Okay, those RAMPART people are now embarking on their own signature-gathering campaign to put yet another initiative up to Walnut Creek voters regarding the future of downtown growth–actually the future of Neiman Marcus in Broadway Plaza.
The Contra Costa Times Elisabeth Nardi reports this morning that the initative was filed with the city Wednesday, and is “aimed” at Broadway Plaza, but could effect all development in the downtown core area.
This is the third signature-gathering campaign to hit Walnut Creek in the past few weeks. Or maybe the fourth? The Times says residents “have been asked to sign two basically anti-Neiman referendum petitions.” Huh? I’m confused. But I’m probably not the only one.
Anyway, this newest initiative comes from those RAMPART people. This acronym stands for Residents and Advocates for More Parking and Reduced Traffic. And, according to Nardi, their initiative is, like their name, lengthy. Twenty-one pages. Is anyone going to take the time to read it? They are almost as long-winded as I am!
The initiative is also far reaching:
“It adds language to the city’s general plan and municipal code in several areas; it calls for a vote by the people for any new, or addition, to a retail project at or over 40,000-square feet in the “retail gateway area.” The initiative also mandates that height limits in the retail area can’t change without a vote of the people. Also, physical parking spaces must be built for development at or over 40,000 square feet, according to the initiative; valet or mechanical parking lifts could not be used or considered as new parking.”
Is it just me, or is this whole battle over a department store entering the realm of the absurd, if it hasn’t already? With all these competing initiatives and signature gatherers yelling at shoppers downtown, and vice versa, and a signature gatherer for one of these initiatives even getting arrested last week at the Shadelands farmers market for pushing someone?
One person commenting on an earlier story said, well, at least people in Walnut Creek are getting hot and bothered and feisty about something. Isn’t that kind of exciting? You know, residents becoming all engaged in their community and its development future and all that.
But wouldn’t it be nice if people were getting engaged in their community over an issue that involves something more–ideologically and civically lofty–than a luxury department store?
Does the soul of Walnut Creek really lie in this retail project? Neiman Marcus, er Needless Markup, ha ha ha. A store that, in the national psyche, represents conspicuous consumption? Is this really the issue over which residents and city leaders are going to fight tooth and nail?
Oh, the liberal, socialist, commie, pinko in me is rambling.
I know that supporters of Neiman Marcus coming to Broadway Plaza say that the store will bring in revenue that will allow the city to support those valuable and and more lofty civic-enriching programs we all care about: public safety, arts, recreation. They also say that fighting for this store is really about fighting for the right of city residents to be free to decide their own destiny, free of the outside, big-money influences represented by historically litigious, Michigan-based mall company Taubman.
Neiman Marcus opponents say that they, too, are fighting for the right of Walnut Creek residents to decide their own destiny–to be free of the outside, big money-influences represented by Southern California-based Macerich, which owns Broadway Plaza.
Here’s a thought: Maybe engagement in this battle gives Walnut Creek residents and city and business leaders a chance to believe that they are exercising some control in their small corner of the world–when the rest of the world seems so out of control, so uncertain. We’ve got the recession, and civic unrest in Iran, and two wars, and North Korea threatening world destruction. We’ve got the death of the King of Pop. We’ve got the state budget mess, although this Neiman Marcus battle, with all its competing initiatives, is starting to remind me of the dysfunctional state initiative process that has contributed to our state budget mess.
Something for all of us to ponder, including our city and business leaders. And I’ll stop rambling.