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Letter to the Editor: Hercules Must Sell Parcel C and Victoria Crescent Now

As a result of the Ambac legal settlement, Hercules is now under court order to sell Parcel C and Victoria Crescent.

Much ado has been made by some people over the City of Hercules selling the former Hercules Redevelopment Agency (RDA) properties known as Parcel C and Victoria Crescent. Both sites have been available and for sale for many years. 

The Plan for Central Hercules (Draft, December 2000) recommended locating a big retail box store with ample surface parking on Parcel C. Wal-Mart studied this option with an economic impact analysis in 2005. But when the community balked, Wal-Mart decided not to build there. The Hercules RDA bought Parcel C in 2009. The RDA also purchased the undeveloped Victoria Crescent site the same year.

(Read more at Hercules in Crisis)

From 2009 through the end of 2011, the city presented both parcels to commercial real estate developers and tried to actively promote both properties for retail. From 2009-2010, the Hercules Economic Development Director tried, and in 2011 the newly hired Real Property Manager tried, all to no avail.

Realizing that it was not in the land development business, the City of Hercules listed both properties for sale with commercial real estate brokers in December 2011. Parcel C was listed with CBRE and marketed for retail, office R&D, and residential use. During the same month, Cassidy Turley was chosen as the broker for Victoria Crescent and the property was likewise marketed. 

Once these two properties went publicly up for sale, commercial real estate brokers unanimously told the city that aside from putting a huge big box “category killer” like Wal-Mart or Costco on Parcel C, no developer wanted to buy Parcel C for retail. Wal-Mart was out. Costco looked, but ultimately stated that they were not interested. Costco also passed on Victoria Crescent, too.

Now, who exactly are these commercial real estate brokers talking to Hercules?  I asked City Hall and was told they include Don LeBuhn of CBRE; Tony Beatty of Cassidy Turley; Brad Blake of Blake-Hunt Ventures; Kent DeSpain of Retail West; Brad Deck of Evergreen Commercial; David Greensfelder of Greensfelder Commercial; Ray Devlin of Tri-Valley Management; and Christine Firstenberg of Metrovation. All of these brokers have many years of retail real estate experience in Contra Costa County. They and their companies have represented or developed sites for most of the well known retailers in the Bay Area, including Marshalls, Costco, Whole Foods, Peet’s, Safeway, CVS, Chipotle, Pet Food Express and so forth.

In early 2012 the only offers to purchase the two sites were for residential development on both parcels. In particular, Parcel C appears to be prized for residential because it will be close to “transit oriented development” within ¼ to ½ miles of the soon to be built Intermodal Transit Center (ITC). The ITC had its kickoff celebration September 18. Moreover, waterfront developer Hercules Bayfront, LLC has stated that it will break ground in the third quarter of next year on the parcels adjacent.  his developer’s retail and office space next door will serve the residential market.

In February 2012, the city was hit with a lawsuit by its RDA bond insurer, Ambac. As a result of the Ambac legal settlement, Hercules is now under court order to sell Parcel C and Victoria Crescent. In order to avoid bankruptcy, the city must sell now. DeNova Homes has signed a purchase and sale agreement to build 350 homes on Parcel C, with perhaps some small retail as a portion of the development. The Victoria Crescent parcel is back on the market and offers have been received. When these properties close escrow, the city will pay a 6 percent commission on Parcel C, and a 5 percent commission on Victoria Crescent.

By selling these two properties, the city council has faced reality and is doing what is best for the City of Hercules.  

Chris Kelley, Hercules Resident

Selina Williams October 02, 2012 at 11:57 PM
Thank you. Excellent points.
Selina Williams October 03, 2012 at 12:00 AM
This letter to the editor has 624 words. Are there any restrictions on the length of opinion pieces?
Toni Leance October 03, 2012 at 12:15 AM
The facts are mostly fabrication there is very little true in this story. This is just more propaganda being feed to Chris by Duran and Romero because they think she is more palatable to the general public. Chis is being used as a tool.
Susan D.Keeffe October 03, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Hector, So the retail realtors listed above are not developers who develop unfinished sites? Does that mean the firm targeted the wrong people? This article echoes almost word for word what we have been hearing from Duran, Wilkins and Romero. But most of it has been debunked here. This makes it very hard for us residents to figure out just what IS the truth. And with so much happening behind closed doors, as before, we only find out afterwards. It seems that those specific parcels do not need to be sold for Ambac. They were just the easiest way to go as Sycamore Crossing is tied up.
Giorgio C. October 03, 2012 at 01:13 AM
Frank Batara was told by someone he had to step off of the Finance Subcommittee because he had a contract with the city. There were very good arguments for keeping him on the committee because he had a good understanding of such matters. We need to be consistent with how we treat people or it is going to look like favoritism or discrimination or Chicago politics.
Glenn Abraham October 03, 2012 at 01:14 AM
It's a pity. I had thought that the Dan Duran gang finally had a reasonable spokesperson, someone with whom we could communicate. Now, every significant statement of Chris Kelley has been debunked and denounced, and her credibility is shot. IS it? Is there NOTHING in her article that would justify a reasonable and honest person's decision to support Duran and Romero? If not, Mayor Stalin will have to get a new Minister of Information. Dan Duran still don't seem to have a grasp on communication, honesty, and openness.
Toni Leance October 03, 2012 at 02:47 AM
The brokers didn't "target" anyone the never made ANY PRESENTATIONS TO ANY DEVELOPERS OR RETAILERS they just sent out emails to a list, they didn't understand what they were selling or what made the sites unique. When that was pointed out at the townhall they then tried and say they brought the offering to a convention of developers in las Vegas, but that was just smoke, they just had the offing at their booth at the convention not really marketing it. What. Hector is trying to explain is the difference between developers ( those who actually build) and retailers who are the clients of developers and will lease a storefront and do their tenant improvements to make the storefront work for their needs. Some retailers, if they are large enough, build their own retail stores but those are usually the typical big box like Walmart and Costco. Some developers are speciality developers like the company that brought Ranch 99 to the east west mall there was some talk about that possibility, an ethnic specific center, there are many examples of those developments throughout the bay area and they can be quite successful. But let's remember none of that was done for parcel C no outreach, no marketing, no presentation, no understanding of the property or how it fits into to Hercules. Central plan the brokers sold to the lowest hanging fruit,apartment builders, out to make a quick deal for low price and bang out template driven apartments.
Joseph Catindig October 03, 2012 at 05:05 AM
Let's make Hercules the food destination of this part of the Bay. Vietnamese, Korean, Thai, Italian, Japanese, American, etc.etc. People will look for places to eat regardless of how bad the economy is. Mr. Duran? These we can't buy online 8).
Toni Leance October 03, 2012 at 05:45 AM
There is a shopping center in irvine that opened recently that is an Asian centric shopping, dining, service oriented center it is called Diamond Jamboree it is great a Korean market that is like Ranch99 but better I think it is called HMart and all kinds of coffee shops, offices, shops, bakeries it is great! We could have something like that too. www.diamond-jamboree.com
Phil Simmons October 03, 2012 at 06:09 AM
Toni, I kinda miss Irvine, Mission Viejo, Laguna Beach, Corona Del Mar, and all the rest down in the OC. Lot's of well planned communities down there. Not all the same but all exactly alike. We can do better.
Joseph Catindig October 03, 2012 at 06:14 AM
Toni, this place looks great. We could easily have something like this here in Hercules. But Safeway and its 16 pump gas station looks more attractive to the CM and the Mayor.
Phil Simmons October 03, 2012 at 06:15 AM
Joseph Catindig October 03, 2012 at 06:25 AM
ooops I forgot...and Ms. Kelley.
Chris Tallerico October 03, 2012 at 03:55 PM
Just so the record is VERY clear, I had zero intentions of applying to the Measure O Oversight Committee. I didn't apply in the first round, and only threw my name in the hat once I saw that only one person had applied by the original deadline...It NEEDS 5 members. I work a 50+ hour week at my job, I volunteer at HPD 10 to 12 hours a week, I'm on my HOA Board, as well as fund raise for a few causes that are close to my heart....I have almost no free time and need to be on this committee like I need a hole in my head! But, someone needs to do it....I'm not willing to let the seats go empty because I think oversight is important...So if selected, I'll serve until others step up to the plate. There are plenty of volunteer opportunities with the City...Any one of you can drop by City Hall, fill out the application and be put to work. I don't like the position our City is in, but I'm willing to put in the hours until the City is in the position to re-hire. And Toni, as to your question of my financial background, I have many years of P&L responsibility well into the 7 figures. In my current position, I manage a staff of 10 and we'll do over $14 million in projects this year. I'm happy to discuss with you in person if you'd like.
Toni Leance October 03, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Volunteer opportunities are only for those that are aligned by the current regime if you are not on board you will be maligned by Duran, Romero and the likes of people like you who questioned the Legal Ad Hoc and asked for them to be shut down because they didn't conform to the party line! So excuse me for questioning you for what can look like conflict of interest. The legal Ad Hoc had 100s of hours of work whenRomero sent in his operative, Anton, and it is all documented in emails where he says "I have a citizen reporting back to me" and Duran says "they need to be called on the carpet" nice way to treat volunteers. Be careful Chris when you are no longer of use to Duran or Romero you will be expendable!
Glenn Abraham October 03, 2012 at 04:09 PM
Good point, Chris. The city has not been overwhelmed by an excess of volunteers for this committee.
Glenn Abraham October 03, 2012 at 04:10 PM
More good points.
Chris Tallerico October 03, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Ya know Toni, your continued insinuation that I'm some covert operative for the Mayor or CM is getting old. I'm in no ones pocket and always call it like I see it, and I don't really care if the current politicians or City staff like it or me. I agree with some things they do, but certainly not all, and when I don't, I let them know...TRUST ME ON THIS! As for volunteers being selected by party line, that's not only preposterous, its insulting to the almost 100 people that give their time to the City. I give a lot of my time and money to this City and when I'm working, I don't hear other volunteers talking politics...Its 100% about doing what needs to be done so our town can maintain a certain lifestyle during the dark days of skeleton staffing! I'm done with this thread...Love me, hate me or flame me...Carry on.
Susan Tarvin October 03, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Totally off topic, I'd like only to echo what Chris is saying above about the City needing volunteers. All those folks with great ideas and with even a little time or energy could help us with our new Friends of the Hercules Senior Center, to keep their doors open for this vital service to our community. We're having a big pancake breakfast soon, cooked by the Police Chief, and we're busting our @$$es trying to clean and prep for the event. Anyone wanting to help the Senior Center can meet us there on Monday at 12:30, and join in. We have regular team meetings (normally) every Tuesday after lunch. And in addition, we're trying to repaint the entry, clean up bulletin boards, shampoo carpets, snag planter barrels and plant bulbs and trees, and do whatever we can to make this place a much happier place for seniors to eat lunch. And I'm cooking there two days a week. Got time to Blog? You also have time to volunteer and help (for example) a senior citizen. There is wonderful group of seniors (including my Mom - age 90) we are helping there. And yes, Mom is now routinely eating lunch with her new friend George Funk, who is 94, and is a Vice President in the new Friends of the Hercules Senior Center club. I'm the Club Secretary. But if you're not sure where you are needed, fine your own area of interest, and or start talking to City employees, they'll tell you where they think help is needed.
Toni Leance October 03, 2012 at 04:52 PM
Why would anyone volunteer when if they don't support the current regime they will be targeted by them. There is most definitely a conspiracy you can read it in the emails released. Tarvin care to comment on those? Romero to Duran "I have a citizen reporting back to me" sounds fascist to me what about you? Do you think that is a way to encourage citizens to volunteer? Do you think that is a way local government should conduct business?
Toni Leance October 03, 2012 at 04:52 PM
You are being used you are a tool.
Hector Rubio October 03, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Douglas, I agree it would be a mistake to build that type of shopping center on Parcel C. I want to see the New Urbanism plan realized on the lands west of San Pablo, which are the Waterfront, Sycamore Crossings and Parcel C. I mentioned Kivelstadt Group because they know how to develop and have a successful track record. I would value their opinion about developing raw land, more than the opinion of the leasing broker for Marshalls stores. I worked for Target for many years, and built many of their formula stores. However, I believe in differentiation too. The Hercules Plan is about creating a walkable shopping experience that is different from the other cookie cutter shopping centers. Retail in Hercules can only succeed by being different from the others, not just more of the same. The current jargon for this type of development is “Lifestyle Center” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lifestyle_center_%28retail%29 which combines retail functions with leisure amenities that encourage people to linger. I worked on one such center, Levis Commons, http://www.leviscommons.com/ which combines retail, restaurants, townhomes, and apartments. Parcel C is an ideal location to combine a Lifestyle Center and multi-family residential. Shops facing John Muir with street parking and additional surface parking in the back. Lastly to fill the wide parcel, a residential street (or two) running parallel to John Muir lined with townhomes and apartments that would resemble Tsushima St.
Joseph Catindig October 04, 2012 at 12:02 AM
I do want to volunteer but I'm afraid to be accused of Brown Act violation. I want to volunteer in the Measure O committee but I don't trust anybody who are currently applying for a volunteer position? Look at what happened to the Legal Ad Hoc. I do not want to set myself up for something that would frustrate me later on especially If Dan Romero is still around. Could you blame me or other people why no one wants to volunteer? You guys just crack me up. Ms Tarvin, I'll volunteer but can I bring campaign materials? After all, this volunteer business is about politics anyway, right?
Joseph Catindig October 04, 2012 at 12:09 AM
It's funny Ms. Tarvin, close to election time, you guys are painting, cleaning, etc, etc. how come this was not done any sooner? The friends of Hercules Senior Center and Hercules Swim Center initially met at the same time... looks like the friends of the senior center are moving forward and swiftly but I have not heard any follow up for the swim center. Hmmmm, I'm just curious why?
Glenn Abraham October 04, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Volunteering for a Hercules citizens' commission is a good way to generate an involuntary introduction to Anton Jungherr. Volunteering while the Romero régime is in power works well for those who like being threatened and intimidated. Volunteering to work at the senior center just before an election is a good way to generate votes for Wilkins and Boulanger. It will be interesting to see whether Sue Tarvin's spirit of volunteerism persists beyond November 6.
Joseph Catindig October 04, 2012 at 05:23 AM
Attention: We're trying to clean up city hall. Help us sweep the dirt inside the building, paint the dark colors behind closed doors and in the chamber with bright ones and most of all, re-build the bridge that divided this city. Got time to blog? You also have time to volunteer and help.
Annie R. October 05, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Susan, I appreciate your support of the Hercules Senior Center. My Mom passed away in August and I understand the importance and value of "community" for our most vulnerable residents. Thank you from the bottom of my heart...
Susan Tarvin October 05, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Thank you Annie R!! Sorry we didn't start the organization any sooner, but it began earlly this summer and it's rolling now! We wrote by-laws, we became a non-profit, we've worked with PD for the upcoming breakfast, and we have a lot of other irons in the fire. And I didn't start it, Lori Han was the one who deserves most credit for getting it rolling. We are also parents of a teenager who is now at DVC and graduated from Hercules High last summer, and a number of years were spent volunteering to help Mary Anne in the Attendance office, and I'm also involved in registering students at HMHS to vote. For the City I applied as a volunteer last summer, passed the background check, and did some work for City Clerk, Personnel, and helped with the staff appreciation luncheon. I'll be cooking twice a week and serving on the Friends Board for the Senior Center long after the election is over. Helen eats lunch there now twice a week, and she loves the human interaction. But you don't have to believe me, just wait another year and check it out.
Joseph Catindig October 05, 2012 at 11:40 PM
Susan, Thanks for your explanation. Anyone who has compassion for our seniors deserves admiration. I am in the health care, acute field, and I see first hand how our seniors go through unimaginable circumstances given the contributions they have made in our society. I wanted to volunteer in this area but had second thoughts because of the dirty politics that is happening in city hall... a prime example of that is what had happened to the AdHoc committee. No one...I mean no one stood up stood up for the committee members. No one gave importance to the hundreds and hours of time that these volunteers gave out of their very busy time. This Council and some of the public even made them look like the bad guys. I wouldn't put myself in this kind of situation. Never. Now maybe someday, when we're done cleaning up city hall, if it ever happens, I will join your cause. In the mean time, carry on. It is very rewarding to help these old folks I know!
Susan Tarvin October 06, 2012 at 12:15 AM
Thank you Joseph!


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