Pivotal Moments In History: The Golden Triangle and Measure AApr 02, 2023 09:51AM ● By Harper Klein
When we talk about pivotal moments in the history of this great city, besides the opening of Broadway Plaza in 1951, and the 680/24 freeway intersection in the 1960’s, it’s easy to point to the 1973 opening of the Walnut Creek Bart Station as a notable event that shaped the city’s future.
While some might add the passage of the Open Space Protection Law, Measure C in 1974 to the list, for many in the commercial real estate sector there's another event that stands out.
In 1985, the passage of Measure A marked a critical turning point that would chart the course for the city's future growth. This controversial measure had a profound impact on Walnut Creek's urban planning, shaping its approach to sustainability and development for years to come.
In the early 1970s, the opening of the Walnut Creek BART station brought an unprecedented level of connectivity and economic opportunity to the city. With new workers, tourists, and business interests flooding in, the city saw a rapid building boom that brought with it a flurry of new office and commercial buildings.
Yet, as with any period of rapid growth, controversy soon followed. Concerned residents began to worry about the impact of uncontrolled development on the city's unique character and quality of life. Fast forward to 1985, when the Golden Triangle burst onto the scene in downtown Walnut Creek.
The Golden Triangle was a moniker given to the area surrounding the Tishman Office Center and California Plaza buildings, two ten-story structures that were seen as the potential financial hub of the East Bay.
As office structures continued to rise and traffic congestion increased, citizens in Walnut Creek became increasingly worried about the impact of uncontrolled high-rise development on their beloved city. In response, a grass-roots organization called "Citizens for a Better Walnut Creek" was formed to halt the proliferation of tall buildings.
In March 1985, voters approved Measure A, also known as the "Building Height Freeze Initiative," which set building height limits at six stories or 89 feet in height. This was the beginning of a new era in the city's development; one marked by a delicate balance between growth and the preservation of Walnut Creek's natural beauty and residential neighborhoods.
There’s a prevailing belief, particularly among
developers, that the height limit measure has hindered the city’s ability to
attract certain business sectors and expand as a business hub. In response, the Chamber of
Commerce formed an "Economic Development Working Group" to study how changes to Measure A would benefit job growth.
“Measure A has been an important part of Walnut Creek for decades,” said Chamber President & CEO Bob Linscheid. “Nobody’s saying eliminate it, we’re saying let’s take a look at these rules and what it could mean for the future.”
New career opportunities, Linscheid believes, are in the tech and corporate sectors, not necessarily in the retail and car dealership businesses that have been a staple for jobs in the city. “Measure A restricts heights, that’s all it does, but sometimes it becomes larger than life when folks discuss it.”
A good example is Neiman Marcus. In 2009, when Macerich Corporation unveiled plans for a significant expansion of Broadway Plaza shopping center with a new anchor tenant Neiman Marcus, the proposal quickly became embroiled in controversy.
Due to height restrictions imposed by Measure A, the store was forced to scale back on its initial plans to build three stories with a rooftop restaurant, ultimately building two levels and reduced square footage.
After only eight years in Walnut Creek, Neiman Marcus closed in 2020, leaving the future use of the space uncertain. Any proposal would have to adhere to Measure A's height restrictions. And a repeal of Measure A requires a ballot measure and vote of approval by the citizens of Walnut Creek.