New plans for Seaport Village unveiled

An earthquake fault line under Seaport Village has led to a major rework of plans for what will likely become a San Diego landmark.

Plans for the nearly 40-year old shopping and recreation area include a 480-foot observation tower that, according to the San Diego Unified Port District, could make the city’s skyline more distinctive. Redevelopment will also include hotels, offices and an aquarium.

Original ideas for the site were unveiled in 2016 by Protea Waterfront Development but it will present new preliminary plans Tuesday to port officials, who must still decide on them. Aside from just the earthquake changes, the firm has further modified plans but says the alterations still fit with the port’s vision.

A hotel, retail area and underground parking garage directly on top of the fault line need to be relocated elsewhere on the 70-acre site. The fault line will largely be turned into a long pedestrian mall surrounded by trees, inspired by Barcelona’s Las Ramblas.

Read the rest HERE.

Despite push, San Diego County built less housing in 2017

San Diego County communities approved slightly fewer homes last year despite increasing political pressure for more housing in California.

Cities and the county issued 4 percent fewer residential building permits in 2017 than the previous year, said the Real Estate Research Council of Southern California in a report released this week.

Overall building was down because of a reduction in apartment and condo construction, despite an increase in single-family home construction. The year started out with a major reduction in home building, but made up for it with an extremely busy fourth quarter.

Building permits for 9,580 new housing units were pulled in 2017. That’s down from 9,972 in 2016 and 9,975 in 2015. It’s up from a low during the Great Recession, when fewer than 3,000 homes were built in 2009.

The report comes as lawmakers seek new ways to get more homes built as a way to reduce housing costs. Two of the state’s leading candidates for governor, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, have said they want developers to build a half million homes a year for the next seven years, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Most of Southern California saw increased building permits in 2017, up 7 percent among the seven counties, compared to 2016. Only San Diego and Orange counties saw less demand.

Borre Winckel, CEO of the local Building Industry Association, said it was good San Diego County was down just 4 percent from the year before — he had predicted a bigger dip — but it didn’t make the news much better.

“We are still operating at very modest volumes,” he said. “Nowhere near what we need for housing people.”

Read the rest HERE.


2017 San Diego County Real Estate Market Review

There is an ongoing and undeniable national housing shortage. Year-over-year inventory levels have been down in most markets for several years now, and that trend is expected to persist in 2018. Consumers are still purchasing for the first time and relocating to other, presumably more ideal homes.
Having the financial ability to make a move clearly seems feasible to many eager buyers amidst a healthy economy, whether life events such as marriage, children, employment change or desirable downsizing is the reason for moving.

There are further positive signs on the horizon, as builder confidence has improved and construction job gains are measurably higher. It will still take more effort than a lone year can provide for building activity to reach a needed level for inventory balance, but a step in the right direction is welcome.

More sellers should feel ready and willing to list in 2018. Economic indicators such as unemployment rates and consumer confidence are in an improved state, and sellers currently hold the keys in the buyer-seller relationship. This does not mean that sellers can set their price and watch the offers roll in. On the contrary, buyers will be poised to test prevailing price points, particularly in markets where home
price increases are outpacing wage growth and in light of the fact that mortgage rates are expected to increase further in 2018.

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Superblocks: how Barcelona is taking city streets back from cars

Modern cities are ruled by cars. Streets are designed for them; bikers, pedestrians, vendors, hangers-out, and all other forms of human life are pushed to the perimeter in narrow lanes or sidewalks. Truly shared spaces are confined to parks and the occasional plaza. This is such a fundamental reality of cities that we barely notice it any more.

Some folks, however, still cling to the old idea that cities are for people, that more common space should be devoted to living in the city rather than getting through it or around it.

But once you’ve got a city that’s mostly composed of street grids, devoted to moving cars around, how do you take it back? How can cities be reclaimed for people?

The city of Barcelona has come up with one incredibly clever solution to that problem.

It’s a bird … it’s a plane … it’s SUPERBLOCK

As anyone who has visited knows, Barcelona is absolutely dreamy — one of the most pleasant, walkable cities on Earth, filled with markets, sidewalk cafes, and bustling street life.

But it too has become clogged by cars and choked by air pollution over the past few decades. So in 2014 it developed an Urban Mobility Plan, designed to give the city back to people (and reduce pollution).

In America, we can’t even agree on the idea that cities are for people. We still decry bike lanes as a “war on cars,” even in our allegedly progressive West Coast cities. So from where I’m sitting, the Barcelona plan is pretty fantastic: 186 miles of new bike lanes, a revamped bus system with better access and more frequency, more green space, and on and on.

But the coolest idea in it is “superblocks” (superilles in Catalan), a concept developed by Salvador Rueda, director of the Urban Ecology Agency of Barcelona. (Cities of the Future has a great interview with Rueda and a history of the superblocks concept — highly recommended. The Guardian also has nice piece.)

The idea is pretty simple. Take nine square blocks of city. (It doesn’t have to be nine, but that’s the ideal.) Rather than all traffic being permitted on all the streets between and among those blocks, cordon off a perimeter and keep through traffic, freight, and city buses on that.

In the interior, allow only local vehicles, traveling at very low speeds, under 10 mph. And make all the interior streets one-way loops (see the arrows on the green streets below), so none of them serve through streets.

Read the rest HERE.

Design, tech advances reshape home renovation

It’s hard to believe, but the new year is almost upon us. If you’re looking at making changes to the place you live, you might want to take stock of what the experts are seeing and predicting. There could be good ideas for you to consider for your own redesign, new home purchase or remodel. Here are five pros weighing in on some of the major trends happening now: Vanessa Linn, vice president with national builder Shea Homes, which has 13 new communities in construction in San Diego County; Niko Zavala, store manager at Lowe’s San Diego location; Clay Leaf, a La Jolla-based building contractor and 2017 president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s San Diego chapter; Chrysanthe Broikos, curator at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C.; Alex Capecelatro, co-founder and CEO of, a home technology company specializing in high-end voice control systems.

Social trends

It all starts with people, including the people who live in your home today, the people who might be joining your household, (perhaps a new baby or older relative), and the people who visit regularly.

“Unprecedented shifts in both demographics and lifestyle have fundamentally transformed how we are living,” observes curator Broikos. The National Building Museum is showcasing these shifts in its current “Making Room: Housing for a Changing America” exhibition. “While only 20 percent of our households are nuclear families, (down from 40 percent in 1970), the housing market largely remains fixated on their needs,” she comments. Many households today are extended family, older singles or home shares.

Shea is one of the national home builders addressing social shifts like these. “A major factor in our layout is the impact of multigenerational families; either with adult children returning or aging relatives needing care. At a variety of our communities, we offer two options: either an additional master bedroom or a multigenerational suite with living space. We expect this to be an accelerating need in San Diego.” The region’s multicultural dynamics likely contribute to this as well, with many households having family visit from other countries for extended periods.

This is true for home renovation, too, Leaf notes. Aging-in-place projects (designed to provide safety, accessibility and comfort for older residents so they can remain at home), are happening regularly, the contractor says. “As a region with an aging population, I expect more kitchen modification for aging in place.” Bathrooms often get those enhancements first.

Interior remodels and room additions were the most requested projects in our area this year, Leaf observed from local NARI activity, and “with a short supply of new homes in San Diego, we expect this trend to continue.”

Read the rest HERE.

San Francisco’s Skyline, Now Inescapably Transformed by Tech

SAN FRANCISCO — The skyscraper came late to this city, a shipping and manufacturing hub for much of its existence. The wealthy roosted on the hills and the masses toiled on the flats and the docks. Everyone lived close to the ground in a setting renowned for its natural beauty.

Now the things being shipped are virtual, and vast amounts of office space are needed to design, build and market them. Salesforce, a company that did not exist 20 years ago, will take up residence on Jan. 8 in the new Salesforce Tower, which at 1,070 feet is the tallest office building west of the Mississippi.

In Silicon Valley, the office parks blend into the landscape. They might have made their workers exceedingly rich, they might have changed the world — whether for better or worse is currently up for debate — but there is nothing about them that says: We are a big deal.

Skyscrapers tell a different story. They are the pyramids of our civilization, permanent monuments of our existence. They show who is in charge and what they think about themselves. Salesforce Tower is breaking a San Francisco height record that stood for nearly half a century.

“A ceiling has been breached,” said Alison Isenberg, a professor of urban history at Princeton University. “Now the discussion becomes is this just a building that is taller than the ones we already had, or does it raise new questions about the nature of the city?”

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As California fires blaze, homeowners fear losing insurance

California homeowners and regulators have a new fear about wildfires ravaging the state: that insurers will drop coverage.

Massive, out-of-season fires in northern and southern California are causing billions of dollars in claims and challenging expectations of when and where to expect blazes. State law gives insurers more leeway to drop coverage than to raise rates, and some are taking the opportunity, concerning California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones.

Homes in the Sierra Nevada foothills were dropped after wildfires swept through the region in recent years, and some other Northern California homes also have been cut from rosters, Jones said.

“We may see more of it,” he added in an interview. Insurers must renew fire victims’ policies once, but after that homeowners could be driven to unusual, expensive policies.

Retired firefighter Dan Nichols of Oroville, California was surprised when Liberty Mutual dropped his coverage this year, following a wildfire in the region.

“I was shocked and angry,” said Nichols, 70, by email.

Liberty Mutual must “responsibly manage” its overall exposure to California’s wildfires as part of a strategy to safeguard its ability to pay homeowners’ claims, a spokesman said. The insurer still issues policies in California and its strategy is not in response to recent fires, he said.

Nichols found a better deal through AAA, but others are not as lucky. In San Andreas, a community northeast of San Francisco, homeowners typically use specialty insurers, known as “surplus lines carriers,” for policies that cost about 20 to 40 percent more than a mainstream insurer, said Fred Gerard, who owns an insurance agency in the area.

Insurers must be cautious by not covering too many homes in one area, said Janet Ruiz, a spokeswoman for the industry’s Insurance Information Institute. “They tend to spread their risk so they can pay claims,” Ruiz said.

Read the rest HERE.

The profits made from flipping homes continues to shrink

The profits made from flipping homes continues to shrink from CNBC.

  • Single-family homes and condos flipped in the third quarter of this year brought an average gross profit of $66,448 per flip.
  • Home flipping profits continue to be squeezed by a dwindling inventory of distressed properties available to purchase at a discount.
  • Despite lower returns, home flipping is still a popular business.

Even as more investors are flipping homes, they’re seeing less profits in return.

High home prices, increasing renovation costs and a skimpier supply of distressed properties are making it more expensive to get in the game, even though demand for move-in ready homes is high.

Single-family homes and condos flipped in the third quarter of this year brought an average gross profit of $66,448 per flip, representing a 47.7 percent return on investment for flippers, according to Attom Data Solutions, a real estate data and analytics company. Attom defines a flip as a home bought and sold in a 12-month period.

That return is down from 48.7 percent in the second quarter and from 51.2 percent in the third quarter of last year. It is the lowest average gross flipping return on investment since the middle of 2015.

“Home flipping profits continue to be squeezed by a dwindling inventory of distressed properties available to purchase at a discount and increasing competition from fair-weather home flippers often willing to operate on thinner margins,” said Daren Blomquist, senior vice president at Attom Data Solutions.

Despite lower returns, home flipping is still a popular business. Close to 49,000 homes were flipped nationwide in the third quarter, unchanged from a year ago. One big shift, however, is that there are more investors flipping, and they’re each flipping fewer homes. The ratio of flips per investor, just 1.25, is the lowest since 2008.

Read the rest HERE.