Speaking to San Francisco Business Times Publisher Mary Huss on a panel with Chris Neighbor, president of Summerhill Homes, he avoided any discussion of the 92-acre Chevron headquarters in Bishop Ranch Business Park. He’s CEO/president of Sunset Development Co. which developed and owns most of Bishop Ranch. The panel was part of the Tri-Valley Trending program, an annual look at the Tri-Valley by the publication and the Innovation Tri-Valley Leadership Group.
Less than 24 hours later, Sunset announced that it has repurchased the Chevron parcel for an undisclosed price. The original sale 40 years ago included the provision that Sunset maintained a control over any use other than the offices in Chevron Park. Chevron’s workforce is largely headed for Houston, although about 2,000 headquarters employees will remain in San Ramon. Chevron also leased space for its headquarters at 2600 Camino Ramon, where Sunset is headquartered. Notably, the two largest parcel sales Sunset now has repurchased. PacBell built 2600 Camino Ramon with about 1 million square feet and Sunset, with an investment partner, bought it back in 2013.
Sunset’s purchase likely makes life easier for the city of San Ramon. When Chevron announced its intentions earlier this year, the widespread belief was that it would not remain an office park. City leaders already worked out the specific plan for the 4,500-unit CityWalk in Bishop Ranch and this will allow a continuation of that process. Mehran discussed the evolution of Bishop Ranch Tuesday evening from buildings designed for companies’ back offices with lower rents than San Francisco. As time passed economics dictated those operations would be better out-of-state, it evolved to more knowledge workers such as the remnant of AT&T’s work force, G.E. Digital and Sybase.
Now, with the future of office space uncertain as employees have become accustomed to working from home, just what those spaces will look like is an open question. Mehran said the C-suite officials he had met with wanted employees back in the office. They’ve encountered plenty of pushback and a hybrid of a couple of days in the office appears to be what’s happening. Although some companies, Veeva, Airbnb and Twitter, for example, all have committed to remote work forces.
Mehran pointed out that the first phase of the company’s CityWalk project will start early next year.
Neighbor of Summerhill, which has had a San Ramon office for 20 years while doing most of its work on the Peninsula and South Bay, has put a construction fence around its San Ramon project that is outside the CityWalk. It’s 404 units in three products ranging from 1,700 to 2,800 square feet. Six months ago, they hung a sign on the fence to build an interest list—it now has 1,200 people, more than any other project Summerhill has done. He pointed out how many homes had been developed in East Dublin and the Dougherty Valley over the last 20 years—easily more than 20,000, but there’s little more on the horizon because most of the land is built out.
That leaves redevelopment of outdated office buildings as well as outdated retail centers for residential sites. Bishop Ranch 6 was demolished to make space for the first CityWalk project, while San Ramon is processing the application for an apartment complex on the Nob Hill shopping center at the corner of Bollinger Canyon Road and Alcosta Boulevard.
The other aspect that Neighbor and Mehran agreed on is to expect most density now and in the future. Both East Dublin and the Dougherty Valley had substantial multi-family projects for sale and rental. That’s foreshadowing what’s coming given the huge number of units that the state has mandated for Tri-Valley communities.
Notably, the last portion of the program was devoted to Innovation Tri-Valley’s Vision 2040. Organizers passed out green and red note cards to take quick polls. One asked if housing was the top issue—the vast majority agreed, but there were red cards showing. I’m interested, as was CEO Lynn Naylor, about just what those folks thought was a higher priority.