This past June, Triad Development broke ground on a new, live and work conservation community of 1,015 homes in Northern California’s Lagoon Valley. The fresh neighborhood will be dedicated to the protection and preservation of land and natural resources.
“This community is many years in the making. We aren’t afraid of doing things the hard way because we believe it is the right way,” said Curt Johansen, Lagoon Valley’s Development Director. “We reached agreement with the Greenbelt Alliance in establishing guidelines and standards for the community and preserved open space, and look to not only meet but exceed those high standards.”
According to the Urban Land Institute, conservation technologies for developers have been around for decades. However, only in the past few years have developers, as well as local governments, begun to understand their potential to link land conservation with land development, all while providing meaningful protection of natural resources.
“We purposefully follow the principles espoused by the Urban Land Institute to define a conservation community” said Johansen. “Those principles include extensive open space preservation in priority to developable land…100 percent on-site environmental restoration and extensive creation of wildlife habitat to mitigate impacts, community-supported organic agricultural farming, and responsible development, which we define as mandating sustainable design principles, community safety, resource conservation, and good neighbor best practice, along with socio-economic and multi-generational diversity.”
According to Johansen, Lagoon Valley aspires to five main objectives: preservation of open space and agriculture, resource conservation, housing diversity and facilitating ecologically literate neighborhoods, sustainable planning with a wide array of community amenities and functionally safe neighborhoods, and walkable neighborhoods with excellent connectivity to jobs, transit, recreation, and services.
Standard features in the new Lagoon Valley include solar energy collection and storage in every home and workplace, sustainable design in building materials and techniques, energy and water conservation, and water reclamation options for homebuyers. In addition, Lagoon Valley will dedicate 3 quarters of the land towards open space, including a 400-acre public park, a 71-acre wetland preserve, and a 1,400-acre land trust.
Some of the development team’s favorite features of the new Lagoon Valley include the many safety features embedded in the design-controlled access, wildfire buffers and multiple emergency access routes, according to Johansen. Other favorites include the local organic farm, the neighborhood street designs, and the golf course which is slated to become Audubon Sanctuary Certified: prioritizing habitat through wildlife corridors and shelter/water areas.
Also, Lagoon Valley has worked with WRA Inc, a Biological and Environmental Consultant, to help restore the indigenous plant life and develop plans for environmental mitigation, helping cultivate and sustain plant and wildlife habitats. Additionally, an organic farm, orchard, and community garden will provide farm-to-table nutrition for the local community.
Perhaps stunningly, Lagoon Valley is set to be California’s first full conservation community.
“With numerous successful conservation communities nationwide, we could not find a community comparable to Lagoon Valley anywhere in California” said Johansen. “With the country’s highest population, we believe California should also become a leader in these healthier-model communities and we are hopeful Lagoon Valley will stimulate cities and developers to follow us.”
In order to gain inspiration for the first conservation community in Northern California, Lagoon Valley looked to other existing developments in the U.S. for inspiration.
“We believe the two finest examples of similarly-principled, large-scale Conservation Communities in the U.S. are Prairie Crossing in Grayslake/Libertyville, Illinois and Serenbe in Chattahoochee Hills, Georgia” said Johansen. “We have learned much from our working relationships over the years with both communities and the conservation-minded developers that shepherded them.”
Unfortunately, developing a new community in California, as opposed to other states in the U.S., comes with its fair share of challenges.
“As anyone who has ever been in the market to buy a home or rent an apartment knows, coastal California is the most expensive residential region in the country,” said Johansen. “A continuing and significant contributor to these high costs is the regulatory system in California, which, in my opinion, grew unwieldy over the past 50 years because of so much unsustainable development statewide. Had we the foresight, both politically and financially, to understand that qualitative, not quantitative, development [impact] makes long-term…we would be living, working, and recreating in many conservation communities throughout the state with much less regulatory oversight needed.”
Along with many stringent regulatory requirements came high costs, necessary to maintain the goals of the project.
“It is an expensive community to create because of the state-of-the-art commitments to infrastructure that support both the built and the natural environments” said Johansen. “However, by Northern California standards, we will still feature some of the most affordable housing in the San Francisco Bay Area.”
The new residences, located on Highway 80 between the Bay Area and Sacramento, expect the first homes to be ready for purchase in 2023. The 50-acre commercial development, however, may take some more time.
“We anticipate having an average of 200 new homes constructed each year, with completion in 5 years” said Johansen. “The commercial side of the project, however, may take slightly longer to complete although small bio-manufacturing companies appear to have strong interest to locate in Lagoon Valley’s Business Village.”
Nevertheless, excitement about the project, and what impact it will have for the San Francisco Bay Community, remains high.
“Our company considers Lagoon Valley to be the most important project we’ve ever undertaken, and we will remain in control of delivering on its promise regardless of the time it takes to complete it properly,” said Johansen.