By Daniel Borsuk
After five futile years, developer Mark Hall finally got the green light from the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors to build his $100 million mixed-use Saranap Village Development in unincorporated Walnut Creek on Tuesday.
A jubilant Hall told the Contra Costa Herald after the supervisors voted 5-0 that he plans to begin construction of the major residential-commercial development in mid-2019. It will be located on 4.6 acres on the southwest side of the Highway 24 and Interstate 680 interchange, clustered around the intersection of Boulevard Way and Saranap Avenue.
Of the 45 persons speaking before the supervisors, 42 supported the proposed project, that will provide 122 rental apartment units and 76 residential condominium units, which were a key selling point for supervisors, especially Supervisor Candace Andersen whose District 2 includes the development site.
Longtime Saranap resident Jennifer Russell was one of the few opponents. She said the development’s 71 feet height is too tall for the residential area.
“We’re really a residential area,” said Russell. “Keep the development a bit smaller.”
Russell preferred that the project height be scaled down to 57 feet.
Sharon Lyons, a Saranap resident since 1958, welcomed the project that will bring about 21,522 square feet of commercial space.
“This development will make the area a destination area for us. It will be a wonderful addition for our area,” she said.
Giving the project an added architectural punch will be a traffic roundabout that will feature a piece of public art work on Boulevard Way.
“This is a beautiful project,” Supervisor Andersen said. “We need all types of housing in the Bay Area. One hundred ninety-eight new residential units is a good step forward.”
“This is a poster child project that shows how the community and developer can work as a team,” said District 1 Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond. “Unfortunately, this project should not have taken this long, yet it is one of the best projects that I have seen.”
Mary Brooks of the Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce urged supervisors to approve the development that will also include an outdoor seating area along Boulevard Way for commercial tenants.
As part of the deal with the county, Hall has established a Saranap Area Plan with a $50,000 startup fee. The plan will serve as a guide for future commercial development, architecture, and the future location of a park for the Saranap area.
Other features of the Saranap Village Mixed-Use Project include:
- 492 on-and off-street parking spaces
- Narrowing of a portion of Boulevard Way from four lanes to two lanes.
- Installation of diagonal on-street parking along Boulevard Way and Saranap Avenue.
- New traffic median on Boulevard Way at Flora Avenue.
- Earth moving activities consisting of about 26,500 cubic yards of cut and about 2,615 cubic yards of fill.
So far Hall’s Saranap Village Developers LLC has paid the county $26,095 in total fees for the General Plan amendment ($5,000), rezoning review ($14,745), tentative subdivision map review ($2,850), and for the final development plan ($3,500).
Five days after project approval, the developer is expected to pay the California Department of Fish and Wildlife a CEQA filing fees of $3,078.25 and a $50 processing fee with the county clerk.
Once the project is completed, Contra Costa County estimates to draw $864,416 in yearly tax revenue from the development, an increase from the estimated $14,000 a year in tax revenue that the county now draws.