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NEIGHBORLY ADVICE

Lake Elsinore: Recreational meets residential

March 16, 2003|Susan Sullivan | Special to The Times

Lake Elsinore boasts the largest natural freshwater lake in Southern California, a striking mountain backdrop and some of the most affordable housing on the Interstate 15 corridor in Riverside County. With the number of building permits issued in 2002 nearly doubling from the previous year, this city of 32,500 is poised for major growth.

The basics

About 75 miles north of San Diego and 75 miles southeast of Los Angeles, Lake Elsinore is also within commuting distance of Orange County via the 15 and 91 freeways. Some brave the narrow and winding Ortega Highway over the Santa Ana Mountains to San Juan Capistrano. Incorporated in 1888, Lake Elsinore is sprinkled with historic architecture.

Drawing card

Lake Elsinore has several major attractions for sports enthusiasts, including world-class skydiving, the Lake Elsinore Motocross Park and the city's namesake lake, abuzz with jet-powered skis and motorboats.

For those seeking less adrenaline-drenched pursuits, there is a large factory outlet mall, a charming downtown Main Street sprinkled with antique shops and the Lake Elsinore Storm, a minor league baseball team affiliated with the San Diego Padres.

Good news, bad news

Lake Elsinore is subject to cycles of flood and drought; declining lake levels in recent years have triggered fish kills and have left boat launches high and dry. And while the city's overall crime rate in 2001 was below the national average, rates for murder, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft per 100,000 people were higher than national averages, according to areaconnect.com, a Web site that posts crime rates compiled from FBI statistics.

Insider's view

The city is experiencing its share of growing pains, with longtime residents who like its small-town charms and quirks bemoaning its suburbanization. Local politics can get heated over issues such as stabilizing the lake's levels and the baseball stadium's drain on city coffers.

Hot spots

Lake Elsinore's real estate market is strongest in the neighborhoods on the northern shore of the lake and in the hills to the east of Interstate 15. The latter, known as Tuscany Hills, features homes built primarily in the last five years, a clubhouse, swimming pool, tennis courts and 24-hour security patrols, as well as views of Lake Elsinore to the west and Canyon Lake to the east. In early March, homes were selling from $257,000 to $499,900 in Tuscany Hills, where homeowners also must pay association fees, said Jean Pedone of the Pedone Team at Re/Max Experience.

Neighborhoods in the hills above the northern shore of Lake Elsinore have well-cared-for tract homes built in the last 10 years, selling from $240,000. Newer four-bedroom, two-bath homes on the northern shore run around $280,000, according to Shari Potts of Potts & Associates.

New housing development in the city includes Canyon Hills, to the east of I-15, where up to 4,000 homes are planned for construction during the next decade. In the first phase, new homes from 1,551 square feet are selling from the mid-$200,000s and have an association fee, according to Pardee Homes, master plan developer for Canyon Hills.

Report card

The Lake Elsinore Unified School District serves the city of Lake Elsinore and surrounding unincorporated areas. Scores on the 2002 Academic Performance Index for the district's 11 elementary schools ranged from 594 to 777 on a scale of 1,000. The three middle schools' API scores ranged from 635 to 661. The district has two comprehensive high schools; Elsinore High scored 627 and Temescal Canyon scored 649.

Stock report

Elsinore has 11,295 housing units, including 7,727 single-family residences, 2,040 multiple-family residences and 829 mobile homes.

On the market

At the beginning of March, there were 130 homes on the market ranging from $99,000 to $499,900, according to Pedone.

Historical values

Single-family detached resales:

Year...Median Price

1990...$121,000

1995...$87,000

2000...$133,000

2001...$149,750

2002...$180,000

Sources: Pedone Team at RE/Max Experience, Potts & Associates Realty, www.leusd.k12.ca.us, lakeelsinore.areaconnect.com, www.lake-elsinore.org, api.cde.ca.gov, city of Lake Elsinore, DataQuick Information services.

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