The Village of Escaya will include a community park. Rendering courtesy of HomeFed Corp.

The Village of Escaya will include a community park. Rendering courtesy of HomeFed Corp.

Top Dollar

The luxury residential real estate market saw highlights in 2018.

Some of the top sales include:

$21.5M

LOCATION: Del Mar (92014)

BUYER: John Hood

SELLER: David Batchelder

LISTING AGENTS: Eric Iantorno, Lindsay Dunlap (Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty)

$18M

LOCATION: Del Mar (92014)

BUYER: Jay Flatley

SELLER: Robert W. Carson

LISTING AGENTS: Eric Iantorno, Clinton Selfridge (Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty)

$16.5M

LOCATION: Del Mar (92014)

BUYER: Steven Mack

SELLER: Harvey Amster, Caleb D. Furgatch Trust, Adam Furgatch, Caleb Furgatch, Harvey Furgatch Trust, Amy Wachsner

LISTING AGENT: Eric Iantorno, Kathy Herington (Pacific Sotheby’s International Realty)

$16.2M

LOCATION: La Jolla (92037)

BUYER: BGP Idle Hour LLC

SELLER: Avalon Capital

Group LLC

LISTING AGENT: Greg Noonan (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices)

$15.5M

LOCATION: Del Mar (92014)

BUYER: 2112 Ocean Front LLC,

a California LLC

SELLER: 2112 Ocean Front LLC,

a Delaware LLC

LISTING AGENT: Laura Barry (Barry Estates)

A new community that is a mini city of sorts is taking shape in eastern Chula Vista’s Otay Ranch with a goal of re-creating the feel of older small towns but with the amenities modern homebuyers want at a price they can afford.

The Village of Escaya was designed from the outset to have a different look to it, with parks scattered throughout, meandering paths to encourage people to leave their cars and walk the community, a mix of housing styles, retail shops, a community park and an elementary school site — all meant to give it that sense of neighborhood, said Kent Aden, vice president and senior development manager of HomeFed Corp.

“Escaya really took a different thematic approach,” said Raine Hunter, principal of RH Consulting Group.

“The street scene is really eclectic and interesting. You kind of get away from that monotony of every third house rotating a floor plan,” Hunter said. “It has a different feel, like it was built over time.”

HomeFed is developing the 450-acre project in partnership with Brookfield Residential, Lennar Corp. and Shea Homes.

“This is HomeFed’s calling card into Otay Ranch,” Hunter said. “It’s their first development in the community.”

The Styles

The project has nine home styles with 21 floor plans from townhomes to single-family homes.

“The idea is if a buyer comes in, we’ll have something for everyone,” Aden said.

Escaya also mixes up the design of the homes to avoid the cookie-cutter look of some newer developments that cluster all the homes by a single builder in one section.

In Escaya, homes of various designs by the three builders on the project are mixed together, and the architecture shifts, with stucco still the dominant exterior finish but with a scattering of homes with wood siding mixed in.

That, too, is meant to evoke the feel of an old-time small-town neighborhood.

“You could probably drive down a street for blocks without seeing another house like your house,” Aden said.

Starting at $400,000

Prices start at just over $400,000 for townhomes of 1,287 square feet with bigger homes of 3,138 square feet to 3,704 square feet starting at just under $700,000.

Some of the larger homes also have so-called granny flats, or casitas, which are almost like their own apartments that can be used by extended families or renters.

Monthly homeowner association fees are $125, Aden said, and he said there’s a monthly community facility fee that varies depending on the size of a home. The community facility fee goes toward providing new schools for the neighborhood.

Apartments in the Mix

In addition to for-sale homes, Escaya will have 272 rental apartments in a mixed use village center that will include retail and restaurant space on the ground floor. The apartments will begin leasing in the summer with lease rates still to be set, Aden said.

A network of pathways weaves through Escaya connecting to the Otay Ranch trail system to give the community a walkable feel.

Among the more prominent amenities is a two-story fitness center that offers group exercise and yoga classes on the first floor with heavy-duty workout equipment on the upper level and a large swimming pool with a separate section for lap swimming and a children’s pool.

Overlooking the pool is a 3,700 square-foot clubhouse that includes a chef’s kitchen.

Still under construction is an eight-acre community park with six kiddie soccer fields, a full-sized basketball court and an outdoor amphitheater.

The project also includes an elementary school site, and a Boys & Girls Club.

Land Is Big Draw

Developers such as HomeFed are drawn to South County for a simple reason — there’s land to build on, said Mark Goldman, a market analyst with C2 Financial Group.

“So much of San Diego County is already developed and homes can be developed down there at affordable pricing. It does seem to be the path of development,” Goldman said. “Other areas are much more infill sort of development.”

For buyers, Goldman said South Bay and Otay Ranch in particular is attractive because home prices are lower, the homes are bigger and they come with many amenities.

“There’s not a lot of places you can get that,” Goldman said. “You go out to 4S Ranch, you’re probably going to pay twice as much probably for the same amenity set.”

Bedroom Community Waking Up

Escaya and the other communities going up in Otay Ranch are critical as South Bay develops new industrial, commercial and office projects, said Cindy Gompper-Graves, president and CEO of the South County Economic Development Council.

“We need housing for the Otay Mesa and East Otay Mesa developments,” Gompper-Graves said. “Escaya is one of the opportunities for people to live closer to where they work.”

Historically, the South Bay has been a bedroom community, with most residents commuting to work elsewhere.

That’s gradually changing.

“We are now feeling the wave of people interested and people moving ahead with their projects,” Gompper-Graves said, adding that several companies are getting close to announcing new projects.

“Things are happening. People are talking to us every day,” Gompper-Graves said. “A lot of people throughout the region are watching what’s happening in South County.”

Aden, who has been working on Otay Ranch since the mid-1990s, said the property historically was used for ranching, grazing and farming.

In 1993, Chula Vista and San Diego County approved a general development plan to allow building of more than 27,000 homes and an open space preserve of more than 13,000 acres.

The Baldwin Co., The Corky McMillin Cos., and Brookfield have developed about 14,000 homes at Otay Ranch.

HomeFed’s plans call for construction of more than 12,000 homes and up to 4,000 square feet of commercial and office development, starting with Escaya.

Escaya went on the market in 2017, and 543 homes in Escaya had been sold as of early April.

As with much of the housing market in San Diego County, sales were slow in late 2018 but have since picked up, Aden said.

“If sales continue at the rate they have since we opened, we’ll be sold out in a year and change,” Aden said.

HomeFed has already started work on its next project in Otay Ranch: Cota Vera, which is planned to include 2,050 homes and up to 140,000 square feet of retail and office space.

The challenge since Otay Ranch first started was getting people interested in buying homes in South Bay.

In the 1990s, developers with projects in Otay Ranch pooled resources for an advertising campaign promoting the area, Aden said.

“The people who live here love it and don’t want to be anywhere else,” Aden said.

Real estate reporter Ray Huard may be reached at rhuard@sdbj.com or 858-277-8904.