CORRECTION (Published 7/20/2012)
A story in Local news about a draft environmental report for the Walnut Creek BART Transit Village incorrectly reported the relationship between the two companies behind the project. Walnut Creek Transit Lifestyle Associates is a joint venture between a company called Transit Village Associates and apartment giant BRE Properties.

WALNUT CREEK -- After nearly a decade of planning, one of the largest transit, commercial and housing projects in the city is finally moving forward.

The draft environmental report for the Walnut Creek BART Transit Village became public Wednesday and those interested have 45 days, until Aug. 31, to comment on the mammoth document.

The estimated $100 million project aims to bring 596 apartments, 22,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, 16,700 square feet of "commercial-residential flex space" (that could end up as either), a new bus station, 4,000 square feet of office space and a new five-level, 948-space parking garage to the corner of Ygnacio Valley Road and California Boulevard. All of this would be built within the 16.5-acre footprint of the current BART station, bus terminal and surrounding parking lots. This project would be built in phases starting as early as 2013 and finishing in 2018.

"When you think about that location, it is really a central piece of the transportation system not just in Walnut Creek but in Contra Costa County," said Mayor Bob Simmons.

The draft report digs deep into the project's environmental consequences and their mitigations.

While traffic may seem like a primary concern for a project like this, the report finds only three significant impacts from traffic, and two of them can be handled with the payment of impact fees and monitoring.

"The project itself is loaded with transportation improvements, that's why the draft environmental report doesn't have much to say about it," said Rafat Raie, Walnut Creek traffic engineer. "Having the transportation improvements included is out of the ordinary."

As examples, he points to a proposed signalized pedestrian crossing on California, alignment of the intersection at Pringle and Riviera avenues and improvements at Oakland Boulevard and Ygnacio Valley Road.

He says that this project meets regional goals set by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission to place housing near transit to cut down on people using cars.

According to the report, the project will generate 4,055 vehicle trips a day to the village, fewer than a traditional development in Walnut Creek "due to the proximity to regional transit and on-site commercial uses."

All of the significant environmental impacts the project may cause, from noise to greenhouse gas emissions, can be mitigated, according to the report. One concern noted is that because the project is adjacent to Interstate 680, renters could be exposed to higher levels of diesel exhaust. To reduce the risk of cancer, some units should be outfitted with special air filters, and tenants must be told of the potential health risks, according to the report.

The transit village will include a 15-bay bus terminal, a BART Police station, paseos (walkways) for people to use to and from BART and a new taxi loading zone.

The project will require a general plan amendment for zoning changes and an increase in the building height limit.

The city and developer Walnut Creek Transit Lifestyle Associates -- a joint venture between a company called Transit Village Associates and apartment giant BRE Properties -- will likely work out a development agreement to detail community benefits they will provide.

This project has taken years to get to this point primarily because the economy crashed, stalling the project in 2009, said Scott Harriman, assistant planning manger. There was also some wrangling between the city and developers about how to phase the project. But with a draft environmental impact report now circulating, the project could be in front of the City Council in the next few months, he said.

Such a massive project brings up issues including high-density housing near BART, the effects on the downtown and the potential of more kids attending local schools, Simmons said. So he expects, and hopes, for a lot of community feedback.

"We really want to do the best we can and have people look back in 20 years and say 'they got it right,'" he said. "So we really do need the public to weigh in."

To see the draft environmental report go to the downtown library, 1644 N. Broadway; City Hall, 1666 N. Main Street; or http://www.walnut-creek.org/citygov/depts/cd/planning/bart_tod.asp

Elisabeth Nardi covers Walnut Creek. Contact her at 925-952-2617. Follow her at Twitter.com/enardi10.