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Real estate still a matter of people

Visiting Santa Barbara is like a trip to yesterday. I spent some of my honeymoon there; saw my first mission; walked State Street before it became a University Main Street; watched an old conservative town become home to a major university -- as older citizens reacted to their new "neighbors" not unlike La Jolla's experience with UCSD.

As we drove through Orange County, Los Angeles and then Thousand Oaks, I passed so many projects for which I had done studies, including Mission Viejo, Aliso Viejo, Lake Forest, Westlake Village and Playa Vista. These are all huge developments. Now I work on projects in several foreign countries and focus on assisting existing urban areas in their quest for revitalization and hope.

I liken this to building a "new town" in an old town. Any new town requires a huge amount of time to evolve through research, planning and entitlement -- an average of a decade and many times, twice that in Southern California. So the market positioning must travel the same patient road of updating data and insight.

The "new town" in an old town takes a different kind of patience -- its infrastructure and planning have been completed and have evolved over the years. Most of the land is occupied, so it requires rethinking of what the revitalization requires. The inhabitants worry about gentrification, absentee landlords and how far to commute to work each day, as well as old schools and other institutions. A primary strength of these places is their faith-based institutions -- the spiritual infrastructure which renders hope to the deprived and the hopeless.

Love is also part of real estate: "I love this deal;" "This is mine" -- a most precious realization, no matter how simple or old or small, it is loved. I am amazed at how much energy a family can summon when they have gone so long ignored by politicians and bankers. There is a resilience that inspires my optimism in bootstrap America. A bootstrap is what the "little people" grab onto, to pull themselves and their families into better economic conditions.

Americans believe a home is the anchor for their family, their memories of growing up or the old country, their ambitions for their family's future. The home is incomparable as far as being the real family jewel, again, no matter its size or age.

This is why I love working with the denizens of the Bronze Triangle, who will be gathering on the June 29, to go through a charrette -- a series of explorations in which the people learn, teach and share what they want their community to become. Gail Taylor, my partner in Tomorrow Makers, will assist Gale Walker and her community in making this a great testimony to community pride and achievement and education.

It isn't just the new that is in a state of becoming a community; it is also the old "shedding its skin" and becoming what it is supposed to be to live in America. As I drove, passing through these several counties, I thought back to all the studies I had conducted, always inventing new small and large communities, comprehending that it is not the buildings, but the people who form their neighborhoods, that are the community.

People are the basic resource of San Diego. Nothing can replace their effort to leave their community better than it was when they first moved in. This is our shared legacy, no matter that it is called real estate.

Goodkin is an international real estate adviser and strategist, and a housing analyst since 1956. He can be reached at sandy.goodkin@sddt.com.

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