A Look at How Walnut Creek is Growing

The General Plan 2025 was adopted by the City of Walnut Creek to support and manage the growth that is expected to increase in the Walnut Creek community in the coming years. This plan concentrates on building on the open spaces within the downtown area, capitalizing on BART and bicycle-friendly roads for residents who can commute to the city or around the East Bay.

A few of the City’s pipeline projects:

Riviera Apartments: 1515 & 1738 Riviera. 58 affordable apartments on two lots available Walnut Creek Transit Village: 200 Ygnacio Valley Road. 596 apartments available
The Landing Apartments: 207-235 Ygnacio Valley Road. 178 apartments available Bonanza Heritage Condos: 1874 & 1882 Bonanza. 15 condominiums available

Click here to see a complete list of approved and pending projects: 2015 Walnut Creek Pipeline

The projected growth in Walnut Creek is complemented by the increase in business relocating to the downtown area. Companies such as Del Monte Corporation, one of the country’s largest food producers and distributors, has relocated its headquarters from San Francisco to 3003 Oak Road. Well-established corporate companies like these are finding more affordable places like Walnut Creek, which offers more space and availability while simultaneously boosting the East Bay market. Other businesses include Macerich’s $250 million renovation of Broadway Plaza. A new parking structure and expanded Macy’s store will be finished in the Spring of 2016. Marriot has submitted an application to build a six-story, 160-room Residence Inn at 2050 N. California Blvd. Lastly, Walnut Creek’s newest addition to its restaurant collection is located on Main Street and Mt. Diablo, Rooftop Restaurant & Bar, opening late this year.

Commonly asked questions about the City’s developments:

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Why is the City allowing new housing to all?” There are two answers to this. First, like in most of California, population will continue to grow. In Walnut Creek, city and community leaders recognized that fact when creating the General Plan 2025, and acknowledged the need to plan for a population increase of about ½ percent per year (the equivalent of 325 people). There are also legal implications if the City refused to allow new housing. The State establishes housing targets for each community. The City must demonstrate in its Housing Element and by local zoning that the new units can be accommodated. “Won’t all this new housing overcrowd our schools?” It’s true that school enrollment in on the rise, but most of the growth is coming from existing housing, according to school district officials. The Walnut Creek School District projects that fewer than 100 K-8 students would result from 1,500 new condos and apartments. The district is basing that projection on recent experience with new, similarly sized and priced projects in the downtown (such as 555 YVR or the Mercer), which resulted in 1 student for every 20 units. In addition, developers pay an impact fee to school districts, based on the number of bedrooms in the project. For example, developers of the Lyric Apartments being built next to the Lesher Center garage will pay $412,190 in school impact fees. The Walnut Creek School District used about $720,000 in school impact fees to help fund the initial renovations required to open a new K-8 school, Tice Creek School, this fall. Home of the former Parkmead Intermediate School, the property was leased to the private Dorris-Eaton School for more than 30 years. Why build housing during a drought?” The new housing is exactly the kind of housing that should be built in a drought-prone state. Multi-family housing uses much less water than typical single family homes as there is little or no landscaping to water. In addition, the new units must meet current building code requirements for water conservation, such as low-flow showers and toilets. “Won’t more housing mean more traffic?” Yes, every new housing unit means more cars. Still, while residents of downtown housing have cars, they need to use them less than the typical resident of a single-family home. Locating multi-family housing downtown helps reduce the level of increased traffic because residents can walk or bike to work, local stores, restaurants, and entertainment venues; take the Free Trolley to get around downtown, or BART to get out of town; and have short distances to drive to the freeway. In addition, every project is analyzed for its traffic impacts before it is approved. Based on the information from this review process, the City works with the developer to define and implement the steps needed to minimize the impact. For example, a traffic study identified potential traffic impacts for the BRIO project on Civic Drive. To mitigate these impacts, the City required the developer to install a new traffic light on Civic Drive to reduce the effects of vehicles entering and leaving the site, and to lengthen the southbound left-turn pocket from Civic Drive to Ygnacio Valley Road to create more room for vehicles waiting to turn. “What benefits do current residents get as a result of these new projects?” Developers pay a variety of fees to the City and to the school districts to offset the impact of their project. Those fees are often used for amenities that have community-wide benefits. Example: Multi-family housing contributes $4,000 per bedroom in parkland dedication fees. Parkland dedication fees collected by the City and County in Walnut Creek paid for almost half of the All Abilities Playground that opened last fall in Walnut Creek.

So, what does this mean for Walnut Creek and neighboring communities?

We think the General Plan and pending Specific plan for the West side of town will increase floor are ratios (FAR), heights and reduce setbacks. With the end of large open sites nearing the City has to embrace infill and more urban redevelopment options to accommodate growth. This means more building can go on each square foot of land in the Downtown; and for property owners land values will go up. The real estate cycle is pretty hot for residential projects, but we can see the end of this cycle nearing. What is next? How about spec office development. While there is not a new office project planned in the city. Stay tuned.

Editor’s Last Note

In 2004, a video was recovered from Walnut Creek’s time capsule revealing a 1981 tour around the city and what it use to look like. Since then, as we have discussed, Walnut Creek has grown dramatically with new Office, Retail, and Multifamily developments. Enjoy!

*All information was gathered from the City of Walnut Creek. Please refer to their brochure for more information. Achieving a Vision

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