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Monday, March 18 , 2019, 11:36 pm | Fair 53º


Pasadera Development Bringing 800 Homes to Guadalupe — And Some Are Under $400,000

Housing project expected to boost the small city's population and tax revenues

Pasadera housing development in Guadalupe
The Pasadera development in Guadalupe will add 802 homes, plus a school and community center.  (David Middlecamp / San Luis Obispo Tribune photo)

The small city of Guadalupe is just steps away from the San Luis Obispo County line — a five-minute walk gets you to the heart of downtown — yet brand-new homes there easily cost $100,000 to $200,000 less than similar models in SLO County.

Prices in the Pasadera development range from $350,000 to $480,000 — without the homeowners association fees that can add hundreds of dollars to monthly housing costs.

“It’s probably the cheapest housing on the entire coast of California,” said former San Luis Obispo City Councilman Andrew Carter, who served as city manager of Guadalupe from 2013 until 2016.

Housing in northern Santa Barbara County has traditionally been much less expensive than residential real estate in neighboring San Luis Obispo County.

Santa Maria, in particular, experienced a huge housing boom over the past 30 to 40 years — so much so that many San Luis Obispo residents have pointed to the city as an example of the type of growth to be avoided.

Guadalupe, though, hasn’t seen much in the way of residential development — until now.

Pasadera is approved for 802 homes, plus a school and small commercial center. So far, 120 homes have been built, with dozens more under construction. Another 80 per year will be added until the project is complete.

The new housing is expected to boost the population of the small, largely Latino farming community from the current 7,300 to around 11,000, and generate enough new tax revenue to bring economic stability to a city that would have gone broke a few years ago if voters hadn’t passed new taxes.

An oasis of affordability 

Emma Reynoso was one of the first to buy in Pasadera; she has a two-story home with three bedrooms and an office. The cost: $378,000.

Reynoso and her husband moved from Hollister, where housing prices are much higher. Sadly, her husband died six weeks after the couple moved to Guadalupe, and she’s now considering moving back to Hollister, even though she loves her home in Guadalupe.

“It’s like being on vacation,” she said.

Pasadera homes are in the typical modern California mission style — earth tones with tile roofs, some with balconies, shuttered windows and double garages.

There are no golf courses, swimming pools or day spas, but there are views of sand dunes, the beach is 5 miles away, and the prices are right. That’s not been lost on house hunters priced out of the SLO County market.

Scott McKenzie, who works in the Pasadera sales office, estimates that 15 to 20 percent of buyers work in San Luis Obispo County, commuting to jobs at the California Men’s Colony, Cal Poly, even as far away as Atascadero.

From an urban planning standpoint, that’s not ideal.

Commuting puts more cars on the road, increasing gridlock and degrading air quality. And because commuters spend more time on the road, that leaves less time to spend with family, to get involved in community events, to walk the dog or work out at the gym.

Why not SLO?

But could a project like Pasadera ever take shape anywhere in San Luis Obispo County?

Craig Smith, the developer of Pasadera, is doubtful.

Land cost is one big reason; he bought 200 acres of Guadalupe farmland approximately 15 years ago, when costs were relatively low, and held on until the timing was right.

Also, water isn’t an issue there like it is elsewhere; the project has access to state water and well water.

The land is flat, which makes it easier to build. 

Developer Craig Smith Click to view larger
Developer Craig Smith has been working on the Pasadera development in Guadalupe for over a decade. D (David Middlecamp / San Luis Obispo Tribune photo)

And Smith encountered minimal resistance — no NIMBYS sought to block the project. 

“Guadalupe has been very agreeable and enthusiastic about the project,” said Smith. “They want to see it succeed. It’s bringing new life into the community.”

Andrew Hackleman, executive director of the Home Builders Association of the Central Coast, isn’t completely ruling out a Pasadera-type project in San Luis Obispo County, but because land costs and fees are are higher there, it would be much more difficult.

The time it takes to get a project approved is another hurdle.

“Timing is everything, right? If they could get through the process in a year instead of six years ... that’s going to make a big difference in what they can sell (homes) for,” he said.

Guadalupe’s economy

While the small city once had a reputation for crime and corruption, that’s long past.

Today, Guadalupe consistently rates as one of the safest communities in the state in various quality-of-life rankings.

But it’s taken some big financial hits. It once had a thriving restaurant row anchored by the Far Western Tavern steak house — a landmark dining house that drew fans from around the Central Coast, much like Jocko’s in Nipomo, the Hitching Post in Casmalia and F. McClintock’s in Shell Beach — but the Far Western closed its Guadalupe restaurant years ago and relocated to Orcutt.

Now, the main tourist attraction in town is the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center, a museum that houses, among other things, a display of artifacts from the set of Cecil B. DeMille’s Ten Commandments, which was filmed in the Guadalupe Dunes.

Otherwise, the town is dominated by small, mom-and-pop restaurants and stores, independent grocers, storefront churches — and shuttered buildings.

Guadalupe town mural Click to view larger
The Pasadera development in Guadalupe will generate much-needed tax revenues for the city.  (Stephanie Finucane / San Luis Obispo Tribune photo)

A lack of sales tax revenue has been tough on the city; so much so that a few years ago the Santa Barbara County civil grand jury recommended the city dissolve.

Voters came to the rescue by passing three different tax and fee measures, though a 2018 grand jury report says the city has made only limited progress.

City officials are banking on Pasadera to turn that around.

“This development is a lifesaver for Guadalupe,” said Mayor Ariston Julian.

Each Pasadera home will, on average, generate around $600 per year in property taxes for the city, he said. By contrast, older homes in a development called Treasure Park bring in only $27 per year.

The commercial sector is looking up as well. The mayor rattles off the names of five small businesses that recently opened, and as the population grows — 10,000 is the magic number — that’s expected to attract national chains.

City officials don’t foresee a Target or Walmart, but they hope there will be enough commercial growth to keep residents from doing most of their shopping in nearby Santa Maria. 

For longtime residents like Jose Prado, who lives in Pasadera with his wife and young daughter, what’s happening is a welcome change.

“This will be a different Guadalupe,” he predicted.

[Click here for more stories from The San Luis Obispo Tribune.]

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