Scanned and reposted by San Lorenzo Express



May 6, 1999

Meeting Called to Order: 7:05 by Committee Chair Travis Thoms.

In Attendance: Committee Members: Howard Beckman, Mary Ann McMillan, Harry Gin, Jim Spears, Millie Arieta, Pat Pebelier, Frank Peixoto, Mel Brookman, Travis Thoms, Mary Reynolds, Barry Weiss, Carol Davis, Jack Mackinnon, Roberta Furger, Pat Piras, Tina Cheung.
Special Guest: Scott Bohannon, Bohannon Organization
County Representatives: Gail Steele, Daryl Gray, Bruce Kern.
Guests: Carol Robinson, Daily Review, Ron Groves, Jenell Sausser, Merl Ambrose, Lorene Jones, Cecil Normandin, Marion Normandin, Maude Spann, Adolph Stafne, Ann Marie Mrak, Susanne Regnier, Kathie Ready, G. Grohs, J. Cooper, Bea Greer, Shirley Seivied, Emilie Stern, Renee Wittmeir, Jim Sherman

Opening Comments: Nancy Van Huffel announced that she wanted to make sure all committee members had received the attachments to the agenda. She had included the subcommittee's business information as well as some information with respect to a Victorian style-shopping center in Durango, Colorado which she received off the Internet.

Weiss questioned why new membership was not on the agenda. Chair Thoms stated that the agendas had not been sent out in a timely fashion, thus new membership would be on the next month's agenda. Chair Thoms noted that he would not be able to attend the next meeting in June due to a conflict in his schedule. He suggested that Vice Chair Furger chair the meeting or find someone to chair if she could not attend.

Minutes from 4/22/99 meeting: Arieta stated that she was at this meeting and amended the minutes to include her attendance.

Pebelier made a motion to approve the 4/22/99 minutes with the amendments, Davis seconded. Motion carries unanimously.

Discussion of Village Square Vision with the Bohannon 0rganization: Chair Thoms thanked representative Scott Bohannon from the Bohannon Organization and County representatives, Bruce Kern, Gail Steele and Daryl Gray for attending the meeting.

Scott Bohannon stated that he felt the brochure is a good vision statement and that it says a lot about what the residents would like. His organization is concerned that the brochure is premature in terms of the lack of an action plan in place to implement items spelled out in the brochure. Under the San Lorenzo "at a glance" section it mentions that San Lorenzo has a stable population of 21,000 residents. His organization thought the language should be worded to grab more of the marketplace. A perspective retailer looking at sites would not know what to do with a 21,000 population, this amount is well below the radar screen for large retailers. Bohannon felt it would be beneficial for the group to re-word this part of the brochure. He also stated some master planning is needed on how to implement the brochure. He suggested wording could be softer in terms of what the square will feature, do to the fact that there is no concrete plan for the Square at this time.

It was pointed out to Bohannon that the committee is using the brochure as a vision statement and hopes to get input from the Bohannon organization and the county as far as how to implement the vision for the Square. Bohannon restated that he felt this was a good vision statement however he was concerned with how it could be perceived by other merchants. Gin asked how it could be reworded. Bohannon stated that the language suggests that there is already a plan in place and perhaps this could be changed to reflect that there is an "intent" by the owner and the community for this 'vision' of the Village Square. McMillan stated that the suggestion with respect to San Lorenzo's population is important. The brochure could include the 57,000 people who live throughout the unincorporated area of San Lorenzo (Cherryland, Ashland, and San Lorenzo). Bohannon agreed that this number was much better than the population of 21,000. He stated that if the group liked Fremont Plaza (as per their recent field trip). The demographics in that area of Fremont are much greater than in San Lorenzo. (In the Fremont Plaza's brochure they stated that they have over 138,000 residents within a 3 mile radius. Bohannon stated that the car count on Hesperian is important to retailers and that if the Village Square was on the corner of Hesperian and Hesperian his organization would not have a problem attracting retailers. The car counts on Mowry where the Fremont Plaza is located are very high which make it easier to attract businesses.

Bohannon said the brochure needs to look at the expanded market and why businesses would like to come into the Village Square. He mentioned that Mervyn's did in excess of 1.5 million dollars per year, even in the years prior to it moving out of San Lorenzo. His organization felt that this information would help attract potential businesses to the site. However, they have been unsuccessful prior to Rite Aid.

Reynolds asked what the Bohannon Organization's vision for the Village Square was. She understood that they had been successful in getting Rite Aid, however, she asked what the organization's vision was beyond this. Bohannon stated that the Organization would be pleased to have something like the Fremont Plaza in a miniature form. Furger asked whether the county could help in getting a car count for Hesperian Blvd that the committee could use. She stressed the importance of getting a vision of where the group is headed with the cooperation from the county and the Bohannon Organization. Furger said that it would be helpful for the group if it could get some consensus from both the Bohannon's and the county as to a time line to implement as to when certain tasks could be accomplished. A traffic count, new demographics etc. Reynolds asked what the county could contribute to the process. Daryl Gray stated that the county can provide the traffic count for the committee and has already helped with the shopping center tour it organized last week.

Steele said that if the Business Development committee went out and found eight businesses who were interested in the square, would the Bohannon Organization be willing to develop the square with the group's vision. Bohannon stated that his organization would be willing to explore the possibility if the businesses were good tenants. Steele stated that the county is willing to look into the possibility of redevelopment for the area. Van Huffel stated that Eileen Dalton from the county has indicated that she is willing to speak to the group about the advantages and disadvantages of redevelopment for the area.

McMillan asked what the parameters to attract tenants are. Bohannon stated that the demographics within one, three and five miles are very important. Average income and education levels attract or detract specific businesses. Chair Thoms asked why the Bohannon Organization had not used more current demographics. The current figures were based on a 1990 survey. Thoms suggested that the ABAG figures may be better. Van Huffel said that she agreed with Thoms regarding updating the demographics and stated that Bohannon's figures were better than ABAG'S. Weiss wanted to know whether the median or average is used with respect to the demographic figures. He said that the median income of San Lorenzo is approximately $45,000 within a 3 mile radius versus the average income which is $54,000. The thrust of the success of the Village Square would comefrom the average income. Bohannon Stated that this is something the Business Development Committee and the residents of the area can do when approaching businesses, to make a case for bringing retailers to the area. The developer does not have the impact that the committee or residents could have upon retailers with respect to these demographics. Any case against or supporting the current figures appears more credible coming from residents than it does from a developer. Bohannon stated that it is important that the retailers understand that their substantial investment will be prosperous to them.

Gin said that the committee had discussed the idea of Rite Aid in the Village Square and is concerned with the fact that it is a stand alone store without any uniformity to the rest of the area. He asked how the building would fit in with the other stores that would move into the area. Bohannon stated that his organization has always wanted to created continuity in the area. He said that they could create something like Fremont Plaza and that the Plaza would be a lot less expensive to create than other designs. Bohannon said if the committee really likes this plaza, he would be willing to call the architect who designed the shopping center letting he/she know that the residents in San Lorenzo like the architecture and want it for the Village Square. Bohannon stressed that it has always been his organization's goal to create continuity for the area. Furger asked what is needed for the group to move forward. Bohannon stated that in his letter to Gottschalks he had stated that the residents in San Lorenzo are very committed and supportive of the area and he stated that if he could get a representative to call him back from that corporation he would like to have a meeting between some residents and that corporations representative.

Furger questioned what specific steps can be done now to move forward in the process. Could Bohannon provide new demographic data for the area and the County speak with some architects with respect to the Square area? Bohannon stated that he would bring the idea up with the Organization about creating new demographics for the area. Steele stated that there could possibly be a contest between architects for the area, wherein different designs could be created and picked by the community. Steele also stated that she could have some technical people look and the whole Square area with architects and the County and find out what the best mix for the area would be as far as the look and the architecture. Bohannon said there are still some issues that have not been discussed. Sanwa is one big issue, they have long term ground rules. He pointed out that the last time the Organization tried to get something done in the square Sanwa was difficult to deal with, their current common area costs are less that what they are paying for the landscaping. In order to get them to move the Organization would have to buy back the land at the current market value rate.

Resident Anne Mrak asked why San Lorenzo did not meet Gottschalks criteria in the past when the organization contacted them. Bohannon stated that Gottschalks said that their corporation does not go into undeveloped urban areas but to areas that are already developed. He stated that he had contacted Best Buy, which is similar to Fry's Electronics and.had drawn up plans to show the retailer how one of its stores would fit into the old Mervyn's site. Best Buys response was that it is only going into sites which have freeway frontage.

It was questioned as to when the land Sanwa is located on goes back to the organization. Bohannon stated that the ground reverts back to the organization in 30 to 45 years. Reynolds questioned why Sanwa was an obstacle to the Village Square, couldn't the building have facades added on to fit in with any architecture that might be present? Bohannon stated that Sanwa was only an obstacle in terms of getting the entire redevelopment for the area. Reynolds wanted to take a look at architectural drawings that the organization has for the Village Square. Bohannon said the Organization has these drawings and has brought them to the Village Homes Association Board meetings on several occasions. He stated that his Organization has tried to go out and get many retailers interested in the site and was not successful until Rite Aid. The Organization has now signed a lease with this retailer and is obligated to move forward for its approval. He did not see why the rest of the Village Square could not be redeveloped and stated that the Bohannon Organization is unsure of its ability to attract other retailers into the site and he felt that the Business Development Committee's help in attracting businesses could be instrumental to the process.

Chair Thoms asked what the group needed to do to move forward with the process. Furger stated that the group needs to look at what it has done and move forward from there. The demographics have changed for the area. The group needs a good sales person who is committed to the cause to convince businesses to come into the area. She stated that the Bohannon Organization could possibly provide new data regarding the demographics and present an architectural plan for the area. Bohannon stated that it costs a lot of money to create another architectural plan for the area, he said that first it is important to find retailers who are expanding and who want to come into the area to present the committee's 'vision' or an architectural plan to. Beckman stated that it is important for the County, the Bohannon Organization and the committee to arrive at some accommodations that are wanted for the Square. He said that there should be a trade off for this area, one which works for the community, the County, and Bohannon and that serves the residents needs. Brookman noted that there is a "need to buy" in San Lorenzo that is not being addressed. Many of the residents are retired and do not have bills thus they have disposable income. This an important fact when approaching perspective retailers. Bohannon agreed that demographics do not necessarily reflect how well a store can do, however it is often what retailers rely on, when considering a site.

It was discussed as to what the total square footage of retail space was available. Bohannon stated that the optimum to build in the area, even taking back the street would be 48,000 square feet of space. One medium size anchor could fit into the area with smaller retail stores. Bohannon stated that his organization could provide more "Fremont-Plaza like architecture" to the area so that all the buildings would blend into this architecture.

Weiss questioned how to make the Square a success, specifically what needs to be done next to move toward making it a success. Gin asked how much it costs to leave the area vacant. Bohannon stated that it is a great expense to have the area vacant for so long, and the organization is losing more money the longer it is vacant. He stated that they are committed to follow through with Rite Aid and cannot renege their agreement with them at this time. Steele stated that the group should focus on the whole of the Square. She pointed to the fact that she has seen Walgreens and Rite Aids in many successful, nice looking shopping centers throughout the bay area. Whether a member agrees with Rite Aid or not is irrelevant and the committee should move forward with its momentum and vision.

Bohannon stated that contacting businesses would be a positive step for the committee. Also creating a task force to introduce the 'vision' to retailers regarding the San Lorenzo Village Square. He stated that the Organization has tried to contact businesses, many of which are on the committee's list, only to be turned down. Trader Joe's is one of these businesses. The committee might want to approach some of these businesses who have previously rejected Bohannon and state the reasons why their respective business would thrive in the community. Furger questioned what would happen if the group does go forward and it gets an interested business? Bohannon invited the group to call the Organization so that a dialogue can be started between the business and the appropriate parties, individuals regarding development/retail in the area.

Steele asked whether Bohannon could provide different designs and lay outs of how stores could be placed in the Village Square. Bohannon stated that the Organization has explored many scenarios for the area and that there are a number of ways the stores can be configured in the area. Steele questioned whether various scenarios can be mapped out for the group to consider. Bohannon said the Organization is hesitant to show the community something that it will like prior to being able to implement an actual plan. This will cause bad feelings within the community and make the Organization look like the "bad guy" again. Steele stated that there will always be a difference of opinion, the community needs to know what the Organizations constraints are. If three separate scenarios were created, an architectural rendering could be done and residents could start to get an idea where specific stores might go. Steele stated that it is important for the Bohannon Organization to take a leap of faith in order for the committee to go forward. Bohannon asked if the County would be willing to make a like-kind financial contribution to the effort. Steele stated that in terms of doing redevelopment she would be willing to look at it. Bohannon stated at one point the County had talked about having a county matching fund. Steele stated that she would be willing to move forward in looking at what it would take to make San Lorenzo a redevelopment area and would make that a top priority in terms of finding a financial way to assist the Bohannon Organization. In turn, Steele stated that it would be helpful to have 2 to 3 drawings of how the Square could be set up.

Chair Thoms asked what the county and the Bohannon Organization would be willing to commit to the process. Bohannon stated that he was not aware that he needed to make a commitment at this time for the Organization and that it was his understanding that this was not part of the agenda. He stated that "Input from the Organization" was on the agenda. Bohannon said that the Organization is committed to working with the group and that none of the groups visions are contrary to the Organizations. He stated that he would be willing to put some block diagrams together and would be willing to put together a new set of demographics for the area. He said the Organization is reluctant to show the community a lot of nice plans only to get its hopes up prior to any proposals being finalized.

Furger stated that it would be helpful if the Organization could provide a list to the group of those businesses who are currently expanding. She also said it would be helpful to make the buildings that are currently in the Square a little more attractive, with paint or some low cost landscaping. Bohannon stated the Organization is spending thousands of dollars replacing windows that keep getting knocked out. The ideal would be to knock down the facility, however they are holding off to see if Rite Aid goes in.

Resident and businessperson Jenell Sausser stated businesses who might come in need to look at the community as a whole and what the surrounding businesses of the area look like. She said that, in her opinion, many of the surrounding businesses are not attractive, and are outdated or rundown. The community has allowed stores to put up unattractive store fronts and to decline. One of the jobs of the committee would be to ensure that the surrounding businesses are up to par. Beckman stated that the Board voted to make the scope of the committee very narrow and that he has always felt that the perspective of the group should be opened up to include looking at the surrounding businesses.

Kern stated that he would be helpful for Bohannon to submit the finwancial requirements for the respective outlines/scenarios for the Square. He and staff could then explore alternate sources of funding available.

Van Huffel wanted a point of clarification as to what the committee's vision was. Thoms stated that the 'vision' is within the brochure and has not changed, although some changes to the brochure will be made that were suggested by Bohannon. Van Huffel asked Thoms whether the committee wanted to go out to businesses at this point or whether it wanted to first have the subcommittee meet. Thoms stated that the subcommittee would meet first and report back to the committee and that no businesses would be contacted at this point.

Davis stated that it was the subcommittee's intent to meet with the county the San Leandro Chamber as well as he Bohannon Organization to have a mini-training on how to attract businesses.

Adjourn 9:12p.m.

Respectively submitted by Kathleen Harrigan