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San Ramon: Sunset Development proposes 4,500 housing units in Bishop Ranch

Public invited to open house to learn about project Sept. 26

Bishop Ranch officials say they want the new residential project to keep homes where people work and out of San Ramon's hillsides. (Image courtesy Sunset Development Company)

Stoneridge Shopping Center isn't the only Tri-Valley retail and corporate area eyed for new residential development.

Bishop Ranch officials have announced an ambitious plan to develop 4,500 multi-family housing and other amenities covering approximately 135 acres in the heart of the San Ramon property, in part aiming to cater the corporate center’s estimated 30,000 employees and help live closer to where they work.

The project, with initial plans recently released and envisioned to be phased in over about a quarter-century, is centered around the goal of keeping housing off of San Ramon’s hillsides while still improving the city’s jobs to housing ratio, according to Alexander Mehran Jr., president and CEO of Sunset Development Company -- owner of the Bishop Ranch property.

“You've got developers building up on the hillsides, and nobody wants to see that. So we’re keeping the housing down here, keeping them out of people’s neighborhoods,” Mehran told DanvilleSanRamon.com. “It (also) keeps a lot of pressure off of the city to not have to follow state housing mandates so that they don’t have to end up with projects that pop up in the middle of a neighborhood.”

Bishop Ranch comprises 585 acres in the heart of San Ramon off Bollinger Canyon Road near Interstate 680 -- long focused as a corporate business park, but recently adding the City Center retail and entertainment complex.

The housing project area would cover 135 acres and consist of four blocks in Bishop Ranch.

Housing would be located in a series of neighborhoods that would each contain between 500 and 1,200 units within that property in apartment buildings.

The proposed project would include a 169-room hotel to accommodate business travelers and other visitors to San Ramon, a number of new parks and new parking structures that will replace existing surface parking lots, according to Sunset officials.

Additionally, in accordance with San Ramon’s state-mandated housing regulations, at least 15% of the units at the new project would be designated for affordable housing, they said.

Bishop Ranch officials added, now that San Ramon has a downtown environment at City Center, they hope to extend this community environment to the proposed new residential project with the addition of new community amenities. The goal being to further open up Bishop Ranch to the surrounding area.

“It's about creating a neighborhood where people feel like they aren’t going to the lake in their office building, they’re going to the lake that’s in the community,” said Jeff Dodd, senior vice president of retail at Bishop Ranch. “That's kind of the next level of overcoming people who are hesitant to come in because they think ‘oh I don't want to go into the office park.’ (We want to) create a cohesive community out of it.”

New community amenities planned to achieve this goal include the construction of an amphitheater with a potential capacity for 1,500 seats, two new community centers, an interconnected parkway system that will link planned residential neighborhoods, new dedicated parking for visitors of Annabelle Lake, expanded pedestrian and bicycle trails that connect to Iron Horse Regional Trail, and a new transit center to help residents take advantage of mass-transit modes in San Ramon.

Bishop Ranch officials added that the influx of available housing in San Ramon will help alleviate the East Bay’s rush hour traffic woes. Achieving this by helping people commute less by living closer to where they work.

“The main contributor to traffic woes mainly is the imbalance of people who aren't living closer to where they work,” Dodd said. “So by putting more residential next to the largest job center in the region, it will help reduce regional traffic for sure.”

“Traffic on the freeway is a big problem; that’s a harder thing to fix it’s a regional issue,” Mehran added. “I think people will tend toward having jobs closer to where they live and that will be a Bay Area wide trend and that’s why we're doing it.”

To further help alleviate traffic both locally and regionally, Mehran also said that in addition to the new transit center, they would be giving each apartment dweller a free bus pass so they can take advantage of local transit that also connects to BART lines.

Mehran hopes construction will start in 2021 with the completion of phase one by 2023.

When these projections were brought before the San Ramon City Council and Planning Commission during a joint workshop held in August, Bishop Ranch’s senior vice president of development Jerry Engen said city officials spoke in favor of, if possible, speeding up the process to make homes available sooner rather than later.

“There was a lot of support. They loved the idea of building the housing down near the jobs where they wanted it off of the hillside and out of the other communities. They loved the idea of us being able to provide workforce housing for people like school teachers and police that can afford to work and live here,” Engen said.

“Yeah some of them said ‘well we want you to build these units like tomorrow we need them now. We have such a shortage of housing. But you know we want to be smart about it,” he added.

To engage with the community and discuss aspects of the project Bishop Ranch officials will be holding an open house next Thursday (Sept. 26) from 4-7 p.m. at Bishop Ranch, 2600 Camino Ramon. Residents are invited to ask questions and learn about the new project.

After this open house, city of San Ramon officials say there will be plenty of additional opportunities for residents to share their thoughts on the proposed project during the city's review process -- the schedule of which has not yet been confirmed.

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