For seniors, Berrellesa Palms is more than affordable rent - it’s home

Bianca Taylor Headshot

 Martinez Gazette.

It’s not breaking news that the Bay Area has quickly become one of the most expensive places to live in the United States. As the cost of rent increases, too many low-income families, people with disabilities, and seniors pay the price, facing displacement or even eviction from their homes.

But in downtown Martinez, this narrative is changing for Maria Nuno and her husband, Lauro Hernandez. That’s because they live in Berrellesa Palms, a GreenTRIP-certified apartment complex that has changed their lives for the better.

Maria, who is 90 years old, and Lauro, 78, moved to Martinez from Concord in June 2014. They left their old apartment because their rent was increasing too much each year. Says Maria, “The rents increased, but our checks did not.”

Barrellessa Palms, photo credit RCP

Luckily, TransForm’s GreenTRIP program had been hard at work at Berrellesa Palms. Working with Resources for Community Development (RCD), GreenTRIP planners helped cut development costs by reducing the number of unnecessary on-site parking spaces. This helped RCD keep its units 100% affordable; seniors like Maria and Lauro can pay just a third of what they spent each month on rent in Concord. GreenTRIP also helped the project by advocating for Berrellesa Palms to receive affordable housing funds from the county.

Berrellesa Palms was awarded GreenTRIP certification in August 2009. Because of its central location near public transportation, each Berrellesa Palms household will drive 94% less than the average Bay Area household. That means 94% less greenhouse gas emissions, on top of cleaner air, less traffic, safer streets for people walking and biking, and a neighborhood that Maria calls “tranquil, safe, and good”.

To Maria, living at Berrellesa Palms “is like a blessing.” She and her husband feel comfortable and safe, and enjoy spending time in the building’s courtyard garden.  Thanks to an on-site supportive services program, an assistant helps them (and other residents) with shopping and other errands. 

When Maria and Lauro visit Los Angeles, they simply walk one block north to the Amtrak station. They can catch the number 16 bus - also just one block away - to get to Concord and BART. “It is super convenient,” says Maria. “It is easy for us to move around.”

Berrellesa Palms is just one of the many GreenTRIP-certified projects throughout the Bay Area. GreenTRIP staff work with cities, developers, and communities to design projects that include strategies like free transit passes and carsharing, to reduce driving and prioritize space for people instead of parking.

To learn more about the GreenTRIP program and GreenTRIP Certification, visit www.greentrip.org

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Thanks to Terry Kelley-Farias for conducting the interview and Spanish translation that made this blog possible.

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TransForum is the blog of TransForm, California's leading transportation advocate. For more about our work, including ways you can take action and contribute, visit TransFormCA.org.