SummerHill Homes has recived a number of prestigious regional and national awards over the years.

Here is a sampling:

2014 Public Private Partnership Award Growing Smarter Together Award
2013 Excellence in Home Building Award (MAME)

Purchasing Team Of The Year

Dan Erben, Chau Ngo & Ellen Hunyh

2012 Gold Nugget Merit Award

Award of Merit
Pacific Coast Builders Conference
Multi-Family Housing Project - under 15 du/acre (For Sale or Rent)
Creekside at Saratoga/Saratoga CA

2012 Green Home Builder of the Year

Peninsula Publishing's Builder of the Year - Pubby Award. Featuring Renaissance at Roubion

2011 Marketing and Merchandising Excellence (MAME)

Community of the Year - Detached
The Enclave at Waverly Park / Mountain View

2011 Marketing and Merchandising Excellence (MAME)

Green Community of the Year
The Enclave at Waverly Park / Mountain View

2011 Marketing and Merchandising Excellence (MAME)

Best Website

2011 Marketing and Merchandising Excellence (MAME)

Construction Team of the Year

2010 Marketing and Merchandising Excellence (MAME)

Best Merchandising
Redwood Gate / Palo Alto, CA

2010 Marketing and Merchandising Excellence (MAME)

Best Landscaping
Redwood Gate / Palo Alto, CA

2010 Marketing and Merchandising Excellence (MAME)

Best Architecture
Redwood Gate / Palo Alto, CA

2010 Gold Nugget Merit Award

Best Single Family Detached Home
on a Compact Lot – (Under 3,200 sq. ft.)
Redwood Gate / Palo Alto, CA

2009 Gold Nugget Grand Award

Outstanding Infill, Redevelopment or
Rehab Site Plan
Lane Woods / Menlo Park, CA

2009 Gold Nugget Grand Award

Community of the Year – Detached
Lane Woods / Menlo Park, CA

2009 Nationals Gold Award

Best Design Center
Design Studio / Santa Clara, CA

2008 Best in American Living Grand Award

Best Single-Family Detached Home,
1801 to 2400
Morgan Square / Fremont, CA

2008 Best in American Living Grand Award

Special Award – Design Center
Design Studio / Santa Clara, CA

2008 Gold Nugget Grand Award

Best Single Family Detached Home
Any Size on a Small Lot
Morgan Square, Residence 4 / Fremont, CA

2008 Marketing and Merchandising Excellence (MAME)

Home Building Industry of Northern California
Special Award – Design Center
Design Studio / Santa Clara, CA

2008 Marketing and Merchandising Excellence (MAME)

Home Building Industry of Northern California
Best Detached Home – under 2,000 Sq. Ft.
Morgan Square / Fremont, CA

2006 Best In American Living Platinum Award

National Association of Home Builders
Best Attached Urban Infill
Woodmark at
University Park
/ Palo Alto, CA

2006 Best In American Living Platinum Award

National Association of Home Builders
Best Attached Home - 20 Units Per Acre
and Over
Woodmark at
University Park
/ Palo Alto, CA

2006 Best In American Living Platinum Award

National Association of Home Builders
Best Neighborhood Up To and
Including 150 Units
University Park / Palo Alto, CA

2005 Gold Nugget Grand Award

Pacific Coast Builders Conference
Best single-family detached home, 3,301-3,600 sq. ft.
Channing Collection at
University Park
, Plan 3 / Palo Alto, CA

2005 Gold Nugget Grand Award

Pacific Coast Builders Conference
Best renovated/restored house or project
Channing Collection at
University Park / Palo Alto, CA
(Also featured in Sunset Magazine)

2005 Gold Nugget Merit Award

Pacific Coast Builders Conference
Masterplanned project of the year
University Park / Palo Alto, CA

2005 Gold Nugget Merit Award

Pacific Coast Builders Conference
Best redevelopment, rehab, or infill site plan
University Park / Palo Alto, California

2005 Gold Nugget Merit Award

Pacific Coast Builders Conference
Best attached housing project –
18 to 40 units/acre
Woodmark at University Park / Palo Alto, CA

2005 Gold Nugget Merit Award

Pacific Coast Builders Conference
Best attached housing project –
mid-rise (4 to 7 stories)
Weatherly at University Park
Palo Alto, CA

2005 Gold Nugget Merit Award

Pacific Coast Builders Conference
Best renovated/restored house or project
Channing Collection at
University Park
/ Palo Alto, CA

2005 Gold Nugget Merit Award

Pacific Coast Builders Conference
Best single-family detached home
under 2,300 sq. ft.
The Hills at BelleTerre, The Maple, Plan 2 / Novato, CA

2004 Gold Nugget Grand Award

Pacific Coast Builders Conference
Best single-family detached home,
on a compact lot under 1,700 sq. ft.
Ravenna, The Capri / San Jose, CA

2004 Gold Nugget Merit Award

Pacific Coast Builders Conference
Best single-family detached home
2,200 – 2,600 sq. ft.
Marisol, The Sapphire / San Bruno, CA
(Also featured in Builder and Developer)

2004 Gold Nugget Merit Award

Pacific Coast Builders Conference
Best community site plan — 0 to 15 Acres
Bella Monte / San Jose, CA

2003 Best in America Living Silver Award

National Association of Home Builders
Best single-family detached home
3,001 - 4,000 sq. ft.
Channing Collection at
University Park
/ Palo Alto, CA

2003 Gold Nugget Merit Award

Pacific Coast Builders Conference
Best renovated / restored house or project
Channing Collection at
University Park / Palo Alto, CA
(Also featured in Sunset Magazine)

2003 Gold Nugget Merit Award

Pacific Coast Builders Conference
Best renovated / restored house or project
Channing Collection at
University Park / Palo Alto, CA

2003 Gold Nugget Merit Award

Pacific Coast Builders Conference
Best redevelopment, rehab or infill site plan
Georgetown / San Jose, CA

2003 Gold Nugget Merit Award

Pacific Coast Builders Conference
Best community site plan — 0 to 15 Acres
Bella Monte / San Jose, CA

Stay in-tune with SummerHill Homes' regular involvement in the cummunity through news and press. For additional information about what we' re up to, visit our Facebook Page.

SummerHill Homes Proposed Project Near Lawrence Caltrain Station Moving Forward

Monday August 3rd, 2015 // The Registry

During a study session on July 14, the Santa Clara City Council indicated its preference in the conceptual designs presented for proposed developments in the area surrounding the Lawrence Caltrain Station, which includes properties in both Santa Clara and Sunnyvale.

Read more

SummerHill top bidder for city-owned land in Fremont

Monday July 13th, 2015 // Silicon Valley Business Journal

SummerHill Homes has beaten out nine other bidders to win an approximately 7-acre slice of Fremont, part of a city sell-off being undertaken to help finance city priorities in the Warm Springs and downtown areas.

Read more

After years and years, Los Gatos approves North 40 land-use framework — Really!

Thursday June 18th, 2015 // Silicon Valley Business Journal

The Los Gatos Town Council late Wednesday approved the land-use guidelines for the town's so-called "North 40" area, a major milestone that comes after years — even decades — of false starts.

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SummerHill Homes Starts Work in Moraga

Wednesday June 3rd, 2015 // The Daily Journal

Over the past two weeks up to 12 large trucks were spotted lined up on Moraga Way, preparing to turn onto Camino Ricardo to reach the SummerHill Homes construction site up the street.

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Housing project gets thumbs up: Burlingame City Council gives huge development unanimous approval

Wednesday June 17th, 2015 // Lamorinda Weekley

The largest housing project in more than a decade will be coming to Burlingame, as the City Council gave the final OK to constructing a mix of apartments and condominiums which will feature 290 new units for rent and purchase. The council unanimously approved building the development just south of Broadway, at Carolan Avenue and Rollins Road, during its meeting Monday, June 15.

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SummerHill Homes Writes a Big Check to MEF

Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 // Lamorinda Weekly

SummerHill Homes executives Katia Kamangar and Denise Cunningham gave the Moraga Education Foundation a check for $5,000 on Oct. 10 to support local schools.

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Los Gatos nuns close sale on property

Wednesday September 3rd, 2014 // Mercury News

The Sisters of the Holy Names of Mary and Jesus closed the sale on their property at 100 Prospect Ave. on Aug. 26, with SummerHill Homes of Palo Alto emerging as the buyer.

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Home Building: The Customizing Conundrum

Wednesday July 23rd, 2014 // Professional Builder

...The Bay Area is a strong sellers market, so there hasn’t been much push back from buyers to the builder’s efforts to restrict customization options and enforce deadlines. However, Summerhill is planning to enter the luxury production home building market, where average selling prices range from $3 million to $3.5 million. Freed expects his company will have to expand the catalog of custom choices and even allow clients to bring more of their own options to the table. But those choices still will be selected during the sales process, well before scheduling begins for ground breaking...

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SummerHills Maravilla Community wins the ABAG Growing Smarter Together Award 2014

Thursday May 8th, 2014 // Association of Bay Area Governments

Growing Smarter Together Awards 2014

ABAG’s Eighth Annual Growing Smarter Together Awards were presented during its Spring General Assembly to the cities of Redwood City, Walnut Creek, Campbell, Richmond, Fremont, South San Francisco, and Vallejo. The role of the cities’ public private partners was also recognized with representatives praised for their contributions. SummerHill's Maravilla was honored to be part of the team receiving this award.

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High-end home development approved in Moraga

Friday March 14th, 2014 // Contra Costa Times

After nearly two years of consideration, a proposal to build 26 high-end single family homes on a stretch of undeveloped Moraga land specially earmarked for housing and revitalization is a go.

The Town Council's March 12 greenlighting of a development agreement between the city, developers SummerHill Homes and property owner C&C Equities makes effective a number of Planning Commission approvals earlier this year. They include the project's environmental review, conceptual and general development plans, and permits allowing hillside development and grading.

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Affordable housing crunch: Silicon Valley cities weigh new developer fees

Thursday January 30th, 2014 // Silicon Valley Business Journal

"If landowners decide not to sell because of the combination of costs versus revenue, then it’s just not going to get built,” said Robert Freed, president and CEO of San Jose-based apartment and home developer SummerHill Homes. “It’s a concern.”

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Livermore council to consider approving large housing development on city's east side

Monday January 13th, 2014 // Contra Costa Times

Developer SummerHill Homes has requested the development of 465 residential units, two neighborhood parks, open space, pedestrian paths, and trails for 35 acres of vacant land on the east side of Brisa Street and South Vasco Road. The proposal includes construction of single-family detached homes, and three-story townhomes and apartments in a 253-lot subdivision.

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Moraga Approves 26-Home Camino Ricardo Subdivision

Tuesday January 7th, 2014 // Lamorinda Patch

The Moraga Planning Commission gave the go-ahead Monday night to a 26-home subdivision near the Moraga Shopping Center. The subdivision would contain open space and a 2.5-acre park

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Restoring Natural Habitat in the Heart of Moraga

Wednesday January 1st, 2014 // Lamorinda Weekly

The Moraga Planning Commission recently reviewed Summerhill Homes' application to build 26 houses off of Camino Ricardo, one of the first projects in the area governed by the Moraga Center Specific Plan to come to fruition.

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New Plan for Rancho Laguna II

Tuesday December 3rd, 2013 // Lamorinda Weekly

During his State of the Town address Nov. 21, Moraga mayor David Trotter talked about 'behind the scenes' discussions with Summerhill Homes that led to a new map of the Rancho Laguna II development project; Summerhill presented its revised plan to the Planning Commission at a Dec. 2 study session.

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Former Sunnyvale Chevy dealership test drives new use: a Marriott

Tuesday August 6th, 2013 // Silicon Valley Business Journal

SummerHill picked up the nearly 8-acre parcel -- formerly a Raines Chevrolet -- earlier this year from the family who owned the property and the dealership. The San Ramon-based homebuilder will build 103 townhomes in a community it is calling Las Palmas. SummerHill recently graded the site and aims to have models open early next year, a representative said. Homes are anticipated to run in the $600,000 to $900,000 range.

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Real Estate Titan Marcus Lets Loose In San Francisco

Wednesday April 3rd, 2013 // The Registry

As Bay Area real estate magnates go, George Marcus is probably the most famous. Hamid Moghadam of Prologis might give him a run. So might Carl Berg of Mission West and John A. Sobrato. But Marcus’ achievements are singular.

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TMG readies urban redo for Fremont

Thursday March 28th, 2013 // San Francisco Business Times

TMG Partners will kick off efforts to transform downtown Fremont into an energetic, pedestrian-friendly urban district with the groundbreaking next year on a 467-unit apartment project....Two blocks away, SummerHill Apartment Communities is building Paragon, a 301-unit community at Walnut Avenue and California Street.

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Buyers Come Knocking for Bay Area Homes

Sunday March 10th, 2013 // Silicon Valley Business Journal

After years in which rental projects in Silicon Valley were king, new-home construction has returned. Credit goes to a number of factors: low inventory, strong buyer demand and skyrocketing rents. “We’re back in growth mode,” said Robert Freed, president and CEO of SummerHill Homes.

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California Homebuilding Foundation Names 6 Builders and Developers to Hall of Fame

Wednesday January 30th, 2013 // Reuters

Joe Head, president of SummerHill Homes Land Division plus five other industry leaders who have built and developed new homes and apartments for decades and also given back to their communities through philanthropy and volunteerism have been named to the California Homebuilding Foundation Hall of Fame.

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Mountain View wants to add developer fees for new rentals

Thursday November 15th, 2012 // Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal

Robert Freed, president and chief executive of SummerHill Homes and [SummerHill Apartment Communities] Urban Housing Group, has several apartment projects in the pipeline. Freed said he’s a supporter of affordable housing and doesn’t oppose a fee per se, but believes the current figure being proposed is too high. He is also concerned that the fee would apply to projects already in the pipeline.

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Maravilla Townhomes a unique development, thanks to interesting collaborative effort

Wednesday October 31st, 2012 // Mercury News

A new housing development at 555 W. Campbell Ave. has seen a flurry of activity over the past few weeks as its occupants start to move in. In a few weeks, the Maravilla Townhomes will be unveiled to the community at large.

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Executive Profile: Robert Freed, president and CEO of Summerhill Homes and Urban Housing Group

Thursday October 25th, 2012 // San Francisco Business Times

HQ: San Ramon.


Background: Freed joined SummerHill Homes as president and CEO in 2007. Before that, he worked for KB Home for 13 years and rose to senior vice president of investment strategy. He started out as a certified public accountant and held CFO positions at Davidon Homes and Blackhawk Corp.

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SummerHill Housing Group Makes Its Debut

Monday October 22nd, 2012 // The Registry

Two real estate powerhouses are now under one roof in a unique partnership forged to serve the home-sales and multifamily rental markets.Newly formed SummerHill Housing Group is now the umbrella organization for award-winning Bay Area builder SummerHill Homes and West Coast apartment developer Urban Housing Group.

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SummerHill Enters the Planning Process

Tuesday October 9th, 2012 // Lamorida Weekly

The plan for 28 homes that are proposed off Camino Ricardo was officially presented on October 1 to a joint session of the Planning Commission and Design Review Board.

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Builders push for CEQA reform

Thursday September 20th, 2012 // Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal

Later this year, SummerHill Homes will complete a 110 single-family home project on 17 acres across from the Westfield Valley Fair Shopping Center in Santa Clara.


But the project would have finished long ago if not for challenges made by project opponents under the California Environmental Quality Act, said Robert Freed, SummerHill’s president and CEO.


“It’s now become an unwieldy, out-of-control monster,” Freed said of the legislation, which was passed in 1970.

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Top 5: San Jose Construction Projects

Wednesday July 25th, 2012 // Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal

SummerHill Homes' newest community in San Jose, Evergreen Place is ranked #2 in the Top 5 San Jose Construction Projects - This week the Business Journal published a list of the top 25 San Jose construction projects. The list was ranked by the total square feet under construction between July 1, 2011, and May 31, 2012, in the city of San Jose.

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SummerHill Homes CEO's Point of View on: Lennar Buys South Bay Hitachi Site, Plans 840 Homes

Tuesday July 10th, 2012 // The Registry

Robert Freed, president and chief executive of SummerHill Homes, the homebuilding division of Marcus & Millichap Co., said Lennar should do well on the project assuming it executes well and the company did not overpay for the property based on overly rosy sales and cost projections. “If there is the least bit of pent-up demand, this will be one of these places to meet that demand,” he said. “It is an opportunity to get a critical mass of units in one location, which doesn’t exist anymore in [Silicon] Valley.”

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From farm to The Enclave: SummerHill creates new neighborhood in Mountain View

Wednesday June 27th, 2012 // Los Altos Town Crier

The Mountain View City Council in 2009 approved the project and SummerHill began the design phase for the infrastructure – placement of utilities and streets – to accommodate the homes.


The Enclave takes shape


How often did motorists on busy Grant Road wonder what was going on behind the walls of what had been named The Enclave at Waverly Park? And what are those homes like?


Fast forward to this month.


“Only two models are left,” said Mark Druge, SummerHill sales manager. “People say, ‘I remember the pumpkin patch,’ but they have been quite positive.”


 

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Redwood City Neighborhood to Be Reborn With New Apartment Complex

Wednesday June 20th, 2012 // The Registry

Crews from Urban Housing Group started work this week on construction of “25Eighty on the Blvd” which will add a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments to Redwood City’s housing mix. The addition of 141 units stands in stark contrast to the construction of just 246 new housing units in the city during the past decade.

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Proposed New Development off Camino Ricardo

Tuesday June 19th, 2012 // Lamorida Weekly

Developer Summerhill Homes recently applied for the review of a plan to build 28 homes on a 14.26-acre property located off Camino Ricardo, south of Danefield Place.

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300-unit apartment complex approved for Walnut Creek

Thursday June 14th, 2012 // Contra Costa Times

In a city with few areas left to build new housing, a 300-unit apartment project will take over the former Longs Drugs company headquarters site on Civic Drive near Ygnacio Valley Road.


The Paragon Apartments project was approved by the planning commission on Thursday night. This was the second time city leaders approved this high-density housing; developer Urban Housing Group pulled the project following its approval last year, after an appeal to the City Council was filed by Carpenters Local 152.

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Santa Clara - Recent and Pending Projects Hope to Boost Economic Development

Monday May 21st, 2012 // The Santa Clara Weekly

Having lingered through one of the worst recessions in history, the City has seen many businesses and redevelopment projects come and go over the last several years. With the economy slowly rebounding, several new projects and redevelopment projects are moving forward or progressing...


...SummerHill Homes is currently in the process of site grading and utilities for the 110 homes they will build on 10 acres at the rear of the former the Bay Area Research and Extension Center (BAREC) site.

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SummerHill Homes Grand Opening, Norris Canyon - April 21st

Thursday April 19th, 2012 // San Ramon Patch

San Ramon based SummerHill Homes will be holding the grand opening of two beautifully furnished model homes at their latest project - Renaissance at Roubion, Norris Canyon Estates, San Ramon this Saturday April, 21st

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Affordable Townhomes Coming to Campbell

Monday January 23rd, 2012 // Mercury News

 


Although the recession has brought down home prices in the West Valley area, the world of real estate can still be scary, especially for first-time buyers.


But the city of Campbell has a bit of good news for some residents looking to take the leap into homeownership. Maravilla, a complex by Summerhill Homes, is launching an affordable townhome program for first-time buyers.


 

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Housing Project the Biggest Since the '90s

Wednesday October 12th, 2011 // Contra Costa Times - News from True Life Communities

One of the largest housing projects in Saratoga since the 1990s is starting to take shape as townhomes near Hollow on Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road are being built slowly but steadily. [Creekside at Saratoga is a] 20 two-story townhomes are being built on an approximately 2-acre parcel that once was home to a three one-story and one two-story apartment complex. The townhouse development was approved in 2007 and each home has three to five bedrooms, optional gas fireplace and two-car garage.  The project, which is being built by SummerHill Homes, began in May with the demolition of the old apartment buildings. Homes are expected to start selling next spring with the first occupants to move into the complex next summer. To download full article click here


 

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SummerHill offers Smarter Roofs and Solar Power Systems for all Homes

Wednesday September 28th, 2011 // YouTube

Smarter Roofs, Solar Power Systems and Energy Star appliances can save you a lot of money, and The Enclave at Waverly Park offers all that and more! SummerHill Homes’ Green Task Force is our internal think-tank that innovates new green building practices and technologies, and Peterson Dean shows in this video why The Enclave homes are "selling like hotcakes".

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California Bay Area Mansions Are in High Demand, Due to Tech Boom

Wednesday August 10th, 2011 // Fox News

Welcome to the Silicon Valley real estate market, where a high-end housing boom is being fueled by a mini-tech rush, especially surrounding social media.


In Palo Alto, home of Facebook, the median selling price of a single family home increased to $1.3-million in June, up nearly 5 percent over last year, according to research company DataQuick.


The same time period saw home prices rise in Los Altos, and in Mountain View, where tech companies like LinkedIn and Google have created wealthy stock owners, and workers, willing to pay top dollar for a short commute, coveted public schools, and happening neighborhoods.


 

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Homebuilders turn to urban areas

Tuesday August 2nd, 2011 // San Jose Mercury News

SummerHill Homes plans to open new home communities in San Ramon and Saratoga this fall, and in Campbell and San Jose early next year.


"We focus on urban infill locations that have limited new home competition," said Robert Freed, president and chief executive officer of San Ramon-based SummerHill Homes.


 

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SummerHill Homes Receives Four Awards at MAME

Tuesday July 5th, 2011

On Saturday, June 18, 2011 SummerHill Homes received four awards at MAME, Marketing and Merchandising Excellence Awards from the Sales and Marketing Council (SMC) of the a BIA Bay Area.  The MAME awards recognize building excellence.


 

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Grant Road model homes open as construction continues

Monday May 16th, 2011 // Los Altos Town Crier

The 53-unit single-family-home subdivision under construction on Grant Road is progressing according to schedule, according to representatives of the developer, SummerHill Homes.


SummerHill Senior Vice President Katia Kamangar said a recent grand opening for the one- and two-story-home subdivision, the Enclave at Waverly Park, drew approximately 1,000 people.


 

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SummerHill Homes Acquires Land in San Jose For New Community

Sunday April 17th, 2011

San Ramon, CA – San Ramon based SummerHill Homes has acquired approximately 14.6 acres in San Jose for a new home community.  The site was originally home to the Mirassou winery.  It is located at Aborn Rd and Ruby Avenue in the highly regarded Evergreen area of San Jose.  The community will debut 87 detached single-family homes ranging from approximately 1,904 to 2,107 square feet, 16 townhomes ranging from approximately 1,782 to 2,087 square feet, and the historic Mirassou House.  The community will feature a prominently-placed park, and many heritage trees will be preserved creating an immediate sense of neighborhood for the new residents.

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SummerHill Homes unveils solar standard in Mountain View

Thursday February 10th, 2011 // Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal

SummerHill Homes is en route to making solar a standard feature in new developments. First up is a 53-home project in Mountain View.


 

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Home Builder Braves Market

Sunday October 25th, 2009 // The Registry

San Ramon-based SummerHill Homes has broken ground on a 53-unit single-family housing development in Mountain View proposed as executive-level family and later-life housing for empty nesters looking to downsize. Units are to be priced in the $1.7 million range.

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Brand new comes at a premium

Wednesday October 13th, 2010 // Palo Alto Online

Developers say wealth, location ensure continued new construction

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Trees on the Move at Former Grant Road Farm

Sunday August 29th, 2010 // San Jose Business Journal

Heritage oaks take their permanent spots as grading of lots by SummerHill Homes nears completion.

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SummerHill Featured in Green Homebuilder

Thursday July 22nd, 2010 // Green Homebuilder

We are excited to have Satake Estates and Redwood Gate featured in a recent Green Homebuilder magazine! SummerHill believes in sustainable building. It is an honor to be recognized for our efforts.

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California Realtors offers perks to home buyers

Thursday April 1st, 2010 // SFGate

Robert Freed, president and CEO of SummerHill Homes interviewed by Carolyn Said of San Francisco Chronicle... "We've definitely seen an uptick in buyer traffic and an increase in sales velocity that appears to be driven both by the tax credits as well as very favorable interest rates and very favorable new home pricing," Freed said.

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SummerHill makes bet time is ripe for homes at Mirassou Winery site in Evergreen

Saturday March 6th, 2010 // Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal

Hoping to hit a housing market on the rebound, SummerHill Homes is laying the groundwork to build 100 houses on the historical Mirassou Winery site in Evergreen.


The Palo Alto builder picked up the option from the Mirassou estate on the 15-acre site in September after Trumark Properties abandoned its three-year effort to develop the Aborn Road property. The Santa Clara County Assessor has valued the property at a little more than $2 million.

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SummerHill Homes earns award for building new homes that protect the environment through energy efficiency

Sunday May 3rd, 2009

SummerHill Homes is proud of the recognition that we’re receiving for our commitment to energy efficiency. We were recently recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a 2009 STAR Leadership in Housing Award. This award recognizes the important contribution SummerHill Homes has made to energy-efficient construction and environmental protection by building more than 296 ENERGY STAR qualified homes last year. Collectively, these homes will save our customers approximately $132,312 on utility bills each year.

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Homebuilding changes in 2009

Monday March 9th, 2009 // KGO-ABC7

Robert Freed, the president and CEO of SummerHill Homes, one of the area's largest builders, recognizes that the rest of 2009 will be challenging. "The key to housing has always been job growth, so we'll watch the job growth numbers locally and nationally very carefully and consumer confidence."

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Builders Seeing More Traffic

Monday March 9th, 2009 // Contra Costa Times

Government tax credits appear to have propelled a bump in traffic for Bay Area home builders, but residential developers said Tuesday that no recovery will materialize for the battered industry until 2010, at best.

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SummerHill Homes wins GuildQuality's 2009 Guildmaster Award

Thursday February 26th, 2009

Palo Alto, CA – SummerHill Homes, a leading homebuilder in the Bay Area, announced today that the company has been awarded a 2009 Guildmaster Award for exceptional customer satisfaction. SummerHill Homes was one of 95 homebuilders, contractors, developers, and home services companies throughout North America recognized for their excellent performance.

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The experts weigh in on the state of the market

Wednesday January 14th, 2009 // The Registry: The Bay Area Real Estate Journal

Read excerpt from 'The experts weigh in on the state of the market' from The Registry. Interview with Robert Freed, president & CEO of SummerHill Homes that appeared in Bay Area Real Estate Journal - Dec 2008/Jan 2009.

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Q&A with Robert Freed – Review 2008 Preview 2009

Thursday January 1st, 2009 // Silicon Valley Business Journal

 Q&A with Robert Freed, President and CEO of SummerHill Homes

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2009 May Be Year to Build On

Thursday December 25th, 2008 // San Francisco Chronicle

Robert Freed spoke with Carolyn Said of the San Francisco Chronicle – He shared his history in the homebuilding industry from the first house he saw under construction to what the future may hold for SummerHill Homes, real estate, and homebuilders.

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SummerHill Homes Proposed Project Near Lawrence Caltrain Station Moving Forward

Monday August 3rd, 2015 // The Registry

By Naib Mian

During a study session on July 14, the Santa Clara City Council indicated its preference in the conceptual designs presented for proposed developments in the area surrounding the Lawrence Caltrain Station, which includes properties in both Santa Clara and Sunnyvale.

The 65 acres included in the Lawrence Station Area Plan stretches from Lawrence Expressway to Calabazas Creek and is bordered by Central Expressway on the north and Kifer Road on the south. The area includes properties within a half-mile radius of the station.

Although the location today is an industrial setting, developers SummerHill Homes, Westlake Urban, LLC, True Life Cos. and The Sobrato Organization plan to transform the area into a mixed-use, transit-oriented village with retail and housing.

The project is part of an effort to address the area’s lack of retail and need for more homes. Over the next decade, development will include more than 3,000 housing units—both rental and for sale—about 85,000 square feet of retail, multimodal transit connections and community-oriented open space.

San Ramon-based SummerHill presented two plans to the council. The first, called The Link, received the most support from council members. Featuring a central enclosed green space running east to west and surrounded by new construction, it would feature clusters of retail on both ends of the development.

The second option, which the developer called Central Park, would focus all of the retail space centrally around a north-south green space opening up to Kifer Road.

Council members preferred the sense of community The Link offered and felt that the Central Park plan would look unfinished given that the Sobrato portion, east of the main green space, would remain industrial for the time being. The Cupertino-based developer is not proposing changes in the foreseeable future in that area, which could impact the finished look and feel of the rest of the development.

“I’m personally more interested in home ownership, rather than high densities,” Councilmember Lisa Gillmor said. Council members also said the first plan would bring retail to the area immediately, activating the location, rather than anticipating a future development by the Sobrato Organization.

Palo Alto-based retail developer and owner John McNellis of McNellis Partners sided with SummerHill’s perspective for the first option as a third-party not directly involved in the project.

“We were able to design a comprehensive community and a comprehensive neighborhood,” said SummerHill President and CEO Robert Freed.

As the development moves forward in planning, City Manager Julio Fuentes also stressed the importance of relocating the current businesses within Santa Clara in order to maintain revenue for the city.

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SummerHill top bidder for city-owned land in Fremont

Monday July 13th, 2015 // Silicon Valley Business Journal

By Nathan Donato-Weinstein

SummerHill Homes has beaten out nine other bidders to win an approximately 7-acre slice of Fremont, part of a city sell-off being undertaken to help finance city priorities in the Warm Springs and downtown areas.

The San Ramon-based homebuilder and developer bid $22.35 million — just shy of $3.2 million per acre — for the site in the city's Mission Creek area, according to a city staff report. The area is located near the Palm Avenue crossing of I-680, and is zoned for 31 single-family housing units.

Fremont approved a plan in 2013 to sell off 10 city-owned parcels, including the Palm Avenue site, to bring in revenue that could be used to help build out the Warm Springs and downtown projects. The strategy was identified by consultant Keyser Marston after the demise of redevelopment agencies across California in 2011, eliminating a major source of financing for city projects.

The parcels are underused by the city, but some of them are considered excellent residential sites, and the current appetite for residential land made this a good time to sell. A 2012 CBRE appraisal said the land could bring in between $80 million and $94 million. Last year, Citation Homes was the highest bidder on a 4.5 acre site, paying $13.15 million for the land at 37350 Sequoia Road.

The land the city is selling to SummerHill was acquired in 1999 as part of a larger parcel to build a large park. But acquisition of land elsewhere in the city for athletic fields meant that not all of the Palm Avenue land was needed for park land, making the 7 acres available for sale. You can read more about the site in the staff report, here.

Last year, in an effort to increase the land's marketability, the city approved a rezoning of the 7-acre site to allow 31 detached single-family homes "and imposes Regulations and Design Guidelines to direct future development of the site to be consistent with the development, intensity and pattern in the surrounding single-family residential neighborhood," according to a staff report.

The land auction was held June 11 and saw 10 bidders register, the report says. The opening bid was the appraised value of $15.5 million, and SummerHill's bid beat out the next highest-bidder by $100,000 after 36 bids, according to a staff report. (The other bidders were not named.)

SummerHill already has a project under way in Fremont — a 24-townhome development called Mission Place at Arcos Common and Driscoll Road. The city has been a top choice of homebuilders, with KB Home last year winning Patterson Ranch, a massive single-family development site. In the Warm Springs district, several major residential projects are in the planning stage, including massive ones from Lennar and Toll Bros.

The city council is slated to accept SummerHill's bid at its meeting July 14.

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After years and years, Los Gatos approves North 40 land-use framework — Really!

Thursday June 18th, 2015 // Silicon Valley Business Journal

By Nathan Donato-Weinstein

The Los Gatos Town Council late Wednesday approved the land-use guidelines for the town's so-called "North 40" area, a major milestone that comes after years — even decades — of false starts.

The 3-2 vote sets the stage for the transformation of the last remaining large piece of undeveloped land in Los Gatos, which is actually about 44 acres.

If this sounds familiar, you're right: Back in April, I wrote about the town signaling its support for key elements of the new specific plan. But it did not formally adopt the plan until last night's vote, when officials also worked out some key sticking points.

They got through all the policy issues and essentially adopted the specific plan, zoning code changes, general plan changes, all the CEQA findings," assistant town manager Laurel Prevetti told me today. "They basically finished the work."

The action sets the stage for the city to begin processing formal development applications. The most notable interested party is Grosvenor, which is in contract to buy the majority of the land in the area from the Yuki family, a longtime landowner there. Grosvenor had wanted to build a first phase consisting of 60,000 square feet of retail and 331 housing units, the latter in partnership with affordable developer Eden Housing and SummerHill Homes.

This sets the rules for what new development will have to follow when they are ready to invest in the North 40," Prevetti said. "Now we have the rulebook and we know what the expectations are in terms of quality of construction, bikeways, pedestrian paths."

The specific plan allows 435,000 square feet of new commercial space on top of the 66,000 square feet of existing commercial space. That could include retail, hotel, services and office space, thought there are restrictions on the amount of each product type as well. The plan also allows up to 270 housing units, but that number could increase if a developer takes advantage of a state density-bonus rule.

A key sticking point resolved on Tuesday is whether or not any retail space would face restrictions on size. Council members were contemplating a table of size limitations in an effort to control the types of retailers that would go into future projects and safeguard downtown. But in the end, officials opted not to go down that road to preserve flexibility.

the council also voted to allow a building height of up to 45 feet for mixed-use projects as long as a minimum of 40 percent of the project is affordable to low and extremely low income people. Otherwise, the town's standard 35-foot height limit applies.

This is a huge milestone in the ongoing North 40 saga, which some real estate observers had filed in the "never-gonna-happen" folder.

Grosvenor and its partners will now work on turning in a revised application that responds to the new guidelines. One interesting thing to watch now is what other developers are eyeing the area. While Grosvenor and the Yuki family are working on most of the site, there are other developers who are also interested. When it comes to residential, there is probably not enough capacity to satisfy everyone.

We'll have more on the North 40, including reaction from Grosvenor, in an upcoming story.

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SummerHill Homes Starts Work in Moraga

Wednesday June 3rd, 2015 // The Daily Journal

Over the past two weeks up to 12 large trucks were spotted lined up on Moraga Way, preparing to turn onto Camino Ricardo to reach the SummerHill Homes construction site up the street. This marked the beginning of the grading and construction of the Camino Ricardo construction project scheduled to continue through the fall of 2017. Over the course of 10 working days, trucks took 3,000 cubic yards a day from Moraga to Point Richmond where there is another project that needs more fill soil. The trucks transported 12 cubic yards per load, making 250 round trips per day to move the dirt.

The hauling ended during the week of May 25, ahead of schedule. "Later this summer, we will still have a few more days of off-haul but the majority of that operation has been completed now," said [Katia] Kamanger, Summerhill executive vice president. She added that she expects the foundations of the first model homes to be built this August and the road that will serve the 26 new homes on the 14-acre site off Camino Ricardo to be constructed this year, before the rain.

This month SummerHill also hopes to start the reconstruction of Rheem Boulevard, a project associated with the Rancho Laguna 2 development. Due to the excavation and repair of Rheem, the section of the arterial between Moraga Road and St. Mary's Road will be closed for four to six months.

By Sophie Braccini

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Housing project gets thumbs up: Burlingame City Council gives huge development unanimous approval

Wednesday June 17th, 2015 // Lamorinda Weekley

The largest housing project in more than a decade will be coming to Burlingame, as the City Council gave the final OK to constructing a mix of apartments and condominiums which will feature 290 new units for rent and purchase.

The council unanimously approved building the development just south of Broadway, at Carolan Avenue and Rollins Road, during its meeting Monday, June 15.

Councilmembers praised the development as it will significantly increase the available housing stock in Burlingame, and set aside a portion of the units at below-market rates.

“This is a really significant project,” said Councilman Michael Brownrigg.

Mayor Terry Nagel echoed those sentiments, and noted that in the past 20 years Burlingame has added roughly 250 new housing units, only 13 of which were available at an affordable rate.

The developer, SummerHill Housing Group, has agreed to set aside 29 units in the project for those earning what is considered moderate income in San Mateo County, which equates to roughly $86,000 per year for an individual and about $101,000 annually for a family of four.

“This is an extraordinary step in the right direction,” Nagel said.

The development will be comprised of two four- and five-story buildings which will house the 268 apartments for rent, and four separate two-story townhouse buildings that will offer 22 condominiums available for purchase on a 5.4-acre site currently home to a variety of car service companies.

There are a range of apartment sizes included in the project, including 149 one-bedroom units, 111 two-bedroom units and eight three-bedroom units.

The condominiums are proposed to have six two-bedroom units, eight three-bedroom units and eight units with at least three bedrooms plus an auxiliary room that could be used as an additional bedroom or office space.

Elaine Breeze, vice president of development at SummerHill, estimated that the market rate for renting the one-bedroom apartments will be roughly $2,600 per month and a two-bedroom unit would likely be more than $3,000, while the townhouses would probably sell for about $1 million.

Alternatively, the affordably priced one-bedroom apartments would probably be available for a monthly rent of about $2,100, while the two-bedroom apartments would be on the market for nearly $2,600 per month.

Not everyone has the same definition of what may be considered affordable though.

Affordable housing advocate Cynthia Cornell noted since the cost of the below-market rooms is contingent on the local prevailing wage, which seems to be continually increasing, the price of the cheaper rooms should be expected to rise by the time the project is built over the next couple years.

People who currently might be able to afford the rooms reserved for those earning a moderate income could be priced out of the project by the time it is constructed, she said.

Councilmembers said they were pleased with the developer’s willingness to set aside a portion of the project at a below-market rate, considering the city’s inability to implement rent control, due to Measure T, which was passed in 1988.

Breeze said SummerHill would be amenable to extend a guarantee that the development would continue offering rooms at affordable rates for 20 more years than had been agreed upon initially.

The affordable room rates are one component of a variety of community benefits the developer has offered Burlingame, along with more than $2 million in contributions to the city and local school districts to pay for the impact new residents will have on public services.

Brownrigg also noted the city will also enjoy increased tax revenue from the development once it is completed, as the property value is expected to jump from a current assessed value of roughly $13 million to $147 million.

“That’s a significant benefit to the city of Burlingame,” he said.

And though the project was approved, it is not without a few remaining hurdles to clear.

Councilmembers took issue with an 8-foot concrete wall which is proposed to be built around the perimeter of the project, and the impact such a structure might have on the character of the existing neighborhood near the development.

SummerHill, though, has worked to build a consensus with nearby residents, and many seem to be in favor of the wall, so councilmembers said they are inclined to side with the will of the neighborhood.

Councilwoman Ann Keighran requested the developer post story poles replicating the size of the wall prior to building it.

“I just want the neighbors to know what they are potentially agreeing to,” she said.

Brownrigg gave the developer kudos for the company’s willingness to collaborate with nearby residents, and expressed excitement for the project to be constructed.

“I look forward to seeing it built,” he said.

By Austin Walsh

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SummerHill Homes Writes a Big Check to MEF

Wednesday October 22nd, 2014 // Lamorinda Weekly

SummerHill Homes executives Katia Kamangar and Denise Cunningham gave the Moraga Education Foundation a check for $5,000 on Oct. 10 to support local schools. "We have a long standing tradition to contribute to the communities where we are working," said Kamangar, senior vice president. Cunningham, who is the director of development in charge of the SummerHill Homes project on Camino Ricardo, added that the company pays a school fee rate of $3.36 per living square footage, and that based on the current plans (for the Camino Ricardo and Rancho Laguna II projects), the total fees are estimated at $660,000.

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Los Gatos nuns close sale on property

Wednesday September 3rd, 2014 // Mercury News

By Judy Peterson

The Sisters of the Holy Names of Mary and Jesus closed the sale on their property at 100 Prospect Ave. on Aug. 26, with SummerHill Homes of Palo Alto emerging as the buyer.

The selling price of the approximately 11.8-acre property was not released.The sisters had originally hoped to build a continuing care facility at the convent that would serve older nuns, but that proved too expensive.As a result, most of the nuns have moved to Our Lady of Fatima Villa in Saratoga and the Merrill Gardens Retirement Community in Campbell.The Villa Holy Names, which is near the convent, has been retained as a residence for a few remaining sisters.This past March, the town approved plans to build 17 homes on the property. The sisters worked with the town to design a housing plan that would retain the property's bucolic character."The proceeds from the sale of the Los Gatos property represent critical funds necessary for future health care and housing needs of our aging members," Sister Mary Pat LeRoy said in a letter dated Aug. 27. "As Sisters of the Holy Names, we are solely responsible for our financial administration and planning, pooling our earned resources and using gifts to support our ministries and our sisters, especially for the care of our frail members." Sister LeRoy said the needs of convent members have changed since the order first moved to Los Gatos after World War II.

 

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Home Building: The Customizing Conundrum

Wednesday July 23rd, 2014 // Professional Builder

By Mike Beirne

Three production home builders deal with handling options and change orders as their markets become more active....

JUST SAY NO

Summerhill Homes, San Ramon, Calif., has had a change-order fee for years but has rarely assessed it.

“When a buyer is requesting a change post-cutoff date, we say no,” says Robert Freed, president and chief executive officer of the Summerhill Housing Group, which includes the single-family home building division and Summerhill Apartment Communities, the multifamily residential development arm. “That is based on a whole lot of years of experience. Every time I said yes, it got screwed up. It’s just a matter of trying to keep design and production on track, and our contractors have a schedule. Every time I tried to do a good deed it backfired, so we stay very disciplined about our cutoff dates.”

Summerhill builds infill homes in the San Francisco Bay Area. Its average selling price is about $1 million, and the bulk of its buyers work in the high-tech sector and are looking to live in locations that are close to work and quality schools. The roster of customizing choices are preselected by the builder and organized into groups one, two, and three and each group is assigned deadlines for submissions. The first two categories include room options, appliances, fixtures, and electrical considerations. Group three choices involve end-of-construction phase selections such as countertops and window coverings.

Salespeople spend much of their time making sure customers understand the options that are available, which ones are included in their house, the deadlines for submitting their selections, as well as being aware of how their choices are connected and affect construction scheduling. When the sales manager and options coordinator are speccing a house for each of the option groups, a preselection form is submitted to Freed for his approval.

“The only reason I need to approve it is not because I’m a designer, or I know better than they do,” Freed says. “It’s because it requires them to know that once (the plan) is approved by me, they are set. If there is a request to change something past the cutoff date, they also know they’re going to have to ask me, and I’m going to say no. It just doesn’t happen.”

The Bay Area is a strong sellers market, so there hasn’t been much push back from buyers to the builder’s efforts to restrict customization options and enforce deadlines. However, Summerhill is planning to enter the luxury production home building market, where average selling prices range from $3 million to $3.5 million. Freed expects his company will have to expand the catalog of custom choices and even allow clients to bring more of their own options to the table. But those choices still will be selected during the sales process, well before scheduling begins for ground breaking.

“Our sales people will have to be very specific, consistent, and clear on the message because buyers will be very demanding,” Freed says. “The profile of these buyers will be strong-willed individuals with a high level of expectations, so there will be a more intensive management of those expectations. That will be as important as ever at this stage on our side because if we start allowing change orders to occur past the cutoff date, our production schedule and our cost structure will be off, and at the end of the day we’ll have an unhappy buyer just because we didn’t deliver the house on time, and the expectations they had didn’t pan out.”

Full Article here

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SummerHills Maravilla Community wins the ABAG Growing Smarter Together Award 2014

Thursday May 8th, 2014 // Association of Bay Area Governments

Growing Smarter Together Awards 2014

ABAG’s Eighth Annual Growing Smarter Together Awards were presented during its Spring General Assembly to the cities of Redwood City, Walnut Creek, Campbell, Richmond, Fremont, South San Francisco, and Vallejo. The role of the cities’ public private partners was also recognized with representatives praised for their contributions. Maravilla was honored to be part of the team receiving this award.

Public Private Partnership Award: City of Campbell, Santa Clara Valley Water District, Summerhill Homes for Maravilla Development

This milestone planning effort and collaboration of the City of Campbell, Santa Clara Valley Water District, and Summerhill Homes was recognized with one of two awards for Public Private Partnership.  Recognizing the critical need for affordable housing in Campbell and the fact that many residents working in public and private jobs can’t afford to purchase a home in Silicon Valley, Campbell with the Santa Clara Valley Water District partnered to identify a parcel owned by the Water District that was underutilized and needed clean up.  Santa Clara Valley Water District welcomed the opportunity to upgrade and redesign the needed pumping stations located at the site and at the same time help produce affordable housing. Summerhill Homes collaborated with the City and the Water District during a challenging market to produce the well-designed Maravilla Town Development, consisting of 40 homes. The two different housing types offered included 16 single-family two-story detached homes at market rate, and 24 three-story attached homes that were affordable housing units.  The location at the corner of San Tomas and Campbell Avenue made this an outstanding workforce affordable housing development, close to downtown, close to jobs, and close to local businesses.

"The Maravilla project exemplifies the positive outcomes that are possible through a creative and collaborative spirit between the private and public sectors.  The Maravilla project was originally approved as a 40 unit affordable rental project by Charities Housing Group.  With the dissolution of local Redevelopment Agencies in 2011, the City of Campbell was left with ownership of this 2.9 acre parcel of land with no funding or developer able to implement the project.  With the leadership of Joe Head, SummerHill, City of Campbell and Charities Housing negotiated an agreement to kick-start the project with SummerHill providing the bank financing and guarantees as well as the construction of the homes.  The City and Charities Housing provided the expertise on qualifying and helping with the financing of the 26 affordable homes in the project.  The project also had a unique aspect of housing three separate pump houses owned and operated by the Santa Clara Valley Water District that needed to be preserved and carefully built around. 

The four entities worked together in a true collaborative manner through the remaining entitlements, construction, sale and marketing of these 40 homes and the end result is a wonderful new community in close proximity to Campbell’s vibrant downtown...We thank our partners, City of Campbell, the Santa Clara Valley Water District and Charities Housing.  Finally, our thanks and congratulations to the entire SummerHill team that made this project come to life" Said Katia Kamanger - Executive Vice President / Managing Director for SummerHill Housing Group

Video HERE

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High-end home development approved in Moraga

Friday March 14th, 2014 // Contra Costa Times

By Jennifer Modenessi

MORAGA -- After nearly two years of consideration, a proposal to build 26 high-end single family homes on a stretch of undeveloped Moraga land specially earmarked for housing and revitalization is a go.

The Town Council's March 12 greenlighting of a development agreement between the city, developers SummerHill Homes and property owner C&C Equities makes effective a number of Planning Commission approvals earlier this year. They include the project's environmental review, conceptual and general development plans, and permits allowing hillside development and grading.

Despite lacking full council backing, the approval allows for the creation of more housing stock in a town where growth is typically slow and housing demand is high.

Proposed for a 14.25-acre site off Camino Ricardo in the Moraga Center Specific Area designated for residential, retail and recreation growth, the development calls for five styles of 2,700- to 3,700-square-foot two-story homes and two single-story residences on lots averaging 12,600 square feet. Prices are estimated to start at $1.4 million.

Camino Ricardo isn't the only development SummerHill is proposing for Moraga. Planning commissioners are set to consider several related applications for the developer's Rancho Laguna II project at a hearing Monday. The conceptual development plan, approved in 2011, calls for 27 homes on 180 acres and includes the creation of a protection plan for a nearby wetlands area.

The two projects join several others pitched by developers eager to build in Moraga. Proposed and suggested projects include the 126 single-family home Bollinger Valley development, the 18-home Via Moraga plan and 36 townhomes suggested for three acres on Moraga Way.

In addition to the 26 homes, the town will receive a number of public amenities outlined in the Camino Ricardo development agreement. Those benefits include:

  • Creation of a 2.5 acre public park/open space before a building permit is issued for the development's 16th home
  • A public "outlook point" within the subdivision.
  • Pedestrian trails and two bridges leading to and through the public open space. These would also have to be constructed before a building permit is issued for the 16th home.

At a council meeting last month, SummerHill representative Denise Cunningham touted the development agreement, saying it offers significant benefits to the town.

"We feel these improvements go above and beyond what would be required in this community," Cunningham said.

The town estimates the value of the public improvements, including the construction of a sidewalk along Camino Ricardo from the project to Moraga Way, at $2.69 million. SummerHill will also contribute $55,000 to the town for other pedestrian improvements and pay impact fees of about $573,000, according to a staff report.

Additional public safety improvements, including a high-visibility crosswalk from a bridge and trail crossing to the Moraga Commons Skatepark, are valued at $77,572. Construction is slated to begin in the fall.

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Affordable housing crunch: Silicon Valley cities weigh new developer fees

Thursday January 30th, 2014 // Silicon Valley Business Journal

By Lauren Hepler


High housing demand, low housing supply and drastically reduced affordable housing funding have collided to form a murky outlook for those seeking a place to live in Silicon Valley.


Demand for rentals from workers at all income levels — from waiters to young tech executives — has been compounded by the needs of tens of thousands of area residents displaced during the foreclosure crisis, said Kevin Zwick, CEO of San Jose affordable housing nonprofit Housing Trust Silicon Valley.


Average San Jose area rents reached $2,153 by the end of 2013, representing a 10.1 percent jump for the year.


Meanwhile, local cities and housing advocates are in damage control mode after the loss of several tools — namely, local redevelopment agencies and inclusionary zoning — that were previously used to increase the number of affordable housing units in the region.


“Developers aren’t coming to us with as many new potential projects,” Zwick said. “People are incredibly cautious. It's complicated because there's not that local funding.”


One potential avenue to bring some of that funding back: additional developer fees.


San Jose, Sunnyvale and East Palo Alto are all currently evaluating new housing impact fees, where developers are charged a per-square-foot fee on market rate housing projects to fund affordable units. Before implementing these fees, cities studied the potential nexus between new market rate development and ways to address the need for affordable housing.


The building industry has generally opposed these fees, warning that new up-front costs could inhibit new development.


Fremont, Walnut Creek and San Carlos are a few cities that already have rental impact fees on the books. The fees in those cities range from $15-$28 per square foot. There are also closely-related commercial linkage fees, where cities charge a fee on new office development to fund affordable housing.


As of early 2014, these cities in the South Bay and on the Peninsula are studying housing impact fees:


San Jose: Completing a study with possible fees ranging from $14.89-$24.04 per square foot and covering both rental and owner housing. City debate on the issue was slated for February 2014 but delayed after business protests that the process was being rushed.


Sunnyvale: A study was completed with fees likely in the $10-$20 per-square-foot range. City hearings on the measure slated for April-July 2014.


East Palo Alto: A draft study was completed in October 2013 with a recommended $22-$44 per-square-foot fee for both rental and owner housing.


Mountain View recently implemented a $10 per square foot impact fee for new rental units in early 2013. City officials report no measurable impact on new development proposals.


"None," said Community Development Director Randy Tsuda. "In a market like Mountain View, the demand and developer interest is so high.”


Still, area developers question whether new fees in other areas could stifle production.


"If landowners decide not to sell because of the combination of costs versus revenue, then it’s just not going to get built,” said Robert Freed, president and CEO of San Jose-based apartment and home developer SummerHill Homes. “It’s a concern.”


Freed, also a board member for San Francisco affordable housing developer Bridge Housing, agrees that new funding in some form is necessary to address the dearth of housing at lower price points. He suggested more broad-based mechanisms to generate revenue.


“It is politically easy, if you will, to pin the fundraising side of the affordable housing equation to new development.” Freed said. “I think we ought to have a transfer tax on anybody who sells a piece of property. I think we should consider an addition to sales tax to create money.”


Matt Franklin, president of Foster City affordable housing developer MidPen Housing, argued that developers do play an outsized role in increasing housing costs.


"This isn’t some tax on the wealthy," he said. "There’s an economic nexus, a logic, that this activity — the office development or the luxury home development — is exacerbating the affordable housing crisis."


Franklin added that coordination at the county level could potentially alleviate some city fears about alienating developers.


"In San Mateo County there’s an effort afoot to do a countywide nexus study, so that all 21 municipalities in the county would have the same study to try to encourage them to move forward together," he said. "If everybody adopted a fee, you could take out one of the legitimate concerns people have."

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Livermore council to consider approving large housing development on city's east side

Monday January 13th, 2014 // Contra Costa Times

LIVERMORE -- Livermore city council members will discuss on Monday whether to approve a large-scale subdivision of homes, townhouses, and apartments planned for just north of Lawrence Livermore Laboratory.


Developer SummerHill Homes has requested the development of 465 residential units, two neighborhood parks, open space, pedestrian paths, and trails for 35 acres of vacant land on the east side of Brisa Street and South Vasco Road. The proposal includes construction of single-family detached homes, and three-story townhomes and apartments in a 253-lot subdivision.


The five-phase project, according to the city, was originally discussed in 2007 as part of the Brisa Neighborhood Plan approval process, but didn't move forward at that time due to the economic downturn.


The Livermore Planning Commission unanimously approved the project on Dec. 3.


The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at City Council Chambers, 3575 Pacific Ave.


By Jeremy Thomas

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Moraga Approves 26-Home Camino Ricardo Subdivision

Tuesday January 7th, 2014 // Lamorinda Patch

The subdivision would contain open space and a 2.5-acre park


The Moraga Planning Commission gave the go-ahead Monday night to a 26-home subdivision near the Moraga Shopping Center.


The project still has a development agreement that includes trails, bridges and other amenities that must be approved by the Town Council.


The council would only vote on the subdivision plans if someone appeals the commission's approval.


The subdivision will be built by SummerHill Homes.


The 26 homes would be constructed on the western half of a 14.2 acre site along Camino Ricardo just east of Moraga Way.


Eight acres of the property would be designated as open space, including a 2.5-acre park.


The proposal also calls for trails, bridges over two creeks and a sidewalk down Camino Ricardo to Moraga Way.


The homes would range in size from 2,500 square feet to 3,200 square feet. There would be three architectural styles.


Posted by David Mills 

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Restoring Natural Habitat in the Heart of Moraga

Wednesday January 1st, 2014 // Lamorinda Weekly

By Sophie Braccini


The Moraga Planning Commission recently reviewed Summerhill Homes' application to build 26 houses off of Camino Ricardo, one of the first projects in the area governed by the Moraga Center Specific Plan to come to fruition. Already approved by the Design Review Board, the homes did not elicit much controversy. Planning commissioners also spent some time reviewing the proposal for a 5-acre passive park contiguous to the homes; the unique visual and educational area in the heart of Moraga will be donated to the town.


The portion of the 14.2-acre site located between Laguna Creek and its tributary was initially proposed as a neighborhood park with recreation equipment. Discussion with the Planning Commission and Design Review Board revealed that a passive park, for walking or informal picnics, was preferred. However, the developer intended to drop on the lot a large portion of the earth that would be excavated to place the homes and road. "It does not make a lot of sense to kill the vegetation by dumping eight feet of dirt on the site and then replanting it with native plants," said commissioner Teresa Onoda. She passed around photos she had taken of the site with a ladder illustrating the height of the excavated dirt, which made it clear that nothing would survive such a burial.


Residents pointed out the existence of a native animal population at the site, including the protected dusky-footed wood rat, and asked for as little disturbance as possible. Commissioner Nancy Schoenbrunner said she had learned that the creek was the place where local rainbow trout were originally discovered and she wanted an investigation into whether Moraga was still a spawning ground for the fish. The commissioners unanimously agreed that the developer must haul away all of the excavated dirt. The new park is destined to be restored to pre-agriculture vegetation and will serve as a place of discovery and education about local flora and fauna.


Denise Cunningham, of Summerhill Homes, said that it might be possible for the company to use the excavated dirt as fill on the other Moraga property it is developing - Rancho Laguna II, near Rheem Boulevard.


Residents living next to the project acknowledged efforts made by the developer to minimize the visual impact of the new homes. "In Moraga, the code protects public views from being impacted by new development, but not private views," commented senior planner Ellen Clark. Summerhill worked to protect the views of neighboring homeowners by redesigning some of the houses to be single-level and moving the building pads; they asked to bend the setback rules slightly to accommodate the new design.


The Planning Commission is expected to approve the project's Conceptual and General Development Plan, the Vesting Tentative Subdivision Map, the Hillside Development Permit, the Grading Permit, the Conditional Use Permit, and Design Review in early January. These documents will be approved together, which is unusual in Moraga. Shawna Brekke-Read, Moraga's planning director, explained that any property that is zoned for planned development needs to go through a three-step process. Summerhill was asked to consolidate the process into one single phase, because the Camino Ricardo project is part of the Moraga Center Specific Plan that was seven years in the making and included many preliminary studies such as a traffic impact report.

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New Plan for Rancho Laguna II

Tuesday December 3rd, 2013 // Lamorinda Weekly

By Sophie Braccini


During his State of the Town address Nov. 21, Moraga mayor David Trotter talked about 'behind the scenes' discussions with Summerhill Homes that led to a new map of the Rancho Laguna II development project; Summerhill presented its revised plan to the Planning Commission at a Dec. 2 study session.
Trotter was outvoted 2-1 in 2011 when the Town Council denied an appeal, filed by the local organization Preserve Lamorinda Open Space, and approved the Conceptual Development Plan for Rancho Laguna II - a 27-home project off Rheem Boulevard that included the construction of two residences on a minor ridgeline and a large amount of grading. The debate was around whether or not the General Plan allowed development on ridgelines; the phrasing "protect ridgelines" led to different interpretations. The General Plan's perceived ambiguities are driving the current effort to consider revisions of hillside and ridgeline development rules.
"We entered into contract (to purchase the development) the summer of 2012," said Summerhill Homes vice president Katia Kamangar. "Coming into this transaction, we also wanted to take a fresh look at the previously approved plan to see if there were enhancements that we could undertake that would further minimize the project's impacts." Summerhill reached out to Preserve Lamorinda Open Space, which has been critical of the project.
Summerhill's proposed new plan includes several changes, none of which is significant enough to lead to a challenge of the approved Conceptual Development Plan, notably the re-siting of two lots that were going to be set on a ridgeline, and that required significant grading, which have been relocated to the lower housing cluster along Rheem Blvd. The new plan also reduces grading by moving inside streets, it preserves a mature buckeye tree along Rheem Boulevard, suppresses some mitigation wetlands that were, according to Preserve Lamorinda Open Space, proposed in a poor location, and adds a detention basin for the drainage of the upper development cluster.
In a letter to the town's planning director, Suzanne Jones of Preserve Lamorinda Open Space stated: "SummerHill Homes has been a very willing and cooperative partner in working with (Preserve Lamorinda Open Space) and we greatly appreciate their efforts. The changes they have made represent an honest attempt to work with the community and address project impacts within the constraints imposed by the (Conceptual Development Plan) and the requirement of the new detention basin. We ask that the changes outlined in this letter be met with the Town's approval." Jones added that although Preserve Lamorinda Open Space supports the changes proposed by Summerhill, the group still thinks that the plan includes too many homes.
"The alternative plan has less environmental impact and the area graded is smaller," said Shawna Brekke-Read, planning director, "so we recommended the Planning Commission proceed with the alternative plan." Once the commission completes its review, the next step will be the presentation of the General Development Plan by Summerhill Homes during a series of public meetings in 2014.

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Former Sunnyvale Chevy dealership test drives new use: a Marriott

Tuesday August 6th, 2013 // Silicon Valley Business Journal

By


A hotel has made a reservation for Sunnyvale, giving new life to a former auto dealership that is also sprouting more than 100 townhomes.


T2 Development, a Newport Beach-based hotel developer, purchased the two-acre site at 660 W. El Camino last month from Summerhill Homes, said Randol Mackley, the SRS Real Estate Partners broker who worked on the deal with SRS colleague Bruce Frazer.


It's the latest re-use on the storied corridor as developers eye older, outdated land uses for new projects. Also in Sunnyvale, The Sobrato Organization is working on another former car dealership for an apartment/commercial project at 1095 W. El Camino. Down the road near the intersection of San Tomas and El Camino in Santa Clara, the Mariani family is considering replacing a hotel and restaurant with apartments.


Terms of the Sunnyvale deal were not disclosed, but T2 is moving quickly to get the project started, Mackley said. On tap: a four-level, 145-room hotel under the Courtyard by Marriott brand, the mid-priced, business-friendly flag of Marriott International.


"This is going to appeal to all those workers who have really moved into the area," Mackley said. "There is some inventory of hotels/motels on the El Camino Real corridor, but in some cases they harken back to the mid-1950s. This is going to be the newest product in that area."


As I reported back in March, SummerHill picked up the nearly 8-acre parcel -- formerly a Raines Chevrolet -- earlier this year from the family who owned the property and the dealership. The San Ramon-based homebuilder will build 103 townhomes in a community it is calling Las Palmas. SummerHill recently graded the site and aims to have models open early next year, a representative said. Homes are anticipated to run in the $600,000 to $900,000 range.


Integrating a commercial component to the project was key for SummerHill because the city is keen for sizable new residential developments on El Camino to maintain some kind of commercial use.


But retail wouldn't be ideal for the site, said Mackley, who recommended looking for a hotel developer to bring into the deal.


The opportunity proved the right fit for T2. The Newport Beach-based company is a hotel investment, development and management firm that specializes in luxury, full-service and "select-service" properties mostly on the West Coast.


"Hospitality is coming back," Mackley said. "It's a product type that's very sensitive to the economy, but we're seeing a bit more expansion."


Connie Verceles, Sunnyvale's economic development manager, said the city was thrilled with the project. The hotel will serve the needs of growing businesses in the area while also providing critical revenue to the city through transient occupancy tax.


Sunnyvale has about 3,300 hotel rooms, which provided about $8.2 million in taxes last year. That's up from about $7 million a year prior, she said. About 80 percent of the city's weekday hotel business is from business travelers.


"Marriott is a great brand, and this is really going to cater to those business travelers," Verceles said. "The location on El Camino is great because it's centrally located."


Nathan Donato-Weinstein covers commercial real estate and transportation for the Silicon Valley Business Journal.
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Real Estate Titan Marcus Lets Loose In San Francisco

Wednesday April 3rd, 2013 // The Registry

By Sharon Simonson


As Bay Area real estate magnates go, George Marcus is probably the most famous. Hamid Moghadam of Prologis might give him a run. So might Carl Berg of Mission West and John A. Sobrato. But Marcus’ achievements are singular.


In 1971, he founded two companies that have exercised major influence on the U.S. real estate industry. Palo Alto-based Essex Property Trust Inc., now a publicly traded real estate investment trust, owns more than 33,000 apartments (both outright and in partnerships) in the Bay Area, Southern California and Seattle. Marcus remains the company’s chairman.


Essex has expanded aggressively in the current multifamily housing boom, buying 3,016 units for nearly $802 million last year alone, hundreds of them in San Francisco and Silicon Valley. It also is developing, including nearly 500 units at Folsom and 5th streets in San Francisco and a proposed high-rise tower in downtown San Jose.


Marcus also co-founded The Marcus & Millichap Cos., the parent company of multiple real estate firms. That includes the most prominent, Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services, the largest U.S. commercial real estate investment brokerage. “George started one of the greatest institutions in real estate in the country,” TMG Partners Chief Executive Michael Covarrubias said March 28 in introducing Marcus. “It is truly an amazing organization.”


Marcus & Millichap also is parent to Bay Area homebuilder SummerHill Homes, which is led by Robert Freed, a former KB Home honcho; multifamily investor Pacific Urban Residential led by Al Pace; SummerHill Apartment Communities and Meridian Property Co.


Marcus’ reputation is that of a serial entrepreneur and modern day Midas with an uncanny ability to start successful companies, to make money in whatever field he chooses and to select great leaders to run his creations. With partners, he also owns two Greek restaurants. The first, Evvia Estiatorio, is in downtown Palo Alto; Kokkari Estiatorio is in San Francisco’s Financial District. By all accounts both serve excellent fare in exceptional settings and are financially prosperous.


In a rare public interview, Marcus agreed to be questioned by Covarrubias as part of ULI San Francisco’s real estate Icons series. The two men have known one another for 37 years. Marcus also entertained a smattering of questions from attendees. The first ULI San Francisco Icon was William Wilson III, recognized in 2011.


Covarrubias: Tell me about a day in your life. You are a deal junky. What percent of the day is working on deals, what percent working with political folks and what is the fun?


Marcus: The notion that I do deals is really a misnomer. I organize companies that think about better ways to be involved in multiple deals. From the beginning, I was interested in improving the industry. I had two principles: I wanted companies that sustained themselves beyond me. My other guiding light is that when I realized I had talent in the door, I would give them all of the responsibility they could handle. [William A.] Bill Millichap came into my office in 1971. It was the luckiest day of my life. It took a long time to get the brokerage going. Bill was excellent at it. I realized that I could lose Bill if I remained CEO, so I moved out of the way and started Essex [Property Trust Inc.]. My career has not been about the deal. It’s been about process and strategy.


Covarrubias: Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the value of information gave value to brokers. Now information is instant and everywhere. So who needs a broker?


Marcus: There is a value to representation, which will find the optimum buyer who will pay the most and still do well. A platform like ours is a massive auctioning. We started a policy 40 years ago, if you pocketed a listing without telling other brokers that was a fire-able offense. We are working for the client from the top. It is of enormous value.


Covarrubias: Talk about 2008. Where were you and what did you see?


Marcus: We didn’t really understand that this was possible. We were accustomed to monitoring employment, and it was a harbinger of normal changes in the market. None of us was ready for a capital meltdown. It was a surprise and we weren’t ready. We got hurt. If you see prices going down, make the deal faster and get it done. In homebuilding you have a million tomatoes that will rot if you don’t do something. All of your competitors will lower their prices. Beat them out the door, take the money and buy land. We are killing it today. Normally the margins for public homebuilders are 7 [percent] to 10 percent pretax. We are looking at 25 percent. Also if you have a building you are leasing, make the deal and take the lower rent.


Covarrubias: But you have to be in a position to do that. You can’t be illiquid, and you have to have a final position that ‘it is ok to get crushed now because I can come back later.’


Marcus: I’ve always believed that companies should be diversified. Service, investment and building companies don’t line up. Any one sector can be hurt but not all at the same time. I’ve been in brokerage for 40 years and made money in every year but one. Diversity matters. If you look at the risk of products, the riskiest is probably hotel resorts and on the other side with little risk would be a net-leased asset or building. Somewhere in between you had better know where you are: suburban office types are different from urban.


Homebuilding is very risky because your inventory becomes exceedingly expensive, you have to move it and you have to be very active. In the Bay Area, if you had an option on the ground now, you can’t get models up for three years and you won’t close out for five years. You have to know what your prices will be, at least in a range.


Covarrubias: Everyone in the room is on the island: in San Francisco and the Bay Area. In the rest of the country, every one wants to be us. Is this a bubble? Will tech crash? What inning is it? Is the Bay Area so far ahead that we are going to 2 percent cap rates and $1,000 a foot [to buy] office?


Marcus: No one really knows. I think we have a very robust economy, but every product and business is very different. You have to be thoughtful. You have to plan and work it. Neighborhood retail is pretty bullet proof if you have a good tenant. Speculative high-rise office towers? I have never understood that. If you are in a super high-risk business, you had better have a super low-risk balance sheet.


The Registry: Over the years, Essex has not been a big investor in San Francisco apartments and has favored the South Bay. In this cycle, Essex has entered San Francisco. Why?


Marcus: We didn’t avoid San Francisco. Santa Clara [County] was just much faster growing than San Francisco was 15 years ago. We basically looked at where we thought the fastest growing markets would be and sold out of slower growing markets and bought there.


Covarrubias: TMG has now done our fourth transaction with Essex. It turns out there are these opportune moments. We have never been in business together. We have been on a roll. It is a product of ULI and knowing someone for a long time that makes it happen.


Audience Member: Between Silicon Valley and San Francisco, where will technology [companies] go? Who will win that battle?


Marcus: I don’t think that is an issue. There is ample opportunity in both. If you are young and single and you have an engineering degree, you are in San Francisco. It is all about attracting the best and the brightest. The markets are 45 minutes apart. Between Facebook, Google and Apple, we have more than we can handle in Silicon Valley.


This is the best of times. You have such opportunity today. Work all of the time. Remember Aristotle and Confucius: Success is not in our nature. It is in our habits.

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TMG readies urban redo for Fremont

Thursday March 28th, 2013 // San Francisco Business Times

TMG Partners will kick off efforts to transform downtown Fremont into an energetic, pedestrian-friendly urban district with the groundbreaking next year on a 467-unit apartment project.


The developer has been working with the city since 2008 on a master plan to redevelop downtown’s 110 acres. The City Council adopted the master plan in October, opening the door for TMG to develop the first project.


“(TMG’s project) will really set the tone for the type of project that we’re hoping to see in the downtown,” said Jessica von Borck, Fremont’s downtown project manager.


TMG’s preliminary design consists of two buildings on a 6.7-acre parcel at the corner of Capital Avenue and State Street. The developer is working with Steinberg Architects to design the project with ground-floor commercial space along Capital Avenue. The site was zoned for residential or commercial.


“The housing market is very hot, especially apartments,” said David Cropper, a partner with TMG.


TMG will spend the rest of this year negotiating to buy the site from the city along with finalizing entitlements for the project.


The process is on the fast track to get ready for construction by May 2014, von Borck said.


Two blocks away, SummerHill Apartment Communities is building Paragon, a 301-unit community at Walnut Avenue and California Street. That project is also within the downtown plan area, but kicked off before the plan was implemented.


“We felt that the market, even during the downturn, was underserved,” said Robert Freed, CEO of SummerHill. “There hadn’t been a new Class A apartment building in the area in over 10 years. The market was ready to have a high-quality, high-amenity product.”


SummerHill expects the first residents in July. Rents will start at $1,865 for a one-bedroom and $2,400 for two bedrooms. The developer owned the site for several years before starting construction and planned to build a condo project before the recession hit.


“The (downtown) plan confirms what SummerHill is doing,” Cropper said. “It’s good for the city and it’s good for encouraging other investments to know you’re not the only guy in the neighborhood.”


Both TMG and SummerHill’s projects will not only bring more residents, but also bring to the market higher-quality units. TMG’s project will likely consist of five stories.


“It’s what most properties are heading towards in the Bay Area when you’re near transit. You have to build that kind of density to justify land costs,” Cropper said.


The downtown plan offers options for higher densities, greater height limits and a streamlined approval process. The plan also includes extending Capital Avenue to connect to Fremont Boulevard and revamping the area with streetscaping, landscaping and wider sidewalks.


Fremont, with close to 220,000 residents, is the Bay Area’s fourth-largest city. Because it was formed out of five separate communities — Centerville, Niles, Irvington, Mission San Jose and Warm Springs — in 1956, it lacks a core downtown.


“We are creating a unique urban environment,” von Borck said. “This is our strategy to emerge from an auto-centric suburbia.”


Blanca Torres covers East Bay real estate for the San Francisco Business Times.

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Buyers Come Knocking for Bay Area Homes

Sunday March 10th, 2013 // Silicon Valley Business Journal

By Nathan Donato-Weinstein - Real Estate Reporter


After years in which rental projects in Silicon Valley were king, new-home construction has returned. Credit goes to a number of factors: low inventory, strong buyer demand and skyrocketing rents.
“We’re back in growth mode,” said Robert Freed, president and CEO of SummerHill Homes.


In Santa Clara County, existing single-family inventory totaled 1,169 units in January, down 57 percent from a year ago, according to MLSListings.com. Finished new-home inventory is also low, with about 1.4 months’ supply available at the end of 2012, according to industry tracker Metrostudy.


At the Boulevards in Santa Clara, SummerHill raised prices on new releases by $90,000 last week compared to a month ago. The community’s 36 homes are between 2,235 and 2,717 square feet and sell in the $1 million range.


“It’s a classic supply and demand,” Freed said. “I have 200 pre-qualified buyers for the Boulevards, and I only have 24 of them.”


San Ramon-based SummerHill was slated to close this week on a former Chevrolet dealership at 660–666 W. El Camino Real in Sunnyvale where it will build 103 townhomes, Freed said. He is also working with Grosvenor Americas to build nearly 200 residential units as part of the 20-acre “North 40” planning area in Los Gatos.


“We’re seven years into this downturn, and we’re seeing (buyers) start to return rapidly,” said Chris Apostolopoulos, president of KB Home of Northern California.


Executives cautioned that while the new-home market is improving, it is not recovered fully.


One factor that could hold back the floodgates is availability of developable land.


“There are just fewer land opportunities, and then many of them that are available, especially in San Jose, are designated for multifamily rental,” Freed said.


The result: Prices for remaining sites are rising. Land that was going for $2 million an acre two years ago is now going for up to $4 million, Freed said.


That hasn’t stopped publicly traded KB Home, which has been one of the most aggressive in this market.


It’s in contract on six properties in the Bay Area that could bring more than 1,000 units to market, said Apostolopoulos.


That number doesn’t include its major San Jose projects, Communication Hill and the San Jose Flea Market.


KB just closed on 10 acres of land at the latter, where KB plans to build 242 for-sale units in the first phase of a project that could include more than 2,000 homes.


Ralph Borelli, chairman of Borelli Investment Co., acts as the Flea Market owners’ development adviser and broker. He said the Flea Market land garnered about 20 offers from bidders, a sign of what he called a “frothy” market.


PulteGroup Inc. has three actively selling communities in San Jose and Fremont, but is looking for more, said spokesman Andrew Wong.


“There’s not much for people to select from,” he said. “Low interest rates have really given buyers strength in purchasing power.”



Nathan Donato-Weinstein covers commercial real estate and transportation for the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

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California Homebuilding Foundation Names 6 Builders and Developers to Hall of Fame

Wednesday January 30th, 2013 // Reuters

SACRAMENTO, Calif.--(Business Wire)--


Six industry leaders who have built and developed new homes and apartments for decades and also given back to their communities through philanthropy and volunteerism have been named to the California Homebuilding Foundation Hall of Fame.


The honorees are:


* Sherman S. Haggerty, retired Sacramento-region vice president for Lennar Corp. Among the highlights of his 30-year career were developing a different product type during the recession of the early 1990s that became one of the biggest sellers of the decade in Sacramento.


* Joe Head, president of the San Ramon-based SummerHill Land Division of SummerHill Homes. Head has been a leading homebuilder in Northern California for 40 years and also brought real-world experience to the San Jose City Council, where he served from 1989 to 1994.


* Robert B. McLeod, chairman and CEO of San Diego-based Newland Real Estate Group. Bob brought to fruition the development of San Diego`s 1,100-acre University City area, with 9,000 residential units, 1,600 hotel rooms, and 3.6 million square feet of retail, office and industrial, when Newland was the largest private land-owner in San Diego County. Through his leadership, Newland is now the largest and most innovative master-planned developer in the nation with communities in 14 states.  


* John J. Ryan, Jr., president of Brookfield Homes Bay Area in Danville. Under Ryan`s leadership, Brookfield is considered one of the region`s best homebuilding companies to work for and is a leader in developing master-planned communities.


* Tom Sudberry, chairman of the board of San Diego-based Sudberry Properties. Sudberry has been a leader in the region`s real estate industry for decades and is the developer of the sustainable urban infill community of Civita.


* Bill Watt, president of Newport Beach-based Baywood Development Group. Watt`s passion for creative homebuilding has led to successful and trend-setting developments in Orange and San Diego counties for 40 years.


ABOUT THE FOUNDATION


Founded in 1978, the California Homebuilding Foundation invests in the future of the industry through endowments that provide college and graduate school scholarships; funding research on key public policy issues; compiling and publishing timely construction and new home statistics; training seminars; supporting high school curriculum to encourage young people to choose careers in the industry; and supporting the California Homebuilding Hall of Fame.


California Homebuilding Foundation
Terri Brunson, 916-340-3340
CHF Executive Director

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Mountain View wants to add developer fees for new rentals

Thursday November 15th, 2012 // Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal

by Jon Xavier


The city of Mountain View is looking at tacking on an $18.95-per-square-foot fee on market-rate rental developments to help fund affordable housing projects.


But some say the fee could have unintended consequences, including reducing the supply of rental housing and depressing land values.


The proposal comes as cities throughout California look for ways to fund below-market housing projects following the dissolution of redevelopment agencies. In addition, a 2009 Los Angeles court case ended affordable-housing set-aside requirements. Mountain View previously required projects to include 10 percent affordable units.


“That really hurt a lot of communities in California,” Linda Lauzze, the city’s administrative and neighborhood services manager, said of the changes.


But industry executives and some council members are skeptical. Vice Mayor John Inks says the fee will unfairly penalize landowners because developers will negotiate lower terms on land deals to offset fees.


“I think it’s unfair to single out owners of development property for a social need that probably should be more widely disseminated,” Inks said.


He added the result could be counterproductive.


“The one thing we can do as a city is allow the supply to increase,” he said. “If you have people that want to tack on fees and restrict development, that definitely has an impact.”


Robert Freed, president and chief executive of SummerHill Homes and [SummerHill Apartment Communities] Urban Housing Group, has several apartment projects in the pipeline. Freed said he’s a supporter of affordable housing and doesn’t oppose a fee per se, but believes the current figure being proposed is too high. He is also concerned that the fee would apply to projects already in the pipeline.


“When a fee of this magnitude could hit projects that are near approval stage, it can kill a deal,” he said. “It’s a little unfair to change the rules in midstream.”


Several other area cities have similar rental-impact fees. Fremont charges $17.55 per square foot, Walnut Creek charges $15 per square foot and San Carlos charges up to $28.27 per square foot.


Apartment rental developers might not be the only ones hit with changes to the city’s fee structure. The City Council will also consider increasing the affordable-housing surcharge on developers of office, hotel and retail buildings when the issue comes before the Council in December.


Demand outpaces units


Mountain View has a 51-unit affordable housing project currently under construction downtown and two affordable projects totaling 76 units in the pipeline. Money comes from various sources, including a $7.43-per-square-foot fee charged to commercial projects. New rental properties don’t currently pay anything into the city’s below--market fund. If the rental fee were imposed to all 930 market units in the pipeline, Mountain View would collect about $15.5 million.


Mayor Michael Kasperzak said pricey Mountain View needs to grow its affordable housing stock by 150 units a year just to keep up with demand and is already about 1,000 units behind its current needs.


That need is one downside of the city’s robust economy. Buoyed by strong tech hiring, the city’s unemployment rate was 5.9 percent in September, nearly three points lower than the state’s average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Median income was about $88,000, according to the U.S. Census.


As a result, average market rents in Mountain View are among the highest in the region, ranging from $1,500 for a studio to $3,267 for a three-bedroom apartment. Those rents require minimum income of $64,000 to $137,664, according to city statistics.


Freed said the industry recognizes the demand for lower-price housing and hopes to partner with cities to find the best way to solve the affordability gap.


“I think this is an opportunity to have a broader discussion on what are the most effective affordable housing programs,” Freed said.

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Maravilla Townhomes a unique development, thanks to interesting collaborative effort

Wednesday October 31st, 2012 // Mercury News


By Khalida Sarwari

A new housing development at 555 W. Campbell Ave. has seen a flurry of activity over the past few weeks as its occupants start to move in. In a few weeks, the Maravilla Townhomes will be unveiled to the community at large.

A grand opening ceremony will be held on Nov. 14 to showcase 16 small-lot single-family homes and 24 below market rate townhome units that are interspersed with three water supply wells installed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District to provide drinking water to Campbell, Cupertino, Santa Clara and West San Jose neighborhoods in the event of an emergency.

The project was a collaboration between the water district, the city of Campbell, Charities Housing and Summerhill Homes, a developer based in San Ramon.

"It was a nice partnership of public and private and nonprofit," said project manager Sharon Teeter.

The 1,500-square-foot homes each have two bedrooms and two baths, according to Teeter. All 24 townhome units have been sold, she said. A third of the occupants have already moved in, with the remainder set to move in the coming weeks.

The development project--one of the largest in Campbell--began more than seven years ago, but construction didn't begin until November 2011, Teeter said, adding that part of the reason was the slow economy. The project cost about $16 million and was funded with loans, including a $2.5 million grant in mortgage loans from the state department of housing, a $200,000 loan for each buyer from the city of Campbell and nearly $31,000 from the Housing Trust of Santa Clara County. The Campbell Redevelopment Agency also loaned $3.9 million to Summerhill Homes for the 24 townhome units, according to Teeter.

Tours of the water well houses will be offered at the Nov. 14, grand opening, set for 3-4:30 p.m. at 555 W. Campbell Ave. Mayor Mike Kotowski and representatives from the water district, Summerhill Homes and Charities Housing are expected to attend.

Calling the new housing development "beautiful and creative," Kotowski invited community members to come and see it for themselves.

"I'm proud that our Campbell community is growing, and at the same time we've strengthened our city's emergency preparedness by providing a reliable source of drinking water in the event of a local disaster," he said.

Due to limited street parking at the site, attendees are encouraged to park for free at the Campbell Community Center and take a van transfer to the event.

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Executive Profile: Robert Freed, president and CEO of Summerhill Homes and Urban Housing Group

Thursday October 25th, 2012 // San Francisco Business Times

HQ: San Ramon.


Background: Freed joined SummerHill Homes as president and CEO in 2007. Before that, he worked for KB Home for 13 years and rose to senior vice president of investment strategy. He started out as a certified public accountant and held CFO positions at Davidon Homes and Blackhawk Corp. SummerHill, which focuses on single-family homes, is integrating Urban Housing Group, which builds multifamily housing, into one firm called SummerHill Housing Group. Both divisions are owned by Marcus & Millichap and have a combined 80 employees. The single-family component has six active projects in the Bay Area, while the multifamily side has more than 900 units in its Bay Area pipeline.


First job: Holding a survey stick for Jerry Lohr (of J. Lohr Wines) for the first home he built in Saratoga.


Education: B.S., economics, the University of California, Los Angeles.


Residence: Calistoga.


Business strategy


How’s business: Both the for-sale side of the business and the for-rent are strong right now. That’s a direct result of the job growth and healthy economy that we’re fortunate enough to be experiencing.


Biggest challenge for your business: One is obtaining high quality sites for residential development and that’s both a function of a limited number of opportunities and very strong competition. Second, the planning and approval process in our cities is very challenging.


What’s going to change at your company in the next year: The integration of the two development organziations. ... It’s both a rebranding and looking for synergy within the two organizations, sharing knowledge and sharing resources.


Goal yet to be achieved: To create a recession-proof developer.


How will you know that you’ve achieved it: You’ll have to talk to me after the next downturn.


Management philosophy


Guiding principles for good management: I’m a strong believer in candor and quality of conversation and messaging. I’m a strong believer in accountability and fostering dissenting opinions within the company to help ensure issues are properly vetted.


Best way to keep competitive edge: I try to surround myself with really smart people, not only people I work with, but networking and quality conversations with the best of my competition.


Why people like working for you: I’m very respectful. ... They also must enjoy my sarcasm and appreciate that I am accountable for what we do. The best assesment of how you’re doing is how well you retain employees and attract new talent.


Mentor: My grandfather, Louis Freed.


Judgment calls


Best business decision: To work for KB Home ... The learning opportunities I had there set up me for the opportunity to be at SummerHill.


Hardest lesson learned and how you learned it: There were times when I would not be as clear and candid as I am today. It was not very effective. One of my employees at KB Home pointed it out to me and it was very eye opening.


Toughest business decision: Going to KB. I lived in Northern California, and I (had to) relocate to Southern California. It was very disruptive to my children.


Biggest missed opportunity: Missing out on buying or tying up sites in the Bay Area 18 months ago. The market has rebounded stronger than I anticipated.


True confessions


Like best about job: I love the challenge I feel with and from the people I work with. They are very dedicated people.


Like least about job: Indvidivuals or organizations that oppose our developments without knowing the facts, without respecting the process and with oftentimes very selfish motivations.


Pet peeve: People who are very quick to judge others.


Most respected competitor: Sares Regis Group of Northern California.


First choice for a new career: Teaching some level of college.


Predilections


Most influential book: “What Happy People Know,” by Dan Baker and Cameron Stauth.


Favorite cause: Affordable housing.


Favorite movie: “Top Gun.”


Favorite restaurant: Press in St. Helena.


On your iPod: I listen to a lot of jazz.


Automobile: Mercedes E 550.


By Blanca Torres


Article HERE

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SummerHill Housing Group Makes Its Debut

Monday October 22nd, 2012 // The Registry

SummerHill Homes and Urban Housing Group take Market Lead.


By Publisher in News Releases.


 


SAN RAMON, CA (Oct. 22, 2012) - Two real estate powerhouses are now under one roof in a unique partnership forged to serve the home-sales and multifamily rental markets.


Newly formed SummerHill Housing Group is now the umbrella organization for award-winning Bay Area builder SummerHill Homes and West Coast apartment developer Urban Housing Group. Robert Freed, President and CEO for both, will lead at SummerHill Housing Group.


SummerHill Homes will keep its name but Urban Housing Group will become SummerHill Apartment Communities in the change. "We see this move as a way to strengthen the capabilities of two highly successful enterprises," Freed said.


 


SummerHill Housing Group provides the expertise, financial capabilities, and staffing power in the for-sale and for-rent markets, something Freed calls "a natural synergy in the Bay Area." Few other firms are equipped to combine capabilities for the for-sale and rental markets, largely because of the vastly different complexities of financing and land acquisition between the two disciplines.


SummerHill housing and apartment teams draw upon decades of experience and expertise in all phases of developing properties from beginning to completion. And for landowners in particular, that adds up to a powerful alliance.


SummerHill can assess the best options for a property that will bring the best financial return — whether for-sale or rental — landowners are assured of getting the maximum value for their properties. And they can have confidence that SummerHill, with the respect it has earned in the marketplace for its unparalleled knowledge of local development and its long-standing history of achievement, can navigate the complex worlds of sophisticated financing, government regulation and zoning requirements for the project.


“Our combined reputation for high-quality projects, our track records of success, and our history of financial and land acquisition success make this a solid partnership,” Freed said. “We’re excited about what’s ahead.”


About SummerHill Housing Group


SummerHill Housing Group combines the expertise and market strength of the highly respected development firms San Ramon-based SummerHill Homes and SummerHill Apartment Communities. SummerHill Homes specializes in mid- to high-end homes, and is nationally recognized for customizing development plans to accommodate a site’s special characteristics. Summerhill Apartment Communities has a long track record of developing award-winning apartment and mixed-use infill rental housing communities. Both firms specialize in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California.


 

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SummerHill Enters the Planning Process

Tuesday October 9th, 2012 // Lamorida Weekly

The plan for 28 homes that are proposed off Camino Ricardo was officially presented on October 1 to a joint session of the Planning Commission and Design Review Board. Many aspects of the projects were explored at that meeting, such as parking, landscaping, the ingress and eggress of the site, drainage, and esthetics. The major concern of the commissioners present was the density of the homes. Although the general ratio of homes to available space is well within the requirement for that piece of land, massing all the homes on one side of the lot creates a visual of a much denser development.



The relatively narrow piece of property is located on the northern part of the vacant pear orchard. It is bordered by a creek to the east and crossed by a tributary to that creek. The idea was, rather than building between the creeks and constructing a vehicle bridge, that part could be left undeveloped and dedicated to the town for a neighborhood park.



"I like the idea of maximizing open space and massing the development on one side," said Commissioner Roger Wykle, "but the developed area is quite dense." Because of the shape of the lot, the road between the homes is not very wide and would accommodate parking only on one side. Some of the lots are quite small, under 7,500 square feet, much less than neighboring homes. According to the Moraga Center Specific Plan that sets the rules for this area, the property was planned to be a transition area between the existing homes and denser housing planned in the middle of the pear orchard to the south. Commissioners Christine Kuckuk, Jim Kline, and Chair Stacia Levenfeld also expressed reservations regarding the density.



"Our plan with 28 homes on 14.26 acres translates to a density of 1.9 homes per acre, well below the 42 homes contemplated for this site in the Moraga Center Specific Plan and well below the three homes per acre allowed by the land's current zoning," said Katia Kamangar, senior vice president for SummerHill Homes, after the meeting. "As the Specific Plan encourages 'clustering' homes in order to maximize open space and to protect riparian corridors, we felt that our plan with homes only west of the riparian areas, along with eight acres of permanent open space, offers tremendous benefits overall. Based on the feedback we will likely consider other site layouts that spread the homes out over the entire property."



The date for a next meeting has not been set. Planning Director Asks For Patience The Planning Department in Moraga consists at this time of only two people-Director Shawna Brekke-Read and Administrative Assistant Kelly Clancy. The Senior Planner that was recruited in September decided to return to her previous position in Union City and the Assistant Planner is moving out of state. The Town is recruiting to replace these two positions, but in the meantime, delays may be expected. The Planning Director has also hired consultants to move forward larger projects such as SummerHill.



By Sophie Braccini

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Builders push for CEQA reform

Thursday September 20th, 2012 // Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal

Premium content from Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal by Nathan Donato-Weinstein, Real Estate Reporter


Later this year, SummerHill Homes will complete a 110 single-family home project on 17 acres across from the Westfield Valley Fair Shopping Center in Santa Clara.


But the project would have finished long ago if not for challenges made by project opponents under the California Environmental Quality Act, said Robert Freed, SummerHill’s president and CEO.


“It’s now become an unwieldy, out-of-control monster,” Freed said of the legislation, which was passed in 1970.


Freed is not alone in his view. Commercial real estate executives say the law must be reformed to prevent abuses. Increasingly, they say, CEQA is being used as a tactic to scuttle projects by neighborhood opponents or to extract financial concessions.


Now there are some signs lawmakers are listening – and not just among Republicans who have long complained about CEQA stifling business.


An overhaul bill sponsored by Michael Rubio (D-Shafter) died in the State Senate in August, but Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) pledged on Sept. 13 he would convene “stakeholder meetings” to examine reform before the Legislature convenes on Jan. 4.


“The idea is to bring everybody to the table to come up with a compromise between folks on both sides of the issue,” said Steinberg spokesman Mark Hedlund.


Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, even called efforts to reform CEQA “the Lord’s work” on Aug. 22, according to news reports.


CEQA conundrum


Passed the same year as a national law called NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act), CEQA requires environmental review of projects by state and local agencies – allowing the public to see how a development could affect land, air, water and other elements of the environment. Significant impacts require a mitigation plan.


The public can challenge a project’s CEQA clearance through litigation. These suits often claim a project’s environmental impact report did not adequately address concerns, or a project that did not require an EIR actually needed one completed.


“CEQA is a very well-intentioned law and was envisioned from the get-go to help protect the environment and disclose the impacts,” said Shiloh Ballard, vice president of housing and community development for the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, which is pushing for changes to the law. “But the scope and reach of CEQA has been expanded in the broadest way possible, and that’s what set us on the path we’re on now.”


Challengers are not limited to environmental groups. Neighbors unhappy with a project in their backyard, unions seeking labor agreements and competing businesses have latched onto CEQA as a catch-all mechanism to stall projects or extract a deal, industry insiders said.


“Virtually anybody can sue under CEQA,” said Jennifer Hernandez, a partner with Holland & Knight in San Francisco and an expert on environmental litigation. “An environmental tool used mostly by environmental applicants can be used for all things by all people.”


David Pettit, an attorney with the National Resources Defense Council, counters that the number of frivolous CEQA lawsuits is fewer than industry groups suggest. He studied 18 months of data from Los Angeles County and found only 18 cases of litigation out of 1,182 approved projects. And he said truly warrantless litigation is easily tossed out by the court.


“There’s this idea that the court system is chock full of frivolous cases, but it’s very good at weeding it out,” he said.


That might be true, but Joe Horwedel, the city’s planning director, said a lot of time is still spent dealing with CEQA challenges. He said the city is currently in litigation with as many as five CEQA lawsuits, holding up projects.


“I spend a lot of time as a planner dealing with the what ifs. That’s what our job is,” he said. “But you can’t be paralyzed by the what ifs.”


Local developers say they have many examples.


“You have a small group of people that can block something,” said Jesse Nickell, vice president for Barry Swenson Builder.


His $30 million La Bahia Hotel project in Santa Cruz faced a CEQA challenge sponsored by a neighborhood group and carpenters’ union.


“It was dragged out so much we missed the boom cycle, and then no one was loaning — (lenders are) just starting to loan on hotels again,” he said.


The Santa Clara SummerHill project nearly faced a similar fate.


A community group filed suit in 2007 claiming that the city of Santa Clara didn’t follow CEQA guidelines on the project, which included 165 senior apartments built by the Santa Clara Methodist Retirement Foundation and Charities Housing.


Neighbors claimed it was the only significant open space land left in the region and should have been protected. Freed, however, said the land was surrounded by dense development. The acreage, adjacent to Valley Fair Shopping Center, is surrounded by retail shops and next to major thoroughfare Stevens Creek Boulevard.


“There were no trees or animals or endangered species or anything,” Freed said. “Neighbors being opposed to development is not an environmental issue.”


SummerHill and the city of Santa Clara won in court and got the go-ahead to build – but SummerHill spent an estimated $4.5 million in extra costs because of the challenges, which delayed the project by several years.


By then, the market had tanked, and the company put the project on ice.


Although construction is now under way – helped along by a resurgent housing market – the affordable senior component is still struggling to get off the ground.


“If you miss a market cycle, it could cost you millions upon millions,” said Michael Van Every, president of Republic Urban Properties - West Coast Division.


He said the specter of CEQA lawsuits is always top of mind. He added that it’s ironic because his company mainly develops higher-density, urban infill products that are more environmentally friendly than sprawling, low-density deals.


It’s unclear what form a potential reform might take. So far, the Legislature has streamlined the CEQA process for specific types of projects, but has not passed wholesale changes.


Hedlund, of Steinberg’s office, said it’s too early to nail down specifics.


Hernandez said one possibility is to allow projects to satisfy CEQA requirements if they comply with existing environmental laws passed after CEQA. Another is to allow environmental impact reports for specific-plan areas to satisfy individual project CEQA requirements.


Whatever the proposed changes include, Freed said the status quo means the public loses out.


“We need certain types of housing,” he said. “And the more risky that housing becomes, the more expensive it’s going to be – or, the less of it you’ll have.”


 

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Top 5: San Jose Construction Projects

Wednesday July 25th, 2012 // Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal

In order for a project to be considered for the list, the total square feet under construction must be provided.The projects on the list combined for 3.6 million square feet of construction in the valley. All of the Business Journal's lists are published each year in the Book of Lists.


About Evergreen Place:


Evergreen Place will offer 87 new Single-Family detached homes and 16 Large Townhomes: The Cottages and The Towns.


The Cottages - 87 homes will be traditional single-family detached homes. Offering four floor plan types to include 3 to 4 bedrooms and 2½ baths with approx. 1,904-2,238 square feet of living space. Priced from the low $800,000s


The Towns - 16 townhomes homes. These homes will offer 3 bedrooms and 2½ baths with three plan types ranging from approximately 1,782 to 2,087 square feet of living space. Pricing to be determined.


By Lemery Reyes Researcher - Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal


See Top 5 Projects here

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SummerHill Homes CEO's Point of View on: Lennar Buys South Bay Hitachi Site, Plans 840 Homes

Tuesday July 10th, 2012 // The Registry
By Sharon Simonson


Miami-based for-sale homebuilder Lennar Corp. has acquired a 40.5-acre site in South San Jose where it hopes to build 840 single-family homes in six communities including one multifamily rental complex. The seller was Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, said Lennar Vice President Doug Rich.


Hitachi GST was acquired in March by Irvine-based Western Digital Corp. and now operates as a wholly owned subsidiary of Western under the name Viviti Technologies Ltd., according to a Western Digital news release.


The property sold for $80 million, according to a knowledgeable source. Lennar’s Rich declined to release the purchase price, saying he was not at liberty to disclose the information.


The homebuilder hopes to complete its design work for the endeavor by the end of this year and to initiate site improvements beginning in early 2013 with an eye on starting new home construction in October 2013 and executing the first sales in early 2014, Rich said.


The for-sale homes will range from single-family detached units to high-density condominiums and townhomes, Rich said. Price points are expected to begin in the high $200,000 range and to top out at about $700,000. The company anticipates developing, marketing and selling homes in the five for-sale communities simultaneously.


“We have done a lot of work in the South Bay, and we are back taking large positions in the area,” Rich said. The company likes the Bay Area —it is also developing 38 townhomes in Los Altos and processing an application to build 80 single-family homes in Daly City— because it suits Lennar’s strategic goal to target sites that are “key infill positions next to employment [in communities] where land is scarce and where entitlement is extremely complex,” he said.


Lennar is also a partner in the joint venture behind redevelopment of San Francisco’s Treasure Island, where Lennar alone has invested more than $26.7 million. More than $50 million has been invested in total.


The San Jose site is an integral component of a 332-acre master-planned community at Cottle Road and California Highway 85 that has been contemplated for nearly a decade. The plan calls for roughly half the site to remain industrial while the other half is redeveloped into a high-density “transit village” with housing, parks and commercial uses. The site is served by the light-rail system operated by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and a nearby Caltrain rail station. Caltrain is a regional public-transit system connecting San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.


The site was previously an IBM Corp. campus that Hitachi acquired in 2003. Two years later, in June 2005, the city of San Jose approved its redevelopment with more than 2,900 homes and 460,000 square feet of new commercial development. Cupertino-based Hunter Properties is seeking city permission to build a 313,500-square-foot commercial shopping center with both a Target store and a Safeway grocery store.


Chris Twardus, a Colliers International land broker in San Jose with a focus on the sale and development of residential land, said the Hitachi property sale is a significant one for the new-home development community not only because of the property’s size but also because of what it conveys about the regional economy. “There is a lot of building going on, and prices are getting higher,” he said.


Robert Freed, president and chief executive of SummerHill Homes, the homebuilding division of Marcus & Millichap Co., said Lennar should do well on the project assuming it executes well and the company did not overpay for the property based on overly rosy sales and cost projections. “If there is the least bit of pent-up demand, this will be one of these places to meet that demand,” he said. “It is an opportunity to get a critical mass of units in one location, which doesn’t exist anymore in [Silicon] Valley.”


While an executive at KB Home several years ago, he also eyeballed residential property at the Hitachi site for acquisition, Freed said.


SummerHill expects to celebrate the opening of its Midtown Village housing development in Santa Clara this fall with 110 single-family homes and a one-acre park. The development at 90 N. Winchester Blvd. is immediately across from the Westfield Valley Fair mall and the Santana Row outdoor shopping center. SummerHill clenched a $56 million financing deal with Union Bank, Comerica Bank and Bank of the West earlier this year to secure the 17-acre site. SummerHill, which has been a Bay Area developer, also has opened a Los Angeles office.


Lennar may face disadvantage at the Hitachi site by electing to do all five for-sale home communities itself, Freed said. It is more typical to have multiple homebuilders active in such large-scale projects, and when each of them marshals advertising and marketing efforts, it can drive more traffic for everyone collectively.


Key for Lennar to juice returns will be selling the inventory relatively quickly—one to two home sales a week in each community. “If they paid tens of millions of dollars for the property, which I am sure they did, they will be well north of $100 million invested before they make their first home delivery. That is a lot of investment in one location, and the best way to tackle that is to get some solid absorption,” he said.


 

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From farm to The Enclave: SummerHill creates new neighborhood in Mountain View

Wednesday June 27th, 2012 // Los Altos Town Crier

Written by Carolyn Snyder - Special to the Town Crier   
Wednesday, 27 June 2012


This story is for people who fondly remember the Farm Fresh Produce stand at the Grant Road Farm in Mountain View and who sadly watched as heritage trees were uprooted and the 15-acre site on Grant Road and Levin Avenue was cleared of all vestiges of agrarian life.


This happened a mere two years ago; however, the future of the property had been in jeopardy since 2007, after the family patriarch, Paul Mardesich, died and his daughters made plans to sell the land for development.


The farm had been operated by lessee David Schmitz, who grew corn and other produce and ran a popular pumpkin patch with train rides for children every October and a Christmas tree lot in December.


Along came SummerHill Homes with plans to build 53 single-family houses. As one would expect, those who wanted to see a working farm continue on the property mounted a vigorous campaign to keep the 5 acres as a farm. But to no avail.


The Mountain View City Council in 2009 approved the project and SummerHill began the design phase for the infrastructure – placement of utilities and streets – to accommodate the homes.


 


The Enclave takes shape


How often did motorists on busy Grant Road wonder what was going on behind the walls of what had been named The Enclave at Waverly Park? And what are those homes like?


Fast forward to this month.


“Only two models are left,” said Mark Druge, SummerHill sales manager. “People say, ‘I remember the pumpkin patch,’ but they have been quite positive.”


There are trees in The Enclave – some of which are heritage trees that were preserved – and well-nurtured lawns and gardens. “This is a very traditional project that blends in with the surrounding neighborhood,” Druge said.


The 2,500- to 3,000-square-foot homes, on 8,000-square-foot lots, are not out of place amid the area’s single-family housing developments of the 1970s.


And, because there are variations of five architectural styles, it feels like a neighborhood and not a cookie-cutter subdivision.


On Mansfield Drive, for example, are a French Normandy-style two-story home with copper trim, a two-story Craftsman, a single-story Mediterranean-style home and a two-story Spanish Revival home.


“The Enclave is a good fit in the neighborhood,” Druge said. “And the surrounding area benefits from the increase in property values.”


Natalie Viviani, community sales manager, has a close bond with The Enclave.


“It was a rare opportunity to see this much raw land at a time when there was an enormous demand for new homes,” she said. “The floor plans were appealing, as were the lot sizes. More importantly, it is a green community.”


All homes are solar-powered – a first for SummerHill, which previously had offered options to homebuyers. And they boast energy-efficient features such as tankless hot-water systems, Energy Star appliances, low-flow Kohler toilets and high-efficiency irrigation systems. Among green features are low VOC paints and materials.


“They’re designed to be GreenPoint rated,” Viviani said.


Starting last year, SummerHill released the homes in small groupings – four to seven at a time – and ranged from “the high $1.7s to $2.3 million,” according to Viviani.


Homeowner dues are $60 per month, which pays for common landscaping – a small triangle of land at La Salle Drive and Levin Avenue, which is parklike.


Of the 53 homes, 25 are occupied and others are nearing completion. On any given morning, people are out walking their dogs, jogging or heading to work.


 


A sneak peek at model homes


For the curious who want to know what the houses are like inside, here’s a peek at the two remaining model homes.


“Residence 1,” at 2700 Pavo Lane, is a single-story, 2,900-square-foot, three-bedroom, 2.5-bath traditional-style home.


“Single-story homes are rare in new developments, and to find one with 10-foot ceilings is rarer,” Viviani said.


In this case, the ceiling rises to nearly 13 feet in the great room, which is the hub of the house. It includes the kitchen, a bay window “nook” and a living/dining area with fireplace.


Smoked oak floors set on the diagonal are a distinctive touch, as is the Old World texture of the walls. Kitchen countertops are honed leather granite with lively backsplashes. And the Viking Professional series appliances include a six-burner range, warming drawer and wine refrigerator.


An especially nice feature is the “Jack and Jill” bathroom shared by two of the bedrooms, each with its own sink and vanity, creating a more personal space.


“Residence 3,” next door at 2710 Pavo Lane, is a 2,892-square foot, four-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom two-story home with Spanish Colonial influences. A large front porch, enclosed by a low brick wall, is roomy enough for entertaining. But the pièce de résistance is the backyard with its outdoor kitchen, pergola, brick fireplace and playhouse.


The kitchen, a cook’s dream, features a built-in wok burner, a hot-water spigot over a Viking range, a warming oven and a butler’s pantry. Caesarstone countertops are easy care and easy on the eye. Backsplashes feature stone and glass tile.


The main living area and the master bath boast limestone floors throughout.


“Everything was done right,” Viviani said of The Enclave development.


For more information visit The Enclave at Waverly Park

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Redwood City Neighborhood to Be Reborn With New Apartment Complex

Wednesday June 20th, 2012 // The Registry

Redwood City Neighborhood to Be Reborn With New Apartment Complex


By publisher in News Releases


June 19, 2012 — A reminder of Redwood City’s pre-tech past is disappearing this week, soon to be replaced by an upscale 141-unit apartment complex that will anchor a major upgrade of the El Camino Boulevard neighborhood.


Through five decades, the low-slung Mel’s Bowl – with its iconic neon sign and old-style wooden alleys – has been a beacon for Bay Area bowlers. But as Silicon Valley changed, the business and the neighborhood around it struggled.
Now both the property and the neighborhood are getting a new lease on life. And the sign is hopefully headed for a new home of its own.


Crews from Urban Housing Group started work this week on construction of “25Eighty on the Blvd” which will add a mix of one- and two-bedroom apartments to Redwood City’s housing mix. The addition of 141 units stands in stark contrast to the construction of just 246 new housing units in the city during the past decade.


The “25Eighty on the Blvd” opens in 2014, but improvements to the neighborhood will come even sooner.


Urban Housing Group will also revamp the area surrounding the site at 2580 El Camino Real in Redwood City consistent with the Grand Boulevard Initiative. The initiative (www.grandboulevard.net) aims to improve the performance, safety and aesthetics of this major thoroughfare.


The San Ramon-based company plans a wide range of community improvements in addition to its own 2.51 acres on the regally named thoroughfare. They include:



    • Widening the sidewalk to 12 feet and adding street trees, decorative streetlights, and a street frontage plaza with bench seating.

  • Converting an adjacent Hetch Hetchy parcel to a landscaped area that will replace the existing parking lot.

  • Improving the existing intersection of El Camino Real and Northumberland Street by relocating and improving an existing crosswalk and relocating the bus stop for safety.

  • Footing the bill for six nearby property owners and their tenants to upgrade their storefronts with painting, enhanced signage, new awnings and improved lighting.


Perhaps the most obvious neighborhood change will come in July when an adult “superstore” shuts down. As part of the “25Eighty on the Blvd” project, Urban Housing Group – with strong support from residents, business owners, and community leaders — struck an agreement with the owner of the property across the street from the new apartment complex. The store will close in July and the agreement bars any similar use for the life of the property.


“We are thrilled to proceed with this project in Redwood City,” says Elaine Breeze, Urban Housing Group Vice President of Development. “Residents will enjoy an exceptionally designed community as well as a convenient lifestyle in this service-rich location. The project represents a collaborative effort with the local community and provides much needed new housing on the Peninsula. We believe this development and its unique neighborhood benefits will serve as a catalyst to transforming this part of El Camino Real in the future.”


The mix of one-bedroom/one-bath and two-bedroom/two-bath units will range ranging from 705 to 1,106 square feet. Amenities include in-unit washers and dryers; garage parking; a pool and spa; and an outdoor kitchen, fireplace and barbecue area. Residents will enjoy two courtyards, a fitness studio and club room. Close by are jobs, shopping, top-rated schools, public transportation and freeways.


The project is expected to be completed in 2014.


All that remains is to find a great home for that iconic sign that will always recall a simpler time on the Peninsula.


About Urban Housing Group
San Ramon-based Urban Housing Group, a privately-held firm founded in 2001, specializes in apartment and mixed-use infill rental housing communities, and is recognized for award-winning developments in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California.


For more on Urban Housing Group, visit www.urbanhousinggroup.com

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Proposed New Development off Camino Ricardo

Tuesday June 19th, 2012 // Lamorida Weekly


Published June 20th, 2012
Proposed New Development off Camino Ricardo
By Sophie Braccini


Developer Summerhill Homes recently applied for the review of a plan to build 28 homes on a 14.26-acre property located off Camino Ricardo, south of Danefield Place. The long, relatively narrow parcel stretches from Camino Ricardo on the west to near Moraga Road on the east. The proposed three- and four-bedroom homes, of between 2,400 and 2,965 square feet, would be clustered on the south-west border of the property on lots ranging from well over 5,000 to 20,000 square feet.

 The property has a narrow border along Camino Ricardo. It is currently undeveloped and contains an old walnut orchard. The developer proposes to build a private road, running east-west, along which the houses will be built. The strategy of clustering the homes to the south of the property was chosen, according to the application, to limit grading and impact on the Laguna Creek that borders the property to the east-the developer indicates that clustering to the west will leave the riparian area intact.

 The plan proposes three different styles for the homes: Spanish, contemporary Californian and Craftsman. The development will be built to rate at 70 points on the Build It Green scale (www.builditgreen.org/ ). The landscape will be mostly drought tolerant and solar electricity will be offered as an option.

Under the proposal the homes will occupy only 5.6 acres of the property; the remaining acreage would be left as open space. A pedestrian bridge and trail will link Moraga Road to Camino Ricardo.

The parcel is included in the Moraga Specific Plan delimitation. It is rated for three dwelling- units per acre. "We anticipate that we will conduct a joint meeting with the Planning Commission and the Design Review Board in the coming months," said Planning Director Shawna Brekke-Read.

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300-unit apartment complex approved for Walnut Creek

Thursday June 14th, 2012 // Contra Costa Times

300-unit apartment complex approved for Walnut Creek  


By Elisabeth Nardi
Contra Costa Times Contra Costa Times


In a city with few areas left to build new housing, a 300-unit apartment project will take over the former Longs Drugs company headquarters site on Civic Drive near Ygnacio Valley Road.


The Paragon Apartments project was approved by the planning commission on Thursday night. This was the second time city leaders approved this high-density housing; developer Urban Housing Group pulled the project following its approval last year, after an appeal to the City Council was filed by Carpenters Local 152.


That same union sued the city in January because city leaders approved the 126-unit North Main Apartments project, saying it lacked an environmental report.


Urban Housing Group decided to reapply to the city this year and do a full environmental impact report. There were no written or spoken comments from the carpenters union this time.


"It is literally virtually the same set of plans approved by the design review commission and planning commission last year," said Kelly Snider with Urban Housing Group. "This will fill a new need that doesn't exist downtown right now."


The 80,000-square-foot former Longs/CVS headquarters on the 5-acre site will be demolished, with the 300-unit, four-story Paragon development built in its place. Plans include a rooftop terrace, swimming pool and a 475-stall, four-level solar-powered parking garage.


The environmental impact report detailed significant effects from the project but offered ways to deal with all of them. Nearly all major effects occur with the actual construction.


The one- and two-bedroom apartments will range from 667 to 1,051 square feet. Market research shows that likely tenants will be people who want to be close to downtown and transit such as professionals 35 and younger, empty-nesters and those who are recently divorced, Snider said.


Business groups spoke at the planning commission meeting to champion the project. Former Councilman Charlie Abrams, who is now director of the Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce board, said this type of housing is needed downtown and will bring in "more shoppers and business."


He thinks 475 parking stalls is enough for the type of project and where it's located. If it wasn't near BART, the city would require 502 parking spaces; because of its proximity to the Walnut Creek station, the city requires 400. The plans also include some guest spots, electric charging stations and 76 bicycle parking spaces.


A public walking and bicycle path will be built along the north side of the development, providing a cut-through from Civic Drive to Broadway -- though that short cut will exist only if property owners on the other side of Paragon decide to continue the path's construction. Once Paragon is built, the path will look like a regular sidewalk and dead-end at the property line, though it will connect to the pathways leading in and around the apartment complex, Snider said.


A new signalized intersection will be built on Civic Drive at the entrance to the development, across the street from where buses stage and wait for Walnut Creek Intermediate School students. Left-turn lanes heading east onto Ygnacio Valley Road will be made longer.


Paragon's developers opted to pay $3.7 million in lieu of providing apartments that meet affordable housing requirements. That money is required under the city's inclusionary housing ordinance.


Commissioner Matt Francois said this is the appropriate site for higher density housing in Walnut Creek.


Also in the works for Walnut Creek is the 107-unit Arroyo Apartments under review, as well as a 154-apartment project proposed for the Scotts Valley Bank site on California Boulevard. In addition, about 600 units are planned for the Walnut Creek BART Transit Village.


 

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Santa Clara - Recent and Pending Projects Hope to Boost Economic Development

Monday May 21st, 2012 // The Santa Clara Weekly

Having lingered through one of the worst recessions in history, the City has seen many businesses and redevelopment projects come and go over the last several years. With the economy slowly rebounding, several new projects and redevelopment projects are moving forward or progressing...


BAREC at 90 N. Winchester


After over 10 years of heated discussion, including legal actions and voter initiatives, SummerHill Homes is currently in the process of site grading and utilities for the 110 homes they will build on 10 acres at the rear of the former the Bay Area Research and Extension Center (BAREC) site. According to City staff, once the road is in place, construction of the model homes will begin, making homes available for showcasing and sales by this fall. It is expected to take another year after that to complete the homes and the one-acre park at the northwest corner of the site, adjacent to Forest Avenue. Site plans have not changed from the original approval, with detached small-lot single family homes around the perimeter and attached town homes in the core. The 165-unit senior apartments on six acres at the front of the site is in preliminary planning stages and will need to complete funding before work begins there. View more information on the “Midtown Village” project at www.summerhillhomes.com/coming-soon/midtown-village.


 


Read More:http://www.santaclaraweekly.com

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SummerHill Homes Grand Opening, Norris Canyon - April 21st

Thursday April 19th, 2012 // San Ramon Patch

San Ramon based SummerHill Homes will be holding the grand opening of two beautifully furnished model homes at their latest project - Renaissance at Roubion, Norris Canyon Estates, San Ramon this Saturday April, 21st


Renaissance at Roubion, the newest community in San Ramon will offer 41 new single family homes with four different two-story floor plans ranging in size from approximately 3,400 to 4,300 sq. ft. with three to five bedrooms. The homes will be situated on large lots from approximately 16,000 – 87,000 sq. ft., featuring charming courtyards, and wonderful outdoor spaces with some of the best views of the San Ramon Valley and Mount Diablo in the East Bay. 


Renaissance at Roubion is an all solar community. Other green features include tankless hot water systems, low VOC paints and materials, high efficiency irrigation systems, and Viking Designer Series Stainless Steel Energy Star Appliances.  Granite slab countertops and 400 Series Andersen Wood Casement windows add extra touches of luxury to the homes.


Just minutes away from San Ramon’s top ranked schools, regional hiking and biking trails, great restaurants, shopping and entertainment, Renaissance at Roubion is also perfectly located for anyone looking to commute to San Francisco or San Jose.


SummerHill Homes is an award-winning boutique Bay Area residential real estate developer and home builder.  With over 35 years’ experience SummerHill has developed a reputation for innovation, excellence and timeless elegance.  www.summerhillhomes.com


San Ramon Patch

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Affordable Townhomes Coming to Campbell

Monday January 23rd, 2012 // Mercury News

Although the recession has brought down home prices in the West Valley area, the world of real estate can still be scary, especially for first-time buyers.


But the city of Campbell has a bit of good news for some residents looking to take the leap into homeownership. Maravilla, a complex by SummerHill Homes, is launching an affordable townhome program for first-time buyers.


The complex is under construction at the corner of Campbell Avenue and San Tomas Expressway. The site may not look like much now, but early this summer it will be filled with 40 brand-new townhomes, 24 of which will be sold below market value.


Sharon Teeter, housing coordinator for the city of Campbell, says this is an opportunity not to be missed. On Feb. 1, the state will officially do away with all local redevelopment agencies, and the SummerHill project represents what she calls "the last chunk of RDA funding."


As Campbell's RDA helped to create nearly all of the affordable housing in the city, it is difficult to say how and when more projects of that nature will be built. Teeter says not only is this the only affordable opportunity in the immediate future, but it is one of the biggest and most beneficial ever offered in the city.


"This is the largest project we've had," she said.


Similar projects were completed on Salmar and Harrison avenues, but not with as many residences being slated for reduced cost. And Teeter said this development is unique for its emphasis on catering to home- buying newbies.


The program will provide pre-set, layered financing that will be structured so the owner is responsible for one 30-year mortgage. Asked why the Maravilla offer is a good fit for Campbell residents, Teeter responded with a question of her own.


"Do you know of any other programs for first-time buyers that provide financing on top of below-market price?" she said.


To be considered for one of the 24 affordable units, applicants must meet eligibility requirements, such as having not owned a residence in Santa Clara County within the last three years, being able to qualify for a first mortgage loan and pay an approximate down payment of $16,000 and closing costs estimated between $7,000 and $10,000. Preference will be given to people who live and/or work in Campbell.


Pre-applications are due by Jan. 31 to allow time for an in-depth screening process. Prospective residents will also be required to attend homeowner classes.


Teeter encourages all interested residents to apply immediately and contact her directly with questions.


For more information, visit www.cityofcampbell.com and go to the housing section. Sharon Teeter can be reached at 408.866.2137 and [email protected]





 

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Housing Project the Biggest Since the '90s

Wednesday October 12th, 2011 // Contra Costa Times - News from True Life Communities

By Brian Babcock


One of the largest housing projects in Saratoga since the 1990s is starting to take shape as townhomes near Hollow on Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road are being built slowly but steadily.


[Creekside at Saratoga is a] 20 two-story townhomes are being built on an approximately 2-acre parcel that once was home to a three one-story and one two-story apartment complex. The townhouse development was approved in 2007 and each home has three to five bedrooms, optional gas fireplace and two-car garage. 


The project, which is being built by SummerHill Homes, began in May with the demolition of the old apartment buildings. Homes are expected to start selling next spring with the first occupants to move into the complex next summer.


"Although the housing market continues to struggle in many parts of the Bay Area, we are seeing select Silicon Valley communities with good schools and proximity to jobs still performing well. We believe that this location is one such location," said SummerHill Homes senior vice president Katia Kamangar.


She added, "The beautiful creekside setting and short walking distance to Saratoga Village shops and restaurants make this a very special location and one that will perform well despite the overall market challenges.


The project first received public input at a December 2005 study session, a city staff report states. JSM Enterprises first came forward with the project, but due to the economic downtown, it was unable to complete the project.


"We saw this as an opportunity to step in and improve the original project design," Kamangar said.


The townhome plan includes 13 floor plans with individual homes ranging in size from approximately 1,900 to 3,700 square feet, Kamangar said. No formal pricing has been established yet, although the homes are anticipated to be priced in the low million-dollar range.


There are no affordable housing units required as part of the project.


"With the exception of more expensive custom homes, it is rare to see new homes being built in the city of Saratoga at this price point. We believe that the homes will be a welcome addition for new home buyers," Kamangar said.


Saratoga building official Brad Lind said he's been impressed by the developer.


"It's a really good project. It's gone smoothly. I couldn't be happier with SummerHill," said Lind who has been with the city for 25 years. He added that this housing project is probably the largest the city has seen since 64 homes were built on the Paul Masson property in the 1990s.


"Saratoga is built out. I was told it was built out when I started here," Lind said, explaining why so few large housing projects are built in Saratoga.


The homes are planned to include "high-end finishes," which consist of marble in the master bathrooms and stainless steel appliances in the gourmet kitchens. The townhomes will also be GreenPoint rated. Each dwelling will include tankless water heaters, low-VOC (volatile organic compound) paint and adhesives and EnergyStar appliances.


"We will also offer numerous options so that buyers can customize their home in a way that makes it best for their needs, whether they be a single working professional, a family with small children, or an empty nester," Kamangar said.

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SummerHill offers Smarter Roofs and Solar Power Systems for all Homes

Wednesday September 28th, 2011 // YouTube


By Petersen Dean


Reflectivity:


For 200,000 years, man has put roofs on buildings to keep water out when it rains and the sun out when it shines. But until now, roofs have not helped keep buildings cool.


In fact, a typical roof on a summer day can heat to a temperature of over 170 degrees Fahrenheit and raise your building's temperature by as much as 30 degrees because traditional roofs absorb heat from the sun's rays.


Buildings with roofs that absorb the sun's rays have higher operating costs than buildings that have roof materials that reflect the sun's rays. Roofing materials that retain the sun's rays will deteriorate faster than roofs that reflect those rays.


At PetersenDean, we know the total cost of ownership of a building with a SmarterRoof™ is significantly less than the cost of operating the same building with an old "dumb" roof.


SmarterRoofs™ reflect the sun's rays that heat the roof, so the roof materials stay cooler. Because SmarterRoofs™ do not retain heat, the materials last longer than regular roof materials that absorb heat. SmarterRoofs™ are proven to bring down your summer utility rates by as much as 30%.


Retention:


Solar Energy provides clean, renewable and FREE energy to power your home or building. To take advantage of this FREE source of energy, you need to capture and convert energy from the sun's rays into electrical current.


While Solar Energy systems use the sun's rays to create electricity, the most effective and efficient operation of a solar energy system occurs when the system does not get too hot. Therefore, it is important to recognize that merely installing a solar energy system on an old "dumb" roof, which retains heat that can reduce the efficiency of a solar energy system, may not be a smart choice.


Smarter Choice:


A PetersenDean SmarterRoof™ repels the heat from the sun's rays (Reflection) at the same time it captures the electrical energy potential from those same rays (Retention). On a PetersenDean SmarterRoof™ reflection lowers the temperature of the roof surface, keeps the building under the roof cooler, and helps the solar energy system work more efficiently because it stays cooler.


When the sun shines, PetersenDean's solar energy systems are designed and built to offset your "on-grid" electric bills by as much as 90%. The "One-Two" punch can reduce energy consumption while providing electricity generated by the sun, offsetting the "on-grid" electricity that you use and producing clean energy that can be generated for years to come.


Read More Here

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California Bay Area Mansions Are in High Demand, Due to Tech Boom

Wednesday August 10th, 2011 // Fox News


Watch the latest video at video.foxnews.com

Real estate agent Alex Wang was beaming with pride as he showed off his latest listing, a $4-million spread in the upscale community of Los Altos Hills, California.


"This house also has a wine cellar, sauna, a media room, even a putting green," says Wang.


It may sound over the top, but houses like this one represent one of the few robust economic sectors in the nation.





Welcome to the Silicon Valley real estate market, where a high-end housing boom is being fueled by a mini-tech rush, especially surrounding social media.


In Palo Alto, home of Facebook, the median selling price of a single family home increased to $1.3-million in June, up nearly 5 percent over last year, according to research company DataQuick.


The same time period saw home prices rise in Los Altos, and in Mountain View, where tech companies like LinkedIn and Google have created wealthy stock owners, and workers, willing to pay top dollar for a short commute, coveted public schools, and happening neighborhoods.


"The social media and explosion of high-tech IPO's are also creating a new work environment where people aren't always in the office," says Allison Buffum, marketing manager with SummerHill Homes. "They want to be able to be at home and work as well, and they want the best home they can afford."


Some can afford a lot. Yuri Milner, a venture capitalist from Russia recently set a new record by shelling out $100 million for a spread in Los Altos, while Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently paid $7-million for a five bedroom home in Palo Alto.


Economist Steve Levy with the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy says people relocating to the Valley are competing with locals "who who suddenly come into IPO wealth or have gotten a salary increase and are thinking about maybe moving to a better area.Two groups of people bidding on a stock of housing that isn't growing at all."


The expanding wealth, and a limited supply of homes for sale, is sparking new construction and fierce bidding wars. 


Alex Wang says he sometimes sees 17 or 18 offers on a property.


What's more, serious buyers are snapping up pricey properties for sometimes hundreds-of-thousands of dollars over asking. And forget about financing. Many of these buyers are paying in cash, and closing in a week.


Still to come, the so-called "Facebook Effect," as the social network giant expects to go public with what some predict will be the hottest initial public offering ever.


"I think that Facebook is going to have a huge effect on the local economy, bringing in young talent from all over the world," says Wang.


Economists say that influx of talent and wealth will likely boost demand for luxury homes even higher, fueling a limited, but very real economic recovery in Silicon Valley.




Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/08/11/california-bay-area-mansion-demand-due-to-tech-boom/#ixzz1VKKKW2d4


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Homebuilders turn to urban areas

Tuesday August 2nd, 2011 // San Jose Mercury News

Builders are slowly starting to wade into the new home market in the Bay Area, with projects already open or planned for Fremont, Oakland, San Jose, Walnut Creek and other cities.


But unlike the frenzy before the popping of the real estate bubble, when builders saturated outlying areas with too many homes, this time they're putting their projects close to jobs and transportation.


"Builders are definitely looking at places like greater San Jose, the Peninsula, and maybe Dublin and San Ramon. They are not looking so much at the outlying areas," said Dean Wehrli, senior manager at Irvine-based John Burns Real Estate Consulting.


And they're doing this despite a daunting market, with new home sales in the Bay Area down more than 40 percent in June from a year ago.


"If you are in the right place and you have the right product, and you get a price niche that folks can afford, you can definitely sell new homes," he said.


But it's a much different industry than just a few years ago. There are about 3,000 members in the California Building Industry Association, a trade group of builders, subcontractors, and other building professionals. That's a steep drop from a membership base of around 7,200 five years ago. (On average, about 20 percent of members are builders.)


And for the first five months of 2011, there were 588 single-family housing starts in the East Bay, a 28.6 percent drop from a year ago. There were 389 starts in the San Jose metro area, which includes Santa Clara and San Benito counties, or a 4.3 percent increase. In the San Francisco metro area, which includes San Mateo County, there were 117 starts, or a 4.9 percent decrease.


Builders aren't discouraged. They say there is pent-up demand from buyers following the construction slowdown of the last few years. Many builders went out of business after the housing boom began to collapse five years ago, which created opportunities for those still standing to buy land at bargain prices.


"As the market continued to ebb and flow over the last few years, we were able to take advantage of opportunities to buy (land parcels) in very core and centrally located markets," said Chris Apostolopoulos, president of Los Angeles-based KB Home's Northern California division. "One of the fundamental strategies we have is to acquire properties that are close to transportation, retail and jobs."


KB Home opened new home communities in Dublin, Fremont, Martinez and Walnut Creek in the last three weeks, along with two others that opened earlier this year. Three more are opening in Morgan Hill in August and September, with plans to open an additional one in Santa Clara in the next two months. KB Home opened only five new home communities in all of 2010.


While new home communities are opening, MDA DataQuick numbers show that new home sales are struggling. Some 399 new single-family houses and condos sold in the nine-county Bay Area in June. That's down 43.8 percent from June 2010, and the second-lowest June ever based on DataQuick records going back to 1988.


Those numbers aren't discouraging to Apostolopoulos. "With fewer competitors out there and pent-up demand for new homes ... we look at it as a wonderful time to be bringing out new home communities," he said.


SummerHill Homes plans to open new home communities in San Ramon and Saratoga this fall, and in Campbell and San Jose early next year.


"We focus on urban infill locations that have limited new home competition," said Robert Freed, president and chief executive officer of San Ramon-based SummerHill Homes.


Urban infill locations typically are places that were once a factory, warehouse or other type of facility that are then torn down to make room for a housing development.


Pulte Homes plans to open a new home community next month in Fremont near the future Warm Springs BART station.


"It's a very good location close to jobs and central to Silicon Valley," said Steve Kalmbach, Northern California division president for Pulte, a builder based out of Bloomfield Hills, Mich. Another community will be opening in San Jose in September, he said.


Pulte has acquired parcels from other builders to help further its building plans. "We've purchased distressed properties, where somebody got in over their head or ran out of money," he said.


Bob Glover, executive director of the Building Industry Association of the Bay Area, didn't have any statistics as to how many land parcels have been picked up by other builders in the past few years.


But, he said, "some projects were purchased by other builders. Once it makes economic sense, then it's just like any business decision."


 

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SummerHill Homes Receives Four Awards at MAME

Tuesday July 5th, 2011

San Ramon, CA – On Saturday, June 18, 2011 SummerHill Homes received four awards at MAME, Marketing and Merchandising Excellence Awards from the Sales and Marketing Council (SMC) of the a BIA Bay Area.  The MAME awards recognize building excellence.


            SummerHill Homes was awarded best website for the corporate website redesigned late last year by Graphic Language.  The Enclave at Waverly Park in Mountain View received two awards – Community of the Year for Detached Homes and Green Community of the Year.  The SummerHill Homes construction team received a special award for Construction Team of the Year, recognizing their outstanding achievement in successful completion of existing communities and start up of new communities.


            “This is an exciting accomplishment for SummerHill Homes.  The competition was exceptionally strong this year and we appreciate getting this recognition from our peers,” said Robert Freed, president and CEO of SummerHill Homes.  “We thank our employees, homebuyers, and consultants who’ve made these awards possible.”


The annual MAME Awards honor achievements in marketing, sales, architectural design and land use planning for residential building.  Entries come from the greater Bay Area. 


            SummerHill Homes is a Bay Area-based homebuilder with a national reputation for superior design and quality construction.  Information is available at www.summerhillhomes.com.


 

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Grant Road model homes open as construction continues

Monday May 16th, 2011 // Los Altos Town Crier

The 53-unit single-family-home subdivision under construction on Grant Road is progressing according to schedule, according to representatives of the developer, SummerHill Homes.


SummerHill Senior Vice President Katia Kamangar said a recent grand opening for the one- and two-story-home subdivision, the Enclave at Waverly Park, drew approximately 1,000 people.


“We have already started our second phase of homes, as the market response has been overwhelmingly positive,” Kamangar said. “We currently have 15 sales in various stages of contracting – and we have been open for sales only a month. … People love the convenient location and the traditional single-family homes on large lots.”


Kamangar said the first homebuyers will be moving in by late summer or early fall. The entire project is scheduled for completion in the next 18 months. The homes, up to six bedrooms and 2,940 square feet on 8,000-square-foot-lot minimums, start $1.6 million.


Most of the infrastructure for the project has been completed, Kamangar said, and the traffic signal at Grant, Covington and the realigned Levin Avenue should be operational this summer, pending clearance from Mountain View and Los Altos officials. Covington, which currently ends at Grant, will be extended into the development.


“We are about one month away from having the signal operational,” said Jim Gustafson, public works director for the city of Los Altos. “The new signal controller has to be energized and proven, traffic detection equipment has to be installed, and the signal heads have to be configured for the lane geometry. It could be a little sooner if there are no problems with the setup.”


 

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SummerHill Homes Acquires Land in San Jose For New Community

Sunday April 17th, 2011

San Ramon, CA – San Ramon based SummerHill Homes has acquired approximately 14.6 acres in San Jose for a new home community.  The site was originally home to the Mirassou winery.  It is located at Aborn Rd and Ruby Avenue in the highly regarded Evergreen area of San Jose.


The community will feature 87 detached single-family homes ranging from approximately 1,904 to 2,107 square feet, 16 townhomes ranging from approximately 1,782 to 2,087 square feet, and the historic Mirassou House.  The community will feature a prominently-placed park, and many heritage trees will be preserved creating an immediate sense of neighborhood for the new residents.


The community is expected to open in early 2012, with prices anticipated from the $700,000s for single-family homes and the $500,000s for the townhomes.


“We are really excited to be introducing a new community in San Jose, and feel that the community will be a wonderful addition to the prized, established neighborhood that surrounds it,” said Robert Freed, president and CEO of SummerHill Homes.  “Our architects have developed exceptional homes and a site plan designed for pedestrian friendly access to access new retail shops anticipated to open nearby.”


SummerHill recently debuted models at The Enclave at Waverly Park in Mountain View with over 1,000 people attending the grand opening on Saturday, April 16th.  The community has received substantial interest with its rare offering of new traditional-style, single-family homes on large flat lots.  Prices from the $1,600,000s 


Later this year, SummerHill will open two new communities in San Ramon and Saratoga.  Roubion in San Ramon will feature single-family homes with spectacular views in the hills of west San Ramon in Norris Canyon Estates.  The homes will range in size from approximately 3,400 to 4,200 square feet.  Prices anticipated from the low $1,000,000s.


Creekside at Saratoga will feature 20 townhomes near Big Basin Way in Saratoga.  The homes will range in size from approximately 1,992 to 3,774 square feet.  Prices anticipated from the low $1,000,000s.


Award-winning SummerHill Homes is a Bay Area-based homebuilder.  For over 30 years, SummerHill Homes has developed a national reputation for superior design and quality construction.  Information is available at www.summerhillhomes.com.


 

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SummerHill Homes unveils solar standard in Mountain View

Thursday February 10th, 2011 // Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal

SummerHill Homes is en route to making solar a standard feature in new developments. First up is a 53-home project in Mountain View.


Homes at the Enclave at Waverly Park are scheduled to go on sale in late spring. The per-home price is expected to be $1.8 million or above, and will cater to the environmentally conscious and affluent buyer.


This project could be a bellwether for the timing of future SummerHill projects that incorporate solar.


“We are moving in the direction of trying to incorporate solar as a standard on as many projects as feasible going forward,” said SummerHill ...



Read more: SummerHill Homes unveils solar standard in Mountain View | Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal 


 

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Home Builder Braves Market

Sunday October 25th, 2009 // The Registry

By Sharon Simonson


San Ramon-based SummerHill Homes has broken ground on a 53-unit single-family housing development in Mountain View proposed as executive-level family and later-life housing for empty nesters looking to downsize. Units are to be priced in the $1.7 million range.


Robert Freed, SummerHill chief executive, said the first models should be delivered by June if not sooner. Lots are to measure on average in the 8,000-square-foot range, with some large enough to accommodate a primary residence and a small accessory building suitable for a home office or guest quarters. That is consistent with the single-family housing development that surrounds the property on all four sides and should enable the project to compete with existing home sellers in the area.


The first phase is being financed with a $25 million land acquisition and construction loan from Union Bank, Freed said. Three banks, including Bank of America and Bank of the West, fought for the business.


The site, at 3119 Grant Road, is in Mountain View but is very close to the Los Altos city limits.


"I still think there is plenty of risk in residential real estate development, but there is less risk in a project like this," said Freed, a former top-ranking executive with Los Angeles-based KB Home and a long-time home builder in the San Francisco Bay Area. "The economy is still fragile, and mortgage loans are more difficult to obtain, so only buyers with top credit and a big cash down-payment" can qualify.


Freed attributed bankers' interest to SummerHill's not having defaulted on any of its debt obligations in the last several years despite the most difficult home-building environment in generations. Going forward, he believes that performance record should give the company a competitive advantage in financing its products and with land sellers.


Freed attributed the decision to make good on all debt to George Marcus, founder and board chairman of The Marcus & Millichap Co., SummerHill's parent. Palo Alto-based Marcus & Millichap is also parent of the Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Brokerage Co., a commercial property investment-sales company active in the Bay Area. George Marcus is also board chairman of Essex Property Trust Inc., a Palo Alto-based real estate investment trust that specializes in multi-family development. Essex also has been active during the bust, buying several Bay Area apartment properties in recent months.


Home values in Mountain View and Los Altos, though depressed from boom-time highs, have been buoyed by proximity to healthy employers such as Mountain View-based Google Inc. and the world-renowned Stanford Research Park. In addition, the subdivision will be served by Mountain View High School in the Mountain View-Los Altos School District, a well-regarded public school system.


The home-building industry, flattened by the housing-led financial crisis and economic bust, is showing signs of renewal. According to data from the Construction Industry Research Board, Santa Clara County leads the state as measured by gains in the number of new housing units permitted compared to 2009, up 227.8 percent year over year through August. Builders pulled permits to construct 2,024 housing units countywide through August, according to the board's most recent report. That is up from 631 units in the same period of 2009 and comparable to activity levels in 2008. New home construction is also outpacing 2009's level in San Francisco and Alameda counties as well.


That said, new-home construction is at a cyclical low statewide and is expected to remain there for the next 14 months, according the research board. "The 2008, 2009 and forecast 2010 and 2011 new housing unit totals are lower than in any prior year on record," the board said in a Sept. 22 report on private building construction statewide. Total new housing units are forecast at 46,500 in 2010, up 28 percent from 2009. The total should increase to 80,000 next year. Previous lows were 85,656 in 1982 and 84,656 in 1993, according to the CIRB.

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Brand new comes at a premium

Wednesday October 13th, 2010 // Palo Alto Online

by Angela Chen


"Premium" is a word developers often use when describing new homes on the Midpeninsula.


With little land available for large developments, builders say demand for "new" exceeds supply, keeping them optimistic about selling the five local new developments at prices higher than resale of older, similar homes.


"There's a segment of population that only wants new and won't consider existing homes," Rob Parker of Regis Homes, developer of Altaire in Palo Alto, said. "This keeps new-home building profitable since there's a good base for the market. Palo Alto has very little room for development, which means a higher premium."


Palo Alto real estate agent Bonnie Biorn noted that -- although the recession has affected the real-estate market as a whole -- the local new-home market has held up relatively well. This, Biorn said, is because the new-home market is primarily driven by the land available for redevelopment. The Midpeninsula's limited supply and high income means high demand.


Altaire, which consists of 103 townhomes and condos, has been on the market since December 2008. These homes range in size from 778 square feet to 1,958 square feet, with one to four bedrooms each and prices ranging from $650,000 to $700,000. Of the 103 residences, 74 have been sold, at a rate of approximately six to eight per month since 2008.


For new-home buyers, the main attractions of Altaire are the Palo Alto location and school district, Parker said. In addition, Altaire is adjacent to the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center, which provides fitness, entertainment and cultural activities.


Parker said Palo Alto's limited room for new construction creates higher demand among the customer base.


This segment of new-home buyers in the Midpeninsula has a distinct profile. According to Parker, typical customers are young couples, usually in their early 30s, who are first-time home buyers. Gary Pike, also of Regis Homes, added that many of the buyers are Asian. They tend to be well-educated and either have small children or are planning to start a family, thus the quality of the nearby schools is a big attraction.


For these customers, convenience and peace of mind draw them to the new-home market, Parker said.


"People like new homes because there's guaranteed to be no problems. All systems and electrical appliances are new, so there are no surprises," Parker said. "Also, new homes come with a builder's warantee, so customers aren't on their own, and sometimes they can customize the appliances and furnishing of the new home."


Robert Freed of SummerHill Homes -- a developer building a block of Palo Alto residences called Redwood Gate -- added that new home buyers in the area are attracted to modern floor plans and the easy commute to other areas of Silicon Valley.


Redwood Gate is comprised of 45 homes and a park on 3.9 acres of land previously owned by the Elks Lodge, on the edge of the Charleston Meadows neighborhood. According to Freed, these are a combination of single-family homes and attached duplex homes, both of which have three to four bedrooms each. They range in size from 1,769 to 2,300 square feet, with prices starting at $1.3 million. SummerHill has sold 32 of the 45 homes at Redwood Gate, although only 23 have been fully completed.


Freed said that there are fewer homes on the market than in the past, due to limited space.


"In areas like Palo Alto, where there are substantial existing residential homes and little land for development, the number of existing homes for sale will always be higher than the new homes for sale," Freed said.


Pike, of Regis, said that new homes have retained their approximate 20 percent premium over resale, though Freed added that the exact premium varies.


"There is still a premium for new homes; however the premium is largely driven by location," Freed said. "It is common for buyers to be in the market for longer before making a decision. In the past, buyers wanted new exclusively. Now when they are looking for new, they want the new home to be in prime locations with good schools in good neighborhoods."


Aside from Altaire, Regis has also built the brand-new Gables End townhomes in Mountain View. These homes also debuted on the market in 2008, although they cost about $100,000 less than their Palo Alto counterparts. Gables End consists of 108 homes, of which 105 have been sold. They are all two- to four-bedroom residences with two-car garages, ranging from approximately 1,250 to 1,950 square feet.


"Gables End is good for its location," Parker said. "It's right on the Palo Alto and Mountain View border, less than a mile from the Google campus, so it has the good attributes of Palo Alto with a lower price."


In the Sylvan Park neighborhood of Mountain View, another new-home option is Mondrian, a condo development built by Shea Homes. Margaret Salazar of Shea Homes said that Mondrian -- whose residences fall into the same price range as Gables End -- offers four different floor plans, ranging from a three-bedroom, 1,410-square-foot plan to a three-bedroom, 1,591-square-foot plan. All have attached two-car garages. Mondrian has 151 of these homes, of which 52 have been sold, Salazar said.


In Menlo Park, Arizona-based developer Taylor Morrison has six new homes available in the Linfield Oaks area, called Morgan Lane. All of these are three-bedroom and four-bedroom single-family homes, ranging from 1,506 square feet to 1,951 square feet. Prices start around $1.1 million.


Despite the limited amount of land available, Parker is optimistic about the future of the new-home market, as developers finish current projects and seek new areas.


"The Peninsula has strong employment and income and limited space. This combination of high income, good employment and lack of supply will keep the market strong," he said.

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Trees on the Move at Former Grant Road Farm

Sunday August 29th, 2010 // San Jose Business Journal

by Katherine Conrad


Almost 35 years after SummerHill Homes was founded in Palo Alto, the upscale homebuilder has pulled up stakes to move to the East Bay.


Robert Freed, president of the company since 2007, said the move to San Ramon is an effort to broaden SummerHill's reach beyond the peninsula as the company works to rebuild its land inventory.


"The move to San Ramon allows us to further emphasize the fact that we are a Bay Area builder as opposed to just a peninsula builder," said Freed, who grew up in the South Bay. "It’s a clear indication that we have a Bay Area-wide focus."


When the market began to slow in 2007, Freed said he, like most builders, stopped buying sites for future developments and focused on survival. The strategy worked, but it also means that SummerHill has few projects in its pipeline.


As production fell, so also have the number of employees, from 152 employees when Freed arrived in 2007 to 58 staffers today — almost all of whom will move to San Ramon. A handful will stay in Palo Alto. And more layoffs are in store as SummerHill closes out four South Bay communities this year. “Unfortunately, we may see further reductions in staff as we rebuild our land pipeline,” he said. “We’re close to the bottom, but we may lose a few more. The most difficult part of all this is dealing with staff reductions.”


Although the layoffs have been painful, Freed said he saw no other way to survive the brutal housing market.


"The idea of adding to the balance sheet with new investments made no sense," said Freed, who headed KB Home's Bay Area operation before joining SummerHill. "Most of us did the proper thing by working through our existing communities and deciding not to reinvest until there is clarity and confidence in the rebound."


That has yet to occur. The market has struggled to find bottom ever since hitting its peak in 2006. The just-released June housing report from California Building Industry Association/Hanley Wood Market Intelligence showed that statewide sales of new houses were off by more than a third from a year ago.


The silver lining in the market report was the news that despite the drop in sales, the median price rose 3 percent compared with a year ago. But it is small comfort.


During June, 2,450 new homes and condominiums were purchased throughout California, compared with 3,850 a year earlier. Condominiums were hit the hardest with sales off by close to 70 percent compared with a year ago. Sales of townhouses were down by 57 percent, and single-family homes suffered the least with a 17 percent drop in sales.


The report echoed Freed’s forecast for the privately owned SummerHill, whose parent company is real estate firm Marcus & Millichap.


"You will not see condominium or podium construction for years and years to come," he said. "It will be single-family homes and townhomes. Constructing condos doesn't make economic sense. The revenues don't support the costs or the returns — it’s too risky."


SummerHill is now building single-family projects and occasionally townhomes. Freed expects to close on property in Saratoga where it is building a 20-unit townhome project, and has projects in the entitlement stages in Danville, San Ramon, Santa Clara, San Jose, and on Grant Road in Mountain View.


Freed said the biggest year was 2009 when SummerHill sold 420 houses — a historical high for the company. He predicts that number to shrink to 100 to 150 homes for the next few years.


Read more: SummerHill Homes heads to East Bay from Palo Alto, consolidates offices | Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal


Note: full article available only to subscribers of SJ Business Journal

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SummerHill Featured in Green Homebuilder

Thursday July 22nd, 2010 // Green Homebuilder

We are excited to have Satake Estates and Redwood Gate featured in a recent Green Homebuilder magazine! SummerHill believes in sustainable building. It is an honor to be recognized for our efforts.


Satake Estates, in Mountain View, and Redwood Gate, in Palo Alto, offer so many green features. Bonus, they are so close to each other that you can visit both communities in an afternoon!


Check out the Green Homebuilder article >>

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California Realtors offers perks to home buyers

Thursday April 1st, 2010 // SFGate

by Carolyn Said


What will it take to get people to buy a home during a brutal recession?


The California Association of Realtors today is rolling out an offer to pay first-time buyers' mortgages for up to six months if they lose their jobs. It's among a variety of incentives the real estate industry is dangling as it desperately tries to lure customers.


CAR's offer is essentially like insurance for people who get laid off. It applies to first-time home buyers who open escrow starting today and close before Dec. 31. They must use a California Realtor in the transaction, not be self-employed and be younger than 70. If qualifying people are downsized, they may receive up to $1,500 a month for up to six months to help make mortgage payments.


"I think it's a little gimmicky," said Robert Freed, CEO of SummerHill Homes, a Palo Alto builder now selling in 10 local developments. "I question the logic of buying a home, car or any other major purchase if you have serious concerns about your job. I think a lot of these advertising strategies are designed to drive traffic (of potential buyers). I certainly support that."


He and others said the No. 1 driver of both traffic and buyers is simple: Low prices.


"Prices have fallen in parts of this state to where they're beginning to make sense again," said Christopher Thornberg, principal of Beacon Economics in Los Angeles. "You're starting to see people move into the market. I know everybody will claim their particular incentive did the trick, but I would argue that price declines trump all."


The current historic lows in interest rates, coupled with lower prices, are beginning to register with some buyers, he said.


Some new-home builders are offering their own buy-downs of interest rates. Miami's Lennar Corp., which has developments in San Francisco and the East Bay, is offering a 30-year fixed 3.625 percent rate on select homes to buyers who meet certain credit and down payment requirements. (Similar to CAR, it also is offering to make mortgage payments for six months for laid-off buyers.) Hovnanian Enterprises recently offered a 3.99 percent rate that met "underwhelming" interest, it told the Wall Street Journal.


Keith Gumbinger, vice president of HSH Associates, which tracks mortgage data, said that cut-rate financing "should be a pretty strong incentive."


In quarterly results released this week, Lennar said it is giving buyers an average sales incentive of $50,500 per home, compared with $48,000 per home in the first quarter last year. The average sales price has fallen from $278,000 to $244,000.


Several industry experts said tax incentives now available - an $8,000 federal credit for first-time buyers and a $10,000 California credit for new home buyers - have gotten people to come in.


"We've definitely seen an uptick in buyer traffic and an increase in sales velocity that appears to be driven both by the tax credits as well as very favorable interest rates and very favorable new home pricing," Freed said.


His projects are offering prices anywhere from 10 percent to 25 percent below their original projections.


Home sellers "continue to fight buyer psychology," said Patrick Duffy, a principal with Metro Intelligence Real Estate Advisers in Los Angeles. "No matter how low they go, people still worry that prices will continue to decline. They have to make them comfortable that the deal is so good they don't have to worry."

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SummerHill makes bet time is ripe for homes at Mirassou Winery site in Evergreen

Saturday March 6th, 2010 // Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal

Hoping to hit a housing market on the rebound, SummerHill Homes is laying the groundwork to build 100 houses on the historical Mirassou Winery site in Evergreen.


The Palo Alto builder picked up the option from the Mirassou estate on the 15-acre site in September after Trumark Properties abandoned its three-year effort to develop the Aborn Road property. The Santa Clara County Assessor has valued the property at a little more than $2 million.


SummerHill President Robert Freed hopes to obtain a general plan amendment changing the property from public park/open space to mixed-use commercial and residential by autumn so he can begin construction next year.


“If we start in spring 2011, we’ll have houses built in either late 2011 or early 2012,” Freed said.


That should be enough time for the lackluster housing market to gain traction. Freed said he believes the market “hit the floor” late last summer, and he’s seen a 2 percent to 3 percent uptick in prices since then.


Denser housing proposed


In a reversal of a trend toward denser multifamily housing, SummerHill plans to build 100 single-family homes on the land whose owners, the Mirassou family, began bottling wine after Prohibition was repealed in 1933. The project includes a mixed-use component with about 20 housing units, or flats, above 10,000 to 20,000 square feet of a ground-floor retail development. The plan also calls for 25,000 square feet of office space to be built.


Even in the midst of a rough market, Freed called the project a “great opportunity.”


“There are very few single-family detached communities in San Jose right now,” he noted.


City project manager Lesley Xavier said SummerHill’s project is currently one of the largest housing developments under consideration in San Jose.


Since the late 1990s, the property has been watched by several developers, all of whom have been stymied by the city and neighborhood’s efforts to first solve traffic congestion before approving development.


Xavier said the city first addressed problems in 2003 and then updated the Evergreen East Hills Development Policy in 2009. The entire area, once covered in orchards and vineyards, stretches from the east hills west to U.S. Highway 101, north to Story Road and south to Hellyer Road.


Xavier said the city plans to circulate a draft environmental impact report by May to give the community a chance to comment on SummerHill’s project.


Mirassou family still owners


An issue that could raise questions is the long history of the property. The land is still owned by the Mirassou family, one of California’s first winemaking families who arrived in California in 1854 when Pierre Pellier sailed from France with grape cuttings to plant in the new world.


But it is now under the control of a trustee, appointed to handle the sale of the estate, according to land use attorney Andrew Faber of Berliner Cohen.


While the historical aspects make the property appealing, it’s also very challenging, Freed said. If SummerHill gets approval to build houses, it must restore the Peter Mirassou house, built in 1924, and the 12,000-square-foot winery warehouse constructed in 1937. But how the house, designated as a historic city landmark in 2005, will be used is undecided.


Joe Head, also of SummerHill, said it will take “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to restore the industrial warehouse and the 1,500-square-foot house.


“We can and will restore it to be a completely safe, seismically modern building,” he said. “But there’s still a question of what we will do with it when it’s done.”


As well as how to pay for its upkeep and preservation.


Historic consultant Bonnie Bamburg, who is very familiar with the Mirassou family, said the property is covered with structures built during the second half of the 20th century, but only the house and warehouse have historical significance.


“I have a lot of respect for what the Mirassou family has done for winery in the state of California,” she said. “The house where Peter Mirassou lived gives us a sense of our wine heritage.”


Peter Mirassou’s descendant, Edmund Mirassou, worked tirelessly to promote California wines at a time when only French wines were held in esteem. Bamburg said Edmund persuaded President Lyndon Johnson in 1967 to stop serving French wines and serve only American wines in the White House, a policy still in practice today.


The Mirassous stopped producing wine at the property several years ago and sold the label to E&J Gallo Winery in 2002. Daniel Mirassou, a member of the fifth generation, said in 2007 that he could no longer afford to operate a winery in the Santa Clara Valley. He moved his winemaking operation to the Livermore Valley in 2005, using the name La Rochelle, which is the port in France from which his ancestors sailed.


Regardless of the fact that wine is no longer made on the property, Freed said its history will give the development a unique identity.


“You do enjoy a sense of place. Some locations give more opportunity for that than others,” he said. “This is one of them.”

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SummerHill Homes earns award for building new homes that protect the environment through energy efficiency

Sunday May 3rd, 2009

SummerHill Homes is proud of the recognition that we're receiving for our commitment to energy efficiency.  We were recently recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with a 2009 ENERGY STAR Leadership in Housing Award. This award recognizes the important contribution SummerHill Homes has made to energy-efficient construction and environmental protection by building more than 296 ENERGY STAR qualified homes last year. Collectively, these homes will save our customers approximately $132,312 on utility bills each year.


The environmental benefits of these ENERGY STAR qualified homes are equal to the equivalent of:



    • Eliminating the emissions from 145.04 vehicles;

  • Saving 877,344 lbs of coal;

  • Planting 239.76 acres of trees; or

  • Saving the environment 1,720,648 pounds of CO2 per year.


To earn the ENERGY STAR, a home must meet strict guidelines for energy efficiency set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These homes are at least 15% more energy efficient than homes built to the 2004 International Residential Code (IRC), and include additional energy-saving features that typically make them 20–30% more efficient than standard homes.


"SummerHill is proud to be recognized by Energy Star for our efforts to build homes that reduce our impact on the environment," said Robert Freed, president and CEO of SummerHill Homes, "we will continue to be innovative in our commitment to energy conservation and sustainable living."


ENERGY STAR qualified homes offer homebuyers all the features they want in a new home, plus energy-saving features like effective insulation systems, high performance windows, tight construction and ducts, properly-sized and installed efficient heating and cooling equipment, efficient products, and third-party verification of energy performance.


"Most homebuyers focus on what's outside the walls," said Sam Rashkin, National Director for EPA's ENERGY STAR Homes Program, "but they also need to look behind the walls for the energy-efficient features found in ENERGY STAR qualified homes that help ensure comfort, quiet, improved indoor air quality, and low utility bills for years to come."


About ENERGY STAR
ENERGY STAR was introduced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1992 as a voluntary market-based partnership to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through increased energy efficiency. Today, ENERGY STAR offers businesses and consumers energy-efficient solutions to save energy, money and help protect the environment for future generations. More than 12,000 organizations are ENERGY STAR partners committed to improving the energy efficiency of products, homes, buildings and businesses. For more information about ENERGY STAR, visit www.energystar.gov or call toll-free 1-888-STAR-YES (1-888-782-7937).

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Homebuilding changes in 2009

Monday March 9th, 2009 // KGO-ABC7

Robert Freed, the president and CEO of SummerHill Homes, one of the area's largest builders, recognizes that the rest of 2009 will be challenging. "The key to housing has always been job growth, so we'll watch the job growth numbers locally and nationally very carefully and consumer confidence."


Watch Robert's KGO interview >>

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Builders Seeing More Traffic

Monday March 9th, 2009 // Contra Costa Times

by George Avalos (Staff Writer)


SAN RAMON — Government tax credits appear to have propelled a bump in traffic for Bay Area home builders, but residential developers said Tuesday that no recovery will materialize for the battered industry until 2010, at best.


This mixture of hopeful and grim assessments was delivered to 220 people in the building and construction services and products industry who gathered in San Ramon for an event organized by the Homebuilding Purchasing Agents, Subcontractors and Suppliers organization, along with local builders.


"Builders are seeing an increase in traffic of 10, 15, 20 percent in the last few weeks," Ray Panek, an executive with the Pleasanton office of KB Home, and chairman of the San Ramon-based Home Builders Association of Northern California, said in an interview after the event ended. "People are taking advantage of the tax credits. They are helping."


Builders also say they have seen an increase in new-home sales compared with the last few months of 2008.
SummerHill Homes sold 52 new houses in its Bay Area markets during the first two months of 2009, and it sold another seven residences last weekend, reported Robert Freed, president of SummerHill, one of the Bay Area's largest home builders.


The pace of about 25 sales a month for the first part of 2009 is about double the monthly rate for the final four months of 2008. But it's still below the sales levels for the same months in 2008.


Still, the uptick is encouraging, builders said.


"It's much better than I had seen the last four or five months," said Layne Marceau, Northern California division president for Shea Homes, during his presentation to the gathering.


Traffic also is up for Toll Brothers, the company said.


Still, the recent upsurge could be transitory, depending on the effect and duration of the tax credits. And the improvement in traffic can't mask the dismal state of the Bay Area residential construction industry.


"I'm not terribly optimistic for 2009," Freed said. "It's going to be a tough year for all of us. It's survival time."
Builders believe they will have to ride out the sluggish times until at least early 2010.


"I believe we will find a bottom by the end of 2010," said Glen Martin, group president for the Northern California operations of Toll Brothers. The company might start to seek to buy land starting in 2010.


But for now, prices for new homes remain "unstable" and are trending lower, Martin said.


The building slump has jolted suppliers and contractors that are vendors for residential builders.


Livermore-based California Landscape Dimensions had about 100 employees roughly 18 months ago. It now has 30, Sonja Beardsley, general manager of the engineering and landscaping contractor said in an interview.
The builders themselves have reduced staff and consolidated operations in significant ways.


The slump also makes it uncertain that vendors will land contracts with builders, even if they are aggressive, said David Goodin, regional sales manager for the Northern California operations of Hardy Frames, which provides products for new homes.


"Every job is like a fire drill," Goodin said. "If you hear about a job, there is a great sense of urgency. Then you bid and then you find out that the project was delayed because the builder can't get financing."


Developers have trimmed their prices to battle against sellers of foreclosed homes or other pre-owned houses. Builders seek to price homes at $300,000 to $400,000. In contrast, "It is really a struggle" to attempt to sell new homes for about $500,000 to $600,000, Marceau said.


To help slash prices, builders have scaled back the size of their projects. Shea Homes had been constructing homes of 2,700 square feet, but now typically offer homes of 2,000 square feet. Shea also has jettisoned a lot of goodies that used to come with a home.


"All the builders lost significant amounts of money in 2008 and we will probably lose money in 2009," Freed said.

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SummerHill Homes wins GuildQuality's 2009 Guildmaster Award

Thursday February 26th, 2009

Palo Alto, CA – SummerHill Homes, a leading homebuilder in the Bay Area, announced today that the company has been awarded a 2009 Guildmaster Award for exceptional customer satisfaction. SummerHill Homes was one of 95 homebuilders, contractors, developers, and home services companies throughout North America recognized for their excellent performance.


"SummerHill is thrilled to be recognized by GuildQuality for our commitment to customer satisfaction," said Robert Freed, president and CEO of SummerHill Homes, "We strive for excellent customer service and it is an honor to receive a Guildmaster award for these efforts."


"We're excited to recognize the great performance of SummerHill Homes," said Geoff Graham, founder and president of GuildQuality. "Their passion for delivering a superior customer experience shines through in the feedback we received from their customers."


About GuildQuality
GuildQuality provides customer satisfaction surveying and performance reporting for over 500 homebuilders, remodelers, and contractors in North America. GuildQuality collects feedback directly from customers and reports back to the building professional through a web-based service. On average, more than 70% of customers respond to GuildQuality surveys, and their feedback includes rich commentary and quantitative ratings.


About the Guildmaster Awards
Once a year, GuildQuality recognizes exceptional customer service with the Guildmaster Awards. Visit the Guildmaster section of the GuildQuality website to see information about all 2009 Award Winners, or visit the GuildQuality blog to read about the awards qualifications.

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The experts weigh in on the state of the market

Wednesday January 14th, 2009 // The Registry: The Bay Area Real Estate Journal

We know about financing issues and the current state of the market, but what issues/trends are we not talking about that we should be?
Robert Freed (RF) – The risk profile for residential real estate has increased dramatically. As economic conditions stabilize in the future, I still expect that the risk associated with the residential market will be perceived as very high. The result will be less debt and equity available for development and the cost of this capital will be higher as compared to the prior 5-7 years. To support higher risk and cost of capital, profit margins on proposed developments will have to be substantial.


What's the employment outlook for this industry in the next 12 months?
RF – Lousy and getting worse. Unfortunately there is a large number of very experienced, very qualified residential professionals who are unemployed. For companies thinking about the future, the opportunity to hire this caliber of individual is one of the few silver linings of this real estate depression.


How will your organization respond to the market changes in 2009?
In a word—aggressively. We have right-sized our headcount, we have hired some very experienced individuals for key leadership positions, and we are re-examining our operating policies and procedures in order to improve our efficiency. In open communities, we are focused on reducing debt by aggressively pricing our homes and managing our standing inventory. We are maintaining key banking relationships, and we are building new equity relationships as we prepare for the future.


Outside of the Bay Area, what projects or things are happening in 2009 that you'll be paying attention to and why?
RF – No real surprises here, we are watching economic data both locally and nationally for indications of a bottom. We are watching reports on consumer confi dence, mortgage rates, mortgage availability and underwriting standards. We are watching and hoping for leadership in Washington.


What will get people into open houses in 2009?
RF – Affordability and confidence as they look forward. I also believe that an individual who understands and appreciates that home ownership is not just an investment decision will be more willing to acquire a home in the next 12 months. Home is our sanctuary, a gathering place for friends and family, a place to create life-long memories, the difference between a neighborhood and a zip code. I believe that there is an emotional quotient that should be calculated and considered when purchasing a home.


If you were dispensing advice to a young professional entering the market in 2009, what do you say?
RF – The ongoing staff reductions are making it very challenging for young professionals to break in—or stay in—the homebuilding industry these days, which is unfortunate. However, there are options and strategies for those who are serious about  succeeding in the industry. They may try approaching city or county planning departments, redevelopment agencies—basically, looking at their career options through a different portal. Financial institutions with large numbers of REOs in their portfolios could also be looking for help. These types of career considerations could position a young person to be a real player when the market returns. But my advice is patience, because housing challenges are now a global issue and will be for some time.


What sectors of the residential market will fare best or worst in 2009?
RF – It appears that residential rental projects will continue to outperform for-sale projects. For-sale projects in the best locations will perform better than those projects in inferior locations, and all for-sale projects must be priced below the resale medians if any reasonable level of absorption is to occur.


How will the Bay Area fare in relation to other parts of the country?
RF – We believe that the core Bay Area will actually out-perform the rest of the United States. There’s just too much of an upside to living in the Bay Area to keep us in recovery-mode for too many years. The Bay Area has tremendous lifestyle opportunities and diversity. The uniqueness of the Bay Area is its ability to reinvent itself—we’re the high tech center of the universe with worldclass universities contributing to a highly educated and affluent population. It is one of our nation’s premier regions to live—the only hindrance has been the high cost of housing. With a moderation in housing prices here and throughout California, we should be prepared for an upswing within 3-5 years.


How will a successful deal look like in 2009?
RF – For home buyers, a successful deal will be the purchase of a home that fits their lifestyle and that is affordable for their income level. For the home builder/ developer, a successful deal will be a site that can be optioned at an appropriate price with time to complete entitlements and a closing that is not scheduled to occur any sooner than the middle of 2010.


What surprises you most about the residential market right now?
RF- I am surprised by the depth of the decline of residential values in the outer ring of the Bay Area.

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Q&A with Robert Freed – Review 2008 Preview 2009

Thursday January 1st, 2009 // Silicon Valley Business Journal

Robert Freed, President and CEO, SummerHill Homes, Palo Alto


Freed is a veteran home builder, having worked at KB Home for 14 years, the final years as president of the Northern California division. He also served as chief financial officer for Davidon Homes and Blawkhawk Corp.Q&A: What do you see looking ahead into 2009?


A: It’s fair to say this is a residential real estate depression on an order of magnitude that even those of us in the business for 30-plus years have not experienced. I think it is fundamentally changing what home building will look like in the future. There will be far fewer home builders in the future.


In 2009, SummerHill will stay focused on urban infill on the peninsula, in Santa Clara County and up the eastern border into Alameda County. We are under contract and processing entitlements for 1,350 homes on Communications Hill in San Jose.


We think SummerHill is well positioned to prosper financially.


I do think that in terms of home values in the Bay Area, if we’re not at the bottom, we’re very near. I expect 2009 to be a transition year. By the end of the year, we should be returning to some level of stability.

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2009 May Be Year to Build On

Thursday December 25th, 2008 // San Francisco Chronicle

by Carolyn Said


Robert Freed vividly recalls the first house he saw under construction. When he was in the second grade, his parents built a home in Saratoga.


"There was a point in time when the foundation had been poured," he said. "I walked it with my grandmother and grandfather; they put coins in the corners of the foundation to bring us good luck. It was the first time I knew of such a tradition; I remember the experience being so wonderful."


Since then, Freed has gone on to mastermind the building of umpteen homes around the United States as a senior executive at KB Homes, Davidon Homes and Blackhawk Corp.


These days, Freed has returned to his Bay Area roots as CEO of builder SummerHill Homes of Palo Alto, which has projects under way in San Jose, Palo Alto, Menlo Park, San Bruno, South San Francisco, Fremont and Union City. Its focus is infill development - using land within built-up areas - which he considers the right approach for the Bay Area. SummerHill projects range from smaller, single-family detached homes to condos, with density per acre ranging from "north of 30" to six units.


Freed joined SummerHill in September 2007 - just after the credit crunch really walloped the already-foundering real estate market.


"My timing could be considered either impeccable or unfortunate," he said dryly.


He sees his role as guiding the company through the turbulence and positioning it to emerge strong amid a shrunken field of competitors.


While the entire real estate market is reeling from the foreclosure crisis, plunging home prices, drastically tightened lending and this year's Wall Street meltdowns, home builders are among the most affected.


"It's been a brutal year for new-home builders, especially for private builders," said Patrick Duffy, principal of consulting firm Metro Intelligence Real Estate Advisors in Los Angeles. That's because private builders rely heavily on bank financing, which has been effectively shut off in recent months, he said. Public firms have more options, such as lines of credit and selling stock.


The industry's own trade group, the California Building Industry Association, said home building is in "dire straits." The pace of home sales in October, for instance, was "extraordinarily bad," it said, down 63 percent from a year earlier. New-home starts have plunged to record lows. CBIA projects that only 66,000 new homes and condos will be built in California this year, compared with 160,500 in 2006.


Duffy said SummerHill's saving grace likely is that it's owned by Marcus & Millichap, a national real estate investment brokerage from Encino (Los Angeles County). "I would think having Marcus & Millichap behind them would be analogous to having a public company behind them," he said. "That leverage probably helps."


Freed doesn't mince words when talking about the obstacles.


"This is definitely the most challenging and most severe downturn I've experienced," he said. "It gets tougher and tougher to secure financing. Revenues are clearly down. Absorption rates - the rate at which one sells - are clearly down. There are fewer buyers, and they're looking for what they perceive to be bargains at the expense of the seller. It's like daily hand-to-hand combat."


Like most of its competitors, SummerHill has had to reduce staff significantly, shrinking from about 125 positions to 80. At the same time, "We've taken the opportunity to hire some very senior people who became available to us because of the downturn," Freed said.


In another move to be ready to rebound once the market turns around, "We've made a conscious decision to maintain staffing levels in land acquisition and forward planning" - obtaining government approvals, for instance.

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