2012 Hercules: William Wilkins

Hercules Patch asked some prominent Hercules citizens to predict the future. Read their thoughts and share yours.

As Hercules comes out of a turbulent year, Hercules Patch asked some residents what they expect, hope and fear for 2012.

Here's what Hercules Councilman William Wilkins said. Share your own predictions in the comments or see the note at the end of this article if you'd like your thoughts published as a separate article.

Where you think Hercules will be by the end of 2012? Where do you hope it will be, and fear Hercules might be?

Hercules has been making lemonade out of lemons for the last six months and that will continue well into 2012 and beyond.  The City Council will work to bring resolution to many of the issues that brought the City to the brink of bankruptcy,  but rest assured, we have no intention to go the route of Vallejo.  The answer to our financial troubles is not bankruptcy, but sound financial management based on informed decisions.    In 2011, we reduced the General  Fund Budget by $6 million dollars from the previous year, but we still a have structural deficit that we will continue working on to eliminate.  The Redevelopment Agency and Hercules Municipal Utility have been a huge drain on the City, but with the Supreme Court decision just before the new year, the redevelopment agency will  no longer siphon money from our general fund.   The HMU money issues must be resolved this year, by a sale,  lease, reduction of operating costs, or increased revenue through addition of more users. 

 I fully expect that by the end of 2012, we will have transferred ownership of Sycamore North to a reputable builder that will finish the project with upscale apartments that will attract new residents to our City.   The sale of this property, when finished,  will produce property taxes in the area of $500,000 per year, plus bond assessments for our  schools and the Fire District. 

2012 will bring the conclusion of negotiations for the  ITC and Waterfront Development and the  approved  agreements  will have been signed by all parties.  The City and Hercules Bay Front LLC will be working to move  both projects forward.  The City should be working on the Bay Trail and infrastructure needed for both the ITC and Waterfront Projects to be successful. 

Before the end of 2012 we will have sold real estate assets the City has to reputable  developers who are ready to start building commercial developments to bring new jobs  and  revenue to Hercules. We are negotiating with several now and others are still to be presented.     

The recent Scotts Valley court case decision wins for Hercules the right to demand from Contra Costa County  more of our property tax dollars.  Council will work to increase the amount we receive now (3.9%) up to as close to 7%, as mandated by the State of California of each property tax dollar.    This decision could mean as much as $500,000 increase per year to the City General Fund.  

Hercules needs to change the way it operates in relation to new business development.  I hope that in the next year we can develop permitted uses that do not call for a $4,000 Conditional Use Permit for a new business to open its doors.   I recently changed committee assignments to work on the Business Development /Transportation/ Sustainability Committee to make this happen. 

City staff has been reduced to the bare minimum but those that are still here continue to put in the extra hours necessary to get the job done.  I hope that we can recognize that our city employees are our most valuable asset.  Hercules  would be in worse shape  if we did not have them.    I hope we find an appropriate way to thank them for all that they have done and will continue to do in the future. 

One task that will require attention is the addition of more officers to our Police Force.   We have been fortunate this year that the crime rate in town has not grown out of control, but we need to be proactive and find the money necessary to bring our police force back to at the minimum of one officer per thousand population. 

The non-profit organizations in Hercules have stepped up to the needs of the community and will continue to help with ongoing events here in town.   In many ways, the involvement of the Hercules non-profit organizations has worked to bring the community together as they share responsibilities and coordination for community events.    Their participation is greatly appreciated and hopefully will continue.  If I have not said it enough, I will say it again.  Thank you to all who have helped during the last year. 

There will be many high profile issues that will need to be addressed by Council, as the year goes on, and it won't be easy.  As we address one issue at the Council level, there always seem to be two more issues that come to light that require our immediate attention.   The legacy of past indiscretions will continue to be a priority of Council during the coming year.  It would be easy to become discouraged, but that will not solve our cities problems.  2012 is just another year, and the fact is that we, the citizens of Hercules, need to continue to work together with respect to differing opinions and ideas, but with the knowledge that we all are working towards a better Hercules.  

Post your reaction in the comments below. If you'd like your 2012 Hercules predictions published as a separate article, please send your answers to the above questions to laila.kearney@patch.com. Include your first and last name and a photo of yourself that clearly shows your face.

Douglas Bright January 19, 2012 at 08:31 PM
@Jefferey - I would like to believe our neighborhood has the income and density to support these kinds of stores. I don't know who else expressed interest in developing Sycamore Crossing - the city did not divulge if anyone else has. But I'd like to try to find a developer who could create a diverse, vibrant shopping and residential area for Sycamore Crossing. If not, perhaps the city could divide up the land into smaller parcels and sell them to individuals who would develop them based on approved designs that complimented the surrounding neighborhoods and adhered to new urbanist principles.
Jeffrey Boore January 19, 2012 at 08:41 PM
@Douglas Bright - That would be my preference too, by far. I don't know if that alternative is feasible, but it would be great if it were. If Safeway wants to come to town, Victoria Crescent is a much better alternative, in my opinion.
Douglas Bright January 19, 2012 at 08:45 PM
@Glenn - Yes, I agree that there is not enough people living with walking distance of a 60,000 sq. ft. Safeway for it to exist without massive amounts of parking. That is part of the problem. I think the communities along Sycamore, east of San Pablo Avenue, do have the requisite income and density to sustain at least one smaller grocery store with minimal parking being necessary. The same is true of many other kinds of stores with a smaller footprint. Large mega-stores rely on customers streaming in from miles around to sustain themselves - very convenient for out of town shoppers to have one stop shopping, but very inconvenient for the residents who have to live next to them and the local businesses that have to compete with them.
Jeffrey Boore January 19, 2012 at 08:49 PM
@Douglas Bright - I have seen grocery stores with this type of parking arrangement in urban areas, although I can't remember if I've specifically seen a Safeway like that. There is parking under a grocery store in Berkeley, in the area near Chez Panisse. I've been to two grocery stores with underground parking garages in Seattle, one in San Diego, and one in Studio City, for a few that I can remember off the top of my head.
Douglas Bright January 19, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Thank you Selina. I think the city staff rightly assumes that the more the residents know about these behind the scenes discussions, the more likely we will raise concerns. The problem, of course, that if you only involve the community at the last moment, then the project as plan could be completely abandoned and all that time they spent negotiating and designing is wasted. It's always better to consult openly and transparently with the public from the very beginning so that unacceptable ideas get discarded or ammended immediately, before too much time and money is wasted. I understand the Council and staff probably think we should just let them do the job they were hired to do, but for large and important decisions like this, the public really needs to be front and center in the decision-making process. The whole point of having a City Council and staff is so that the public doesn't need to deal with the day to day essential functions of government, not so that large projects could be 95% complete before they are presented to the public for discussion. I believe that staff and Council are generally responsive to the public, but we all should have been asked long ago about whether or not we wanted to abandon the IDPD for Sycamore Crossing or whether or not we wanted a 60,000 sq. ft. store opening in our city. These are things that need to be discussed publicly right away, not just when the buyer and city are ready to close the deal.
Jeffrey Boore January 19, 2012 at 08:57 PM
I am too naive to know how many people with how much income is necessary to support a store of any specific size, so I'm not arguing with that point, but the concept of "walking distance" is one of the attitudes that we hope to change with the new urbanism movement. It has long been the view of those who prefer sleepy suburban living that we drive to anything over about 100 yards. This view has been reinforced by urban designs that require people to cross huge parking lots to get to stores. I don't see why any able-bodied person would usually prefer to drive a mile over walking a mile (and then many use that time and energy saved on the treadmill), especially in the generally pleasant weather we have here, and there are a lot of people living within a mile of that intersection.
Glenn Abraham January 19, 2012 at 09:00 PM
"Large mega-stores rely on customers streaming in from miles around to sustain themselves - very convenient for out of town shoppers to have one stop shopping, but very inconvenient for the residents who have to live next to them and the local businesses that have to compete with them." Douglas, I completely agree. That's why I think our current situation is so good (we get the convenience of Pinole's big-store shopping without the misery of living next to it), and that's why I don't believe that it is in our interest to duplicate our very own private Pinole right here. We already have the benefits of Pinole-style shopping, and without the mess.
Douglas Bright January 19, 2012 at 09:31 PM
@Jeffrey - Actually, the city manager told me that the deed restriction was concerning the IDPD.
Jeffrey Boore January 19, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Thank you for the correction.
Phil Simmons January 19, 2012 at 09:36 PM
Here is just a question for those that are concerned about a Safeway. If Safeway agrees to build in a manner than meets the design concepts of the 2000 Charette, and the city master plan, and had roof top or underground parking along with mixed use residential and other commercial spaces would that be ok in everyone opinion? Or, is the a discussion and battle over the notion of it being a Safeway? Is this about it being a corporate chain of stores and having corporate (and non local) retail product offering?
Douglas Bright January 19, 2012 at 09:52 PM
The 57,218 sq. ft. Whole Foods on Bay Street in Oakland has 200 parking spaces on its roof. The 71,504 sq. ft. Berkeley Bowl on Heinz Street in Berkeley has some of its parking underground as well. Maybe Safeway could build a two story building - 30,000 sq. ft. on each level with parking on the roof, underground, and/or a parking garage. Doubtful they would do this. Safeway isn't known for their pioneering design.
Douglas Bright January 19, 2012 at 10:01 PM
@Glenn - Yeah, but I try to avoid shopping at big box stores anywhere, including Pinole. It would be more convenient if I could walk to my stores, rather than feel compelled to drive miles to get to them. These stores are only convenient in the sense that they offer a large variety of products in one place. They are not convenient to get to, find parking, and get away from, especially when there is traffic.
Douglas Bright January 19, 2012 at 10:06 PM
I would prefer a different grocer than Safeway because they generally don't offer the organic selection I am looking for. However, if everything else you stated was followed, I would be more or less comfortable with it as long as the footprint of the store wasn't 60,000 sq. ft.
Jeffrey Boore January 19, 2012 at 10:14 PM
I think it would be up to the city to offer them a take-it-or-leave it set of design criteria that require it conform to our standards, explaining why Hercules is special in its vision for future development. I agree that it cannot be a Luckys-style design at that location.
Glenn Abraham January 19, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Phil: I do not oppose this proposed S.Pablo/Sycamore Safeway, on the basis of its being owned by a large corporation. Our two Starbucks, our Chase Bank and Wells Fargo, are fine: they are not huge stores with heavy traffic which will clog the city, in the way that Home Depot does. The issue with Safeway is size; and, even if they were to build underground parking, all the vehicles they stuff into that parking lot still have to get in and out...onto our already-clotted streets. And I've only ever seen one Safeway with underground parking (Shattuck Place at Rose in Berkeley), and that isn't a very big store, and that isn't a store which ever had a choice, because, way back when it was first built, there was no available vacant space to build a sufficiently-large ground-level parking lot. Anyhow, even that Safeway does have a surface parking lot. Safeway = parking. And traffic. And a duplication of something which already exists a few minutes away in either direction.
Selina Williams January 19, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Phil, the answer is yes to all of the above. Less the gas station. Please. Also, its not a notion of Safeway, it IS Safeway. Prettied up or not. Many other corporate chains already have a history of building with rooftop or underground parking. Examples are: Oakland WholeFoods, SF Wholefoods and SF Northbeach Trader Joes, Berkeley Trader Joes, Berkeley Bowl West (BBW-small lots and underground parking). They also have better customer service, fair trade and organics (TJS' not so much), smaller foot prints though BBW is very large but its in a semi industrial area that was formerly a concrete wasteland. BBW has been a major boon to the West Berkeley neighborhood. I rented my WB condo out in less than 2 hours. ;>)
Jerrold "Jerry" Parsons January 20, 2012 at 12:44 AM
Community Benefit: I see the tax revenue as a great potential for Hercules to restore some of its recent financial losses and I really like the idea of a Whole Foods with a BIO fuel station. This would build something we do not have locally in our region. As far as traffic goes, hopefully the "World Class Transit Facility" aka ITC will be built which can further support the local businesses up to and including a larger scale grocery store (hopefully something similar to a Whole Foods) and maybe pressure can be put on Caltrans to make the access points in and out of Hercules much better. William Wilkins is someone to have these great discussions with and to help move the City forward and find new creative revenue streams.
Phil Simmons January 20, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Glenn, Selina, Douglas, Thanks for the response. I just felt that it was important for the readers to understand the rationale for your conversation. I've seen some great Safeway and Lucky stores and I have seen bad ones. My guess is that a new store will meet higher standards than some of the old ones. Heck even Walmart is now trying to find its way into the organic and somewhat higher (slightly) end market. The marketplace demands it these days. I'm with you all on the idea of the surface lot parking. It would not be a desirable path. The 60k sq/ft though is another matter. Though I don't have the details I think Douglas pointed it out the best by referring to the 57k sq/ft Whole Foods and the 71k sq/ft Berkeley Bowl. So, sq/footage does not really seem to be the issue for at least some folks. 60k would certainly not be a neighborhood grocery but it wouldn't be the same as a 150k sq/ft big box either. I grew up down the street from a store called "The General Store". It was awesome how much stuff fit inside a 3000 sq/ft store. Anything from beans and sardines to Moon Pies, RC Colas, and bubblegum with baseball cards. They even had some fishing tackle, hardware, sewing supplies, and motor oil. But alas there is now a Food Lion on the site or has we affectionately call it a Food Dog store, about 60k sq/ft with a big parking lot. Too bad........
Hector Rubio January 20, 2012 at 01:01 AM
Safeway is in the process of getting approval for a similar sized store in Rockridge; and facing much opposition. Follow the link for a timeline of events: http://www.rockridge.org/safewayRockCent.html Images for their urban store can be viewed here: http://lowneyarch.com/projects/retail/safeway.html I would expect a similar urban design for Sycamore Crossings.
Susan D.Keeffe January 20, 2012 at 01:13 AM
Phil, It would certainly be fine with me. All this speculation shows that we are once again losing transparency. Perhaps the plan is exactly as you just stated. We don't know. I know the council can't reveal items that are involving negotiations and specific dollar amounts. But if this plan is going to come before the Planning commission we'd better take a look at it while its in the planning stages. As I stated earlier, its not as if development is not going to occur. Its going to happen eventually, whether we like it or not. The question is can we control the quality of what is built and provide our input? The same is true of the Waterfront. That land is not going to lie fallow indefinitely. But filling it in with more townhouses when the opportunity to do something special that would benefit the region is there and it would be criminal if the council walks away from it. There was a good quote from Jerry Brown in today's paper. We need to do what he stated, some decisions are tough but we mustn't lose vision. We lose vision, we lose the opportunity to effect the kinds of changes we hope to see.
Douglas Bright January 20, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Unfortunately, those design standards the city could have held them too (the deed restriction) might be removed, as per the city manager's report.
RJ January 20, 2012 at 07:23 PM
The Safeway proposal at that cite would be a perfect fit for Hercules. This is a much needed asset that most people are looking for and if Safeway to invest in Hercules, we should streamline the process and encourage the build.
Douglas Bright January 20, 2012 at 07:29 PM
Yeah, I'm not impressed with that design. I doubt Safeway architects have the intention of designing a store that truly compliments the revivalist architecture of our neighborhood.
Selina Williams January 20, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Thanks for posting this Hector. I have seen this design and visited this site many times in the past. That design is very "post industrial" and incongruous with the style of the adjoining neighborhood which is popular and expensive because of its arts and crafts style homes. The design does not complement the brick facades of the local businesses and Victorian revival storefronts with wonderful clear story windows. This design is a radical departure from the design elements that create a "historic" town center for Hercules. It would be better suited to Emeryville, with its post modern lofts and big box mecca.
Hector Rubio January 22, 2012 at 06:46 PM
I don't expect a design that complements the neighboring buildings without a struggle; my experience has been that corporate retailers have a prototype store that is analyzed and tested to maximize sales and are extremely reluctant to deviate from their established formula. Any change to that formula risks building a store that will not generate the expected sales. In most instances, the architect is only able to make cosmetic changes to the exterior of the prototype to fit the unique physical constraints of the individual site. That's why every Best Buy store looks the same, no matter what part of the country you are in. The community has to insist on a site specific solution as the neighbors in Rockridge have been demanding.
Phil Simmons January 22, 2012 at 06:56 PM
There is a Lucky Store down in the south bay. I can't recall which town. Though it is not Safeway it is an example of how a chain like Safeway's can adjust to fit. It has rooftop parking and does not take up valuable land for parking. The property has other attached retail. The facade is designed in a way that would resemble what would fit in Hercules. Their is short term curb loading spaces for those that need it. The ability for Safeway to do this right exist. The city just needs to negotiate to make it right.
Douglas Bright January 23, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Well said, Hector. Safeway has a template store that they try to use every time they build a new store and are reluctant to alter it because of the expense involved. I don't expect they care to design a store (and the other buildings they hope to construct) that is compatible with our neighborhood. We need to remain vigilant.
Douglas Bright January 23, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Here is an interesting article on the way that the residents of Honor, Michigan, rejuvenated their town = http://www.smartplanet.com/blog/pure-genius/restoring-honor/7337 Making Hercules a unique place both aesthetically and commercially is a great way to achieve prosperity. I'd also recommend the book, "Changing Places" by Richard Moe and Carter Wilkie where they talk a lot about what makes cities and towns great places to live and work.
Douglas Bright February 06, 2012 at 09:13 PM
My apologies...I misread the city manager's email to me regarding the deed restriction. He stated that it was preventing Safeway from building their grocery store at this site. This statement followed his answer to my question about adherence to the IDPD, so I erroneously assumed the deed restriction was tied that plan.
Jeffrey Boore February 06, 2012 at 09:43 PM
No problem. We're all struggling to make sense of what it going on.


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