In 1955, when 5-year-old Alexander Mehran Sr. moved from Oakland to Diablo with his family, the Tri-Valley felt like a much smaller and sleepier place than it is today.
Now, 64 years later -- after an exponential growth in population -- the once-rural community has seen a major transformation into a residential hub and business center, and that is due in no small part to Mehran's company, Sunset Development Company.
The result of Mehran and his family's contributions to the region's evolving landscape was among the reasons he received the 2019 Tri-Valley Heroes Lifetime Achievement award.
"I have never considered myself to be a hero," Mehran said after accepting the award. "I will admit to having participated in the transformation of the San Ramon Valley from a sleepy rural community to being a part of one of the most vital and vibrant aspects of one of the great centers of innovation in the world, the Bay Area."
Mehran serves as chairman of the board for Sunset Development, the company that was founded by his father Masud in 1951 and that is today led by his son Alexander Mehran Jr., who acts as the president and CEO.
Under Mehran's guidance, Sunset Development built Bishop Ranch in San Ramon, the largest mixed-use business community in Northern California. Bishop Ranch is home to approximately 30,000 employees who work at a variety of major companies such as Chevron, Bank of the West, PG&E and AT&T to name a few.
Bishop Ranch further evolved in 2018 when the highly anticipated City Center complex opened its doors, offering residents a retail, entertainment and community gathering place that serves as a downtown area for San Ramon.
Through its partnership with the city of San Ramon, Sunset Development is also responsible for constructing San Ramon's City Hall -- which is located on Bollinger Canyon Road down the block from Bishop Ranch.
To what does Mehran attribute his company's decades worth of success? Close family ties and the Mehran legacy.
"The real heroes in my family are my parents who immigrated to this country from Iran in 1944," he said. "I am blessed by having very loving close relations with both my parents, and I think that one of the secrets to my well-being is I knew they always had my back no matter what."
After receiving degrees at Harvard University and Cambridge University, Mehran worked at J.P. Morgan for 3-1/2 years before feeling the pull of his family business and legacy.
"I decided the business was really the legacy of our family in America, and when I put it in that context, it was pretty clear (I should) come back to California. So I did and I came back with my dad and we built a couple of homes in Livermore," Mehran said.
He explained that the family legacy -- as well as the close familial bond -- continues today with his son Alexander Jr.
"It's fantastic; it's the best thing that has happened to me in my business career," Mehran said of getting to work with his son. "One of the elements of peace of mind when I was working for my father, that also exists between me and my son, is the trust that is there during the decision-making process. Because there is no separate agenda for father and son; the agenda is simply to do what is in the best interest of the business and what is in the best interest of the family."
He added that while he hopes his grandchildren will one day become involved in the business, he says the oldest one is currently 7 so that may take awhile to come to fruition.
"To have created a multi-generational platform where I can be active, my father could be active, my son could be active and hopefully so my grandchildren can be active in the business ... is wonderful," Mehran said.
As for the future of the region, Mehran says that he believes people will migrate toward living closer to where they work -- which Sunset Development will look to accommodate for its own tenants at Bishop Ranch by building 4,500 housing units in the heart of the property.
"I think that as transportation gets more and more difficult, people will gravitate toward going to local work centers and we will be one of those places," Mehran said. "I'm hoping that (our project) will be approved some time in 2020 and that will be a change for the better for easing the housing burden as well as making the choice to live and work in Bishop Ranch a little easier."
Still in the review process by the city, the project in San Ramon would also include a 169-room hotel, an interconnected parks system, new parking structures, an amphitheater with a potential capacity for 1,500 seats and two new community centers, as well as other amenities and additions.
Some residents in San Ramon have expressed concerns over the size of the project and how that many new homes may adversely change the culture of the community, but Mehran says change is a part of life in the Bay Area and not something that should be feared.
"I think that people are naturally resistant to change and I think it's easy to focus on some of the negative aspects of change and forget about the positive attributes of change ... and the opportunities that it brings up," he said. "There are so many opportunities that have been made available to this community by virtue of how it has expanded and grown, and that is the most important thing that it allows people to achieve their maximum potential."
"I can tell you that if I were a 5-year-old boy growing up in Diablo today, I would have many more opportunities and doors that are open to me than I did when I was growing up," Mehran added.
* Mehran was born in Oakland in 1950 shortly after his family took a grand tour exploring all of the country's then-48 states.
* When his family moved to California in 1946, the state had a population of 9.5 million -- 2 million of whom lived in the Bay Area. Today that population rests at 40 million and 7.7 million, respectively.
* Inspired by his grandfather's efforts to feed and house less privileged individuals, Mehran operates The Masud and Alex Mehran Foundation which strives to do the same.
* Mehran is the proud grandfather of five grandkids.