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First and Last

Apr 19, 2018 02:50PM ● Published by Cale Finta

First and Last

With home prices sky-high, Walnut Creek is becoming a renter’s city. But there’s an art to finding an apartment and making it work for you. With sumptuous hotel-style amenities and a short walk to BART, meet a couple who found the perfect fit for their lifestyle in a downtown apartment 

By Deborah Burstyn
Photography by Josh Isaacs


Meet the new world of Walnut Creek apartment living where monthly rents at the four-story AVE apartment building on North Main Street – studios, one, and two-bedroom units – go for $2,345-$4,375. Other new buildings, like the Brio and the Lyric, are in a similar range each boasting the kind of architectural design, recreational spaces, concierge services, and social activities formerly found only at plush resorts.

While long time Walnut Creek residents may be stunned by the cost of new residential developments, for newlyweds Josh and Julie Schaffer, and the surge of new Walnut Creek apartment dwellers like them, there is no better time to live here than now. The Schaffer’s discovered their niche at AVE where they pay close to $3,000 a month to live in a 686-square-foot, one bedroom apartment.

Why be saddled with home ownership and pay for a gardener, pool service and gym membership when you can have it all at one these deluxe apartment buildings? Why stress about calling a plumber or an electrician? The building staff takes care of it—within 24 hours—at no cost to you. There are fire pits, text message-controlled package delivery lockers, underground parking, and free folding bicycles on hand. To socialize, there’s yoga classes, barbecues, game nights and holiday parties. AVE also offers dry cleaning services and rentable storage space for an additional $65 per month.

The Schaffers say they find their little nest “cozy” after a long day at work and when they go out, Walnut Creek gives them plenty of places to explore. “We love Walnut Creek because of the downtown and the access to recreational open space,” says Josh, who works for the San Francisco Ballet. “With all the trees, it’s like the town in France where Julie is from.” Julie, a digital marketing developer for Chevron in San Ramon adds, “We looked at places to live in Oakland and Emeryville, but once you’re on the other side of the Caldecott Tunnel, it’s a different world. Everything looks so gray.”

To the Schaffers, who moved here from Europe last December, Walnut Creek reminds them of a European town. They find it cosmopolitan yet safe. They’re young—he’s 29 and she’s 27—delighted to stroll downtown to eat dinner at Opa or to see a movie at the Century Theater. “We go to lots of movies,” Josh says. “We walk everywhere—to the farmers’ market, the Lesher Center, the post office, the DMV. Everything is close by.”

That said, the couple admits to driving once a week to the Berkeley Bowl to grocery shop because Julie finds the produce there closest in quality and selection to her family’s Loire Valley produce business. With its easy access to BART, the Schaffers, who toured all of the new apartment buildings in town, chose AVE primarily for its location. Josh’s commute on BART into San Francisco allows the couple to own one car—the allotted space in the garage—and Julie uses it to commute to San Ramon.

Another big perk to living at AVE is the washer-dryer unit neatly tucked into a closet in their apartment—a convenience Julie says other apartments did not offer. Although conversations in communal laundry rooms are a way people make connections, the Schaffers say they’ve gotten to know many of their neighbors at the pool or at social events. “Everyone here is very friendly,” says Julie.

Residents at AVE include many millennials like the Schaffers, as well as many down-sized empty nesters who appreciate its proximity to downtown and to BART, as well as its pet-friendly policies. AVE also offers fully-furnished units that can be rented for 30 days or longer; an attractive option for individuals working on temporary assignments or families who are in the process of purchasing a home.

The Schaffers, who moved here to be close to Josh’s family in Orinda, hope to buy a house in Walnut Creek someday when they start a family. But for now they are happy at AVE. “It’s the right amount of space for what we need,” says Julie. “Not more, not less.”


Just Looking

How to read an apartment for rent ad

Looking for a new apartment can be like looking for love on the internet, slightly scary and potentially deceptive. Just as “athletic” may mean “big boned” on tinder.com, there are renter code words too.

Here’s a handy translation guide:

The ad says “cozy”: The ad means “tiny.” Hope you have a full size mattress, because a queen won’t fit.

The ad says “charming”: The ad means “old.” This is not all bad. Units built in the 1940s and 50s tend to have thicker walls so you won’t hear your neighbor so much. But if you need A/C, you may be out of luck.

The ad says “bright and airy”: The ad means “drafty.” Until you make a substantial investment in heavy draperies, the world will be able to watch you rolling around in pajamas. Floor to ceiling windows are great. So is privacy.

Life+Style, Today

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