Nearly Empty Downtown?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006, 9:00 —by Joe Crawford
This item was posted in Real Estate in San Diego category and has 20 Comments so far.

Does anyone live in those downtown condos? Voice of San Diego on Downtown’s Dark Towers

Karen McElliott came to downtown San Diego looking for a new way of life. After 30 years living as a suburbanite in Scripps Ranch, McElliott, a widow, came looking for the bright lights of the big city.

She found a community with much of the vibrancy and energy that she hoped for. What she hasn’t found are neighbors.

Of the six units on her floor in her new condo building, McElliot’s is the only one that’s occupied. The Pinnacle, like many of downtown’s newer condo towers, is currently only 55-percent occupied by full-time residents.

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20 Responses to “Nearly Empty Downtown?”

  1. MAS said on Wednesday, May 17, 2006, 11:52

    I read the following line and laughed.

    Jeff Herscovitz, president of the homeowners’ association at CityFront Terrace, estimated that 99 percent of the units in his building are occupied most of the time.

    I have a direct view of this building and can tell you that if this building has 99% occupancy then they must be inhabited by vampires and mole people. The article has it correct, downtown is a ghost town after business hours.

    The good news for my fellow renters is that they should start seeing some real good deals in the next year of so. I’m renting for 37 cents on the dollar.

  2. ChrisN said on Wednesday, May 17, 2006, 12:09

    I know a few people in downtown condos, but on the “east village” side of the condomania – their buildings were completed about two years ago and are around 50% occupied, or less. Lots of “For Rent” signs in the windows, and the place is deathly quiet.

    I was curious why downtown hadn’t really started to get more of a true urban feel (outside of gaslamp, its a ghost town after 6pm), perhaps this article goes a long way towards explaining it.

  3. cat dirt said on Wednesday, May 17, 2006, 14:41

    i own a house, not condo, in golden hill. stopping at union bank on market, or just driving through the heart of condo land (from golden hill to the gaslamp via j st.), i ALWAYS, ALWAYS think to myself, “where is everyone?” My wife agrees- we have had the discussion at places like the mission restaurant, walking to the ballpart from golden hill.
    downtown will not be revitalized by absenteed landlords, absentee landlords are not why the city redeveloped downtown, but they’re presence here in san diego should suprise no one.

  4. MAS said on Wednesday, May 17, 2006, 16:29

    A sizeable number of new building condo owners are flippers. They buy and hold it for 2 years and then flip it for gains of $100,000 or more without even taking occupancy. Why find a renter when your getting that kind of return? That worked great …until last year.

  5. Jonus said on Thursday, May 18, 2006, 21:56

    I can’t stop laughing. San Diego hasn’t made it to the urban life style stage of a mature metro city. Check out whats going on in Seattle. There is rush in building high end apartment style condos, in the 10-18 stories range. People are paying as much or more for them than they would for a 4 bedroom house a few miles away. I’m not sure this style will ever catch on in San Diego. Downtown is quite small compared to other major cities and it’s bordered on the Southeast side by the worst parts of the city, and on the North side by an already expensive part of town. Unfortunately, developers and city planners continue to focus on the limited opportunites that downtown can provide. Development of the downtown area is not about life style opportunities, its tourism dummy!

  6. MAS said on Friday, May 19, 2006, 7:26

    I talked to a downtown realtor. His take is the problem is supply. The builders created too many 1000 sq ft 1-bedroom condos. There really are limited options for larger families. This turns many potential buyers away.

  7. Joe Crawford said on Friday, May 19, 2006, 7:30

    That sounds right. Not enough variation. Those I know who considered buying would have bought it as a summer-thing, or as a retirement thing. As it is, it never made sense for them.

    I wonder how other cities compare in terms of availability of different square footage and layouts in the condos in their downtown.

  8. JeSais said on Friday, May 19, 2006, 13:49

    I know in Chicago, where I lived for 6 years, I visited many an apartment and condo that was as large square footage-wise as any family style house…. There is tremendous variety from the studio size condo in a high rise to mid-rise buildings and townhouses and row houses in nice neighborhoods, mediocre neighborhoods, and down-right scary neighborhoods. Of course Chicago, square mileage wise (in terms of truly urban-ness) is MUCH larger than San Diego. Oh yea, they have some huge public housing “projects” too….

  9. Brian B said on Sunday, May 21, 2006, 15:34

    I just did a free downtown tour of San Diego real estate and my head was spinning by all the new condos being built. We already have a glut in the market and these buildings are scheduled to be finished in 2007/2008. Not only that, but there are more lots scheduled to start construction in the next six months. That’s ridiculous!!!

    A month ago the paper did an article about this and they said that two lots have already been sold b/c they couldn’t get the required 30% pre-sales to start construction. Another complex couldn’t get all the units sold so they dropped the prices across the board by $100K and sold them by the end of the month. I opened today’s real estate section and one commplex is advertising a $90K price reduction on certain units. Man, the bubble is sooo close to bursting. Give it another year for these 20+ new condo developments to risk going bankrupt and then we’ll see serious price reductions across the board.

  10. FINALLY! said on Sunday, May 21, 2006, 20:57

    OH MAN,…this is such a good topic…its because builders and all their friends buy these apartments/condos and try to resell them at final phase..and now nobody is buying,so i expect the prices and rent to DROP….call me crazy but i’m going to wait…i’d rather buy a forclosing apartment for pennies than some idiot who bought early and is looking for a sucker..they also say “sold out” like MOOOOONTHS ago,that tactic was to drive up the sales in the 17 other buildings (with same owners)….its fun isnt it?

  11. MAS said on Monday, May 22, 2006, 6:27

    If the prices drop too fast, look for builders to pull the plug on future projects. This is something we don’t want to happen. East Village still needs a lot of work. Having developers walk away from projects in that area won’t be good for downtown reviltalization.

    If you want to know what will happen in downtown San Diego, just watch Miami.

  12. Rone said on Tuesday, May 30, 2006, 20:20

    Check out Hard Rock Hotel San Diego. While San Diego has a ton of condos on the market and everything’s slowing down, these guys just made 300 sales. It’s your place at the entrance to the Gaslamp – with two Rande Gerber bars and a Nobu – and when you’re gone it’s all taken care of by the hotel. I’ve been through their sales center and becuase I also have one a one bedroom condo, I’m looking at it for friends and family that come to town. Who needs a two bedroom when you can own this place and have the maid clean everything up in the morning.

    As for the prices of condos dropping – I wouldn’t bet on it. Overall commericals rents are sky high and the demand is growing every quarter. As more and more move into downtown for everything it’s got to offer, more and more employees are going to be looking for places as well.

  13. Jimmy said on Friday, June 2, 2006, 0:15


    So tell me what you think what about this:

    San Diego Downtown: 2000 to 2005

  14. Rone said on Friday, June 2, 2006, 11:20

    There’s nothing here to respond to..? IT looks like you tried to enter in some supply numbers…

  15. San Diego Lasik doctor said on Friday, September 29, 2006, 14:33

    Soon downtown San Diego will be known as ‘bankruptcy city’ in many real estate circles.

  16. San Diego Blog :: Blog Archive » Downtown to get 2nd Grocery Store said on Thursday, October 19, 2006, 8:07

    [...] In a follow-up to our May 2006 discussion Nearly Empty Downtown and a few comments since then, downtown San Diego will finally be getting a 2nd grocery store. This Friday at 7:45 AM there will a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony for Albertsons. The new grocery store will be on the corner of 14th Street and Market. That is the south east edge of East Village. [...]

  17. MAS said on Friday, July 20, 2007, 8:18

    In May 2006 on this page I said:
    “If you want to know what will happen in downtown San Diego, just watch Miami.”

    Today on Bloomberg:
    Miami Condo Glut Pushes Florida’s Economy to Brink of Recession

    …oversupply will force prices down as much as 30 percent, the worst decline since the 1970s, and help push Florida’s economy into recession as early as October…

  18. m. kletecka said on Sunday, September 23, 2007, 5:53

    Purchased/Lived in downtown San Diego from May 06 to May 07.
    “I” (one reporters opinion anyway) found that this is not a true “downtown” like San Francisco, Chicago or New York, but rather a tourist/convention destination city. Also, I found that during the work week the streets and shops are pretty much vacant of people (unless there is a convention in town) heck, it’s almost like a ghost town. I feel that unless the city/San Diego planners bring in “new” real business with various mfg. and corporations into San Diego, downtown will never be fully occupied with living breathing residents. Also, I feel that the downtown condos need, but typically don’t have proper 24hr guest parking or even nearby parking structures, which for me was kind of the needle that broke the camels back.
    In closing, I feel that downtown San Diego will never be a real city for at least another 5 to 20 years. In the meantime, I really don’t miss the place and if I do, I will use my old monthly monthly HOA payment (can’t write it off anyway) and stay a couple of days in the city to get my fix

  19. Tijuana dentist said on Saturday, November 10, 2007, 13:03

    Downtown San Diego is way over built and over priced. Did you know the monthly HOA dues on some buildings are between $700 & $950?

    TJ dentist

  20. Bill McElliott said on Saturday, June 28, 2008, 21:27

    I was wondering if you had ever heard of the McElliott name from the state of Montana. I am researching my family name and i came across yours.

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