Below is an interesting article about “smart growth” communities. The statement that Americans prefer walkable neighborhoods seems to correspond directly with local markets which have best retained or recovered their values during the down turn. The two most important things I see buyers looking for are respectable schools and close amenities. Look at the demand in Lafayette’s Moraga Blvd. neighborhood, Rockridge and Elmwood. Homes in these areas that are priced right received multiple offers.
Study finds Americans prefer smart growth communities
By Rose Meily, for Silicon Valley Community Newspapers
More Americans seem to favor walkable mixed-use neighborhoods. According to a community preference survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors, 56 percent of respondents preferred smart growth neighborhoods over neighborhoods that require more driving among home, work and recreation.
Walkable communities are defined as those where shops, restaurants and local businesses are within walking distance from homes. According to local real estate people, mixed-use neighborhoods make sense not only from the standpoint of convenience, but communities that are walkable and transit-oriented are a good investment, especially in Silicon Valley, where land is scarce.
Doug Evans, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker in Los Gatos and chairman of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors' Los Gatos/Saratoga District, said that while homebuyers are looking for all kinds of neighborhood settings, he has observed that many buyers want to live close to downtown. "Today's buyer wants to be as close to the action as possible," said Evans. "This is why the Almond Grove District, which is one of the oldest residential neighborhoods in Los Gatos, has always been a big draw due to the close proximity to the restaurants and shops."
According to the survey, when considering a home purchase, 77 percent of respondents said they would look for neighborhoods with abundant sidewalks and oth-er pedestrian-friendly fea- tures. Half of the respondents said they would like to see improvements to existing public transportation, rather than initiatives to build new roads and developments.
Many of those surveyed said they were willing to sacrifice square footage for less driving. Eighty percent would prefer to live in a single-family detached home as long as it didn't require a longer commute, but nearly three out of five of those surveyed--59 percent--would choose a smaller home if it meant a commute time of 20 minutes or less.
"Actually, historically, mixed use communities were the norm. It's good to see that this type of neighborhood is coming back in vogue in almost all communities in this region," said John Tripp, board member and past president of the local trade association.
Tripp, a Realtor with Foundation Trust in San Jose, named three proposed projects in Los Gatos that fit the mixed-use definition. "The North 40 is now on the drawing board for mixed use and will, in its final form, have a lot of community involvement," said Tripp.
The North 40 is a 34-acre site nestled between Los Gatos Boulevard and the intersection of two freeways. The mixed use component has residential units above ground- floor retail and office space over retail. Plans call for an extension of the VTA light rail system nearby.
The Dittos Lane project is officially an affordable housing development but "would fit into the category nicely because of its location," according to Tripp. This project calls for 32 low-income housing units in downtown Los Gatos. The project has been put on hold until the governor and state legislature decide on the future of redevelopment agencies. Redevelopment funds were used to purchase the property and will also be used to finance the project.
In addition, a mixed use plan is being proposed for the old Swanson Ford site, located at the northwest corner of Los Gatos Boulevard and Blossom Hill Road.
"These three projects, when finalized, will take the Los Gatos community back closer to its roots, where what is now called mixed use was a normal way of life of having shopping and services within walking distance of homes," said Tripp.
Community characteristics are very important to most people. The survey found 88 percent of respondents placed more value on the quality of the neighborhood than the size of the home, and 77 percent of those surveyed want communities with high-quality schools. The survey of 2,071 adult Americans was conducted by Belden, Russonello and Stewart from Feb. 15 to 24.
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