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[Fwd: NoVa SPRAWL E-News #6-23 12-013 b]

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  • Richard Risemberg
    ... Subject: NoVa SPRAWL E-News #6-23 12-013 b Date: Fri, 13 Dec 2002 14:50:04 -0500 From: James Wamsley Reply-To: James
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 13 10:16 PM
      -------- 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@...>
      To: rdiedrich@...


      Developers tackle housing and land shortage with small homes, cozy
      Deborah Hopewell
      The reasons for the housing shortage in California are myriad and
      complex, but one of the largest contributing factors is the lack of
      available land.

      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
      San Jose.

      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 Business

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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

      Richard Risemberg

      "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."

      Lu Hsun
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