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Fieldstone Sells Ill-Fated Property for $100 Million : Real Estate: The home builder was never able to fully develop the San Diego County land it bought at the market peak.


NEWPORT BEACH — In the largest Southern California land deal so far this year, the Fieldstone Group of Cos., a Newport Beach home builder, has sold a 2,300-acre community in northern San Diego County for about $100 million, analysts said.

Fieldstone, one of Southern California's larger home builders, defaulted two years ago on a $150-million loan for the La Costa community, which is not connected to the famed spa of the same name.

Fieldstone has been working since 1993 with its lender, Bank of America, to restructure the loan. On Aug. 18, it sold the property to the bank's wholly owned subsidiary, Real Estate Management Collateral Co., in a deal valued at about $100 million, sources said.

Last year, the project was valued at about $75 million, according to company documents.

"It's the closing of an unfortunate chapter," said Keith A. Johnson, Fieldstone's chief executive officer. "The loss of the project is a bittersweet thing. We're glad to have the problem go away but we're sorry to lose it."

Fieldstone, a privately owned company, purchased the property in a joint venture with a Canadian builder at the height of the market in 1988. When the real estate market fell later, Fieldstone was saddled with large amounts of land it couldn't sell.

Fieldstone had planned to build 3,600 homes on the site, but only a few have been built. A B of A spokeswoman said the bank is still evaluating its options for developing the property.

The sale puts Fieldstone in a much healthier financial condition, said Jeff Meyers, president of the Meyers Group, a Newport Beach real estate consulting firm.

"They're off the hook now," said Meyers. "It's sad, though, because this was a substantial development they put a lot of heart into."

Rivendell Land Co., a Laguna Hills land development company, has been hired by the bank to manage the La Costa property.

According to a recent Times survey, Fieldstone is the seventh-largest home builder in Southern California, with $210 million in sales last year. The company and its related divisions built 881 homes in 1994 and have sold about 400 so far this year, Johnson said.

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