Saranap Homeowners Organization

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Current view of Mount Diablo from Juanita Drive (Photo by Paul Borgwardt)

Current view of Mount Diablo from Juanita Drive  (Photo by Paul Borgwardt)

The Saranap Village Project
June 19, 2017 Update

Here is the latest information on the Saranap Village project, including the Planning Commission Hearing and what you can do now to help.

THE PLANNING COMMISSION SARANAP VILLAGE PROJECT HEARING IS SCHEDULED

Date:  Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Time:  7:00 PM
Location:  Contra Costa County Planning Commission, County Administrative Building, 651 Pine Street, Room 107, Martinez, CA

PROJECT STATUS

Hall Equities Group (HEG) has submitted its final plans for the project.  The new plans only make changes to the building on Site A.  The remaining buildings (on Sites B, B1 and C) remain unchanged and are reflected in the Mitigated Plan Alternative (MPA).

Here is the latest height zone map for all four sites:

Click here to see a larger Height Zone Map

COUNTY PROCESS

County Staff are currently finalizing a report to the Planning Commission.  Staff will make a recommendation on whether the General Plan should be amended.  The Planning Commission will hear public testimony at the hearing on June 28.  After receiving public testimony, the Planning Commission will submit its recommendation (approve, reject, or seek modification) to the Board of Supervisors for another public hearing and decision.

PROJECT CONCERNS
  1. Height  Maximum height allowed by the General Plan is 35 feet
    1. Site A  ranges between 46 and 67 feet, and is still too tall — well above the General Plan limits.
    2. Portions of the building at 65 feet tower over our neighbors residing at the Vista Palms Apartments
      and this portion of the building should be set back and not exceed 50 feet.

      Portions of the building at 65 feet tower over our neighbors residing in the apartments and condos across from it on Saranap Avenue.

    3. Site B  ranges from 55 to 71 feet, well above the General Plan limits.
    4. Site B1  ranges from 47 to 57 feet, well above the General Plan limits.
    5. Site C  ranges from 52 to 60 feet, well above the General Plan limits.
  2. Density   The project proposes a density of 198 units which is too many
  3. Proposed Road Improvements Are Not Enough 

    Boulevard Way will only be improved adjacent to the project but with diagonal parking and one lane in each direction will be unsafe for cyclists, and will leave the rest of Boulevard Way unsafe for both pedestrians and cyclists.

  4. Saranap Needs a Specific Plan
  5. This project will likely set a precedent to allow a long stretch of very tall buildings along both sides of Boulevard Way.  Only a Specific Plan (a detailed plan designating future development) will be able to control future growth.

ACTION:
  1. Write Letters 

    to the Planning Commission, Supervisor Andersen, and the Board of Supervisors stating your concerns

    1. Send an email to the entire Planning Commission

      Send it to (ie: “Dear Planning Commission”) in care of Sean Tully:  Sean.Tully@dcd.cccounty.us
      Or mail to:
      Sean Tully, Senior Planner
      Contra Costa County Department of Conservation and Development
      30 Muir Road
      Martinez, CA 94553

    2. Send an email to Supervisor Andersen and the Board of Supervisors

      candace.andersen@bos.cccounty.us

  2. Attend the Planning Commission hearing on the Saranap Village project on Wednesday, June 28 at 7:00 PM
    1. Fill out one or more comment cards, each with one concern, and turn them in at the meeting
    2. You may be picked to speak about your concern from one comment card (3 minutes maximum)
The Planning Commission hearing will be held in downtown Martinez
at the County Administrative Building, 651 Pine Street, Room 107.

The Saranap Village Project
January 2, 2017 Update

Here is the latest information on the Saranap Village project, including the Planning Commission Hearing and what you can do now to help.

Planning Commission Hearing Postponed Until February 2017

We have just learned from the County that the hearing before the Planning Commission will not occur until February 2017 or later. We will continue to keep you advised of the status of this project.

Here Is Why 75 Feet Is Much Too Tall

Our primary concern about Saranap Village is the height of the Site A building at the corner of Boulevard Way and Saranap Avenue. HEG has not erected story poles, so it’s difficult to imagine the height of the buildings.  But, take a look at these pictures of the Lyric project in Walnut Creek, located in the block bounded by at California Blvd. on the west, Bonanza St. on the south, and Locust St. on the east. Lyric is a six-story 75 foot tall building, about the same as the proposed Site A building in Saranap Village. Here’s a photo taken October 24, 2016:

Lyrc condo building in downtown Walnut Creek is 75 feet in height

Notice the scale of the construction worker on the third floor of the Lyric building, then realize that
this building in downtown Walnut Creek is similar in size as Site A on Saranap Avenue at Boulevard Way.
This is what Hall Equities Group is proposing to build in our Saranap neighborhood.
But the Lyric building is in a downtown Walnut Creek business area on California Blvd. at Bonanza St.
not in a residential area of single-family homes and low-rise multi-famiily buildings in Saranap.

What You Can Do to Help: Please Write to Supervisor Andersen

We are urging the County and HEG to work with us to make this project a reality. We believe it can be built with modifications to height and the design of the parking structure.

As you might know, and may have read, Supervisor Andersen has made statements to the public that the project requires a certain density in order for it to “pencil out” for HEG. We have provided an example of an alternative plan which drops the height by two stories, with the same number of units and the same square footage for retail, and which may in fact be able to be built at a lower cost. Moreover, the alternative is friendly to the Vista Palms Apartment residents because the garage is not located adjacent to their balconies, and is friendly to the condos across from it on Saranap Avenue, and is friendly to the Saranap neighborhood.

When a claim is made that a zoning modification for a larger project is necessary for a project to “pencil out” for a developer, it is common practice to provide a report (pro forma) from an independent consultant to compare the financial feasibility of alternative projects. As a result, we have requested that the County provide us with facts to support this claim.

Please send an email to Supervisor Andersen (supervisorandersen@bos.cccounty.us) asking her to:

  1.  Consider that there are viable alternatives, as demonstrated by the example on our website of a “Friendly Neighbor” plan (www.saranap.org/sv/sv-index.html).

  2.  Consider that the County’s Design Objectives of Article 84-66.14, 84-66.1402 cannot be met with HEG’s current plan because it is not “compatible” with adjoining structures, does not “successfully integrate” with “existing development that will remain”, and does not “provide for harmonious composition of mass, scale [or] integration of spaces and building forms with the topography of the site and the urban or suburban character of the area.”

  3.  Request that if HEG has claimed that a building 75 feet tall is necessary for the project to “pencil out,” that HEG provide a report that considers the feasibility of an alternative.

  4.  Request that HEG present its project before a meeting of the membership of the Saranap Homeowners Organization.


The Saranap Village Project
October 21, 2016 Update

Here is the latest information on the Saranap Village project, including: the Planning Commission Hearing; Hall Equities Group (HEG) updates; SHO meeting with HEG; and what you can do now to help.

Planning Commission Hearing Postponed Until November or December

The County has advised that its work on the EIR and staff recommendations won’t be completed until November 2 or later. The Planning Commission hearing date would likely be either December 6 or December 20. We will keep you informed of the process as we will need to react quickly. There is only a 10-day notice requirement between the release of the EIR and the Planning Commission hearing.

Hall Equity Group Hires Liaison and Legal Counsel

The developer of Saranap Village, Hall Equities Group, has hired both a liaison to work with the County and legal counsel (former Walnut Creek Mayor Kristina Lawson) in its efforts to gain approval of the project.

Summary of Recent SHO Committee Meeting with HEG

On September 13, 2016, a small group of SHO committee members and residents met with HEG representatives at HEG’s information office on Boulevard Way. The purpose of the meeting was to express our concerns — primarily height, size, and quality — about the project.  We expressed our support of HEG’s project, as long as it complies with the General Plan heights, within some reasonable degree of flexibility, and is in harmony with the neighborhood. 

We explained to HEG that the proposed building height of 75 feet is an unreasonable increase over the current limits of 30 to 35 feet. HEG’s proposal is not compatible and will not integrate with the existing buildings both adjacent to the proposed development and in Saranap generally.  We believe that buildings of such heights would fundamentally change the character of our neighborhood.


The Saranap Village Project
August 26, 2016 Update

Here is an update on several matters, including: Hall Equities Group’s (HEG) marketing campaign, what you can do, and the current County timeline.
Before diving in, we want to thank those that have been willing to participate on NextDoor Saranap, as it has allowed many to understand more about our concerns regarding the project. We are very impressed with the calm, strong focus that our supporters have continued to convey.

Hall Equity Group’s Marketing Campaign

Many of you have received an email survey and glossy brochure from HEG.  As you look them over, just be aware that even though the brochure states that HEG has “listened” and “downsized,” in fact, nothing has changed.  It’s the same project that was submitted to the County in 2015, with The Site A building reaching 75 feet.

Feel free to write your comments on the card, but even better would be to send an email to the HEG contact, Mike Clancy, Director of Community Affairs, mikec@hallequitiesgroup.com and copy Candace Andersen, supervisorandersen@bos.cccounty.us.

We are nearing the final phases of the Saranap Village project. There is still time to voice your opinion.

Residents Action (What YOU can do!)

1.  If you haven’t already, please sign the  petition, and share with your neighbors:

Click Here to Sign Our Petition.

2. Keep the pressure on. Continue to write letters and emails to Supervisor Candace Andersen supervisorandersen@bos.cccounty.us expressing your concerns about her statements that “The the project has been significantly scaled back” and that “A certain density is required for it to pencil out.” The Mitigated Plan Alternative (MPA) is not “significantly scaled back.” A reduction in height from 88 feet to 75 feet in an area where the GP calls for a maximum height of 35 feet is not a significant reduction. In addition, the mass of the Site A building in the MPA is actually larger than in the original plan.  In addition, Supervisor Andersen’s responsibility is to uphold the General Plan and not find ways to make money for a developer. If she feels the General Plan requirements for Saranap need updates, there is a way to do it and that is through a General Plan update or an area specific plan. The County should not be making a decision based on whether the project “pencils out” for the developer. Projects are currently being built in Walnut Creek and Lafayette that comply with their respective General Plans and the developers make sure they “pencil out.”

3.  Since our primary concern is height and HEG has not erected story poles, it’s difficult to imagine the height of the buildings.  But, take a look at the Lyric project in Walnut Creek, located at California/Bonanza/Locust, as it is about the same as the proposed Site A Building in Saranap Village.  Lyric is 65 feet to the top of the roof and 75 feet to stairs/elevator pop-up.  Here’s a photo taken August 27, 2016:

Lyrc condo building in downtown Walnut Creek is 75 feet in height

Notice the scale of the pedestrians at the lower right corner of the image, and compare them
to the height of the Lyric building in downtown Walnut Creek.
This is what is being proposed for Saranap.
But the Lyric is in a downtown business area,
not in a residential area of single-family homes and low-rise multi-famiily buildings.

4.  Once the hearing before the Planning Commission is scheduled, we will ask you to please send emails to the Commission and attend the hearing. Please watch for an alert from SHO later this fall.

5.  Purchase a yard sign stating, ”75 Feet Is Too Tall” for our cost of $15.00.  Please contact paula.santi.lc@gmail.com.

Saranap Village ‘75 Feet Is Too Tall’ sign

Here is the current update:
County Process

The Contra Costa County Planning Department is now completing the environmental document. It will then draft a staff report and project recommendations for the CCC Planning Commission. The Commission currently has six members. A public hearing will be held before the Commission in September or October. The hearing will be scheduled, and we will receive notice, approximately 10 to 15 days before the hearing. The Planning Commission will then submit its recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.

County Timeline

We recently spoke to County Planner Will Nelson, and learned that there were over 300 comments on the RDEIR. They have been sent to a consultant where every comment will be addressed. In sum, this will take time and Will Nelson anticipates that the hearing before the planning commission will occur before the end of the year, but the hearing before the Board of Supervisors will not occur until 2017.

We have been in touch with our District 2 Planning Commissioner, Rand Swenson, who has agreed to meet with us once the hearing is scheduled. At that time, we will also prepare a packet of information to be submitted the Commissioners.

Thank you for your continued support. Keep up to date by visiting www.saranap.org.


The Saranap Village Project
July 25, 2016 Update

The Saranap Village project includes four oversize buildings with heights up to 76 feet. This exceeds the maximum height limit of 30 to 35 feet for buildings in Saranap. It is the position of the Saranap Homeowners Organization that Saranap Village needs to be built in compliance with the General Plan. If you agree, this is the time to speak up.

We are nearing the final phases of the Saranap Village project. There is still time to voice your opinion.

Residents Action (What YOU can do!)

1.  Sign the Move On petition, and share with your neighbors:

Click Here to Sign Our Petition.

2. Keep the pressure on. Continue to write letters and emails to Supervisor Candace Andersen supervisorandersen@bos.cccounty.us expressing your concerns about her statements that there has been a ‘significant reduction’ and that the project won’t make money for the developer if it is smaller. 

3.  Send an email to Mark Hall at Hall Equities Group: jillrb@hallequitiesgroup.com and info@hallequitiesgroup.com  Tell him that the height and density of the project are too much.  Also tell him that the parking structure on building A, 20’ away from the Vista Palms’ balconies, is unconscionable. 

4.  Once the hearing before the Planning Commission is scheduled, we will ask you to please send emails to the Commission and attend the hearing. Please watch for an alert from SHO in September or October.

5.  Purchase a yard sign stating, “75 Feet Is Too Tall” for our cost of $15.00.  Please contact paula.santi.lc@gmail.com.

Saranap Village ‘75 Feet Is Too Tall’ sign

Here is the update as of July 25th:
County Process

The Contra Costa County Planning Department is now completing the environmental document. It will then draft a staff report and project recommendations for the CCC Planning Commission. The Commission currently has six members. A public hearing will be held before the Commission in September or October. The hearing will be scheduled, and we will receive notice, approximately 10 to 15 days before the hearing. The Planning Commission will then submit its recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.

Saranap Homeowners Organization Action

The Saranap Homeowners Organization continues to communicate with Supervisor Candace Andersen as SHO is very concerned by her statements that “The project has been significantly scaled back” and that “A certain density is required for it to pencil out.”

First, the Mitigated Plan Alternative is not “significantly scaled back.” A reduction in height from 88’ to 76’ in an area where the GP calls for 35’ is not a significant reduction. In addition, the mass of Site A in the MPA is actually larger than the original plan.

Second, Supervisor Andersen’s responsibility is to uphold the General Plan and not find ways to make money for a developer. If she feels the General Plan requirements for Saranap need updates, there is a way to do it and that is through a General Plan update or an area specific plan. The County should not be making a decision based on whether the project “pencils out” for the developer. Projects are currently being built in Walnut Creek and Lafayette that comply with their respective General Plans and the developers make sure they “pencil out.”

SHO has requested meetings with the developer, Mark Hall of Hall Equities Group. As of this writing, he has declined.

We have been in touch with our District 2 Planning Commissioner, Rand Swenson, who has agreed to meet with us once the hearing is scheduled. At that time, we will also prepare a packet of information to be submitted to all of the Commissioners.

We urge you to participate in protecting our Saranap, and checking back here on www.saranap.org for updates.

Welcome to Saranap!

Saranap is an appealing community oasis, ideally located in Central Contra Costa County and bordered by Lafayette on the west, Walnut Creek on the east, Rossmoor on the south, and Highway 24 on the north. The Saranap Homeowners Organization was founded in 2009 to give Saranap homeowners a true independent voice dedicated to preserving and fostering the established character and quality of the Saranap as a semi-rural, low-density, residential neighborhood. Membership in the Saranap Homeowners Organization is open to all Saranap homeowners.

Go to our Information page and learn more about our community and construction projects in our neighborhood.

Go to our About Us page and learn more about SHO – the Saranap Homeowners Organization.

Go to our Join Us page and join or renew your membership in the Saranap Homeowners Organization.

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