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Tri-Valley Hero: Alexander Mehran Sr., transforming San Ramon

Bishop Ranch developer reflects on career upon earning Lifetime Achievement award

Three generations of Mehran men have led Sunset Development, starting with its founder Masud Mehran (in portrait) followed by Alexander Mehran Sr. (standing left) and Alexander Mehran Jr. (Contributed photo)

In 1955, when 5-year-old Alexander Mehran Sr. moved from Oakland to Diablo with his family, the Tri-Valley felt like a much smaller and sleepier place than it is today.

Now, 64 years later -- after an exponential growth in population -- the once-rural community has seen a major transformation into a residential hub and business center, and that is due in no small part to Mehran's company, Sunset Development Company.

The result of Mehran and his family's contributions to the region's evolving landscape was among the reasons he received the 2019 Tri-Valley Heroes Lifetime Achievement award.

"I have never considered myself to be a hero," Mehran said after accepting the award. "I will admit to having participated in the transformation of the San Ramon Valley from a sleepy rural community to being a part of one of the most vital and vibrant aspects of one of the great centers of innovation in the world, the Bay Area."

Mehran serves as chairman of the board for Sunset Development, the company that was founded by his father Masud in 1951 and that is today led by his son Alexander Mehran Jr., who acts as the president and CEO.

Under Mehran's guidance, Sunset Development built Bishop Ranch in San Ramon, the largest mixed-use business community in Northern California. Bishop Ranch is home to approximately 30,000 employees who work at a variety of major companies such as Chevron, Bank of the West, PG&E and AT&T to name a few.

Bishop Ranch further evolved in 2018 when the highly anticipated City Center complex opened its doors, offering residents a retail, entertainment and community gathering place that serves as a downtown area for San Ramon.

Through its partnership with the city of San Ramon, Sunset Development is also responsible for constructing San Ramon's City Hall -- which is located on Bollinger Canyon Road down the block from Bishop Ranch.

To what does Mehran attribute his company's decades worth of success? Close family ties and the Mehran legacy.

"The real heroes in my family are my parents who immigrated to this country from Iran in 1944," he said. "I am blessed by having very loving close relations with both my parents, and I think that one of the secrets to my well-being is I knew they always had my back no matter what."

After receiving degrees at Harvard University and Cambridge University, Mehran worked at J.P. Morgan for 3-1/2 years before feeling the pull of his family business and legacy.

"I decided the business was really the legacy of our family in America, and when I put it in that context, it was pretty clear (I should) come back to California. So I did and I came back with my dad and we built a couple of homes in Livermore," Mehran said.

He explained that the family legacy -- as well as the close familial bond -- continues today with his son Alexander Jr.

"It's fantastic; it's the best thing that has happened to me in my business career," Mehran said of getting to work with his son. "One of the elements of peace of mind when I was working for my father, that also exists between me and my son, is the trust that is there during the decision-making process. Because there is no separate agenda for father and son; the agenda is simply to do what is in the best interest of the business and what is in the best interest of the family."

He added that while he hopes his grandchildren will one day become involved in the business, he says the oldest one is currently 7 so that may take awhile to come to fruition.

"To have created a multi-generational platform where I can be active, my father could be active, my son could be active and hopefully so my grandchildren can be active in the business ... is wonderful," Mehran said.

As for the future of the region, Mehran says that he believes people will migrate toward living closer to where they work -- which Sunset Development will look to accommodate for its own tenants at Bishop Ranch by building 4,500 housing units in the heart of the property.

"I think that as transportation gets more and more difficult, people will gravitate toward going to local work centers and we will be one of those places," Mehran said. "I'm hoping that (our project) will be approved some time in 2020 and that will be a change for the better for easing the housing burden as well as making the choice to live and work in Bishop Ranch a little easier."

Still in the review process by the city, the project in San Ramon would also include a 169-room hotel, an interconnected parks system, new parking structures, an amphitheater with a potential capacity for 1,500 seats and two new community centers, as well as other amenities and additions.

Some residents in San Ramon have expressed concerns over the size of the project and how that many new homes may adversely change the culture of the community, but Mehran says change is a part of life in the Bay Area and not something that should be feared.

"I think that people are naturally resistant to change and I think it's easy to focus on some of the negative aspects of change and forget about the positive attributes of change ... and the opportunities that it brings up," he said. "There are so many opportunities that have been made available to this community by virtue of how it has expanded and grown, and that is the most important thing that it allows people to achieve their maximum potential."

"I can tell you that if I were a 5-year-old boy growing up in Diablo today, I would have many more opportunities and doors that are open to me than I did when I was growing up," Mehran added.

Hero FYI

* Mehran was born in Oakland in 1950 shortly after his family took a grand tour exploring all of the country's then-48 states.

* When his family moved to California in 1946, the state had a population of 9.5 million -- 2 million of whom lived in the Bay Area. Today that population rests at 40 million and 7.7 million, respectively.

* Inspired by his grandfather's efforts to feed and house less privileged individuals, Mehran operates The Masud and Alex Mehran Foundation which strives to do the same.

* Mehran is the proud grandfather of five grandkids.

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Comments

29 people like this
Posted by David M.
a resident of San Ramon
on Dec 1, 2019 at 8:17 pm

I don’t believe that people who are concerned about the scope of the housing proposal are simply wary of change. I think they are concerned about the real, tangible negative effects of the change. It’s a little insulting to say residents are so shallow that they are afraid of change in general.

The consequences of massively increased population density are pretty clear, and can be observed and measured. It’s not some philosophical question of being vaguely worried about change.

Also, this quote from Mr. Mehran is very telling: “.. the agenda is simply to do what is in the best interest of the business and what is in the best interest of the family.”

What about the interests of the community?? Does this proposal really benefit our community, as he claims?

Mr. Mehran is very good at spinning the dialog, but I think that he slipped up and showed his true colors with this quote. I submit that San Ramon is nothing more than a vehicle for the Mehran family to use to line their pockets.


2 people like this
Posted by Franettea@comcast.net
a resident of San Ramon
on Dec 2, 2019 at 9:13 am

The article didn’t mention that Sunset Development, through Alex Mehran Jr, has committed a half million dollars towards renovating the old Mudd’s restaurant into a beautiful nature center which will include a large classroom kitchen for cooking classes and chef demonstrations. This generosity gives us a huge headstart in our fundraising campaign and we are so grateful for it.

I have to disagree that Sunset ignores the needs of the community. The new city center has brought a lot of fun activities and opportunities for entertainment, dining and relaxation to our city. I love the drive-by art gallery they installed on the front of it and the beautiful Christmas lights. Bishop Ranch is one of the most beautifully landscaped business Parks I’ve ever seen… It really does look like a park and that is something we all can enjoy. Their rebuilt lake by the Roundhouse conference Center is gorgeous and anyone can walk around it and enjoy the peace and quiet there.

As for the 4500 unit plan for infill housing in Bishop Ranch, I would much rather have that additional housing there than up in our Hills. The state is forcing cities to approve housing complexes no matter what they destroy in the process, and I believe Sunset has come up with an aesthetically sensitive plan that with a few changes would be preferable to any other alternative.


5 people like this
Posted by Virginia
a resident of San Ramon
on Dec 2, 2019 at 9:22 am

Virginia is a registered user.

David M. The Mehran’s have been part of the San Ramon community longer than most of the residents have lived here. They are business residents that contribute positively to the community. The only “true colors” they are showing is that the care they are partners with this community and very generous with their giving. They are landowners and business people that have A positive vision for San Ramon. Read the papers; the State is forcing housing on everyone. Wouldn’t you rather have a developer who is local and not going to build and leave town? The Mehran’s aren’t going to do anything that will adversely affect San Ramon because they would be adversely affecting their own interests. Not everybody likes growth, but that is going to happen regardless. Therefore the comments should not be around no growth. (The State is already suing some cities about their refusal to allow for building). The comments should be about smart growth and how to make San Ramon continue to be a great community with great amenities. How can you accuse the Mehran’s of lining their pockets when they are working with the land they have owned for years? I think this is a good thing for San Ramon.


11 people like this
Posted by john-2008
a resident of San Ramon
on Dec 3, 2019 at 5:58 pm

john-2008 is a registered user.

I recall the elder Mr. Mehran lived in Hillsborough and not in the San Ramon area. So we who live in San Ramon are their belongings while they live the high life in their mansions. They don’t have to deal with the horrible traffic they are generators make even more money on top of their billions.
I wish they stopped any donations and would take their shopping center with them to Hillsborough. They only contribution they have made is worsen the traffic and if they succeed build a lot more congested housing in the area destroying the quality of life in our area.
Now, to top everything, they want to build 4500 new units in addition to their hotels and other plans they don’t care to share with us the little people. By the way, our city politicians in their pocket waiting for their hefty pensions.
The Mehrans are destroying San Ramon and our quality of life.
Stop them before it is to late!


Posted by john-2008
a resident of San Ramon

on Dec 3, 2019 at 6:00 pm

john-2008 is a registered user.


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Posted by john-2008
a resident of San Ramon

on Dec 3, 2019 at 6:01 pm

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Posted by john-2008
a resident of San Ramon

on Dec 3, 2019 at 6:01 pm

john-2008 is a registered user.


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5 people like this
Posted by David M
a resident of San Ramon
on Dec 3, 2019 at 11:04 pm

David M is a registered user.

@Virginia & @franette you both make convincing points which I must agree with. The state and illegitimate organizations like ABAG are indeed forcing housing quotas on us, and I agree that infilling is probably better than continuing to bulldoze pristine land.

I too am thrilled he is donating to the Mudd’s effort. Franette, you know I’m also a big supporter of the site’s preservation. But you have to admit, it could be viewed as a well timed PR move at a time when the housing initiative is going to run into a lot of resistance.

As far as city center, yes it’s quite an addition to San Ramon. I’ve been a regular there since opening day. But make no mistake, these are first and foremost business interests. That’s not a bad thing; I’m a business owner myself. But ... “hero”? That might be taking it a little far.


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