Annual Meeting: Saranap Village Changes Outlined,
Proposal Submission Slated for September
AUGUST 17—The restaurant and café have switched places, the eight-story building has been pared back to six, and there will be fewer rental units and more for-sale condos than originally planned. These are some of the changes to the proposed Saranap Village project outlined in a presentation by the developer at the SCA’s August 15 annual membership meeting. Oh, and the “Saranap Village” arch over Boulevard Way? It’s no longer in the plan.
Mark Hall, president and CEO of Hall Equities Group, the firm behind the project, said his company returned to the drawing board after hiring a new architect, conducting more studies, and gathering input from the community through the project website and open houses at HEG’s Walnut Creek offices. The basic “neighborhood village” concept hasn’t changed, he stressed, but there have been a number of changes.
Hall said his firm expects to submit a general plan amendment proposal for the project to the county the first or second week of September.
The SCA meeting took place at Grace Presbyterian Church on Tice Valley Boulevard. An estimated 200 people attended, many drawn by the Saranap Village presentation.
Feedback about the project has been “overwhelmingly positive,” Hall said. “We’ve gotten a lot of really great ideas.” More than 2800 people have visited the Saranap Village website and hundreds have completed the online survey. Input from the residents and businesses has influenced a number of decisions about the project.
An Evolving Vision
Archway. Responding to feedback from the community, the “Saranap Village” arch over Boulevard Way at Flora Avenue has been dropped from the plan. Neighbors saw it as “cheesy” and “contrived,” Hall said. Instead, more “understated” signage would be added to the raised planter at that location, where the oak tree from the parking lot at 1300 Boulevard Way would be moved. Moving the tree, he noted, would cost $400,000.
Restaurant and café. The restaurant and café, both of which would be located on the south side of Boulevard Way, have traded places in the revised plan. The café would be situated about where the parking lot of the Boulevard Terrace condos is today, facing the planned roundabout at the Boulevard Way–Saranap intersection. The restaurant would be where the Sufism Reoriented building and parking lot are now, at 1300 Boulevard Way. (Interestingly, this building was a restaurant before it was purchased by Sufism Reoriented in the early 1970s.) The switch moves the restaurant farther from residential units and provides shade for outdoor dining at the café.
This swap would involve moving the driveway to the Boulevard Terrace condos from the east of the complex, as envisioned in the original plan, to the west of it. HEG hadn’t discussed the change with the condo owners association at the time of the SCA meeting.
LaRosa’s Market site. The initial plan showed a single multi-unit residential building west of the condos, on the site of the old LaRosa’s Market. That is now seen as four separate units.
Retail space. Except for the restaurant and café, all the retail space would be on the north side of Boulevard Way. The revised plan adds 3500 feet of space for stores – 14,700 square feet instead of 11,200.
Residential units. An eight-story building – seven floors of residential space built above one level of retail – has been scaled back to six stories. This was accomplished by having fewer, larger for-sale condos in the for-sale/rental mix. Instead of the 187 units in the original plan, the new plan calls for 145, thus reducing the overall scale of the project.
The project as originally conceived included only rental units – apartments. More-profitable for-sale condos were added to make the project economically viable, Hall said. Since the project was introduced in May, “We’ve radically changed the mix. A large number of units will be for-sale product.” Determining the number, size, and configuration of the condos is key to making the project work economically, he said.
In his presentation, Hall responded to concerns that have been raised about traffic, parking, and other matters related to the Saranap Village project. This will be the subject of a separate article, to be posted the week of August 26.
September Target for Proposal Submittal
The general plan amendment proposal HEG expects to submit to the county in early September will include “key data points” necessary to move forward with the environmental-impact study. But it won’t include architectural renderings, Hall noted, as these are still in the works. “We’re still struggling with an architectural vision at this point.” Hall expects the final design to include a mix of architectural styles. (Renderings on the Saranap Village website are of the preliminary design.)
Community Meeting: Saranap Village Project
Once HEG has submitted their application to the county, the SCA will schedule a Community Meeting on the project. This will be an expanded version of the presentation Hall gave at the annual meeting and will include a question-and-answer session, which the August 15 presentation did not. Information about the meeting will be posted here on the SCA website. Follow-up meetings will be scheduled if necessary. (We held three meetings on Sufism Reoriented’s sanctuary.) Input from the neighborhood will figure prominently in the board’s decision whether to recommend to the county that the project be approved.