mean, ignorant, and disruptive group. Then Pittsburg should demonstrate en masse at ACORN’s headquarters in Concord, located at 2401 Stanwell Drive #320, cause turn about is fairplay. Light up THEIR phone 925-689-1001 and tell them what you think about outside agitators and their destructive agendas that our communities cannot afford.

ACORN Pittsburg Port Flyer (02072009)


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