Marketplace owner proposes to replace Nob Hill, Starbucks with housing

Plans to change Marketplace gain resistance from community


Photo by Logan Visola

This area of The Marketplace could be looking very different in the near future.

TRC Retail submitted in November a concept review application to the San Ramon Planning Commission that proposed a redevelopment of a portion of the San Ramon Marketplace.

The plans call several stores, including a Nob Hill Foods, a Sports Clips and a Starbucks, to be demolished and replaced with a five-story apartment building.

The proposed development consists of a 284-unit apartment building, parking structure, pool, fitness center, and other amenities. The majority of the units in the proposed building would be one-bedroom units, with 32 of the total units would be specified as “low” and “very low” income household units. 

The Newport Beach commercial real estate agency’s application was reviewed by the Planning Commission on Jan. 5. Members of the commission raised several concerns with the project, noting that it was too big and that the suggested design did not fit the area well.

 “Three stories feels a lot more in scale with the neighborhood,” planning commissioner Gary Alpert said during the meeting.

Since no official application for construction has been filed, there was no vote or decision made at the meeting.

The response from the community has also been largely negative. Of the 265 written communications from citizens received by the commission at the time of the meeting, 263 of them were opposed to the construction of the apartments.

“Despite all the growth here, San Ramon retains that sense of a smaller community that is appreciated by many. The Marketplace Shopping Center is conducive to that sense of feeling,” San Ramon resident Janet Herrala wrote to the Planning Commission. “Building an apartment complex at that location would destroy that, plus take away the welcoming feeling of the shopping center.”

Many citizens also chose to speak during the meeting, with most of them opposing the construction of a new apartment building. 

“I think it’s really important that we have a grocery store that’s affordable in the area,” San Ramon resident Don Ralph said during the meeting. “How can you put in affordable housing without an affordable grocery store?”

The development of an apartment building at the Marketplace would also have a major impact on those working there. 

“My livelihood and all my coworkers’ livelihoods come from Marketplace, it’s essential to us,” Cal High senior Kinsey Peterlinz, a Marketplace Starbucks employee, said.

But there is some support for the project. 

“The character of our city benefits from inclusivity and access to diverse housing opportunities that meet the needs of all of our community members,” San Ramon resident Susan Wright wrote in an email to the Planning Commission.

Despite pushback from both the commission and the community, little can be done by either to prevent the project from happening. The Housing Crisis Act of 2019 prevents local governments from stopping housing developments on land that is zoned for residential use. 

Because the land at the Marketplace is zoned for mixed use, it can be used for either commercial or residential purposes. This means that as long as the proposed building meets the established San Ramon building code, the city cannot legally prevent its construction for subjective or aesthetic reasons.

There is no definite timeline of what will happen, but as of now TRC Retail has not released a statement explaining what it will do next. 

“We have listened carefully and attentively and our job now is to go back and kind of synthesize all of this and digest the commissioners comments and questions, digest the public’s comments and see how we can come up with a plan that is gonna be good for San Ramon and good for us and good for folks who want to have a home and live in San Ramon,” Byron de Arakal said during the meeting. De Arakal is TRC Retail’s Community Outreach and Entitlement Consultant for the Marketplace project.

If the company decides to move forward with the project, it will have to submit a formal Development Plan application to the city. The public and the Architectural Review Board will then have a chance to make comments on the construction. But as per the Housing Crisis Act, these can only be advisory in nature.

Ultimately, the decision of whether to move forward with the project and how to do so is in the hands of TRC Retail.