Thursday, March 10, 2022

By Thor Kamban Biberman

Cornerstone Communities, in conjunction with Presidio Residential Capital, has entered the all-electric home market with its new upscale 80-unit townhome community in Santee named Laurel Heights.

Model construction will begin this spring, and the first homes released for sale will start construction in the summer.

Located southeast of Aubrey Glen Drive and Mission Gorge Road, Laurel Heights will offer three
floorplans with three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms. Ranging in size from 1,601 square feet to 1,818
square feet, the two largest plans will also offer second-floor lofts or home offices. There will be between three and five townhomes per building.

The development will be powered by solar panels above the townhomes. Each residence will feature an array of smart home features, including heat pumps, air conditioners, dryers, induction ovens and stovetops — instead of natural gas — highly efficient electrical appliances that save energy, improve indoor air quality and leave a smaller carbon footprint. The townhomes also will be pre-wired for electrical car charging.

“We’ll have 220 power outlets in the garages,” said Cornerstone CEO Ure Kretowicz said.

He said while natural gas may be a cheaper way to go for numerous appliances, with an all-electric
home, energy charges can disappear.

“Plus, California is mandating solar panels for all new homes,” Kretowicz said, adding it is only a matter of time before natural gas will no longer be able to be a part of new home construction.

“It’s good for the planet and our homeowners’ pocketbooks, and that is certain to appeal to our target demographic of millennials and young families,” Cornerstone President and COO Michael Sabourin said in a statement. “Buyers not only receive a modern home with smart technology and lower utility bills, they’re also helping the environment.”

Cornerstone’s first foray into the all-electric home model comes at a time when California lawmakers and activists are pushing for energy-efficient appliances and phasing out gas hookups for homes in the Golden State. Given that roughly 80 percent of all homes still rely on natural gas, this will be a massive change in the way homes are constructed.

Last August, the California Energy Commission passed new energy codes that incentivize electric
appliances and efficient heating and cooling systems that will go into effect in 2023.

Unlike in a single-family home, Kretowicz said while each of the buildings will have their own set of
panels, they won’t necessarily be directly above the unit they are powering.

The prices for the townhomes have yet to be determined.

The townhomes at Laurel Heights will feature private, fenced rear yards, and attached, direct-access two car garages. Some of the home sites will have mountain views and oversized yards.

The development will feature a community pool, tot lot, grassy park area and nearby hiking access at the scenic Mission Trails Regional Park and Santee Lakes.

Located in southwestern Santee, less than two miles from State Route 52, it’s also proximate to major retail shopping, services and schools. Elementary and middle school students can attend Chet F. Harritt School in the Santee School District and high school students can attend West Hills High School in the Grossmont Union High School District.

Kretowicz said Laurel Heights is just the beginning of Cornerstone’s foray into the all-electric new home market. It is planning multiple all-electric projects, including a planned 450-townhome development known as Candlelight in the Otay Mesa/San Ysidro area. Kretowicz has defined the project as “incredible workforce housing.”

The Candlelight project will consist of three-story townhomes with 3-bed/2.5-bath floorplans.
Cornerstone has built and closed escrows on more than 1,400 detached and attached homes during the past four years. Many of these have been joint ventures with Presidio Residential Capital.

“We have a great relationship with Presidio,” Kretowicz said. “We have developed 16 projects and more than 1,500 homes with them.”

Last year, Cornerstone closed escrow on 306 single-family homes and townhomes for a gross revenue of more than $206 million. The 306 units were in eight developments in San Diego County and the Inland Empire.

The developer also expects to close out five more communities this year, totaling 242 townhomes and 246 single-family homes.

Kretowicz said it has been very challenging to build these days for two major reasons. One is the cost
and availability of land. The second is the wild fluctuations in lumber prices from $1,226 to $2,310 per 1,000-board-foot during the past year.

“That adds over $30,000 per house to the price,” he said.

The management team at Cornerstone Communities has developed, mapped, and/or constructed more than 17,000 homes in 70-plus developments throughout California and Nevada.

San Diego-based Presidio Residential Capital has infused more than $1.5 billion into the economy to
capitalize the housing industry. The firm’s goal is to invest in excess of $100 million in capital for homebuilding projects in the Western United States in the next 12 months.