Developers hoping to break ground on a housing complex next year in Santa Clara, Calif., are soliciting potential residents by offering a quirky but increasingly popular perk. It's not a golf course, health club or even a pet spa. The big draw will be a farm and access to all the tomatoes, zucchini and kale you can eat.
The "Agrihood" development plan heading to the Santa Clara City Council for a vote as early as next month calls for 361 homes and a small farm to be built on vacant land near the San Jose border. If the council approves the proposal, it would introduce the Bay Area to a trend taking the national real estate world by storm.
"We are seeing a lot of interest in this concept," said Ed McMahon, a sustainable development expert with the Washington-based Urban Land Institute. "I get a call at least once a week, and probably have for the last year about this."
The Santa Clara project takes its name from the agrihood movement, in which developers build residential communities around urban farms. McMahon is tracking about 100 such projects across the country, and he's constantly finding new ones.
The communities are a hit with millennials who value locally grown food and healthy living, McMahon said. And in some ways, they can be easier to build than traditional housing developments. Adding a picturesque farm to a proposed project can help win over city officials and neighbors who otherwise may be reluctant to approve new construction, he said. Without a farm or other community benefit to sweeten the deal, development projects often get bogged down in opposition over fears that they will make congestion worse or ruin a neighborhood's aesthetics.
The Santa Clara proposal calls for 36 townhouses and 325 apartments, including 181 apartments priced below market rates. Of those, 165 units would be for seniors making $28,000 to $75,000 a year, which the city first began planning for more than a decade ago.
Urban farming company Farmscape would manage the farm, which would be open to the public.
The project appears to be the first major agrihood in the Bay Area, though similar communities have cropped up around California and in other states, including Virginia, Vermont, Kansas and Texas.
An agrihood community called the Cannery opened in Davis, Calif., in 2015. So far, more than two-thirds of the development's 457 single-family homes have sold — with prices ranging from about $400,000 to $1 million — and all of the roughly 60 apartments are rented. The 3.5-acre farm, run by the Center for Land-Based Learning, can produce up to 25,000 pounds of produce an acre in peak season.
Novice farmers lease plots of farm land from the center at a discount, cultivate the land, sell their produce to local businesses and at farmer's markets, and keep the profits. The farmers also sell their fruit and vegetables once a week on the Cannery's property, providing residents with easy access to everything from peppers to melons to leafy greens.
Elizabeth and Kim Middleton left Southern California and moved into a three-bedroom house in the Cannery in September 2017. They paid about $925,000, including upgrades, for a house with views of farmland from their back patio. In the early mornings, Kim, a 66-year-old retired pilot, likes to sit on the patio and watch a crop duster fly low over the fields. His wife, a therapist, spends her days off weeding around the trees in the orchard, getting paid in fresh apricots, apples and pluots.