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About this blog: I am a native of Alameda County, grew up in Pleasanton and currently live in the house I grew up in that is more than 100 years old. I spent 39 years in the daily newspaper business and wrote a column for more than 25 years in add...  (More)

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Wise shift by Summerhill

Uploaded: Jun 23, 2015

The decision by Summerhill Homes to switch its planned apartment complex to for-sale condominiums is good news.
Pleasanton needs more variety of housing options and it has been many, many years since a new condominium complex has been built. During the earlier run-up in housing prices, some apartments were converted to for-sale condominiums, but there's a definite shortage of that option among Pleasanton's housing stock.
Last week, Summerhill won approval from the City Council to alter its plans for 177 apartments on six acres across on West Las Positas across from Hart Middle School to a 94 condo project. There will be 16 buildings at two and three stories in height.
It was an easy vote for most council members who cited less traffic, less water and less opposition from the neighborhood across the Arroyo Mocho canal which had opposed the earlier project.
What Summerhill's shift shows is a builder reacting to the market. It was one of nine apartment complexes approved after a court-ordered rezoning in 2012. There has not been a major apartment complex built since Archstone Hacienda (now Park Hacienda) many years ago so the gap in the market was obvious.
That said, the new apartments at market price will not be inexpensive. At the new Anton Hacienda project nearby, one-bedroom, one-bath units start at $2, 125, while two-two units start at $2,575. Here's hoping that enough units hit the market at once that there is active competition for renters instead of landlords simply posting the prices they will charge. Reading comments online, it's clear that Park Hacienda rents have climbed significantly in the last couple of years (up 30 percent or more).
On the single-family home market, it's that lack of for-sale inventory that is driving the soaring prices.
David Stark, the government and public affairs director for the Bay East Association of Realtors, updated the Pleasanton Men's Club on the housing market this month.
The median price in 2015 now has eclipsed the previous high of $850,000, soaring to $935,000 through this May. At the depths of the recession, the median price had fallen to $685,000.
Inventory is a key factor. In 2008, there were 2,692 sales in Pleasanton. In 2013, that had fallen to 678 single-family homes, while last year it was 867. Through five months this year, the 2015 pace was below that of 2014.
The influx of new apartments, along with both the Summerhill condos and condos under construction at DeNova's project next to the new Safeway shopping center, should have a moderating effect on rents. As for single-family homes, one of the major factors is people have now lived through a sharp downturn in housing prices and they seem far less likely to "move up" than traditionally has been the pattern here. Instead, they are staying put as empty-nesters and improving their current residences.
We know several couples who qualify by age as senior citizens who were quite comfortable living in their single-family units and did not move to sell them until the Stoneridge Creek senior housing complex opened. The Ironwood active adult community by Ponderosa Homes also has induced some older couples to downsize. For many, it has been the lack of options that kept them in their existing house.
The irony is that plans for a major active adult community---similar to a Del Webb or Triology project—has been trying to win approval in the Collier Canyon area between Dublin and Livermore. Given the current views of both councils, the demand for that housing does not matter—the green politics will keep that area off limits for development.

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