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California and 12 Southern California governments have begun disbursing federal rental assistance, with much more aid on the way.

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Is your landlord cooperating by agreeing to waive 20% of your debt?

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Rare sight: Ever seen a white dolphin? There’s one hanging out in Laguna Beach

A bright white Risso’s dolphin made an appearance off Laguna Beach on Friday, May 14, a rare sight for local waters.

“It’s like a snowy white color,” said Newport Coastal Adventure captain Ryan Lawler, who said the dolphin was spotted with about 40 others about three miles off the coast. “Immediately we saw the white, I was like ‘Wow, what is that?”

Risso’s dolphins are typically a dark color, gray but sometimes they will have lighter spots. Patches is a well-known dolphin that frequents the Orange County coastline, and has splotches of black, white and pink skin.

Lawler said he wasn’t sure if this dolphin would qualify as an albino because it had a few darker accents.

Regardless, “it’s really beautiful,” he said.

A white Risso’s dolphin was spotted just three miles off Laguna Beach on May 14, 2021, a rare sight off local waters. (Photo courtesy of Delaney Trowbridge/Newport Coastal Adventure)

Lawler said it could be the same dolphin spotted last July between Newport Beach and Catalina on an all-day trip.

“We think it’s the same one, but no one has seen it since then,” he said. “It’s really special. It really sticks out so obviously. It’s pretty cool.”

Andre Esteves, a photographer from Los Angeles, got to see the white dolphin both times, a “pretty awesome” experience.

“It’s pretty rare,” he said. “You never know what you’re going to spot out here. It’s pretty exciting.”

Lawler said marine mammals with a white pigmentation are believed to have a “genetic disruption.” Around the world, there’s been sightings of other all-white sea creatures such as killer whales and a white humpback whale.

“You only hear of them a couple times a year around the globe,” he said.

The dolphin’s difference in skin color didn’t seem to impact its social interactions, coming up about 100 feet from the boat and frolicking with the other dolphins.

“He’s not an outcast, he’s totally in the middle of the pod playing around with other dolphins,” Lawler said from the boat as passengers watched in awe.

Risso’s dolphins are less commonly spotted off Southern California than bottlenose or common dolphins.

Lawler said they see the species anywhere from 12 to 24 times a year, but some years, such as in 2016, they don’t show at all.

They have rounder heads like sperm whales and from a distance can look like orcas because of their large dorsal fins.

Real estate news: Affordable senior apartments debut in Santa Ana

Metro East Senior Park Apartments, a new senior affordable complex in Santa Ana, is accepting new tenants after design and construction have wrapped up.

Orange-based AO was the architect on the project, which was designed for developers AMG, The Pacific Cos. and Jamboree Housing Corp.

The complex at 2222 E. First St. has 419 units with a mix of studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments with floor plans ranging from 402 to 821 square feet. Rents for residents age 62 and older range from $999 for a studio to $1,484 for a two-bedroom unit.

Amenities include a fitness center, recreation lounge, outdoor dining and barbecues, lawn games and a community garden.

“Nearly 125,000 low-income renter households in Orange County do not have access to an affordable home …,” said Alexis Gevorgian, partner at AMG. “We’re proud to bring a much-needed asset to Santa Ana that meets pent-up demand and promotes an active and social lifestyle for Orange County seniors.”

Partners on the project include Sinanian Construction, Thomas H. Phelps Landscape Architecture and civil engineer C&V Consulting.

Mechanics Bank leased 51,000 square feet at Irvine Towers and Market Place Center. (Courtesy of Irvine Company and Eric Figge Photos)

Irvine Co. leases continue amid pandemic

Irvine Co. leased nearly 7 million square feet of office space in California and Chicago during the pandemic, company execs said last week.

From April 2020 to March 2021, the company said some 200 companies either expanded, renewed or signed new leases totaling more than 6.7 million square feet. As vaccines accelerated, the company leases some 2 million square feet in February and March 2021.

The company did not provide monetary values of the leases.

Some of the local deals included:

  • CoStar Realty Information leased 115,000 square feet at Spectrum Terrace;
  • Mechanics Bank leased 51,000 square feet at Irvine Towers and Market Place Center;
  • Clean Energy Fuels Corpl leased 49,000 square feet at MacArthur Court;
  • RSM US leased 29,600 square feet at Spectrum Terrace

To prepare tenants for a return to offices, Irvine Co. said it replaced and upgraded more than 50,000 air filters, installed more than 1,500 sanitizing stations and added 3,000 touchless bathroom fixtures in California and Chicago.

A 2,082-square-foot office building in a converted bungalow on 488 S. Glassell in Orange has sold for $1,315,000, according to Lee & Associates in Orange. Allen Buchanan and Joshua Harper represented the buyer, Burris Law. (Courtesy of Lee & Associates, Orange)

Office in historic Orange sells for $1.3M

A 2,082-square-foot office building in a converted bungalow on 488 S. Glassell in Orange has sold for $1,315,000, according to Lee & Associates in Orange.

Allen Buchanan and Joshua Harper represented the buyer, Burris Law.

Austin Blodgett. left, and Patrick Higgins.

Expansions

RealSource Group, a commercial real estate brokerage in Newport Beach, has launched an investment sales division.

Austin Blodgett, as vice president, of investment sales, will lead the division. In his role, Blodgett will focus on advising clients on buying and selling retail properties nationwide from single-tenant to multi-tenant facilities.

RealSource Group specializes in tenant representation, investment sales and sale-leasebacks on a national platform.

Industry people on the move

Patrick Higgins is the new vice president or sales and marketing for the Southern California division of Newport Beach-based Landsea Homes Corp. He has more than 25 years of experience in the homebuilding industry. Previously, he was director of sales for Lennar, where he oversaw sales operations for all residential projects. He also he spent time at Taylor Morrison Homes and Meritage Homes.

Real estate transactions, leases and new projects, industry hires, new ventures and upcoming events are compiled from press releases by contributing writer Karen Levin. Submit items and high-resolution photos via email to Business Editor Samantha Gowen at sgowen@scng.com. Please allow at least a week for publication. All items are subject to editing for clarity and length.

Bubble Watch: How home prices have jumped 8.8% to 30.4%

Bubble Watch” digs into trends that may indicate economic and/or housing market troubles ahead.

Buzz: Southern California home-price appreciation, on a county level, ran between 8.8% and 30.4% in this wild pandemic year.

Sources:  Too many, perhaps. See below.

The Trend

Generally speaking, local home prices are fairly crazy. If you want a more definitive answer, you have to sort through a collection of price indexes tracking appreciation rates using varying mathematics to follow assorted slices of the market for different geographies. Got it?

The dissection

My colleague Jeff Collins and I wish there was a “perfect” home-price index. Since there isn’t, we’re stuck painting market pictures with a collection of statistical brushes.

Let’s start off honestly: There’s plenty of artful interpretations within the science of tracking home prices.

The backbone of these indexes is sales data gleaned from closed transactions that are among the public record. But it takes a keen eye, or a smart computer program, to separate arms-length transactions from non-sales — property movement among family, friends or curious legal entities.

Once the art is done, the statistical fun begins.

DQNews/CoreLogic: The region’s venerable data tracker curates monthly median sales prices dating back to 1988.

This median is the mid-point value of all closed transactions for virtually all residences — existing and new homes, single-family, townhomes and condos. CoreLogic’s report is the widest accounting of home pricing.

For March, it showed annual appreciation rates ranging from 18.3% in San Bernardino County to 17.9% in Riverside County, 17.2% in LA County and 10.6% in Orange County.

California Association of Realtors: The association produces another median sales price that’s a good measure of the “resale” market for older or “existing” homes that are roughly 90% of the market.

Note that this index tracks only sales prices of closed deals for single-family homes that are sold by CAR members through multiple-listing services. It covers most, but not all, transactions.

Realtor stats found March’s appreciation running from 30.4% in San Bernardino to 23% in Riverside, 17.7% in Los Angeles and 16.2% in Orange County.

The problem with any median as a price tracking tool is that it can be swayed by changes in what’s selling. For example, the lack of smaller, more affordable homes for sale in the pandemic era may have caused measures like the median — or, especially, average prices — to skew appreciation upward.

One bit of statistical work tries to minimize that distortion. “Repeat sales” indexes look at gains or losses on the same property. But that means transactions without a sales history, notably new homes, are left out.

Case-Shiller: The best-known repeat-sales metric is named after two pioneering real estate professors who popularized this quirky calculation. Appreciation follows these sales tallies for 20 U.S. metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles and Orange counties.

One drawback is that this reporting is relatively slow. The last L.A.-O.C. appreciation rate — for February — was 11.9%.

CoreLogic: A quicker version of the “repeat sales” measurement is done by CoreLogic, which also happens to own the Case-Shiller math. This metric also includes sales of some townhomes in its tracking of single-family homes.

For March, this home-price index showed appreciation running at 15.6% in the Inland Empire, 10.2% in Orange County and 8.8% in Los Angeles County.

Freddie Mac: Yet another repeat-sales price index from the giant mortgage buyer looks at sales data plus valuations taken from refinancing loan approvals.

However, Freddie Mac studies only deals financed with the more “affordable” mortgages it buys with its sister agency, Fannie Mae. So the indexes don’t include much of the luxury market.

As of March, this math put appreciation at 18.6% in the Inland Empire and 12% in L.A.-O.C.

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Another view

Think of the stock market. Which index tells its pandemic story best?

The old-school Dow Jones 30-stock index (up 48% in the year ending in March); the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index (up 51%); or the tech-heavy Nasdaq Composite (up 70%)?

How bubbly?

On a scale of zero bubbles (no bubble here) to five bubbles (five-alarm warning) … FOUR BUBBLES!

These five indexes show a common theme: Southern California home appreciation is large — and even bigger as you move farther from the coast. My trusty spreadsheet says the average gains run 21% in the inland counties and 14% by the Pacific Ocean.

That does not mean that every house is worth that much more. You know, real estate is local.

So, a SoCal house hunter must look at any measure of appreciation — highest in many cases since the Great Recession ended — and wonder: Is this sustainable?

Jonathan Lansner is the business columnist for the Southern California News Group. He can be reached at jlansner@scng.com

California’s 1,230-mile coastal trail 70% complete, according to new online map

California’s decades-old dream of building a coastal trail that covers all 1,230 miles from Mexico to Oregon is about 70% complete, but that accomplishment comes with good news and bad news.

A detailed map unveiled online Wednesday, May 12, shows numerous long stretches where you can walk or bike along the shore, like the 23-mile trek from the Newport Beach’s Balboa Peninsula to the Port of Long Beach. The map, three years in the making, is a project of the state’s Coastal Commission and Coastal Conservancy, two of the state agencies teaming up on the trail.

But the map also shows miles-long gaps, with no pedestrian paths and no clear plans for them, including much of Big Sur and Camp Pendleton. Other areas have interruptions to the trail, are unsafe or difficult to navigate, or diverge significantly inland from the coast.

  • Walkers, runners and cyclists use the California Coastal Trail in Huntington Beach, CA on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. The states’ goal is to have a coastal trail stretching the 1,230 miles from Oregon to Mexico. A new interactive map from the state shows the trail is about 70% complete. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • A cyclist uses the California Coastal Trail in Huntington Beach, CA on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. The states’ goal is to have a coastal trail stretching the 1,230 miles from Oregon to Mexico. A new interactive map from the state shows the trail is about 70% complete. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Walkers and cyclists use the California Coastal Trail in Huntington Beach, CA on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. The states’ goal is to have a coastal trail stretching the 1,230 miles from Oregon to Mexico. A new interactive map from the state shows the trail is about 70% complete. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Walkers, runners and cyclists use the California Coastal Trail in Huntington Beach, CA on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. The states’ goal is to have a coastal trail stretching the 1,230 miles from Oregon to Mexico. A new interactive map from the state shows the trail is about 70% complete. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Dog walker Megan Stogner, with Fitdog, walks along the California Coastal Trail in Huntington Beach, CA on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. The states’ goal is to have a coastal trail stretching the 1,230 miles from Oregon to Mexico. A new interactive map from the state shows the trail is about 70% complete. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

  • Walkers, runners and cyclists use the California Coastal Trail in Huntington Beach, CA on Wednesday, May 12, 2021. The states’ goal is to have a coastal trail stretching the 1,230 miles from Oregon to Mexico. A new interactive map from the state shows the trail is about 70% complete. (Photo by Paul Bersebach, Orange County Register/SCNG)

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The new, interactive map was celebrated by the Coastal Commission at its Wednesday meeting as both a key planning step toward filling in the gaps and a tool general public can use to identify locations and types of trails, which traverse beaches, blufftops and hillsides.

Prior to the meeting, Coastal Commission program manager Linda Locklin detailed how the map will help CalTrans incorporate trails into future roadwork, and help identify sites for public easements or state purchase. About half the state’s coastline is publicly owned, and the state coordinates with local and federal entities for trails on their land.

“We don’t know what the future brings, but knowing what’s missing will help decision makers come up with solutions,” Locklin said. “We don’t expect that (all) the missing segments will be bridged in the next 10 (or) 20 years, but every foot of trail that gets built will be that much closer to completion.”

The goal of creating a statewide coastal trail network was established in the 1975 California Coastal Plan and has been slowly gaining momentum. In 1999 it was recognized as “California’s Millennium Legacy Trail” by Gov. Gray Davis and the White House Millennium Council. It was declared an official state trail by the state Legislature in 2002, and received legislative approval for measures in 2001 and 2007 that promoted development of the trail.

CalTrans planner Jeremiah Ketchum offered praise for the help the new map provided his agency.

“CalTrans has been looking forward to this,” Ketchum told the Coastal Commission. “We will work this into our planning and help bridge the gaps.”

Though the map provides a new tool to the agency, CalTrans has been a partner on the trail project since 2007. Locklin noted several CalTrans contributions, including help in funding an inland pedestrian trail through a portion of Big Sur after a landslide left no room on State Route 1, and transforming abandoned highways into trails in San Luis Obisbo, San Mateo and Sonoma counties.

The map delineates where you can walk on the beach from other trails, and distinguishes dedicated bike paths from general-use trails. In some areas, there is more than one trail — they combine for 875 miles of trail so far. 

“The California Coastal Trail is one of the only flagship trails in the country that is accessible to almost everyone,” said Coastal Conservancy Executive Officer Sam Schuchat.

“Many Californians have walked a segment or two without even realizing it. With this map, people can find trail segments easily, as well as public access points to get to the shore.”