O.C. project’s re­birth

New owner will re­vive Paci­fica San Juan hous­ing de­vel­op­ment

Los Angeles Times - - REAL ESTATE - By An­drew Khouri an­drew.khouri@la­times.com Twit­ter: @khourian­drew

One of Or­ange County’s last large plots for hous­ing de­vel­op­ment has been sold to a na­tional home builder that plans to restart the par­tially com­pleted com­mu­nity, which be­came a sym­bol of the hous­ing crash.

The sale of Paci­fica San Juan, perched on the hills of San Juan Capis­trano, un­der­scores a hot lux­ury hous­ing mar­ket in the re­gion. A ris­ing stock mar­ket and an in­flux of for­eign buy­ers have the high-end hous­ing mar­ket hum­ming, real es­tate con­sul­tant John Burns said.

“There is a lot of money pour­ing into the county,” he said.

Tay­lor Mor­ri­son Home Corp., along with two part­ners, scooped up nearly 200 acres and 318 home sites at Paci­fica San Juan from failed fi­nancier Lehman Bros. late last month. The group, which in­cludes Oak­tree Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment and DMB Pacific Ven­tures, paid about $150 mil­lion, said Phil Bo­dem, Tay­lor Mor­ri­son’s South­ern Cal­i­for­nia di­vi­sion pres­i­dent.

The Ari­zona com­pany plans to start con­struc­tion on the first batch of houses by the end of this year, with sales open­ing up next spring. Bo­dem said the up­scale, gated com­mu­nity prob­a­bly will be fin­ished by the end of 2018.

“We are go­ing to get things start- ed as soon as we can,” he said.

Irvine de­vel­oper SunCal de­buted Paci­fica San Juan’s first homes in 2006. The project soon stalled with the col­lapse of in­vest­ment bank Lehman Bros.

Only 98 of the 416 planned homes have been built, and the de­vel­op­ment has stood as a re­minder of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis that turned hous­ing projects into ghost towns across South­ern Cal­i­for­nia. Home­own­ers who ar­rived in the be­gin­ning were in for a shock.

Res­i­dents re­called that out­siders used their com­mu­nity to dump trash and teenagers par­tied in un- fin­ished ar­eas. The former pres­i­dent of the home­own­ers as­so­ci­a­tion said res­i­dents had to fight to keep street lights on and get the promised se­cu­rity gates in­stalled.

“Ev­ery­body just banded to­gether and did the best we could,” said Stacy Bau­mann Tran, who lived in Paci­fica San Juan from 2007 to 2012.

Paul Jenk­in­son still lives there. He said that things im­proved in re­cent years af­ter the project ex­ited bank­ruptcy.

To­day, ex­pan­sive mil­lion-dol­lar homes sit on well-kept streets. The Pacific Ocean can be seen in the dis­tance.

Nearby, va­cant lots sit cov­ered with brown brush and a smat­ter­ing of yel­low wild­flow­ers.

On a re­cent morn­ing, two young chil­dren darted through the veg­e­ta­tion. Their nan­nies kept watch, a sweep­ing view of Dana Point Har­bor at their backs.

“We call it the empty street,” nanny Araceli Solano said as a breeze rolled in off the ocean. “This is our park.”

But with the hous­ing mar­ket’s up­swing, projects are be­ing re­vived. Tay­lor Mor­ri­son re­cently started con­struc­tion on another failed SunCal-Lehman project: a com­mu­nity slated to con­tain 309 lux­ury sin­gle-fam­ily homes on a sea­side bluff in San Clemente, known as Mar­ble­head.

About half of Paci­fica San Juan’s new homes are ex­pected to be priced less than $1 mil­lion, with the oth­ers fetch­ing $1 mil­lion to $2 mil­lion, Bo­dem said. A recre­ation cen­ter and pool are planned.

The project’s re­birth rep­re­sents the clos­ing of an era for Or­ange County. The land is one of the last swaths of de­vel­opable space by the coast. Even in­land, few sites re­main for sprawl­ing com­mu­ni­ties.

“Or­ange County,” hous­ing an­a­lyst Steven Thomas said, “is run­ning out of space.”

Pho­tog raphs by Glenn Koenig

ONLY 98 of the 416 planned homes in the stalled Paci­fica San Juan hous­ing de­vel­op­ment in San Juan Capis­trano have been built.

THE DE­VEL­OP­MENT has stood as a re­minder of the fi­nan­cial cri­sis that turned South­land hous­ing projects into ghost towns.

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