Housing Alternatives
Produced by Sorrell Fowler


Donald Grover has a great view of the waterfront, but that's just one of the benefits of living in this promenade development in Suisun City. It's the project's mixed-use design that's making his dream come true. Like all the other homes in this development, Donald's is designed with a small commercial space on the lower level -- in which Donald has opened his antique shop.

A decade ago residents had no access to the city's waterway, but thanks to the aggressive redevelopment plan, the waterfront is now Donald's front yard -- one part of an overall vision that revitalized the city while curbing urban sprawl. But the first phase was convincing skeptical developers to adopt smart growth components in their designs.

Those ideas, like denser construction and narrow streets, are hallmarks of New Urbanism -- a design philosophy that proponents say can create a greater sense of community, make better use of precious land, and get residents out of their cars.

In the beginning, Suisun's unconventional ideas had builders scratching their heads. The idea of building a house "upside-down" -- with office and bedroom downstairs, and kitchen and living room on top -- ran against conventional wisdom. But the leap of faith paid off...

Donald's dream house is slightly more traditional, with a living room and kitchen on the same floor as his shop, and small living area and master bedroom on the second story. The homes are close together, with smaller yards allowing for more density, but that doesn't bother Donald.

With residents like Donald singing the praises of their communities new and unconventional design, other cities and towns across the Central Valley might have a thing or two to learn from Suisun's success

Developer Tom DiGiovanni of Heritage Partners agrees. He was inspired to develop a New Urbanist project in the small college town of Chico.

Like all communities in the Central Valley, Chico is grappling with its own growth issues. And to solve them the city's planners arethinking outside the residential box.

Tom took his "good design" cues from the old part of town and created an eye-catching housing development. The Doe Mill neighborhood is called a T-N-D -- or traditional neighborhood design. The architecture is inspired by older homes of the 30s and 40s, and come in bright colors. Garages are detached and placed in back, allowing for more homes per lot. The streets are narrower to discourage speeding and most of the homes have a large front porch.

The project not only conveys an old fashioned look, but also an old fashioned sense of community where everybody knows their neighbor.

Jim Horne lived in a large house on several acres for thirty years -- but after a fifteen minute tour, he was sold on Doe Mill. Homes like Jim's are being snapped up not just for their smart design, but also for their affordability. And if developers like Tom and others who've embraced New Urbanism have their way, there will be more to come in the future.


Jim Spering
Suisun City Mayor

Kim Seidler
Chico Planning Director

Tom DiGiovanni
Heritage Partners



The complete text of New Valley Episode 205: Give Me Shelter!...


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