Sisters of the Holy Family: Palmdale

Property: 159 Washington Blvd, Fremont, CA

The congregation of Sisters of the Holy Family is a community of Roman Catholic Sisters founded in San Francisco in 1872. Their mission is “To seek out and advocate for the poor and needy, especially families, for the kingdom of God.” The Sisters have been a part of the Fremont community since 1948, when they purchased the Palmdale property.

Unique Challenge

The Sisters’ Motherhouse, built in 1959, was originally designed as a home for women aged 20-35. It is no longer appropriate housing for the Sisters, whose median age is now 80 years. Additionally, the cost to maintain the extensively landscaped 14.8 acres and the two historic homes on their property has become increasingly cost prohibitive. Because of their love for this property, their commitment to the Earth Charter, and to the principles set forth by the U.S. Bishops in Renewing the Earth; as the Sisters contemplated new housing for themselves, they also became determined to find a way to preserve, as much as possible, the environmental and historic treasure of Palmdale.

Solution Provided

From 2008 – 2012, the Sisters of the Holy Family worked with DCG to find a solution to preserve their property while also finding a solution for their need of more adequate housing than their current Motherhouse provides. As their plans began to coalesce over this four year period, it was clear that the Sisters would need to enlist the support of a trusted and respected development partner, one that was not only qualified to partner with DCG on obtaining the necessary approvals, but also shared the Sisters’ commitment to leaving a legacy with the property.

The Sisters were pleased to announce that together with DCG, they had developed a future Master Plan for their property, which not only solved their need for new age-appropriate housing, but also provided for preservation of a large portion of their park-like property, commonly known as Palmdale. The plan proposed to build three cottage-style buildings totaling 45 units, as new housing for the Sisters. These one-story buildings are  situated on a 2.6 acre parcel on the northwest area of the property. The cottages awere completed by Robson Homes (“Robson”) with November of 2017.

The 5.5 acre “Core Area” of Palmdale, encompassing the significant landscaping, historic trees, shrines, and grottos, are Private Open Space to be preserved in perpetuity through an endowment. The two historic homes on the property were restored by Robson and sold as private residences. On the remaining 5.6 acres, Robson built 77 single-family market rate detached homes (known as The Abbey at Palmdale Estates), targeted to young families – the sale of which funded both the preservation of the Core Area and the construction of the Sisters’ age appropriate housing. The new residences, surrounded by lushly planted streetscapes and gardens, were thoughtfully designed with a focus on individual unit identity, and are compatible with surrounding neighborhoods.

The Sisters believe the plan designed by DCG and developed by Robson does all this, and the Sisters are enjoying this new phase in the life of Palmdale with the community of Fremont.

For an external overview of DCG’s current work with Sisters of the Holy Family, please see an article on The Catholic Voice website at: Catholic Voice Oakland.