Walnut Creek, California

Walnut Creek is a medium size town (population 64,000) about 25 miles east of San Francisco. It has become the cultural and commercial center of Contra Costa County, with some of the best dining and shopping avaiable anywhere. San Francisco is only a 30 minute BART train ride away even in rush hour, so it's a great place to live while working in the city.

Shielded from the ocean by a range of mountains, it enjoys warmer summers than the big city to the west, with temperatures often 30 degrees higher than the city. But humidity is low, and there are cooling breezes in the evening.

One of the things that sets Walnut Creek aside from most medium-sized cities, and makes it such a great place to live, is that it took a very pro-active approach to city planning, and has been acknowledged as one of the best planned cities in the country - retaining much of its charm while achieving significant growth and development. This article explains more about how Walnut Creek achieved this.

Approaching Walnut Creek

Driving east from San Francisco on highway 24, you see Mt. Diablo (3,800 ft) in the distance. Here, the full moon is rising in the early evening as cars streak by on the highway below. Walnut Creek sits at the foot of Mt. Diablo.

Broadway Plaza shopping center

While most cities in California have opted for shopping malls, Walnut Creek has developed a wonderful outdoor shopping experience called Broadway Plaza. This is my second favorite shopping area in the area, second only to the Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto.

I need to update my photos of Broadway Plaza to capture the feel of the place; in the meantime, here's an old shot, not up to my current standards ...

Original downtown

In addition to the newer Broadway Plaza, the original 'Main Street' has survived and is still a thriving shopping / dining experience, coexisting with the newer developments all around.

This is Locust Street, with leisurely outdoor seating at the acclaimed Lark Creek cafe. The structure behind is one of the major parking structures - not bad for a parking lot!

Main Street at night, with busy thriving restaurants!

Scattered around the downtown area are several office buildings, most of which are reasonably tasteful. Here is an office building on California Blvd, next to the Scott's Seafood restaurant and gardens

Wherever you go in Walnut creek, you are never far from hills. Here is a view to the west, facing away from Mt. Diablo


New Developments

For a town like Walnut Creek to survive commercially - surrounded by towns competing for tax revenue - new development is a necessary evil. While many cities allow developers to come in and buy up available lots to develop as they see fit, Walnut Creek has created an overal plan for the city, and invites developers to come in and develop new areas according to the plan.

Here is one of the new developments, sporting a high-end grocery store and a variety of retail outlets, with plenty of hidden parking on the upper levels.

Another new development, not bad as new structures go!

My personal favorite new development, sporting one of my favorite restaurants (Il Fornaio)

One of the newer developments, this time at night:

Another nighttime shot:

Another notable newcomer, this was a vacant corner for several years, now turned into a decent structure.

Warm Summer Evenings

Walnut Creek has wonderful weather. Even in the summer, when the weather can get a bit too warm in the daytime (in the 90's), the humidity is always low, and the evenings are wonderful, with sunsets like this being common. Great place to stroll around before sitting down for a good dinner!

Mount Diablo, highway 24, and Walnut Creek with the moon rising