Public hearings will be held in February regarding limits on the size of new houses built "in the flatlands," he said. The department expects in April to make recommendations to the Planning Commission.
LaBonge's motion asked the planning department to recommend the appropriate size of new houses and additions in relationship to lot size and to determine which land is suitable for building on slopes and hillsides. The department will address hillsides separately after completing work on proposed guidelines for the flatlands, Sutton said.
-- Gayle Pollard-Terry
Power to the people interrupted
Close to 80,000 L.A. Department of Water and Power customers and more than 1 million Southern California Edison consumers experienced power interruptions in July as the region sweltered through a week of temperatures topping 100 degrees.
Desiree Causey, a Westminster lawyer, was among those who sought reimbursement from Edison for spoiled frozen and refrigerated items.
Her claim, which included itemized receipts for nearly $300 worth of food, was denied.
"I'm not done yet," said Causey, who believes that the problem in her area was caused by equipment failure, not an "act of God," and that her loss should be reimbursed.
"The letter says if I don't like their answer, pursue them in Small Claims Court," she said. "I'll make time in the new year."
Edison and DWP failed to respond to questions about the number of claims filed and paid.
Mobile-home park is still in limbo
At most mobile-home developments, residents own the mobile home and rent the land. If the park is converted to condominiums, which requires approval from the state Department of Real Estate, a resident could own both.
In October, we reported that James F. Goldsmith, owner of Colony Cove Mobile Estates in Carson, had applied to turn the seniors-only park into condominiums. Under his proposal, those who want to continue to rent the pad on which their mobile home sits may do so. But they could face higher rents.
After state authorities approve the conversion and a single person buys that plot from the owner, rents rise in stages to market rates for any tenants who are not low-income. At Colony Cove, where rents average about $400 a month and increases are governed by a local rent control law, that could mean hundreds of dollars, according to park residents who actively oppose the conversion.
"Nothing is happening at this time," said Bill Smalley, leader of a residents' group that is fighting the change.
The owner's lawyer, L. Sue Loftin, did not respond to a request for comment regarding the status of the conversion.
They're bound for Baja luxury
Earlier this month, Trump Ocean Resort Baja set a one-day real estate sales record for Mexico when $122 million worth of condos were sold. Priced from the $200,000s to nearly $3 million, the 188 suites sold represented 80% of Phase 1 of the project.
About 30 minutes from downtown San Diego, the resort is a high-end complex that will operate like a hotel with an owner's concierge, a pool house bar and cafe, an upscale restaurant, a spa and fitness center, tennis courts and walking trails.
"Baja is clearly gaining momentum as a destination," said Sid Landolt, president of S&P Destination Properties. Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2007 with the completion of the first tower anticipated in late 2008.
In other Baja news, the National Assn. of Realtors signed a reciprocal membership agreement with the Mexican real estate association, Asociacion Mexicana de Profesionales Inmobiliarios, in October. This means that all of Mexico's 2,500 members will become Realtors on Jan. 1.
The agreement is intended to build U.S. consumer confidence in the home-buying process in Mexico.
A giant step in foreclosures
The number of Southern California homeowners who fell behind on their mortgages through the third quarter of this year more than doubled to 18,516 from 7,080 in the same period last year, according to Rick Sharga, the vice president of marketing for RealtyTrac Inc., an Irvine-based company that monitors foreclosure activity.
For San Diego, the figure rose to 4,069 from 970 during the same time period.
"The bulk of the increase is in initial notices of default," he said, referring to letters from lenders indicating that the borrower must catch up on house-note payments or face losing the property. "Historically, about 60% of those properties won't get as far as the foreclosure auction."
Sharga attributed the increase to higher payments on adjustable-rate mortgages and the slowdown of housing sales. When homes take longer to sell, some desperate borrowers who need a quick sale run out of time.
By another measure, however, California is doing better than the rest of the nation.
"Statewide, in terms of the selling price of the properties, California foreclosure properties have the highest retention value -- average 88% to 89% of the estimated market value," he said, explaining that few foreclosure properties are big bargains.
"If you look at a state like Ohio, foreclosure properties are selling for about 57% of market value."