--Walnut Creek is a more interesting, diverse, happening place than it used to be. As a one-time urban dweller, I, unlike some old-timers, appreciate some of the urban touches Walnut Creek has taken on … A dining scene that offers a variety of cheap eats, ethnic cuisines, and innovative, higher-end cuisine … The coffee houses, which are new community gathering places … Seeing more than just white faces downtown or in my son’s school, unlike when I was growing up here … Hearing different languages being spoken (Asian, Russian, French, Spanish) while shopping downtown or visiting city parks.
--The schools: We have top-performing schools, with generally talented, dedicated teachers, and strong parent commitment to making our kids’ education environment as positive as possible.
--The city’s arts scene: The city's Lesher Center for the Arts employs and attracts top theater, music, and dance talent to put on hundreds of performances a year. Despite its small space within the Lesher Center, the Bedford Gallery is a unique city-funded art gallery whose curator and staff mount really interesting, diverse, cutting edge art exhibitions. Both the Lesher Center and the Bedford Gallery, with the help of their fundraising arm, the Diablo Regional Arts Association, do tons of community outreach and education programs: to schools, to kids from poor communities, to seniors. Meanwhile, the city-run Civic Arts Education, so I hear, is a national model for city-run arts education programs around the country.
--The city’s recreation opportunities: The city’s recreation department puts on great summer camps. My son is looking forward to attending one of the city-run sports camp this summer … There’s nothing that makes you think of summer more than doing laps at the Olympic-sized Heather Farm Park swim center … The city is surrounded by beautiful open space, maintains beautiful parks and playgrounds, and features the East Bay Regional Parks District’s network of trails that provide running, walking, biking, scootering, and skating links to nearby communities.
-- Finally and very importantly, the city’s efforts to develop more affordable housing in the future, with plans for the BART transit village and the new 48-unit Third Avenue project.
As the Contra Costa Times says, “As housing costs ballooned in recent years, before the market collapse, the city adopted ordinances and programs to help more people afford to live in the city. Ten percent of all new development in Walnut Creek must be affordable to low- or moderate-income people."
Here’s a true confession. If my husband, son, and I had to survive on my salary alone, we would be labeled “low-income.” According to the Times: In Walnut Creek, a household of two adults with a combined income of up to $53,000 would be considered low income and could be eligible to purchase a one-bedroom affordable housing unit” in the new Third Avenue project.
Both the BART transit village and the Third Avenue project would involve higher-density housing and at least 1,000 more people moving into town. Some might not like this increased urbanization of Walnut Creek because it could further erode what they consider its “small-town” feel.
But all cities around here, for their long-term economic survival, need to provide affordable, close-by places for their workers to live. Talk to any economist on a national or regional level, any urban planner or local business think tank and they all say the same thing: thriving economies, national and local, depend on a diverse range of industries and talent, and much of that talent doesn’t make six-figure salaries.
I’m talking about journalists like myself, artists, teachers, entry-level police officers, firefighters, social workers, health workers, and so on. This need for a diverse income-earning level of talent applies to the future of New York City, San Francisco, and, yes, Walnut Creek. It is necessary for innovation, social stability, cultural richness, and the enhanced quality of life that high-earning corporate executives, high-tech workers, lawyers, and investment bankers prize.
I applaud the city leaders for making moves to bring affordable housing to Walnut Creek.