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An artist's rendition of the new Habitat for Humanity "Pleasant Creek Homes" project that broke ground Saturday, Oct. 27 alongside Interstate 680 in Walnut Creek.
CORRECTIONS (Published 10/31/2012)
A story about a new Habitat for Humanity housing project in Walnut Creek incorrectly reported the name of the law that requires cities to provide for affordable housing development. It is known as the state housing element law. Also, the story should have noted this was the city's first affordable home-ownership program in more than 10 years.
(Published 11/1/2012)
A story about a Habitat for Humanity project in Walnut Creek incorrectly reported the name of the woman who donated land for the project. Her name is Pat Stull.


WALNUT CREEK -- The first Habitat for Humanity project here -- 10 two-story duplex and triplex family residences near downtown -- broke ground Saturday, and is expected to be completed in 12 to 14 months.

The new Pleasant Creek Homes mixed-income development will be on Barkley Avenue, adjacent to Interstate 680 and across the freeway from the Walnut Creek BART station.

Three parcels were cobbled together to create a buildable site with access to public transportation.

"It is hard to find infill pieces in Walnut Creek," said Mayor Bob Simmons. "This is a wonderful project to help a group of families achieve the American dream."

New Habitat homeowner Sandra Melero was among members of five soon-to-be Pleasant Creek families who came to Saturday's groundbreaking to thank those who made these homes possible. The single mother who now lives in Martinez is a county employee and graduate of the Welfare to Work program.

"I never thought I could own a home of my own," said Melero, fighting back tears. Her daughter Bianca plans to take BART and bus connections to continue studies at Diablo Valley College.

The Meleros and nine other Bay Area families will work on their new Pleasant Creek homes, learn home maintenance and buy the units at cost.

Experienced volunteers will help train the families and new volunteers.

"A couple of the homeowners became so skilled that we have hired them," according to Hans Reuvehamp, Habitat's vice president of construction.

It was six years ago when Janice Jensen, Habitat East Bay's executive director, first approached Walnut Creek principal planner Laura Simpson about finding a location for a Habitat development. "This is the first affordable project the city has done in more than 10 years," Jensen said.

The state's Housing Element law requires cities to accommodate affordable housing, and the city of Walnut Creek contributed $1.05 million in funding to this project. It also secured a $1 million Safe Routes to Transit grant from the state for a lighted, paved route facilitating safe pedestrian access to BART.

The project began to coalesce when, as required by law, Caltrans offered to sell a surplus parcel to the city of Walnut Creek, which already owned an adjacent parcel. The city acquired the Caltrans parcel and offered it to Habitat.

Habitat staff contacted neighbors and found Pat Stull, who donated an adjacent parcel in memory of her husband, Don Stull.

"When we bought it, Don thought it would be a good place for condos," Pat Stull said. "He would like this project. It is a hand up, not a handout."

Weather can be a factor at this time of the year, Reuvehamp said. He said the site requires extensive infrastructure work because of utility lines crossing it, and because working with volunteers can take more planning and time.

Contact Dana Guzzetti at dguzzetti10@gmail.com or call 925-202-9292.