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Studies front and center in Planning Committee business


Friday, May 17 (9:30 a.m.): Cost is the next question to answer regarding replacement of the existing Mutual Operations Department (MOD) office building.

The GRF Planning Committee on Thursday approved recommending that the full GRF Board amend its agreement with a Berkeley-based consulting firm to add studying the costs of various alternatives to replace the current office space on Rockview Drive.

ELS Architecture and Urban Design has already been working with GRF for several months evaluating the worthiness of remodeling the former John Muir Health medical offices building (which GRF owns) into offices for MOD, and possibly other GRF departments.

The existing MOD office building, which houses several GRF departments, is widely viewed as overcrowded, shopworn and prone to flooding.

Now, the Planning Committee recommends that the ELS agreement be extended to have that firm prepare cost estimates for three scenarios:

 Demolishing the existing 12,500-square-foot modular MOD offices and building an entirely new building on the same footprint, and also building a new 6,500-square-foot program space at Gateway Complex.

 Fully renovating the 30,000-square-foot former John Muir medical offices building to house MOD and renovating the 6,500 square feet in Gateway as an “alternate amenities” use.

 Building a new 30,000-square-foot building in the existing RV lot above the MOD building that would serve as a “Rossmoor City Hall,” and renovating the 6,500 square feet in Gateway as an “alternate amenities” use.

About $13,300 would be needed for ELS to draft these estimates.

The information to be gained from extending the ELS work will help GRF decide which “long-term pathway” to follow with MOD, GRF General Manager Jeff Matheson told the Planning Committee. “This is a long-term deal; this isn’t happening next week,” Matheson said.

Determining “realistic” food and beverage options Two representatives of a Newport Beach-based consulting firm told the Planning Committee that more than 1,500 Rossmoor residents responded to an April survey of what residents think about current food services and dining both in and out of Rossmoor, and what new options they would potentially support.

The survey was available both online and in the Rossmoor News.

“The goal is to understand the culture in Rossmoor, and the need for additional food services in Rossmoor,” said Daniel Berdas, managing partner with Synergy Restaurant Consultants.

The GRF Board in December approved paying Synergy up to $70,200 to conduct a market study for residents’ demand for various food-related services – including restaurants, bars, caterers and coffee bars – and Rossmoor’s capacity to accommodate such services.

Last week, several GRF Board members and senior managers joined Berdas and Mandy DeLucia of Synergy on a tour of several restaurant and bar establishments in Oakland and Lafayette to study concepts for what Rossmoor could potentially host. Berdas said more establishments will be examined on a virtual tour in the near future.

He and DeLucia were also scheduled last week to tour Rossmoor’s physical properties that could host one form or another of food and beverage services.

DeLucia told the committee the possibilities will be determined, in part, by Rossmoor’s residents, whom she broadly described as a very social, community-minded group, and as a very diverse group. She said she was encouraged by the number of residents who want to be involved in future aspects of this study.

Call for a new pedestrian and traffic study 

Tom Cashion, Rossmoor’s public safety director, said a new Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Study covering all of Rossmoor would be a boon to residents’ safety.

The last such Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Study in Rossmoor was conducted in 2016, Cashion said. A new study should evaluate Rossmoor’s street-system design, including intersections (streets and entry driveways); signage/markings; speed; pedestrian accommodations; parking lot flow and pedestrian routes. Where appropriate, it would also identify solutions (addition of medians, restriping, signage and/ or traffic-calming modifications, to name a few). It also would identify technology to help make the streets safer and identify prospective driver/pedestrian safety programs.

The primary study areas, Cashion said, would include Rossmoor Parkway, Terra Granada Drive, Tice Creek Drive, Golden Rain Road and Stanley Dollar Drive and various GRF parking lots. It would not include Mutuals’ driveways and parking spaces. Cashion said he would want residents to weigh in on appropriate portions of any study.

Planning Committee members indicated last week that a “request for proposals” (RFP) document Cashion created to send to firms interested in doing such a study was fine, but no money to pay for the study itself has yet been identified.

Bus/transit study

The Planning Committee had a few minor suggested tweaks to another RFP document, this one to solicit firms for undertaking a study to evaluate the current GRF Transportation operation for efficiency, cost-effectiveness, evaluation of alternative transportation options, recommendations for improvements to the service, and rider convenience.

The study likely would evaluate the daily ridership patterns within Rossmoor itself and outside the gate toward the shopping center, nearby medical offices and downtown Walnut Creek. It also would discuss service enhancements, including a possible return to fixed routes, on-demand dispatching, alternative vehicle types (vans, perhaps), staffing and hours of service.

In 2023, the service provided approximately 39,000 passenger trips, far fewer than before the COVID-19 pandemic; in 2019, that number was 116,000. It isn’t certain whether this decline is because of the post-COVID elimination of fixed routes or more fundamental ridership pattern changes.

A transit study of Rossmoor was conducted in 2018; among its recommendations were GoGo Grandparent, affiliated with Uber and Lyft to provide subsidized rides for residents. This program was instituted, and has been popular with residents, but is limited in what types of rides it can provide. It is offered only outside of Transportation Department hours and service areas.

GRF’s 2024 Operation Budget contains $50,000 to complete a study of the Rossmoor bus service. The cost of hiring a consulting firm to do the study is estimated at between $30,000 and $60,000.