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MEMORANDUM ITEM 18


Date: November 14, 2006

To: Mayor and Council Members

From: Howard Sword, Community Development Director

Subject: Status Report on City Actions for Downtown


Informational Item

At its last meeting, the Council requested a report of various City actions and efforts to support the Downtown and to implement the Downtown Specific Plan. Implementation of the Plan’s goals, objectives and strategies is multi-faceted and complex, requiring effort on many fronts simultaneously. The responsibility for making this happen does not fall solely on the shoulders of the private development community, the City or the Redevelopment Agency, but rather is a joint effort working together. Where they can, the City and Agency intend to play a major role in transforming Downtown to achieve the community’s long-term goals outlined in the Specific Plan.

The actions the City and Agency will take fall into four categories: 1) create the City’s civic center to support our community and activities; 2) install capital improvements that will “set the stage” for the Downtown; 3) develop property that is City-controlled; and 4) promote and market the Downtown. The following list highlights several specific actions as well as describes general, ongoing efforts by the City and Agency.

1. The Downtown Specific Plan was approved by the Council in November 2005.

2. In December 2005, the Council approved a Downtown Action Plan which is reviewed and discussed at a quarterly meeting among staff members, and led by the City Manager, in an effort to keep actions timely and coordinated.

3. Downtown 2010 community workshops held in summer 2006 provided the City Council and staff with feedback about the citizens’ desire for civic buildings around the City Park. The decisions made by the community will be memorialized as an amendment to the Downtown Specific Plan (see attached Executive Summary of the Downtown 2010 program).

4. Directional signs will be installed throughout the City at strategic, arterial locations over the next couple of months, funded by the Redevelopment Agency.

5. City staff is currently addressing short-term parking strategies, issues and perceptions. Downtown Brentwood Parking Study of 2005 confirmed that most parking problems for Downtown are currently due to “poor parking utilization and infrequent turnover” stemming from Downtown employees parking in prime locations. The study and Specific Plan found that blocks not fronting First and Oak Streets “have sufficient available parking supply, but drivers opt not to park at those locations to walk to their destinations.” The 2005 Parking Study confirmed that any given time in the Downtown during weekdays, there are 110 to 200 available parking spaces within 1 to 2 blocks of the corner of First and Oak Streets (see attached Downtown Parking Utilization Map). However, it also concluded that future parking demand to support an entertainment or major retail anchor will be significantly underserved. Based on these findings, the Downtown Specific Plan included short-term and long-term parking strategies, which are also identified in the Council-approved Downtown Action Plan:

a. Short-term parking strategies are intended to maximize the existing parking opportunities:
 Better signage.
 Parking education program.
 Employer parking permits.
 Increased parking fines.
 Installation of angled parking in strategic areas (completed).
 New surface parking lot at old police department building at 100 Chestnut Street.

b. Current activities to implement short-term parking strategies include:
 City Council approved a new project, funded by the Redevelopment Agency, to install a 33-space, surface parking lot at the old police department building at 100 Chestnut Street to encourage employee parking away from First Street, thereby providing customers with prime parking stalls. The existing communication tower is being relocated from the old police building. The project is out to bid and expected completion is early 2007.

 City staff met with the Downtown Brentwood Merchants Association (DBMA) in early September regarding a variety of issues, primarily parking issues. This meeting was part of the City’s actions to commence a parking education program in the Downtown. The following actions have been taken by the City staff to respond to the DBMA concerns:

• Signs restricting parking to “Authorized Personnel Only” were removed from 100 Chestnut Street. Parking spot assignments were removed from 100 Chestnut. This was done to encourage employee parking at 100 Chestnut while bids are still out.
• Additional parking permits were issued to Brentwood Press and other Downtown employees.
• At certain on-street locations, 2-hour parking signs on Downtown Streets have been revised to remove “except by permit”. This will keep Downtown employees from taking prime customer parking spots.
• City’s Engineering and Building Inspection and pool vehicles have been removed from parking lot on 2nd Street to make more available parking for Downtown customers and employees.
• Employee parking permit issuance, which is typically driven by a merchant and requested once at the commencement of their business, will become a City-driven, annual issuance in an effort to better serve the growing needs of each business.

• DBMA requested stiffer parking fines. City staff is sensitive to their request, but increased parking fines may be a disincentive to customers. PD is researching the legality of a “serial” ticketing program, where one vehicle can receive more than 1 ticket per day. This will discourage the situation where employers are paying their parking fines on behalf of their employees.
• Install directional signs to municipal parking lots by the end of the year.
• As a way to self-police, DBMA will encourage Downtown employers to require their employees to park in municipal parking lots.

 DBMA also wants to host more on-street events and festivals. City staff encouraged them to develop their ideas, and we’d work with them to address police and traffic issues.

c. The original 2005 parking study and the Downtown Specific Plan were based on a future 8-screen theater or major retailer. The recommended long-term strategies included: 1) incremental increase of in-lieu parking fees and 2) a multi-storied parking structure. The Specific Plan states: “The City will expand parking supply, including investing in the development of a parking structure, to accommodate future demand for parking in excess of what can be accommodated on-street and in surface lots” and “. . .. to address significant parking needs required by an entertainment or large-scale retail anchor . . .”

The Downtown 2010 community workshops held in the summer 2006 provided the City with a clearer understanding of the community’s vision of private and civic uses circling the City Park. An updated parking study was commissioned based on the input received from 2010 community workshops, and based on the elimination of an 8-screen theater anchor and the addition of future significant development of retail and restaurant uses. The conclusions re-affirmed the original study conclusions that there exists a surplus of parking for today’s existing uses, but an inadequate parking supply to support future demands associated with significant development. To accommodate future demands, the original long-term parking strategies were re-affirmed. As it relates to a future potential parking structure:

 The original reserve of $4,000,000 from the Agency’s 2001 bond proceeds for a possible parking structure in the Downtown was re-allocated by the Council/Agency for other important community projects. These other projects include, but are not limited to, Walnut Boulevard widening, police facility, extension of O’Hara Street, Lone Oak improvements, under-grounding utilities on Brentwood Boulevard, surface parking lot at 100 Chestnut Street, Downtown infrastructure, community playhouse and specific plan costs. Less than $100,000 remains from this bond.
 The cost of a multi-story parking structure with no retail on the first floor is estimated at $10M, which can be supported in the next Redevelopment Agency bond issuance (see No. 12 below).
 The next step is to select a preferred site for parking solutions. This is necessary to reserve a place in the Downtown for future parking demands.
6. Downtown merchant and landowner incentives that are available now as authorized by the Downtown Specific Plan and that are currently being developed by staff to be brought to the Council and Agency for consideration include:

a. No parking requirements or payment of an in-lieu parking fee is required for existing buildings, regardless of change of occupancy. Parking requirements and in-lieu fees are necessary only for new development or expansions of existing buildings. This can translate in a significant savings of city fees.
b. The parking in-lieu fee was established by Council in 2003 at $2500 for each unfilled parking stall. This is an extremely low fee and intentionally has not been increased in an effort to provide an incentive to landlords and merchants to construct and expand buildings. The Council will be asked to set a course to increase the in-lieu fee in a few years to offset costs of future parking alternatives.
c. The Specific Plan allows for outdoor dining or other merchant activity in the “flexible zone” at curbside in the angled parking stalls, with the necessary visual and functional safety precautions.
d. Staff is developing a façade improvement matching grant program, funded by the Redevelopment Agency. This is a landowner incentive program.
e. Staff is researching a rent/lease subsidy program, funded by the Redevelopment Agency. This is a merchant incentive program.
f. Staff has researched the issue of the application of prevailing wages for both the façade improvement and subsidy programs. This issue is complex and can sometimes make a project financially infeasible.
g. Staff is modifying the sidewalk dining ordinance to encourage outdoor dining experiences.

7. A series of educational brochures to help explain the more complex sections of the Specific Plan to landowners and merchants commenced in late October. This outreach program is designed to make the Specific Plan more user-friendly. Upcoming brochures will address issues such as signs, allowed uses, buildings and structures, and City actions. Staff established a “strike force” of City staff members to address the unique needs of Downtown landowners and merchants.

8. Staff is preparing the scope of work and professional services agreement for Downtown streetscape standards and design, funded by the Redevelopment Agency. This will include such things as street furniture, new street trees and tree lights, gateway monuments and arches, special sidewalk and asphalt treatment, kiosks, clock tower, etc. The design must be integrated with Civic Core and City Park design. The plan will include a phasing strategy to be coordinated with water and sewer improvements in the Downtown. Partial funding for the design and installation is anticipated from the Redevelopment Agency’s reserves.

9. Walnut Boulevard, a gateway to the Downtown from Vasco Road, is being widened.

10. The vacant parcel on the corner of Oak Street and Walnut Boulevard is owned by the Brentwood Redevelopment Agency. The future development of this site as corner store retail and town homes offers a prime opportunity to jump-start future projects. A gateway project here will add pedestrians and street activity to our Downtown. After property assemblage is complete, Redevelopment staff is prepared to begin searching for a qualified and experienced developer to make this project happen.

11. The City purchased the rights to use www.downtownbrentwood.com and www.downtownbrentwood.org to help promote the merchants and their co-marketing efforts. Staff retained the services of a local graphic designer to help build the website’s look and feel. The design work was completed in the summer 2006 and the websites have been handed over to the DBMA as a tool for outreach and marketing. While the merchant (.org) site and the consumer site (.com) are live, detailed information related to the association and businesses still needs to be fleshed out. The City plans on working with the DBMA to add information, upcoming events, as well as photography.

12. Staff is financially positioning the Redevelopment Agency to issue a $25,000,000 bond within the next 12-24 months to fund new projects in both the Downtown and North Brentwood Project Areas. As identified in the Capital Improvement Program, the current Downtown-specific projects to be funded by future Agency bonds include water and sewer improvements ($1,500,000+), Brentwood Boulevard widening ($3,600,000), and parking structure ($10,000,000). Another Downtown project under consideration is community facilities ($15,000,000). The cost for new streetscape and gateway monuments may be partially funded by the Redevelopment Agency’s reserves. This list does not represent projects for the North Brentwood Project Area.

Each year, in coordination with the annual Capital Improvement Program, staff prepares a report to assist the Agency in matching available funds to preferred projects. The same will be done for the next bond issuance.

13. Staff’s highest priority and first objective is to direct appropriate businesses to the Downtown area. We have ongoing and frequent discussions with many landowners and their real estate representatives regarding available space and potential tenants, and have directed several interested parties to each other to discuss opportunities in the Downtown. This is done in an effort to play “matchmaker”, while not interfering with private real estate transactions. Staff stays actively engaged in these discussions to the point where a real estate license is required to broker private deals.

The consistent roadblock we’ve encountered in these ongoing discussions is the unrealistic financial expectations of Downtown landowners for rent rates and sales prices. The real estate market was on fire for the past few years, and unfortunately the current expectations of landowners are not reflective of today’s real estate market.

Progress on each task of the Downtown Action Plan is an on-going effort by the assigned project manager. The Plan is comprehensively reviewed and discussed by a team of staff members on a quarterly basis, led by the City Manager, to coordinate progress.

Staff will also start meeting routinely with the Economic Development/Redevelopment Subcommittee to discuss all aspects of the Downtown Action Plan in detail. This should help in delivering timely and accurate information to the Council regarding on-going staff actions that support the growth and development of the Downtown.

Attachment: 1) Downtown Parking Utilization Map
2) Downtown 2010 Executive Summary
 

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