To address the ongoing housing crisis in the San Francisco Bay Area, the City of Walnut Creek has partnered with Harris to update its Safety and Housing Elements with a primary focus on providing much-needed housing to residents. The city’s overall objective is to prepare a Safety Element and a 6th Cycle Housing Element that align with current state law. These updates will enable the city to provide a range of housing options that meet the diverse needs of the community and enhance the overall quality of life.
Prior to engaging with Harris, the city completed two key Specific Plans for the North and West Downtown areas. These plans provided higher-density zoning and opportunities for the conversion of existing commercial properties into residential-only and/or mixed-use developments. Additionally, the downtown area’s proximity to the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station provided for a walkable community that provides opportunities for transit-oriented development, which will help to reduce the city's carbon footprint.
The Harris team completed the first draft of the 6th Cycle Housing Element for staff’s approval and submittal to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) in September 2022. After receiving comments from the HCD in December 2022, Harris worked with staff to submit its second draft in January 2022.
The Housing Element outlines various aspects related to housing in the city, including:
- Housing needs and community characteristics
- Housing accomplishments and challenges
- Financial resources
- Housing constraints
- Affordable housing units at risk of converting to market rate
- Site inventory analysis
- Goals, programs, and objectives to meet fair housing requirements
The drafting of the 6th Cycle Housing Element was significantly driven by community stakeholders through substantial outreach to residents, service providers, non-profit organizations, developers, housing advocacy groups, and others. Harris created and implemented a robust community engagement plan, which involved a variety of community members and stakeholders in workshops and small group discussions to gather comprehensive and insightful input for the Housing Element, with a particular focus on the community profile and Housing Plan.
To satisfy the city's RHNA despite a severe lack of vacant land (only 22 vacant and developable residential parcels totaling 12 acres), Harris utilized creative approaches consistent with the state's Site Inventory Guidebook and developed a site inventory. The site inventory takes advantage of the city's North Downtown and West Downtown Specific Plan areas, focusing on high-density, walkable, and transit-oriented infill development that aligns with the major sustainability goals of the city and state.
Harris is also closely collaborating with the city to complete the required Safety Element Update. This involves a Statutory Exemption, Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND), hazard profiles, CEQA review, as well as outreach with the city, public, and experts.