The Lone Vote of Dissent

The Mercury News has a short article by the Times’ Theresa Harrington about last night’s vote on the library. Councilman Gary Skrel, right, was the lone vote against the resolution, arguing, according to Harrington’s article, that the City needs to hammer out funding options up front and may need more parking for the future. … Hopefully the rest of the council are acknowledging with their yes votes that new funding strategies have to be a lot better than Measure R. While we support a modest increase in parking fees (now some of the lowest in the greater Bay Area) if needed for the project, any new property tax measure is bound to fail worse than the last. No matter how much folks talk about 61 percent, No on R voters won that battle. … Civic Park is simply not the place for a large parking garage for downtown businesses. A fair amount of people are still unhappy with any kind of expanded structure in the park, even if it’s a library. … To stave off a future parking crunch, the City must focus more on transit and on getting folks to park in the gargantuan Broadway Garage that’s seldom more than half full (or tear it down – monstrous garages just don’t work without attached retail or offices). … The results of the November election show that the design is important, as is community outreach and compromise. It doesn’t matter how long the City plans a library – if it goes to the ballot with a poor design or without reaching out to people it will fail. … One of our aims here is to shine more light on the project as it goes forward. Perhaps Skrel will help drive a resolution on funding options, which should be cemented this summer. …

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Council Approves Bold New Library Plan

Adriel and Gregg, foreground, listen as Friends of the Library advises the council.

The Walnut Creek City Council voted 4-1 last night to move forward with planning for a new downtown library. The proposal voted on last night does not rely on new property taxes, drops plans for an above-ground parking structure, and frees up more green space in Civic Park. … Check out the details on the City’s site. … We’re excited to see our civic advocacy against Measure R and for a library of the future pay off with a dramatically better plan. … Please join us in supporting the state library bond on the June ballot. …

Save Civic Park Position Letter

The City Council is currently meeting on revised proposals for the downtown library. … SaveCivicPark appeared before the council to read the following joint statement, also e-mailed to the mayor last night. … “Dear Councilmembers, We are encouraged with the direction the City is proceeding in planning for a new library, and we urge you to take immediate action on approving design of the project as proposed in recent community meetings. In a Feb. 13 meeting with City Manager Mike Parness, several of us were able to hear about the latest proposals and to give our input. In general we liked the fact that the City has seriously considered concerns about the impact of the library project on Civic Park and the problems inherent in a multi-story parking garage. (Those concerns are clearly overriding among residents who voted against Measure R in November, as evidenced by the recent survey results provided for the City by the Center for Community Opinion.) SaveCivicPark.com founder Adriel Hampton also recently met with representatives from the Library Foundation and Friends of the Library and with a representative of the No on R campaign. … Leading into the Council’s special Feb. 27 meeting on the library, we would like to join numerous community groups in expressing our support for a site plan that uses the existing library and parking footprint at Broadway and Lincoln to increase the size of the library and provide parking for the library and other park facilities. We support a design that includes modest surface and underground parking without a multi-level parking structure in the park. We support the project as laid out recently by City Manger Parness – an approximate 42,000-square-foot library with one level of underground parking and a smaller surface lot. Such a design would allow for an attractive setback from the street, a reduced encroachment into the park that allows for overall park enhancements, and a more reasonable cost of approximately $43.5 million dollars. While reducing the originally proposed parking and modifying the design will shave some $10 million off earlier cost estimates, we do not believe it would be wise to nickel and dime the project by cutting landscaping or other park amenities proposed as part of the library rebuild. … Most of our major concerns about the library project appear to have been removed from consideration: use of general obligation bonds, use of eminent domain on private property within Civic Park, and a multi-level parking structure. We ask that you please ensure that these elements are indeed incised from any approved library plan. … We appreciate the need for a large library to attract private funding and win state bond monies, and are open to limited coffee or concession sales as part of the Friends of the Library store within the new project. We like the plans for multiple library entrances and natural walkways as explained by Mr. Parness. … We hope that planning for the library encompasses the future of this winter’s successful downtown ice rink, and are pleased that the Sunday Farmers’ Market remains a priority for the City. Mr. Parness explained that the market may end up on Locust Street and that its managers are amiable to such a change. We are also happy that the modified proposal will spare more of the trees in the existing surface parking at Broadway and Lincoln. If the final approved plan includes more than 100 parking spots along with the library, we hope that you will consider mandating up to five spaces for a car-sharing program that could be used by city workers and nearby apartment and condominium residents. We also hope that the design will include enhanced service by the downtown shuttle and new signage to encourage more use of the City’s large Broadway Garage. … In summary, we hope to join you in supporting the state library bond on the June ballot; we support the use of parking reserves and modest increases in fees for metered and garage parking should other library construction revenues be needed; and we encourage you to take immediate action in moving forward with design and construction of the new downtown library.” … Signed, Walnut Creek residents: Adriel and Yuki Hampton; Robert and Christine Moore; Stanislaus Banach; Don and Debbie Nicks; Kevin Henry; David and Elizabeth Lingren; Larry Lucks; Richard Oblander; Megan David; Gregg Campbell and Helen Jiang

A New Library: Pros and Cons

Well, with the City’s big library meeting coming up on Monday, it looks like positions are cementing. The Yes on R folks are still yes on the library, the No on R side is still opposed to what the City has in mind. … Hardy Miller, one of the effective spokespeople against R, still feels that the City’s proposal is too big and too costly. No on R is advocating against using long-term debt to finance the library and hopes instead that the City will choose to spend only about $20-23 million on the project. They came out of a recent meeting with City Manager Mike Parness and members of the City Council with their core goals unchanged. … Miller provided us with a copy of his argument that the City needs to hedge its budget for upcoming expenses like Civic Arts programs, police services, Homeland Security efforts, ADA compliance, creek restoration, storm drainage projects and a host of other projected municipal needs. … “We feel the best course of action is not to put all out eggs in one basket by committing $40 or $50 million to replace the downtown library. It is a branch library. Residents in North and East Walnut Creek already have good library services – as does Rossmoor,” Miller told the City. … No on R is also requesting that the City withdraw its request for state bond funds (on the ballot in June). … Unfortunately, while we at SaveCivicPark found Miller and his crew sound allies during the R campaign, we have to disagree at this point. Although we advocated against R based on the inclusion of a multi-level parking garage financed by expensive and unfair general obligation bonds, following a recent meeting of our own with Mike Parness we are unanimously favorable towards the direction the City is heading. We respect the No on R arguments, but feel that committing to long-term debt or use of parking funds to build a new library with modest underground parking is a reasonable request. We wouldn’t tell you to buy a house without financing, and the City has saved up quite a hefty downpayment for library construction. … The City’s position and plans today are quite different from the lipsticked pork project that went on the ballot in November. In fact, back in August we advocated for nearly exactly what the City is looking at today. … By all means, come and be heard at Monday’s meeting, 7:00 p.m. at Los Lomas, and let’s get moving with a new library for downtown Walnut Creek. …

Can hydrogen fuel injectors save Ford?

Westport Innovations Inc. (WPT) and Ford Motor Company (F), both down sharply this year, have announced a project to develop and demonstrate a new fuel injection system for hydrogen-powered vehicles. The companies’ press release talks about bringing hydrogen cars to the market in the “next few years.” That’s the kind of move that might turn the flagging automaker around in the face of competition from Japanese hybrids. …

Can hydrogen fuel injectors save Ford?

Westport Innovations Inc. (WPT) and Ford Motor Company (F), both down sharply this year, have announced a project to develop and demonstrate a new fuel injection system for hydrogen-powered vehicles. The companies’ press release talks about bringing hydrogen cars to the market in the “next few years.” That’s the kind of move that might turn the flagging automaker around in the face of competition from Japanese hybrids. …