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SPECIAL REPORT: Putting Down Roots : The Times Poll : Options for Renters, Owners and the Homeless

April 25, 1991|BRIAN ALEXANDER

Nearly two-thirds of North County residents have lived at their address for five years or less: 39% have lived in the same place for two years or less, 25% for three to five years. --The Times Poll

Despite the high cost of housing, 61% of North County residents are homeowners. But most newcomers aren't in that category: of those who have lived in North County for less than two years, 62% rent and 32% own, according to the Los Angeles Times Poll.

And some residents have no address at all.

Here is a quick look at some of the options that face home buyers, renters and the homeless in North County.


Throughout the 1980s, North County boomed. The quest for the American dream of a plot of land, a detached house and a two-car garage drove buyers farther and farther from where they worked and into the waiting arms of North County developers who recognized the area as the last bastion of affordable land.

Huge housing tracts went up seemingly overnight. Entire communities were built. A sea of red tile roofs spread over hillsides and canyons.

As houses sprang up like mushrooms, prices rose like a mushroom cloud. Homes that may have sold for $90,000 at the beginning of the decade sold for $175,000 at the end. By the end of 1990, the median price for a home in Bonsall was $265,000. In Poway it was $190,000. In San Marcos it was $165,000. In Solana Beach it was $400,000. In Del Mar it was $560,000. In Rancho Santa Fe it was $1.2 million.

Condominium prices also rose. By the end of 1990, the median price for a condominium unit in an inland area was in the low-to-mid-$100,000s. Along the beach, the median was close to $200,000.

The prices indicate significant differences among North County communities. In fact, according to Peter Dennehy of the real estate research firm The Myers Group, North County can be divided into nodes.

The North Coastal node is characterized by "in-fill" housing, homes built in empty spaces between larger developments. There are some master-planned communities in Carlsbad, the last frontier for large developments in the coastal region. For example, a new, upscale community is being built on Batiquitos Lagoon.

The I-15 corridor represents another node characterized by master-planned communities and stand-alone subdivisions.

The corridor along California 78 from Oceanside to San Marcos is yet another node. Huge new tracts like Rancho del Oro in Oceanside offer small lots and entry-level housing, Dennehy said. Now that San Marcos has become the new home of a branch of the California State University system, Dennehy expects even more of the same in that area.

But the age of the big tracts is coming to an end. There just isn't enough land to go around any more.

"The tract sizes will be smaller," Dennehy said. "Master-planned communities are the most efficient way to develop new housing, but there is not a lot of land available. There are not many places where there are 500 acres that can be developed. Smaller developments will take over and some in-fill stuff" will be built.

Most areas will continue to have a mix of housing prices from entry level to executive homes, Dennehy said, citing Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos and Carmel Mountain Ranch as examples of mixed developments.

Tract styles won't change much. Currently, the overwhelming style is Spanish.

Jim Saviar, senior vice president of the Buie Corp., a major area developer, said demand dictates style.

"People say they are sick of Spanish-style housing, but typically people moving into Southern California like a Spanish style roof," he said. "There seems to be an overabundance of it on the market, but it is preferential. We had one project in Rancho Bernardo with wood-shake roofing and, 5-to-1, people preferred the red tiles."

But there is another, more compelling reason for the Spanish style in housing tracts. According to Saviar, lot sizes will get smaller and smaller as land becomes more precious and developers are forced to cram more housing onto less land. Lots that were 6,000 square feet will be reduced, where local laws permit, to 4,500 square feet. That will eliminate the one-story home. Spanish styles are simpler to build over garages and living rooms.

The style of tracts may remain the same, but the features will differ in the near future. Buyers are beginning to opt for the greatest value in terms of square footage and don't care for lots of extra amenities.

"The way the market used to be was how many bells and whistles there were on a house, but now people are shopping value," Saviar said.

Dennehy agreed. He said the strongest demand for housing would be in the entry-level market, priced from $150,000 to $200,000.

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