Saranap Village 5-0
AUGUST 16—The Contra Costa County Board of supervisors yesterday voted 5-0 to approve Hall Equities Group’s mixed-use Saranap Village project. One supervisor called it “exactly the kind of project we need in the Bay Area.”
Thirty-one people spoke in favor of the development, most of them SCA members, including board members David Dacus and Charles Huddleston. The SCA had previously voted to support the project, based on community input at meetings it held that included presentations about the project.
Speakers, a number of them long-time residents who live near the project site, noted that it will transform the character of a run-down stretch of Boulevard Way into a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly “downtown,” with a grocery store, restaurant, café, and retail shops. Many said they welcome the additional housing.
Speakers at the hearing included representatives of the Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce, the Contra Costa Association of Realtors, and the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area, all of whom endorsed the project. Representatives of two unions spoke in favor of it as well.
Building Height, Lack of "Specific Plan"
Only four people spoke against the project at yesterday’s hearing. Their concerns would be familiar to those who have attended prior meetings on the project.
One was the height of the tallest building in the development, Building A, which will be at the Boulevard Way–Saranap Avenue intersection. A speaker stated that the building will be 71 feet high, a figure often used by those critical of the project. HEG Executive Vice President Deborah Karbo explained that this figure doesn’t accurately reflect the building’s height. At its tallest point, she said, the building measures only 55 feet from the ground to the highest elevation.
The other concern raised was that the project was being pursued without the constraints of an official “specific plan” to guide overall development in the area.
Praise for Process, Design
In a presentation about the development, HEG’s Karbo noted that the area to be included in the project today generates about $14,000 a year in property, sales, and use taxes. Saranap Village, she said, will generate an estimated $860,000 annually.
There was acclaim for Hall Equities Group CEO Mark Hall and his company from speakers and the supervisors, noting the lengths to which they went to accommodate the concerns of the neighborhood.
They were equally impressed by the design of the project itself. District 1 Supervisor John Gioia said it’s “one of the best projects I’ve seen” in his 18 years on the board, adding that it’s “exactly the kind of project we need in the Bay Area.”
The East Bay Times quoted SCA board member Huddleston as saying, “Change [in the neighborhood] is inevitable; it all depends on how you do it.”
Supervisor Andersen credited the Saranap Homeowners Organization (not to be confused with the SCA) with leading the effort to scale back the project. Since plans were unveiled five years ago, Building A has been downsized twice. The number of rental and for-sale apartments and condos has been reduced from 325 to 198, and retail space has been trimmed by 27 percent.
There were few empty seats at yesterday’s hearing, which was held in the supervisors’ chambers in Martinez. It lasted only about two hours.
The East Bay Times article put the cost of the project at $100 million. HEG’s Mark Hall told the paper he hopes to break ground on the project in mid-2018.