Walnut Creek transit village to have zero affordable housing

Two of the Bay Area’s biggest problems — parking and housing — likely will get some relief as a new parking garage and a 600-unit transit village go up next to BART’s Walnut Creek station.

Work on the approximately $42 million parking garage, which adds 100 spaces overall at the station at 200 Ygnacio Valley Road, begins Saturday. The garage is the first phase of the development, which will include 596 apartments as well as restaurants, shops and public plazas, according to BART officials.

Frank Arthur of Walnut Creek Transit Lifestyle Associates, a principal in the project, said Wednesday at a news conference at the Walnut Creek station:

“In the village, you can live near transit, use your car less, have access to amenities — you’re close to everything.”

The new garage will be built next to the existing garage in the south parking lot at the station and should be completed by fall 2018, Arthur said.

There will be no affordable housing in the 596 units at the Walnut Creek station, Arthur said. In lieu of building such housing, the developers paid $7 million to the city of Walnut Creek, which will use the money to build affordable housing at a different site.

Chris Filippi, a BART spokesman, said:

“We are going to do everything possible to mitigate the effects of construction on passengers.”

Filippi said work on the project will be done in stages, and there will be no reduction in the number of parking spaces. The existing garage will be open during the construction, with two of the three entrances always available.

Information about the parking situation is available at a site BART created, www.wcbartparking.com.

As soon as the new garage is done, work will start on the first phase of apartment construction, Arthur said.

Work on the 350-unit first phase will begin “probably in early 2019,” he said. “Then we’ll lease up the first phase” and go on to the second phase.

Daria Bickel of San Ramon had just gotten off BART this morning and said she hadn’t heard about the plans for the new transit village:

“I don’t think it would bother me. … People have to live somewhere.”

Her only concern, she said, would be traffic:

“There should be some planning on how to handle traffic.”

BART board president Rebecca Saltzman said:

“One of the reasons for (transit-oriented developments) is to reduce congestion. People will be living here and taking BART instead of driving to the station. … This is a win-win for BART, the city and our riders. … It doesn’t cost us money and brings us revenue through the lease and increased ridership.”

BART is leasing the land to the developer, who is paying the cost of the development.

Saltzman added:

“And it will put a dent in the major housing crisis in the Bay Area.”

BART has built transit villages in cities including Oakland, Hayward, Pleasant Hill and Richmond. Of the transit-oriented developments, those that are rented out are 95 percent rented, according to BART.

At the same time, this means an already overburdened BART system will need to absorb more passengers.

Saltzman said:

“New cars are arriving soon. … The nine-car trains you see in the morning will soon be 10 cars.”

The transit agency has 669 cars and plans to add 775 new cars over the next five years.

Each of the apartment units in the housing development will have dedicated parking, according to BART officials. All of the spots in the new garage are for BART patrons.

BART director Debora Allen said:

“I think this project is great, and residents will be happy with it.”

Tom Crowley of Placerville, who had just arrived at the Walnut Creek BART station this morning, said he drives in from Placerville and uses the station as a base from which to access the rest of the Bay Area.

Crowley said he’s all in favor of the development:

“If Walnut Creek is going to become an urban hub, mixed-use development is appropriate to allow folks to live near public transportation.”

“Mixed-use development” means combining housing and other uses such as retail in the same place.

James Vejar, who lives near the station and was about to take the train, said, “It’s a good idea. Downtown is a nice area, so it makes sense to have housing here.”