Commuters Flock to New Housing in Walnut Creek near BART

By Blanca Torres – San Francisco Business Times May 10, 2018

For-sale and for-lease signs are popping up in Walnut Creek. At the Riv condos project a few blocks from the city’s BART Station, nine buyers so far have signed contracts to buy homes in the 48-unit development. Many are first-time buyers from the area who want to stay, or people from San Francisco who couldn’t afford to buy homes there. Access to transit coupled with Walnut Creek’s urban-suburban cachet are drawing in many new residents.

“BART has been a real key factor,” said Lynn Bell, a realtor with Climb Real Estate, the brokerage handling sales at the Riv condos. The city of about 67,600 people has added about 3,400 people since 2010, according to U.S. Census data, and has a pipeline of more than 1,300 homes that are starting to hit the market.

Also next to the BART station, developer Blake Griggs Properties kicked off leasing of Vaya, a 190-unit apartment building with asking rents starting at $2,700 for a one-bedroom and $4,100 for a two-bedroom.

A few weeks ago, the developer opened up pre-leasing in the building, which will be ready for move in next fall, and is already receiving significant interest.

“We are across the street from BART and that’s driving a lot of the excitement,” said Lauren Seaver, vice president of development for Blake Griggs. “Millennials don’t want to drive as much. The appeal of transit is very strong.”

Lyric, Laconia Development’s 140-unit apartment building at 1500 North California Blvd., is already 95 percent leased after about eight months. The building sits about a 15-minute walk from the BART station and from the city’s downtown shopping core.

Studios in Lyric start around $2,600 with one-bedrooms ranging from $3,000 to $3,900.

“Walnut Creek might be cheaper than desirable areas of San Francisco,” said Paul Menzies, head of Laconia Development. “It’s cheaper, but not cheap.”

The median rent in Walnut Creek is $3,000 compared with $3,200 in San Francisco, according to real estate information company Zillow.

“People are willing to pay for the Walnut Creek experience,” Seaver said. “You see that with all of the transit hubs. They are priced higher than other suburban markets that don’t have transit.”

While the for-sale market is dominated by single-family homes, the Riv project has lured buyers looking to break into the market with prices for Riv condos starting just under $500,000 for a 560-square-foot one-bedroom. Two-bedrooms start just under $800,000 and penthouses are priced at $1.7 million and up.

Meanwhile, Walnut Creek’s median home price is $855,700, according to Zillow.

“The pricing with interest rates being extremely competitive gives more opportunity for the younger demographic to buy homes,” Bell said.

The developer, Walnut Creek-based Address Co., is releasing units to the market in phases as the building nears completion in October. Swenson Builders is the contractor on the project. The Address Co. bought the site, at 1605 Riviera Ave., from another developer and worked with LCA Architects to make the design more modern and urban, which has been a major selling point for people moving from San Francisco.


Walnut Creek offers shopping and restaurants in the downtown as well as access to walking trails and other outdoor activities.

“Walnut Creek has become a really cute, hip area to live in,” Bell said. “It’s continued to grow in a really nice way. The younger demographic likes this area and can commute to the city on BART.”

Menzies said that the recently renovated Broadway Plaza shopping center and nearby restaurants, theaters, nightclubs and other retail are a “magnet for people from other parts of the Bay Area.” He added that it’s evolved from its status as a sleepy suburb decades ago.

“Walnut creek is really terrific,” he said. “It has become more urban. As more and more projects are built and more people move here, it will have more of an urban feel to it.”