The Adventure Ahead at EL Cerrito Plaza BART

(from May 4 City Council Meeting)

Well, we have an adventure ahead of us! It will be a BIG adventure – but I believe it will be a good long term positive for El Cerrito and our residents.  A defining time for our city.

Make no mistake – there are a lot of hurdles and it won’t be easy, but we have an opportunity here for:

  • A new residential, retail center;
  • New housing in every category – affordable, market and the missing middle;
  • Critical revenue coming into a city which desperately needs it – hopefully at a time when we will be coming out of our financial despair
  • And maybe a venue for a future library.

I am reminded of an email I got a couple months ago from a resident who said he is excited about the possibilities at the Plaza BART station because he passes the empty wasteland of the parking lot every day and imagines what attributes could be there instead.

BART parking lot
The city-owned lot near the El Cerrito del Norte BART station is seen in El Cerrito, Calif., on Tuesday, May 3, 2016. The city has selected three development firms out of 11 that responded to a request for qualifications to develop the lot known as the Mayfair Block. (Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group)

There will be those who say we should do nothing.  They like our city the way it is. They’d rather not grow.  Well growth is a thing in the Bay Area that every city will have to deal with – it’s a reality — and we have mandates from the state on providing necessary housing.   We will also have the additional experience in dealing with a post covid world with new realities – and more people working from home.  

El Cerrito’s growth is limited to San Pablo Ave and around our BART stations – which turns out to be the best places in our efforts to combat Climate Change.

So. what we have heard at the May 4th Council meeting where our city, BART and the chosen developer gave presentations, and what we will deal with in the future few years, is a positive chapter for growth in El Cerrito.

Make no mistake about it, by state law BART is in charge of this project and they have prioritized the Plaza station as one they want to showcase…they have publicly promised to be responsive to our concerns and our goals and we will have to hold them to that. 

Paul Fadelli looking at a BART map in the BART station

I’ve expressed my concerns about parking, access – especially for hill residents and retail and office space needs.  I want to see the facts abut how the library could work here.  We need a venue.

But I also want to hear from our residents so we can keep a strong dialogue open with BART.  This is a long-term project – nothing except ideas and planning happening now. 

I was just re-elected last year and it looks like construction won’t really get going until I am out of office – so let’s all take a breath and think about the possibilities and work through the hurdles and move to a well-planned smart development here in our city.

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