Publication: Contra Costa Times (California)
Author: Theresa Harrington
WALNUT CREEK — Although housing is said to be in a slump regionally, multifamily housing projects are going like gangbusters in Walnut Creek.
More than 500 condos, apartments and town homes are under construction throughout the city, with about another 1,000 in the works. It’s a surprising trend, given the slowdown in California’s housing market.
Yet developers say they’re enthusiastic about building in Walnut Creek, because of high demand for a limited supply of upscale units in the East Bay’s most urban suburb.
“I think we’ll be just fine,” said Patrick Nesbitt Jr., developer and owner of the 125-unit Windsor Apartment project under construction on North Main Street next to the Marriott Hotel.
The four-story building expected to be completed in February will include one- and two-bedroom units featuring room service and maid service.
According to the city’s “inclusionary” affordable housing policy, 10 percent of the units will be priced at lower than market rate to accommodate residents who might not otherwise be able to pay the relatively high rents that Walnut Creek commands.
Walnut Creek likely will be expected to accommodate nearly 2,000 new housing units by 2014, according to preliminary projections by the Association of Bay Area Governments.
The city will include this goal in its new housing element of the General Plan, to be updated next year.
The 20-year plan encourages multifamily housing projects downtown, where residents can live near transit and walk to shops and restaurants. On North California Boulevard, the four-story Mercer mixed condo and retail project under construction has sold nearly 60 percent of its units, said Jon Moss, senior vice president of development.
“That’s significant, especially in this market, where things have slowed down in the market overall,” Moss said. “Walnut Creek remains fairly strong.”
At 555 Ygnacio Valley Road, developers of a new 90-unit condo project recently broke ground with high hopes.
“We’re obviously very bullish considering that we’re starting construction at this point in the market,” said Bruce Dorfman of Thompson-Dorfman Partners, the Mill Valley developer.
“We think it’s going to be an incredibly unique product in a great location.”
The Walnut Creek BART station is considered a strong attraction for downtown housing because it allows nearby residents to commute to San Francisco without using cars. A transit village on BART property containing about 575 apartments has been proposed, but is not yet approved.
“Without a BART station, Walnut Creek would be a very, very different community,” said Brian Griggs, who plans to build a four-story condo project at 235 Ygnacio Valley Road. “In communities that have BART stations, you do see a lot of this development near public transit and near the freeways.”
In the “Golden Triangle” section of Walnut Creek, two multifamily housing projects have been approved on Riviera Avenue. And on the southern side of Ygnacio Valley Road, more condos are planned on Lacassie and Almond avenues.
Even outlying areas such as Tice Valley Boulevard, Homestead and Third avenues are seeing project proposals, although some have been opposed by residents who say high-density buildings won’t fit into their neighborhoods.
“We have to find the right balance between affordability and density and design,” said housing manager Amy Hodgett. “We have to come up with the right mix, so that’s what we’re working on.”
Walnut Creek’s preliminary housing needs through 2014 indicate very low, 456; low, 302; moderate, 374; above moderate, 826; for a total of 1,958.
For more information about Walnut Creek housing projects call 925-943-5899, Ext. 236, or go to http://www.walnut-creek.org and click on “housing” under Quick Links.
Details about the Association of Bay Area Government’s housing need allocations are at http://www.abag.ca.gov/planning/housingneeds. Reach Theresa Harrington at 925-945-4764 or firstname.lastname@example.org.