Future development in the unincorporated community of Saranap, nestled between Walnut Creek and Lafayette, will be guided by new rules approved Tuesday by the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors.

The new “Saranap Area General Plan Amendment” unanimously approved by the supervisors adds a new vision statement, new policies and a new map to the county’s General Plan, all relating to development and infrastructure improvements in Saranap.

The new amendments include the formal establishment of the Boulevard Way Mixed-Use Corridor, bounded by Boulevard Way, Saranap Avenue and state Highway 24, extending east to the Walnut Creek city limit. This area is anchored by a four-block stretch of Boulevard Way, home to Saranap’s small commercial heart.

The changes come after dozens of community meetings, and a handful of hearings before the Board of Supervisors, surrounding the Saranap Village project. The Saranap Village mixed residential/commercial project was first proposed in 2013 as 235 multifamily residential units, 30,000 square feet of street-level retail and restaurant space on both sides of Boulevard Way near Saranap Avenue. It included one structure rising to 78 feet at its tallest point.

Many Saranap residents protested not only the size of this project, saying it didn’t fit in with the surrounding area and would change the community’s relatively quiet character, but that it would foul views of Mount Diablo to the east.

Ultimately, developer Hall Equities Group of Walnut Creek scaled down its project to 198 housing units and approximately 21,522 square feet of commercial space, including a small grocery store; that smaller project was approved by the Board of Supervisors in August 2017. Construction, however, has yet to begin.

A sign advertising the Saranap Village project sits on a deserted lot at the intersection of Boulevard Way and Saranap Avenue. Approved in 2017, construction has yet to begin. (Photo by Sam Richards/Bay City News Foundation)

New development guidelines

Among the new General Plan guidelines for development in Saranap are:

• To allay fears that future mixed-use or multifamily development along Boulevard Way might encroach on Saranap’s adjacent single-family neighborhoods, the rules now ensure single-family residential neighborhoods will remain as such.

• Establishment of bike lanes the full length of Boulevard Way, connecting Mount Diablo Boulevard (and downtown Walnut Creek) on the northeast end and Tice Valley Boulevard, and the Rossmoor area to the southwest.

• Establishing a neighborhood park or other community space in Saranap.

• Specific language emphasizing a community desire to preserve the views of Mount Diablo to the east without depriving property owners of their rights to develop in accordance with existing land use regulations.

“The turmoil surrounding the Saranap Village project pushed the impetus for this,” Daniel Barrios, a county senior planner, told the supervisors.

Patricia Perry said she welcomes the changes, and said a new park would be particularly welcome in Saranap.

“This neighborhood has no park, and we need to get these improvements,” Perry said. “It’s something the county owes to the neighborhood to get done.”

County Supervisor Candace Andersen, whose district includes the 1.1 square miles of Saranap, praised the albeit-long process by which the public’s concerns have been heard and, now, acted upon.

“The community really came together on this,” she said.