Thursday, February 23, 2006

Looking North to Newhall Ranch

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When the housing bubble started to inflate, there were some major developments in the headlines for Los Angeles. The two biggest were Playa Vista and Newhall Ranch. One of them, Playa Vista, already has residents. Its homes have sold and resold throughout the boom, offering some first-time buyers a chance to get into a home. Newhall Ranch, however, has yet to enter the market.

Of course, they're much different developments. Playa Vista is home to about 4,000 residents just north of Los Angeles International Airport. Newhall Ranch, however, is a master planned community of nearly 21,000 homes on the Los Angeles County border with Ventura County, in the shadow of Magic Mountain. Some say that once Newhall Ranch achieves buildout — a feat that could take more than 25 years — it will eventually boast a population to rival the town of Camarillo, CA, an LA suburb of 60,000 people that is best known to LA residents as home to the best outlet mall in the region.

The Newhall Ranch master plan took a long time to get through the approval process throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. It endured court challenges and other obstacles, going through a lot of changes as a result. But, despite all this, the fancy website, which features a running mountain climber who chases your cursor all over the page, hasn't posted a press release for two years — not since March of 2004.

What gives?

At a time when housing is in such short supply, it is a wonder why things aren't moving faster, unless Newhall Ranch thinks we're in the midst of a bubble and, therefore, is in no hurry to hop into the market. But that seems irrational. A development as big as Newhall Ranch will weather real estate cycles. It has to. We'll just have to wait and see, and wonder if first-time buyers will be able to afford to live there.

— The Boy in the Big Housing Bubble