Construction on Balboa Island

One of the topics I am frequently asked about regarding properties on Balboa Island is the amount of new construction currently taking place.

At any one time, you can walk around both Islands and see several different building projects in development. I know of at least nine such projects right now with several other remodels taking place as well.

Each year we see more and more older cottages being torn down and replaced by stunning new properties.  Is there cause for concern for the future of these vintage cottages?  What if the Island becomes a Mecca for big, shiny and new properties at the expense of small, quaint and historic ones? Will the Island lose its timeless feel that it is currently privy to?

I may be biased because just two months ago my parents completed their home on Emerald, but I think the amount of new properties is simply part of a healthy cycle that will continue for years to come.

Classic homes built in the 1930’s can still be found around every Island corner and on all three bayfronts. Homes with architecture from each of the last EIGHT decades share the property spotlight. I don’t believe any one dominates the other and as cycles tend to do… they eventually cycle.

I tell people who have concerns about all the new homes that new homes will not be new forever. If 10 homes are built every year on the Island, in 20 years that’s 200 new homes out of about 1400 Island lots – or roughly 14 percent. Not a huge number over such a lengthy span of time. Yet, at the same time, as many of the homes on the Island will start to celebrate their 100th birthday in the next 10-20 years, it won’t surprise anyone if many continue to stand and shine.

Island homes are creative, unique and compelling. What is so special about this place is you might stand on a street and look at two neighboring homes side by side. One, a spectacular new structure just built, the other, a charming beach cottage built over a generation ago and yet they BOTH represent the Island equally and justifiably, giving the Island its eclectic charm.

One of the other unique aspects of new construction on the Island is the amount of diversity in design and layout given that so many of the homes are on the exact same lot size.

A standard, or “full” Balboa Island lot is 30×85 or 2,550 feet. Some lots can be larger, while others can be a bit smaller. I won’t bore you with the details, but the basic equation lends a homeowner about 2700 square feet for a new home on a full lot – give or take a little if the setbacks vary.

So how can you have diversity if most of the homes are on exactly the same size parcel of land with the exact same square footage? You would think that was a rhetorical question… nope. Our homeowners are creative, and our builders, thoughtful.

I’ve seen so many different design interpretations on this Island, so unique, so, well… cool. “Upside down” houses with living areas upstairs, wide-ranging rooftop deck layouts, kitchens in front, kitchens in back, interior courtyards, elevators, two bedrooms, three bedrooms, four bedrooms… I think you get the picture.

The bottom line is: the Island is a place where the identity of yesteryear will never be lost and, in fact, I believe that one of the many strengths of having so many new homes is the contrast between the two, which allows both generational styles to be prominently featured.

I’m sure many years from now there will continue to be a wave of new homes being built, while our current “new” Island homes transition into the homes of our future’s yesteryear. And the Island will still be as unique and “property diverse” as it is today.