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A Day in the Lives of Two City Planners

A Danville couple pitches the positives about Oakland and Walnut Creek.


courtesy of Alison and Byron Best

Alison and Byron Best have a lot in common: a marriage certificate. Their child. And the task of pitching two East Bay cities, and all the food truck nights, restaurant week promotions, and other events that bring people downtown to eat, shop, and play. The Bests, who met during a Bay Area business convention, have marketing and sales backgrounds: He worked for Nike and Reebok; she promoted tourism in Whistler, B.C. Now, Alison is president and CEO of Visit Oakland, while Byron is executive director of Walnut Creek Downtown Business Association. We talked with the couple about how they compare notes at the end of the day.


Q: Are you competitive about work, or is your dinner table in Danville a neutral territory, like Switzerland?

A: Alison: [Laughs] At home in Danville, we’re soccer parents. We spend our time talking about our kids and pets.
Byron: There isn’t really competition between us. Both of our cities have distinct advantages: Walnut Creek has high-end retail; Oakland has an incredible food scene and the airport. We can share ideas about each other’s work.


Q: Where do you see your city in 10 years?

A: Alison: My two biggest goals would be to retain the sports teams and expand hotels. We lead the state in demand for hotel rooms. We only have 5,000 rooms, and if you compare that to Cleveland or Pittsburgh, they have about 20,000 rooms.
Byron: Residents of Walnut Creek see it as a smaller community than people visiting Walnut Creek do. I’d love for them to start seeing their city as a small metropolis. The development that is happening here is tremendous.


Q: If you could take one thing from your partner’s city, what would it be?

A: Alison: I would want Walnut Creek’s retail scene. It would be great to have some of that retail in the downtown core, so visitors and residents could spend more of their time and money in Oakland, rather than in Emeryville and Walnut Creek.
Byron: I would take Lake Merritt and transport it to Walnut Creek.
Alison: Oh, wow. Now, I’m thinking of taking Mount Diablo for Oakland.
Byron: I was going to put Lake Merritt at the base of Mount Diablo.

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