Will the Pleasant Hill CarMax proposal get the green light? – The Mercury News


PLEASANT HILL — A proposed CarMax Auto Superstore could deliver a sales tax windfall for the city and rejuvenate the blighted DVC Plaza shopping center on Contra Costa Boulevard, but critics say the project is not a good fit for the location and would draw too much traffic — including trucks hauling vehicles — to an already congested area.

The City Council on Monday is scheduled to review the project, which requires a number of permits. The meeting is 7:30 p.m. at City Hall, 100 Gregory Lane.

The first phase of the CarMax project includes an 18,824-square-foot building with offices, a car wash, presentation area and service center; a 4,000-gallon underground fuel storage tank; and a nearly 2.3-acre lighted vehicle display lot.

In the second phase, the Richmond, Va.-based company plans to expand the car wash, build a 24,100-square-foot reconditioning facility and add vehicle staging areas.

The project requires a conditional use permit for auto sales, the fuel storage tank and late hours. City leaders also will consider changing the property’s zoning  from “retail business” to a planned unit development.

CarMax expects to maintain an inventory of about 300 vehicles at the dealership and employ 155 people when both phases are complete.

Opponents have expressed concern about lighting, traffic, pollution, noise and potential runoff into Grayson Creek. However, the environmental impact report found that the project would not “result in any potentially significant impacts.”

Built in the 1970s, DVC Plaza spans 19 acres between Golf Club Road and Chilpancingo Parkway. Diablo Valley College is to the south of the property, a residential neighborhood that is home to many students sits across Old Quarry Road to the west; and an affordable apartment complex and a second shopping center are to the north on the other side of Chilpancingo.

The CarMax would replace the vacant Kmart building and the McDonald’s restaurant. Developer Merlone Geier Partners also plans to renovate the buildings on the southern half of the property, put in a half-acre dog park and create a trail along Grayson Creek.The remodeled shopping center will have room for up to 20 other businesses in about 90,000 square feet.

Some residents believe the site is better suited for housing, restaurants and small shops that would serve DVC students and the surrounding neighborhood. The city had sought such a mixed-use project before the recession and sluggish recovery hampered attempts to redevelop the shopping center.

The proposed CarMax Auto Superstore would replace this vacant Kmart and the McDonald’s in the DVC Plaza shopping center. 

“I feel like it’s all about money and that’s why they’re trying to put CarMax in,” said Belle La, who lives a few blocks away on Camelback Road. “I don’t oppose building it somewhere else in an industrial park or downtown.”

CarMax has four locations in the Bay Area and a fifth scheduled to open in Colma in the fall. Like the Pleasanton and Fremont stores, the Pleasant Hill dealership would recondition vehicles and hold wholesale auctions every two weeks.

When both phases of the project are built, CarMax estimates that five to six trucks per day would deliver vehicles to the dealership, according to Duke.

To address residents’ concerns about traffic, the Planning Commission recommended that the city prohibit test drives on residential streets and require CarMax to review the truck traffic 12 months after the dealership opens.

“It’s just not well thought out,” said Dorothy Englund, a member of a local group that sued unsuccessfully to prevent Merlone Geier from putting up a 50-foot pylon sign at the shopping center. “I think there are a lot of expenses, like wear and tear on roads, I think they haven’t thought about.”

Although most of the people who spoke at the Planning Commission hearing last month opposed the project, there are supporters. In an email to the city, Pleasant Hill resident Becky Keck said she and her husband bought a car from the Pleasanton CarMax in the past year.

“The Kmart site has been vacant too long and needs to be redeveloped,” Keck wrote. “The plans for the CarMax development look great.”


WHAT: Pleasant Hill City Council meeting

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. July 17

WHERE: City Hall, 100 Gregory Lane


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