Sunday, November 30, 2008

Developing Daly City


DALY CITY — Mission Street's transformation into the city's central downtown is inching along.

Recently, city officials, architects and residents brainstormed to make the area pedestrian-friendly and vibrant with new retail and office space.

Conceptual drawings from last week's 13-hour charrette, or design workshop, zeroed in on four busy intersections at the Top of the Hill neighborhood.

"It was an exploration to get people to think very far into the future," said city Senior Planner Michael Van Lonkhuysen on Thursday, who looked at Redwood City's downtown as a model.

He said the areas "ripe for development" in Daly City include: East Market and Mission streets; Westlake Avenue and Mission Street; John Daly Boulevard and Mission Street; and the Muni turn-around at San Jose Avenue, Flournoy and Mission streets.

Some of the buildings at those intersections aren't vacant, and future development would depend on the property owners.

Currently, buses coming from San Francisco on Mission Street have to make a right turn onto Flournoy Street, and then a left on San Jose Avenue before doing a 180 degree turn onto the main road.

San Jose Condo Sales


With the market soft and the economy slumping, depreciation is of course a factor in the median price decline. But worsening the slide in median prices is the fact that post-foreclosure home sales are a growing portion of Santa Clara County's transactions. Those homes are typically sold at a discount by the lenders who repossessed them.

More than one-third of the resale homes sold in the county last month had been foreclosed upon sometime in the previous 12 months, DataQuick said. A year earlier, such properties made up less than 4 percent of sales.

Meanwhile, sales of "luxury" homes have dwindled as a force in the market. That happened first in reaction to higher interest rates for the so-called jumbo loans used by many buyers in the valley's most expensive communities. And it's happening now in reaction to the troubled financial markets.

For example, in October 2007, nearly 30 percent of resale houses sold for $1 million or more. Last month, just 11 percent of house sales were in that category. Meanwhile, sales of houses for $300,000 or less went from 4.6 percent to 9.9 percent of sales, according to DataQuick.

Mai Tran and her husband, Bryan, started looking for a home in San Jose's Cambrian neighborhood in the summer, and made four or five offers before sealing a deal for the three-bedroom house they moved into about a week ago. Their budget was about $700,000, but they only had to spend about $650,000 for the home they wanted. Tran said prices came down "a little bit, not that much" during her four-month house hunt, but said she thinks they could drop more now that the economy looks so bleak.


San Jose - Those new high rise residential buildings in downtown San Jose are selling pretty well according to the latest figures. They report a 150% increase in sales over last year with 69 new condo units purchased in Santa Clara County in September.

Laura Medanich is the Marketing Director for The 88 high rise and she confirms that sales are going well despite a downturn in the housing market elsewhere. Medanich says people with steady jobs, a down payment and the expectation to live in the home for at least two years are the ones they're seeing buying the downtown condo units. She adds the high rises are seeing what has to be considered a normal housing market in the middle of the storm.

The fact that the new residential towers were not available during the questionable lending practices that caused the mortgage crisis appear to have worked in favor of the new buildings. Medanich says this is the way the housing market used to be before the mortgage meltdown.


Zillow's report found that the median estimated value of all types of homes — houses and condos, regardless of whether they have sold recently or not — in the San Jose metro area fell to $640,803 in the third quarter, down 14 percent from the third quarter of 2007. Values have not been so low since the third quarter of 2004, the company said.

Humphries noted that home values in Santa Clara County cities such as Cupertino and Mountain View finally began to slip in the third quarter, despite the fact that other parts of the county already have seen double-digit depreciation.

"Prior to this quarter we were thinking of those as oases," he said. "It's very evident just how much the San Jose metro region has been buoyed by the tech sector."

In Cupertino, Los Altos, Mountain View, Palo Alto and Sunnyvale, the company said, the median estimated value of all homes declined between 1 and 2 percent in the third quarter, compared with a year earlier. Monte Sereno was the only community in the county where values rose compared with third quarter 2007, rising 1.3 percent.


Landmark Tower, a first-of-its-kind 18-story condominium project planned for western Milpitas, received conditional approval last week from Milpitas City Council. It approved the proposed $500-million, 375-unit mixed-use residential, retail and office high-rise at 600 Barber Lane at the former Billings Chevrolet dealership site.

Billed as a place that will offer unmatched views of the North Valley, Landmark Tower would also include three private parks contained inside, as well as one rooftop park.

The council's approval for Landmark Tower, following a Milpitas Planning Commission recommendation in late October, signs off on the final environmental impact report, conditional use permit, and general plan amendments that change the land-use of the three acre site from general commercial to very high density mixed-use with a high rise overlay.

"This is an infill site that is being redeveloped with high density," James Lindsay, Milpitas Planning and Neighborhood Services director, told the council.

In addition, Lindsay said the project will feature 148,805 square feet of planned retail space and 48,690 square feet of office space.


In a housing market still searching for a bottom, builders have pulled out all the stops to attract buyers.

Some have tried auctions, others through landscaping enticements or flooring upgrades, while others are offering pay the homeowner association fees for a year or more. One builder, Falk Development Inc., slashed prices at its San Jose project by almost 30 percent compared to 18 months ago.

According to the Ryness Report, which tracks new-home sales across all Bay Area counties, just 60 homes sold in 180 projects for the week ending Nov. 16, a drop of more than 25 percent compared to a year ago.

Condo Sales In San Jose


September was another bleak month for California new-home sales, but one segment of the Santa Clara County market bucked the trend: New-condominium sales were up nearly 150 percent from a year earlier.

Many of the units sold were in downtown San Jose, including at some expensive high-rise developments.

Buyers signed contracts to purchase 69 newly built condominiums in the county in September, up from just 28 condo sales initiated in September 2007, according to a report released Friday by the California Building Industry Association.

Five new-home projects accounted for more than two-thirds of those sales, said Jonathan Dienhart of Hanley Wood Market Intelligence, the research and consulting firm that provided the data to the builders trade group.

Of those top five, four are in or near downtown San Jose, and one is in Palo Alto. The San Jose developments that sold the most units in September are Cannery Square at Monte Vista by developer KB Home (12 units sold); The 88 by Wilson Meany Sullivan (10); Axis by KT Properties and Spring Capital Group (nine); and One East Julian by Regis Homes (seven).

Arbor Real by builder D.R. Horton in Palo Alto was also among the top five, selling nine units in September.

The median price of the 69 new condos buyers agreed to purchase in September was $550,000, down 12 percent from the median new-condo price a year earlier.


The 121 condominiums in Tamien tower are set to go on the market as rental units before the end of this year, according to development project manager Jessie Thielen.

The San Jose City Council and the Redevelopment Agency Board gave Barry Swenson Builder the OK Sept. 30 to convert the 11-story Skyline at Tamien housing development into apartments for up to five years. Thielen said the rental office is set to open by December.

City council approval was needed because the project is in a redevelopment area and required by the city's Inclusionary Housing Policy to have 20 percent of the units set aside as affordable housing.

"We feel that currently the sales market is not conducive to gaining the value that the building really holds," Thielen said. "Going to rentals allows you to preserve your asset to sell at a future date."

The controversial two-tower project on Alma and Lick avenues adjacent to the VTA station was originally set to include 242 units, but was put on hold after the first tower failed to attract the buyer interest that developers had hoped.

The marketing and sales office opened in March and closed three months later in June.

The rental plan has upset some neighbors who have been opposed to what developers pushed as a "luxury condominium" project ever since the San Jose City Council approved it in 2003.

San Jose - Silicon Valley Condos


So what are some of these firsts? I know a few, but the essential piece of the festival is for Silicon Valley residents to go online at and make nominations in five categories: historical; business and tech; sports; arts and culture; and personal (which can be anything from being the first college grad in your family to the first woman on the city council).

Winners in each category will be picked by judges who were pioneers in their own rights: former San Jose Mayor Janet Gray Hayes; legendary San Jose State judo coach Yosh Uchida and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak.

They'll be announced on the Web site New Year's Day at 10 a.m., when Leigh will host a "virtual pajama party" discussing the picks.

And the people who nominated the winners also will have a "first course" cocktail party with the judges at the swanky 88 condo building in downtown San Jose.