The Water Cooler – Which Downtown is the Best?

June 11, 2018 12:00 pm · 72 comments

The “Water Cooler” is a feature on where we ask you a question or provide a topic, and you talk about it.

The “Water Cooler” will be up Monday-Friday in the noon hour.

Which of the following downtowns do you think is the best?

  • Downtown Concord
  • Downtown Clayton
  • Downtown Walnut Creek
  • Downtown Pleasant Hill
  • Downtown Martinez

Talk about it….

polarbearmarket June 11, 2018 at 12:05 PM

Walnut Creek

The Mamba June 11, 2018 at 12:08 PM

I live in Phill, do we have a downtown? Is Crescent Drive our downtown? Is downtown Concord considered the area around Todos Santos?

I guess WC by default, but I haven’t spent much time in Clayton, admittedly.

Concord A June 11, 2018 at 12:11 PM

Duh Walnut Creek…. literally their downtown area is like the size of Texas!

Doh June 12, 2018 at 7:47 AM

Walnut Creek is too big with no parking, too much traffic and everything, including the parking, is over-priced. I rarely go there anymore.

Mel June 12, 2018 at 9:09 AM

Doh, there are TONS of parking garages and street parking all over downtown WC. Most lots have the first hour, if not 3 hrs for free. And even if you HAVE to pay, we are talking like $0.50 per hour. That is NOTHING. I never understand the people that complain about lack of parking or parking prices in WC, it is so darn cheap. I lived in SF where it was about $5.00 or more per HOUR–$0.50 is nothing. Plus a lot of the businesses will validate your parking.

Shoulda Coulda June 12, 2018 at 10:47 AM

Walnut Creek takes care of people who don’t like
to drive or park. They have a FREE shuttle bus that
leaves from BART every 15 minutes or so and takes
you around town. Hop on, hop off. How cool is that.
Thanks WC!…0….116.1542.14j3……0….1…….3..41j46j0i131.Uhi8MjRte9w%3D

Chicken Little June 11, 2018 at 12:16 PM

The one that Petula Clark sang about.

Safety Second June 11, 2018 at 12:18 PM

Hands-down, Walnut Creek is the best!
Martinez is a ghost town. If you blink, you’ll miss Clayton. Concord has a sales tax approaching 10%. And Pleasant Hill is a strip mall they call “downtown”

concord ygnacio June 11, 2018 at 1:01 PM

No, Pleasant Hill’s downtown is a real downtown just like all the others. I’ve been there. It’s a lot easier finding parking there than Walnut Creek.

Hill June 11, 2018 at 1:39 PM

I aggre it is like a strip mall, if definitely not a place I like to hang out. I would probably say W.C.

Shoulda Coulda June 11, 2018 at 3:50 PM

And may I ask why the paradise of Pacheco
didn’t make the list!! Don’t make us Pachecoites
march on Claycord headquarters!!
It could be an ugly crowd of 4 or 5 pi:sed off

Safety Second June 11, 2018 at 12:19 PM

Hands-down, Walnut Creek is the best! Martinez is a ghost town. If you blink, you’ll miss Clayton. Concord has a sales tax approaching 10%. And Pleasant Hill is a strip mall they call “downtown”

Bob June 11, 2018 at 12:20 PM


Best family town in the East Bay

miketeel44 June 11, 2018 at 2:12 PM

100% agree! I live in Concord, and love Clayton

Lena June 12, 2018 at 9:17 AM

Unfortunately, none of those rate “best” in my book.

Clayton abuses its senior citizens with outlandish garbage and sewer rates completely out of proportion to their usage, and a special assessment to property taxes that, unbelievably, is collected as a surplus to what is actually needed. Don’t even think about it if you’re planning to retire and age in place. What shopping? If you live there and are a senior citizen, you won’t be able to afford to shop or eat out.

Concord you’re likely to get mugged or your car burglarized.

Walnut Creek parking is ridiculous and who can afford to shop there. $200 for a plain cotton blouse at Macy’s?

Pleasant Hill? There’s a downtown? Where is it?

Martinez is too far out of the way and inconvenient to the sort of shopping I do.

So, I guess the answer is None Of The Above.

Cowellian June 12, 2018 at 10:21 AM

Well, Bless your heart, Lena!
Do you really want Contra Costa Central Sanitation District to measure your sewage and charge you by the pound? I’m pretty sure that the technology to implement that would cause your rates to go much higher than they are now.

concord yganico June 12, 2018 at 11:20 AM

Lena: downtown PH has a beautiful and clean downtownn for many years in the business district, on Crescent Drive, where the movie theater is and near City Hall. There is a park, farmer’s market, events, etc. Free parking too! They even have a website:

Safety Second June 11, 2018 at 12:21 PM

Hands-down, Walnut Creek is the best! Martinez is a ghost town. If you blink, you’ll miss Clayton. Concord has a sales tax approaching 10%. And Pleasant Hill is a marginal strip-mall they call “downtown”

Kentucky Derby June 11, 2018 at 12:22 PM

Downtown Martinez – by a long shot. Antique stores, old charm, etc. It was recently in the running for the “best small town” in the country. It didn’t win, but it says a lot about the town (to be nominated).

Well Folks June 12, 2018 at 8:33 AM

And don’t forget all the wonderful new restaurants & brew pubs. Cuff & Collar, Troy, Taco Daddy and of course Five Sons Brewery.

Safety Second June 11, 2018 at 12:25 PM

Hands-down, Walnut Creek is the best!
Martinez is a ghost town. If you blink, you’ll miss Clayton. Concord has a sales tax approaching 10%. And Pleasant Hill is a marginal strip-mall they call “downtown”

Dawg June 11, 2018 at 12:29 PM

Martinez is nice and Clayton is quiet. Walnut Creek has too many parking meters and too much traffic. Pleasant Hill and Concord don’t really have a downtown, they only think they do.
Of the five, I vote for Martinez.

Will June 11, 2018 at 12:37 PM


Martizian June 11, 2018 at 12:40 PM

Downtown Martinez has come a long way in the past couple of years. New coffee shops, restaurants, breweries and more all while maintaining its small town charm. Some of the readers here clearly haven’t been in a while–I would encourage you to come visit on a Sunday morning during the Farmer’s Market and walk around. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised! 🙂

Well Folks June 12, 2018 at 8:35 AM

I agree with you 100%

Diablo June 11, 2018 at 12:41 PM

If your desire is to spend the day wandering through homeless drug addicts and transients relieving themselves on the sidewalks then Martinez downtown is the place for you.

The Mamba June 11, 2018 at 1:08 PM

I was thinking the same thing, the people voting for Martinez must be delusional. Add in the lack of access and number of empty storefronts, and it’s probably the last of the list.

Kentucky Derby June 11, 2018 at 1:53 PM

Homeless people are everywhere. You should hear people in Lamorinda complaining about them. I was in the Atherton/Hillsborough area attending a baby shower a few Saturday’s ago – and there are homeless transients there too. In the Bay Area – there’s no escaping the homeless.

Well Folks June 12, 2018 at 8:37 AM

Diablo & Mamba

You haven’t been to Martinez in quite awhile. Gee it sounds like you are describing Todos Santos Park & not Martinez

Cellophane June 11, 2018 at 12:43 PM

Pleasant Hill.

It’s clean, not so many homeless and has a nice park.

In my opinion…

Cowellian June 11, 2018 at 12:47 PM

Downtown Cowell isn’t on the list? 🙁

My favorite was Martinez, with everything within walking distance. I liked their Farmers Market, and Peddler’s Faire. They get bonus points for all the cute little cottages with neon bail-bond signs.

Clayton had a fun downtown, with their patriotic parades, Octoberfests, and Art & Wine Festivals. Todos Santos Plaza gives Concord’s downtown something really special.

The best thing about Pleasant Hill’s downtown was Jack’s. And I avoided going to downtown Walnut Creek whenever I could.

RunnerDope June 11, 2018 at 2:50 PM

>> Downtown Cowell isn’t on the list?

You mean the gas station with a minimart inside? 🙂

jtkatec June 12, 2018 at 11:19 AM

Well, if Downtown Cowell can be put forth, I will say Downtown Clyde, which there is no downtown Clyde but it’s awful quaint

Bad Nombre June 11, 2018 at 12:50 PM


So many memories of going to court, drinking coffee at the Legal Grounds beforehand, and then the antiques, too.

concord ygnacio June 11, 2018 at 1:03 PM

I agree about Pleasant Hill. Plus, they have a farmer’s market which is top notch! Not sure why so many people here are giving it a hard time.

Anon June 11, 2018 at 1:19 PM

Martinez ~ soon to receive Award and recognition as the noisiest city in Contra Costa County.

Bring your earplugs and take a stroll. Pay no attention to the low flying planes and helicopters who are also enjoying the sights from 1,200 feet up!

MoJo June 11, 2018 at 1:32 PM

Clayton- Minimal traffic, no crime, no homeless people, no freeway noise, no screeching BART trains, easy to park, lots of hiking trails, concerts, car shows, festivals, historical sites, beautiful views, nice park, haunted buildings, barbecues, Soapbox derby, parades and old time charm.

Will June 11, 2018 at 2:11 PM

Sssshhhhhhhh !!!

Captain Bebops June 11, 2018 at 1:49 PM

Crockett but it isn’t on the list. I only drove through it once a few years about and by accident having miss a poorly signed bridge entrance. Downtown Martinez has a long ways to go. Many of the building owners waited until the last minute before their building was condemned for lack of earthquake retrofitting. Interesting they could afford to leave those buildings vacant for so long.

And also for a thriving downtown the parking meters must disappear but that would take a sizeable parking garage for jurors which the county is unwilling to build though they are building a new office building. Go figure.

Keep all three barrels up June 11, 2018 at 1:55 PM

Someone please say Concord before the City Council reads this and starts sinking more money into the Downtown area to try and make it better then everyone else!!

RunnerDope June 11, 2018 at 2:48 PM

“… it used to be a dirt lot next to the bowling alley …”

Hey, there used to be a Grand Auto there and Monument Car Parts with a full engine machine shop across the street.

The Observer June 11, 2018 at 2:48 PM

I prefer downtown Pleasant Hill.

Downtown Walnut Creek is focused on serving the top 2% and has limited parking. No, I’m not interested in handing over my key fob to a valet. I’m concerned that there’s a significant risk of having a car window broken out in downtown Concord. Martinez has more alcohol beverage licenses per square yard than anywhere else in the county.

ClayDen June 11, 2018 at 2:58 PM

Clayton, very family friendly and the best place to live in the Bay Area (which means it’s also the best place in California). If you want shopping or restaurants, then Walnut Creek is the clear choice.

The Truth June 11, 2018 at 6:35 PM

Haha! You’re showing your age!

Concordejet June 11, 2018 at 3:01 PM

I like all of them but Clayton.

Gititogether June 11, 2018 at 3:17 PM

Not sure which is best, but there is a standout for worst. It’s the one that has destroyed every semblance of its once small town charm, metered every square inch of ground and tickets visitors within an inch of their existence, and now attracts the pretentious and annoying with overpriced restaurants and crummy street fairs.

Silva June 11, 2018 at 3:55 PM

What you said!

concord yganico June 12, 2018 at 11:13 AM

Which one is that?

Roz June 11, 2018 at 3:29 PM

It wasn’t on the list, but,…Alameda Downtown, Park Street area.
Charming, friendly, lots to see, do, and taste,…Love that little Island.

Dorothy June 11, 2018 at 3:31 PM

Martinez or Clayton. Both have old town feel to them. Martinez didn’t win but there were a lot of votes for it as “best small town.”

Walnut Creek is to modern anymore and greedy too.

Rubyvee June 11, 2018 at 4:10 PM

I don’t remember the exact quote, but in one of Susan Casey’s books, Devil’s Teeth, (a great read about the Farallones), she spends time with two shark scientists on the Farallones.

She asks one of them, who has traveled all over the world, 3rd world countries, impoverished cities, etc., which city he hated, disliked, felt most uncomfortable in, without hesitation he said, “Downtown Walnut Creek”.

Anon June 13, 2018 at 7:24 PM

Lol I totally agree, love the quote

Mimi (original) June 11, 2018 at 4:37 PM

Well, if I have to choose from these, I guess it’d be Walnut Creek – for the same reasons as several people have given. But truly, if I wanted to walk around a really NICE downtown I’d head to Danville. They have the CUTEST downtown area. And it’s quite large!!

Wanda June 11, 2018 at 4:57 PM

I moved 15 years ago in Concord, because I liked the cuteness of a small family oriented feel of Walnut Creek. I was leaving in Berkeley at the time. Unfortunately when I go out with my husband I do not consider WC as an option, there is no intimacy and warm there. If I need to shop I prefer the mall as I will be much faster that way. WC I will go with some of my snoby friends ha ha only. The parking is a hassle and really turns me off.

Justifiable Languor June 11, 2018 at 5:07 PM

Clayton. Martinez.

I used to love WC. It is an affront to my senses now. i guess it’s nice if you want to spent a couple of hundies.

KAD June 11, 2018 at 5:26 PM

I always liked Martinez.

MrDioji June 11, 2018 at 5:42 PM

I love Todos Santos.

Jack's Fan June 11, 2018 at 6:24 PM

Clayton, but happy to see not everyone thinks so. I’d hate for it to become WC someday.

Law Dog June 11, 2018 at 8:53 PM

Sure in the hell it’s not Concord.

detgfrsh June 11, 2018 at 9:06 PM

Concord is nice when the farmer’s market is happening. Martinez has a couple nice coffee shops but otherwise there’s not much. Walnut Creek is too bling-bling for my taste.

Law Dog June 11, 2018 at 9:17 PM

Concord should take notes from Napa and Petaluma.

Justyfiable Languor June 12, 2018 at 10:51 AM

I agree!

jess June 11, 2018 at 11:34 PM

I would say Walnut Creek. It’s got everything, and I have barely scratched the surface of all the interesting restaurants and shops. And not to mention the more high end hair salons and spa. But the one I have been to the most is Pleasant Hill. Probably because of the movie theater and the fact that Michaels is one of the few stores that carry art supplies.

prairiegirl June 12, 2018 at 6:46 AM

Not sure about my favorite, but I am sure about my least favorite–Walnut Creek, without question. Can’t stand it and don’t go there unless it is absolutely necessary, and it seldom is. Detest the place for so many reasons.

Max June 12, 2018 at 8:45 AM

Clayton. Walnut Creek is too commercial, too crowded, not enough parking. Clayton has the small town charm, and is the only one of the towns that has almost no crime and no homeless walking around. Clayton has a great park, a farmer’s market, art and wine festival, Octoberfest, SAT. night concerts in the park, old time 4th of July parade. I hope it stays as small and quaint.

Mel June 12, 2018 at 9:17 AM

I would have to say Walnut Creek–there are plenty of restaurants, shops (low and high end), quiet parks, trails and farmers market all within walking distance. The parking is plentiful and cheap. I never understand the people that complain about the lack of parking downtown. I drive downtown for workouts and shopping often and never have an issue finding free or cheap parking.

Pleasant Hill is nice, but there isn’t much variety and its not as large. You want to talk about bad parking, PH takes a lot more work than WC in my opinion. Yes, the parking is free, but the lots are usually pretty full or parking spaces are closed off for special events like the farmers market. Whereas I can spend a whole afternoon downtown WC I feel like PH has a shorter life span…for me at least.

I haven’t spent any time in Concord’s downtown–so I cannot comment on it.

Clayton is adorable, but blink and you miss it.

It really depends on what you are looking for.

concord yganico June 12, 2018 at 11:17 AM

Downtown PH has plenty of parking behind Crescent Drive in the Michael’s parking lot.

Anon June 12, 2018 at 9:20 AM

Walnut Creek has the most to offer – a huge variety of resturants and shops-if you can bear the crowds and parking issues.
I like Concord during the Music & Market series. Live music, a great farmers market, plenty of free parking and lots of restaurants.
Clayton is charming but doesn’t offer much outside of the special events, Oktoberfest, concerts, etc.
Martinez is up and coming- with the new restaurants and special events.
PHill- not much in the way of shopping but do like their music concerts.

Citizen June 12, 2018 at 9:34 AM

Walnut Creek does have a lot of parking. Except you cannot park for over three hours and then you are charged. That is by Macy’s! Then other lots only let you park for three hours free. On the street it is ridicules.. 2$ per hour and only for three hours. I do like to shop there as I live close by. I prefer all the cities to visit. Sunvalley Mall is horrible. Not a place to shop. I wish they would bulldoze it down . I like to go to the little strip malls of Willow Pass Rd in Concord, also I joy Moraga. I also catch BART to shop in Berkeley and SF.
We have it made here. Diversity! Great food, and many different places to shop.

4th generation CCC June 12, 2018 at 10:26 AM

Each city has it’s own distinct charm. They are distinctly different so it would depend on your particular taste or mood. I find Martinez downtown the most serene and full of character.

Debate June 12, 2018 at 12:25 PM

Clayton? Its too far.

ClayDen June 12, 2018 at 6:27 PM

Only about a half mile from my house.

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