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A Little Piece of Land by the Sea

When I think about beach real estate, the word that immediately comes to mind is Expensive. Having grown up near the ocean in Southern California, I know that my unfiltered, knee-jerk reaction is correct. Having also lived in San Francisco, Chicago, and Manhattan (and endured 60-degree summer days and minus 10-degree winter days), I also know that the exorbitant cost of coastal real estate in the state of California is --well-- worth it. This is the #goldenstate after all--and how much more golden can one get than living on the golden coast?

So, when a little pie-shaped piece of land in the #CityofSanClemente popped on and off the market for a "Steal it" price a few years after the housing downturn, I couldn't resist. The lot was a hillside, coastal canyon lot with mediocre development prospects, due to its lack of a decent-sized building pad, and "Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area" classification from the California Coastal Commission. BUT, it was beautiful!!!

And sooooo special. . . just look for yourself:

My (poor) husband had just started a new job, my kids had just started a new middle school, and we had just moved into what was hopefully going to be a two-year (at the most) rental until we found our new #dreamhouse. I texted my husband in his corporate training class and proposed that we drive straight to the lot the minute he got off off his plane, a decision I now recognize as a truly Sagittarian "I'm Creative" request that to this day I wonder if I should have ever made.

Fast forward one week: We were in escrow; our lives forever changed by two strokes of a pen.

The point of this blog is not to bore you with details-- although some arduous details I have! It is also NOT to dissuade anyone from entering the complicated development rabbit hole that we inevitably fell into and have endured for over four years. Its purpose is really to help anyone out there by learning from our naivete in the hopes of the next landowner developing their coastal project faster, more efficiently, and maybe even for less money.

That said, here are some stats for you about our project:

Time in escrow: Six months (LOTS of investigating!)

Time spent permit processing with the City of San Clemente (all departments: planning, engineering, and building): 3.5 years total

Time spent permit processing with the California Coastal Commission (including required actions to obtain permit): 18 months

Time spent permit processing with the local Fire Authority: six months

Construction/Build time, including grading: 18 months

Percentage over budget/Construction: 3%

Percentage over budget for total project costs, including consultants and permiting: 30%

Amount of money needed to be cut in interior and exterior finishes in order to stay on budget: $70,0000

Amount of female #grayhair grown: over 1,000 (estimated)

Amount of male hair lost: 25%

"Has it been worth it?" is what everyone asks. Let me re-phrase that for the average person who has never built a custom home. That is like asking someone who has just saved for four years to buy a Tesla CASH if "It's been worth it" before they've even driven their new car. Just wait until we move-in already, people!

In subsequent #ModernCoastalCanyonHouse (m c c) blog entries, I intend to cover all the (interesting) nuances such as choosing interior and exterior finishes, landscaping, hardscaping, how to stay on budget/where to find deals, and working with contractors and sub-contractors. I also intend to write about all the (not-so-interesting) drudgery aspects of our project such as "Should I Hire an 'Expeditor' or 'Land-use' Attorney?" "How to Deal with the California Coastal Commission without Dying First," "Baking for Firemen," and "Does the Permit Technician at the Building Department Counter Really Hate Me?"

But, as the floors are being laid, the walls are being painted, and the stucco color coat is being applied to our new modern-style home, we are at once hopeful, excited and YES-- proud. Proud of our accomplishments--in spite of how ignorant we were about the process, and just plain inspired by our grit to stick with this monster-of-a-lifetime-project and FINISH IT.

Welcome to our adventure--

Warm regards,


Modern Coastal Canyon House


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