Shaping the City’s FutureMar 02, 2021 02:14PM ● By Robert Stankus
In pre-covid times, city leaders from around the world traveled to Walnut Creek to glean ideas on how to replicate the city’s quality of life in their own communities. And there’s a good chance Sandra Meyer, Walnut Creek’s Community and Economic Development Director, had a hand in the revered city planning they came to see.
Since 1989, Meyer has played an integral role in shaping the city’s present and future. She realized her civic calling at UC Davis, but after graduating amidst the Proposition 13 revolution, found few opportunities in city government. Instead, she worked for a developer of retirement communities and gained insight into the private sector’s perspective on planning and development.
After a stint with the City of Fairfield, Meyer joined the City of Walnut Creek as an associate planner in a job share position while raising her two boys in their Rancho San Miguel neighborhood. Working her way up the ranks, she went on to serve as the city’s planning manager before taking the director’s reins from Valerie Barone—who moved on to become Concord’s City Manager—eight years ago. “I went into public service because I enjoy long-range planning and I kept getting opportunities to move up.”
During her tenure, Meyer has seen a lot of change, and played a key role in creating it, most notably at the “Golden Triangle” Cal Plaza office park, BART station, Plaza Escuela, John Muir Medical Center, and many other projects. “People generally don’t realize that planning is what distinguishes Walnut Creek from other communities,” she says. And while changes in growth policies, height restrictions, and zoning can alter plans, the long-term vision has remained intact.
In her role, Meyer focused on people and policy management, building a skilled team, while also working with the city manager and the council to inform and implement goals. She understood that maintaining a high quality of life in Walnut Creek is dependent upon having the resources to maintain it. A changing world with fewer cars, fewer retail stores, and ultimately lower sales tax revenue points to the need for new local economic stimulus. "Well-designed outdoor entertainment spaces, that are both architecturally and physically pleasing will draw people downtown, as well as more activity nodes like outdoor cafes and live music. I think retail is going to make a comeback, with smaller store concepts.” What are you going to miss about your job? “The people I worked with on my planning team and knowing what is going on in my city.”