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Where the Old West meets modern gridlock

Once a stop on the Butterfield Overland stagecoach line, Temecula has grown from a sleepy cow town to a sprawling bedroom community of 75,000. The southwest Riverside County city has preserved an Old West flavor while adding attractions that have made it a resort destination.

November 30, 2003|Susan Sullivan | Special to The Times

Vintage draws

Tourists know this city for the antiques stores that fill the historic Old Town district and the 18 wineries that blanket the rolling hills just east of Temecula, as well as the 522-room Pechanga Resort & Casino, with its 2,000 slot machines, live theater and A-list entertainers, which recently included Jewel and Seal.

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Insider's view

Residents are more likely to tout the 29 parks and city-sponsored recreation programs, as well as the large regional shopping mall and ever-expanding menu of retail and dining options.

Temecula "is mostly a family-driven community -- a lot of churches, great schools" and activities such as children's community theater, said Cari Doyle, a 15-year Temecula resident and Realtor with Tarbell Realtors.

The Temecula International Film Festival, the city's annual balloon and wine festival, and a variety of car shows and tractor races appeal to a population that includes military personnel, software developers and avocado ranchers, she added.

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From cows to commuters

Temecula's original inhabitants were the Luiseno Indians, who gave the city its name, which is most often translated as "where the sun breaks through the mist." Spaniards arrived in 1797, and the area was later parceled into land grants by Mexico, the start of a ranching era that continued through the mid- 1960s.

Pasture began giving way to new homes in the 1970s, but it was the expansion of Interstate 15 between Riverside and San Diego in the 1980s that sparked the ongoing housing boom that has turned Temecula into a bedroom community of San Diego and, to a lesser extent, Orange County.

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Good news, bad news

The freeway that transformed Temecula now clogs with rush-hour commuters from San Diego. Congestion on surface streets also has been an issue for more than a decade.

The city is working to lure employers with a fast-track planning process for new businesses and industry, and it participates in a regional partnership seeking to ease congestion on Interstate 15 between San Diego and Riverside counties.

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Hot spots

Temecula's housing stock is quite varied and affordable in comparison to coastal communities, but with house prices appreciating 17% to 25% each of the last three years, said Doyle, Temecula real estate is not the bargain it once was. An 1,800-square-foot house in an older section of the city runs about $325,000. Tract homes 2,500 square feet and larger are priced at $400,000 and up, she said.

Temecula also has equestrian-oriented custom home communities in town with 2 1/2-acre minimum lot sizes that sell for $700,000 and up, said Realtor Dick Rainey of Rancon Real Estate.

Farther afield, in the rolling hills of Temecula's wine country, a manufactured home on 2 1/2 acres costs from $400,000 to $500,000, according to Doyle. Custom homes range from $450,000 to more than $3 million.

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Stock report

Since Temecula incorporated in 1989, the city estimates that 21,500 single-family residences and 3,000 multiple-family units have been constructed.

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Report card

Temecula is served by the Temecula Valley Unified School District, which had a districtwide score of 798 on the 2003 Academic Performance Index.

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On the market

As of mid-November, there were 276 residences listed for sale, ranging from $198,000 for a 980-square-foot condominium to $5.9 million for a 40-acre, full-service equestrian facility with vet clinic, helipad and 3,200-square-foot home in De Luz, an area of avocado groves and estates in the hills west of the city, according to Doyle.

Also on the market are Maurice Car'rie Winery, at $14.5 million, and Van Roekel Vineyards and Winery, at $4.5 million.

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Historical values

Single-family detached resales:

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Year...Median Price

1990...$176,750

1995...$142,500

2000...$186,500

2002...$255,000

2003*...$295,000

*year to date

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Sources: Temecula planning department, Rancon Real Estate, Prudential California Realty, Tarbell Realtors, www.homeswiththeraineytouch .com, www.tarbell.com, www.temeculawines.org, www.cityoftemecula.org, api.cde.ca.gov, DataQuick Information Systems.

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