Guest Commentary on the Neiman Marcus debate: Rich Carlston explains his top 10 reasons for voting yes on Measure I position

Dear Readers:

I’ve invited representatives on both sides of the Measure I debate to share guest commentaries on CrazyinSuburbia. Measure I essentially asks Walnut Creek voters to say yes or no to allowing a new 92,000-square-foot Neiman Marcus–or another department store–to come to Broadway Plaza.

With these guest commentaries, I wanted to let both sides make their pitches. There’s no doubt that what either side says will provoke comments, questions, and a strong desire to rebut. In part, that is what the message board is for, to comment, question, raise points for or against. But your comments can inspire follow-up questions, and we’ll definitely want those answers before we go to the polls on this issue November 3.

Anyway, here is what Richard Carlston, has to say on why Walnut Creek residents should vote “yes” on Measure I. He is a co-chair of the Yes for Walnut Creek. He is also a longtime Walnut Creek resident, who has been active in community service for more than 25 years, starting first in the youth athletic and scouting programs. More recently, he has been active in the arts, the business community and am now a Parks, Recreation and Open Space commissioner.

I am voting Yes on Measure I for 10 very simple reasons:

1. More jobs. A new downtown anchor retail store means more jobs for the community, both good-paying construction jobs and jobs working in the new store. A “no” vote means no new jobs.

2. Better business environment for local merchants. Our locally owned merchants and restaurants rely on the strength of Broadway Plaza. Neiman Marcus shoppers will patronize our local merchants on Main and Locust streets and our local restaurants. That’s why the local merchants, Downtown Business Association, and the Chamber of Commerce fully support Measure I and Neiman Marcus coming to Broadway Plaza. A “no” vote is a vote against our local merchants and restaurants.

3. More tax revenues. In Walnut Creek, we enjoy a safe community, well-maintained roads, beautiful open space areas, an extensive array of parks and recreation facilities, a wonderful Lesher Center for the Arts, and more – because of our strong retail base. The sales tax revenue from Neiman Marcus will help us maintain our quality of life. What does a “no” vote do for our tax base? A “no” vote means no new sales tax revenues and further cuts in city services.

4. More and better parking. The language of the initiative is clear: Measure I mandates “175 additional spaces for continued self-parking by shoppers.” (Initiative Section 2.(7)) A “no” vote means no new parking.

5. Real downtown traffic and pedestrian safety improvements. A YES vote mandates that Broadway Plaza spend $1 million to improve how our downtown streets and parking work. A “no” vote means these improvements will not happen.

6. A store that fits our community. Broadway Plaza listened: The store will be just two stories tall and half the size of Nordstrom. Measure I restricts the size and the height to what we asked for.

7. Broadway Plaza–a good citizen and neighbor. Broadway Plaza has been part of Walnut Creek since 1951. In those 60 years, Broadway Plaza has helped us in hundreds of ways–supporting Animal Rescue Foundation, the Diablo Regional Arts Association, Wardrobe for Opportunity, the local food banks, the Walnut Creek Library Foundation, our schools, and so many others.

8. This project received no special treatment from City Hall. In fact, Broadway Plaza and the City did significantly more than was required to analyze the environmental impacts and develop appropriate mitigations. The community outreach effort involved dozens of public and community-based meetings and gathered the input of more than 2,000 community members. We can be proud of the process and confident in the results. This is city government as it ought to be.

9. The unwavering support of our community leaders. Measure I is endorsed by people we trust: All 5 of our City Council members, 10 former mayors, all of our city commissioners, and dozens of non-profit, civic and business leaders. We are standing firm in our service and commitment to our community. Read all our names at The opponents? The same three former mayors who hold the distinction of being the only incumbents to be defeated in their re-election bids – and one of the three no longer lives in California.

10. Yes for Walnut Creek, a true grassroots community-based effort. Hundreds of community members – from Rossmoor to the Woodlands, Quail Ridge to Livorna Estates – have not only endorsed Yes on Measure I but are walking their neighborhoods, calling neighbors, and attending meetings to speak in favor of the project. Hundreds of YES yard signs are popping up across the community. These are not hollow claims. The evidence is there for us to see.

Those are the 10 reasons I’m voting Yes on Measure I.

18 thoughts on “Guest Commentary on the Neiman Marcus debate: Rich Carlston explains his top 10 reasons for voting yes on Measure I position

  1. Soccer Mom,
    Thanks for presenting both commentaries.
    The answer is obvious to most Walnut Creek residents. YES on Measure I.
    Bob Brittain


  2. What a Lie. Bob Brittan is a shill for the library crowd.

    This project is totally against the General Plan. It is a Corporatists orgasm.

    Wake up, creeksters.


  3. I didn't support the library (the parking portion and the city council end around) so I am not of the 'library crowd' but I do live near downtown and I am voting Yes on I. Thanks SM for providing a venue that allowed both sides of the issue to be heard. Although my mind has been made up for some time, Mr.Carlston's “10 Reasons” removed any doubt that this is a well thought out change to the General Plan. Mr. Abrams' (Taubman's) argument against was just was not credible.


  4. Walnut Creek has become the laughing stock of the East Bay: $40-something million for a library when there are already several libraries near by. The NM fiasco is so humorous! I mean who cares, build the damn thing. And thirdly, the night life is so dismal considering that there have been articles about the great sexy cougars that are out and about in places like 1515.


  5. MOST people in the East Bay don't really care about WC enough for it to be a laughing-stock. Or notice it. Most people deal with their own often very huge and challenging issues. This has turned into a Huge Deal here, obviously — local radar.


  6. I live in Walnut Creek and I am for ANY store to move in and get the tax revenue flowing as quickly as possible.

    The arguments supporting the push to get Measure I passed are weak.

    #1 The more jobs argument is pretty thin. Anything that opens up downtown will create more jobs. I don't count the construction jobs because they are fleeting. As for the longer term positions, I don't believe there will be a WC resident only rule to fill these positions. Where are the jobs going to? To a place where it doesn't matter anything to WC.

    #2 There is not any data to support the assertion that a NM will bring in new business. In fact, it appears that a NM would actually canibalize business from existing retailers in the area. Nordstroms and Macy's are both large department stores with a lot of overlap with NM. A different kind of retailer would lend itself more for this argument.

    #3 See my position on number 2

    #4 New parking would be part of any retailer moving into this location. A no vote does not mean no parking. Nice try.

    #5 See my position on number 4

    #6 Of course any retailer would be subject to these constraints. It is not a reason to go forward with this retailer.

    #7 I agree with you here. However, would not any retailer going into this space be a part of Broadway Plaza the company?

    #8 Obviously the support and input was not as high as you state. Otherwise, we would not be having this discussion. The handling was poor and inefficient. Regardless, this argument holds no weight here.

    #9 Again, a weak argument for why I should vote yes.

    #10 See number #8 and #10. That is like saying you should buy a car from me because I have a gold tooth. Not a valid argument.

    Here is my top 3 for why we need to vote yes on Measure I:

    1) We cannot afford to be choosy about our tax revenue sources in these difficult times. Things will turn around and we cannot afford the mistake of leaving the frontage space empty. If that space is empty when people start spending, we will lose out on our ability to pay for the stinkin' overpriced library.

    2) The city council needs to move onto other projects and cannot afford to start from scratch with another retailer. We have spent a lot of money to attract NM and get them through the process of breaking ground.

    3) The developer and retailer have been more than accomodating in giving the city what they want and need in order to get into that spot. If we have additional requirements, we should put them forth instead of quabbling about parking…again.


  7. First, let me apologize if this gets posted twice, there was an issue when I first tried to post.
    Did anyone read the article in the Times about Neiman Marcus. The last two paragraphs state:
    “Neiman Marcus…….reported last month its fiscal fourth-quarter loss widened compared with a year earlier…..” “For the quarter that ended Aug. 1, the retailer reported a loss of $165.5 Million…..” “Revenue fell to $768.1 Million from $1.03 Billion last year.”
    Does the City have a firm commitment from Neiman Marcus to build at the site if Measure I passes? How does the loss of earnings and revenue impact Neiman Marcus' plans to build?


  8. The building will be built by Broadway Plaza. Neiman-Marcus has assigned a 20 year lease with Broadwat Plaza with an option to extend it to 100 years.

    Neiman is a privately owned company that is not subject to the same vulnerabilities as a public (stockowner-controlled) company.


  9. Like Bob Brittain, I also support the construction of our new library. And I also support the arts, parks and open space and other worthwhile experiences in our city. When added to our fine police force and well-maintained streets, we are the envy, not the laughing stock, of neighboring communities. Whoever thinks otherwise has not been in a leadership position in one of those cities. Retail sales tax is what makes our Walnut Creek lifestyle possible. Conservative projections based on an economic impact study led to the estimate of $400,000 on an annual basis. I've already voted “yes” on Measure I and hope others will join me!

    Diane Longshore


  10. Let's see – I can read the comments of a paid consultant who lives God knows where or the comments of a local resident…hummmm… this is really hard – I'm voting Yes. If there were any real local opposition they would write their own stuff.


  11. I have lived in WC almost my entire life. I am voting NO on this. Clearly reading the earlier posts this is the same group of people that supported our town OVERSPENDING for a library. Now we are in dire straights financially. This is the same group that supported our City Council that is made up of people who all financed their campaigns with contributions from the developers of Nieman Marcus and other developers in town like Hall Equities.

    The council is in bed with all of these people and ARE NOT FOLLOWING THE GENERAL PLAN AS DEVELOPED. They are making concessions to the developers for this project which even all the supporters claim they will not shop at but will INCREASE traffic. The parking that should be developed for a project this size is not being built… again they spin this in their own way. City will get tax revenue from any store in that space at its current size, again, just a weak argument.

    In summary, I have no vested interest in this project. I just feel it is time that we as citizens stand up to the council who continues to not listen to the residents and IGNORE the general plan. That is afterall why this is to vote, they are ABUSING the guidelines the city established as responsible.



  12. WC,

    It is pretty arrogant of you to use the initials of Walnut Creek as your moniker.

    If your accusations were true, these rascally City Councilmembers would have been thrown out long ago instead of being elected and re-elected with strong majorities. In fact some of the opponents of Measure I were indeed voted out of office.

    The majority of Walnut Creek citizens support Measure I as will be revealed on Nov. 3. I sent in my Yes vote today by absentee ballot.


  13. Deciding gets easier every day – I can side with the anti-intellectual, anti-library forces in town and vote no or side with people who value investment in the community, the richness of literature and the understanding of our complex culture and vote yes. Easy – I'm voting Yes on I.


  14. Library was way overdone. Two of the council members that passed it are no longer on the council (Abrams and Regalia) and Skrel voted against it. So the only two anyone really has a beef with are Cindy Silva and Sue Rainey. Had they been more reasonable and proposed a say, $10 million library instead of $45mil, I think a lot more residents as well as city employees would have accepted it. The old council was arrogant and pushed it thru over a former city manager's objections (Mike Parness) whom they fired over the issue.

    We can argue about the Library all we want, but what's done is done. The only thing WC residents can do about it now is vote out Silva and Rainey. This is about Neiman Marcus, not the library. Focus on that.

    A previous poster stated that NM bringing jobs is poor argument to vote for measure I because jobs will go to non WC residents. I disagree with his/her assessment. Jobs are jobs are jobs, and all job growth helps the overall economy. The economy of WC is not independent of all other communities, they are all intertwined. All job growth is good. Job growth in your own community is better, even if jobs are held by some who live across the city limits.


  15. Anon 10:39. Nice post. I agree with your comments. Did you see all the pros and cons in today's paper regarding the NM issue? I've never seen anything like this before… I mean, Neiman Marcus is really going to save the WC economy and downtown? Fine let's pass this, but something else needs to be done to help downtown small businesses.


  16. Hi Anon 6:18,

    I agree with you that something else needs to be done to help small businesses in WC. That's why I cancelled my Costco card and stopped looking for the absolute best price outside WC. I am shopping here and patronizing local businesses as much as possible.

    For example, after eating at a local Mediterranean spot downtown today, we bought a new bench for our yard at the new Ace Hardware on Mt. Diablo this afternoon. THe staff there are very knowledgeable and helpful. We also shopped at Lunardi's and Trader Joe's today.

    These little things do add up. If we work together and support each other, we will make significant progress toward improving our lot.


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