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Stonefield focuses on rebuilding Scripps Ranch

After the smoke cleared and the layer of ash that covered the streets had been swept away, the devastation Firestorm 2003 had wrought was clearly visible.

One of the homes in Scripps Ranch days after the fire swept through San Diego County.

According to the California Department of Forestry, homes ruined in the fires totaled in the thousands, with over 2,000 destroyed in the Cedar Fire of east San Diego county and over 200 destroyed in the Paradise Fire, which originated near Valley Center.

The fires left many area residents homeless. In the Whispering Ridge neighborhood of Scripps Ranch, however, hope is beginning to materialize in the shape of new homes. Stonefield Development, a regional company, has taken on the challenge of rebuilding 81 homes in Whispering Ridge. The scale of this project is one of the largest rebuildings ever undertaken after a natural disaster.

Stonefield first met with Whispering Ridge residents in December 2003 to submit a presentation of their rebuilding plans and share their vision. Eighty-one homeowners signed up.

Stonefield's model is a divergence from previous rebuilding projects following natural disasters in that homeowners were not forced to make individual deals with contractors.

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In the wake of the Oakland-Berkeley Hills fire (1991) and Hurricane Andrew in Florida (1992), contractors were in short supply and the volume of rebuilding projects caused construction prices to climb steeply. Stonefield is offering pricing between $93 to $98 per square foot, as opposed to $150 to $200 per square foot as quoted by other custom developers, and plans to ensure that the new homes will also be fire-safe.

Julie Pack of Stonefield Development says that "there are other contractors in the community helping to rebuild and it's a friendly environment," but the largest task is that of Stonefield's 81 homes. The effort is made more complicated by the development company's promise to build one-of-a-kind homes and a neighborhood in which no two homes will look alike.

Foundations are poured on July 9.

In this aim, Stonefield has commissioned four different architectural firms to design several different floorplans and architectural elevations.

Though this plan could serve as the national prototype for rebuilding after natural disasters in the future, Stonefield does not have any current plans to rebuild neighborhoods in other parts of San Diego where homes were destroyed by the fires.

"We're just focusing on this neighborhood for now," Pack said. "We've received calls from others, but we want to make sure we do a good job and fulfill our commitments here first before moving on to other projects."

The post-fires environment has not posed any problems in the rebuilding effort, according to Pack. Construction began in late June. The lots were re-processed and pat preparation was done as a precaution. Stonefield expects the new homes to be completed within a six-month timeframe, with first deliveries at the end of December into the beginning of January.

Started in 1986, Stonefield Development builds custom homes in the $800,000 to $6 million range.

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