[Fwd: NoVa SPRAWL E-News #6-23 12-013 b]
- -------- Original Message --------
Subject: NoVa SPRAWL E-News #6-23 12-013 b
Date: Fri, 13 Dec 2002 14:50:04 -0500
From: James Wamsley <jawamsley@...>
Reply-To: James Wamsley <jawamsley@...>
Developers tackle housing and land shortage with small homes, cozy
The reasons for the housing shortage in California are myriad and
complex, but one of the largest contributing factors is the lack of
The demand for housing in this state began outpacing inventory 20 years
ago so that today the number of new homes built annually - about
140,000 - falls short each year by 80,000. Californians acknowledge the
value of open-space preserves and protecting scenic lands, but with the
state growing by more than half a million people each year, according to
the state Department of Finance, how can cities accommodate much-needed
housing while maintaining open-space mandates?
Increasingly, the answer is the "master-plan" community, where lots for
single-family detached homes are generally smaller and sometimes include
multifamily dwellings. In addition, master-plan developments are built
to be pedestrian-friendly, where families can walk to get groceries or
dine out - thereby lessening traffic demands - and where neighbors feel
part of a defined community.
"The philosophy tends to be a whole life experience, where people can
live, work, shop and find their entertainment," says Adrian Schmitz,
director of residential and community development at for the Washington,
D.C.-based nonprofit Urban Land Institute.
"People are looking for a good environment, convenience and
Rivermark, a 150-acre master-plan community in Santa Clara being built
on what was once part of Agnews Hospital, lies within the so-called
Golden Triangle of Silicon Valley, bounded by highways 101, 880 and 237.
The area is home to hundreds of high-tech companies, but provides very
little housing. The builders at Rivermark - Centex Homes, Shea Homes and
Lennar Communities - are betting that home buyers, especially those with
jobs in the area, will see the advantages to life in an "urban village."
"People have choices. You have to sell them a reason not to drive two
hours to Modesto, where they can afford a larger house on a larger lot,"
says Mark Day, an architect with the Dahlin Group in San Ramon. "You
want to design a community where they can get the best of both worlds -
living close to their jobs and still having a community."
The Dahlin Group is responsible for the design and planning of both
Rivermark and the 865-acre Evergreen Hills development in southeastern
At both Rivermark and Evergreen Hills, the homes and dwellings
(townhomes, apartments) are designed as an eclectic blend of early Santa
Clara Valley styles, including Craftsman, French, English Tudor and
bungalow - a deliberate step away from the "pink stucco box" look of
master-plan developments of 20 years ago.
"From a planning concept, we tried to plagiarize what we saw as the most
livable and quaint communities in San Jose. If you drive through Willow
Glen or the Rose Garden there is a diversity of housing, it's eclectic,"
says Chris Truebridge, executive vice president of Shapell Industries of
Northern California, the developer for the 3,000 homes project.
"We try to pick up some of the classic looks and then a cottage look and
mix-and-match so that they're complementary."
Mr. Day says the pre-war neighborhoods of the '20s and '30s still hold
their appeal decades later, so the architects and designers try to bring
those elements to both Rivermark and Evergreen Hills.
"It addresses both the public and private realm, with houses set closer
to the street and front porches," he says. Detached garages at both
developments are set behind the homes, with alley access, to eliminate
the need for driveways interrupting sidewalks at the front of the homes,
thereby encouraging pedestrian traffic. Streets are narrower, and
sometimes include traffic circles, to slow traffic and ensure pedestrian
One of the challenges of designing a master-plan community is providing
for private outdoor space on the typically smaller lots.
"You have to deliver a usable outdoor space for a patio or barbecue, so
you have to design it as an extended room," says Mr. Day. "It's an
important part of the design." He says designers have tackled the issue
by placing a patio space or courtyard between the home and the garage at
the back of the lot.
Creating a master-plan community isn't just about designing homes, but
planning the street layouts, commercial centers, parks, public
facilities and streetscapes as well.
Rivermark and Evergreen Hills both make liberal use of "pocket parks,"
small recreational areas that families and children can easily walk to.
"The open space is an important component because people like to see
park land as close to their homes as possible," says Ms. Schmitz of the
Urban Land Institute. "Some developers do a network of parks that run
through the development, usually with bike or pedestrian paths."
At Rivermark, there is a pedestrian trail running east to west that will
end on the levee of the Guadalupe River, according to Geoff Goodfellow,
planning director for the city of Santa Clara. Mr. Goodfellow says the
developers put in the money to build a bridge across the river that will
link pedestrians to the First Street/River Oaks light-rail station.
Unlike Evergreen Hills, which is more suburban in feel, Rivermark
includes two apartment complexes, one with 500 units and the other with
400. It averages about 20 apartment units per acre, compared to
Evergreen Hills' four to five units per acre.
"Evergreen has a lot more single-family detached homes. Rivermark was
the great opportunity to 'go up' to get vertical and get more units and
more square footage," Mr. Goodfellow says.
Common to both developments is a commercial center, anchored by a
supermarket - "that way, people don't have to drive to get a quart of
milk," says Mr. Truebridge of Shappell. Upscale grocer Lunardi's opened
its store last November at Evergreen Hills, and Safeway is scheduled to
open at Rivermark in January.
Both developments will have their own schools and community centers as
Another important aspect of the planned communities is breaking up
street grids in favor of "landscaped conduits that bring people to other
places," says Mr. Truebridge.
"You want to have some discovery. You want to be able to see a park, and
then you go around a corner and the architecture changes, or there's a
lake feature," he says.
Home buyers are attracted to master-plan communities, says Mr.
Truebridge, because they have an opportunity to buy a brand-new house,
with no immediate maintenance requirements - all in a safe, attractive
environment reminiscent of small-town life.
DEBORAH HOPEWELL is a freelance writer based in Santa Cruz.
>From the December 6, 2002 print edition Silicon Valley/San Jose BusinessJournal
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Jim Wamsley jwamsley5@...
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to
everything else in the Universe.
-- John Muir - My First Summer in the Sierra, 1911
"Hope cannot be said to exist, nor can it be said not to exist. It is
just like the roads across the earth. For actually there were no roads
to begin with, but when many people pass one way a road is made."