YOLO SUN OPINION :
This column describes an intriguing and yet unresolved saga about a small group of multi-millionaire housing developers (essentially, John D. Reynen, Christo Bardis — Reynen & Bardis Communities — and related agents and heirs), who — at the apex of the housing boom (early 2007) — entered into a pivotal development agreement with City of Woodland, regarding what are perhaps the City’s most centrally important development parcels.
Future access to affordable and innovative (new-construction) homeownership in Woodland, as well as questionable marketability of recently proposed revision of this vital project, alongside a need to responsibly approve such new development, combine to make a quite revealing spectacle of upcoming municipal process.
Part Two of this column will be published on May Day, including extensive argument regarding salient details of the potential for retaining a pivotally valuable and already approved project, instead of succumbing to what amounts to false expediency for speculative developers.
It is hoped that the newest scion of Reynen & Bardis Communities, etc., (Christo’s daughter and niece), Bardis Homes (relevant details, below and in Part Two), might somehow instantly intervene to best help Woodland City Council soon find its way forward with this matter.
Locally, the political question of this moment is whether Woodland City Council will reasonably delay a critical development project, in order to properly examine its proposed revision and ascertain the basic feasibility of affordable homeownership within the City’s largest development plan, crippled by the Great Recession.
Clearly at stake, is the realistic potential of new-construction homeownership in Woodland, for between $200,000 and $300,000. Presently, such basic homeownership options in the City are priced at $400,000 to $650,000 and on up.
Lest one might think unrealistic such homeownership affordability, the plain fact is that real estate interests very closely related to Reynen & Bardis Communities (Bardis Homes) are currently pursuing homeownership options within the $200,000 to $300,000 range . . . in Sacramento.
Woodland, though, seems intended by Reynen & Bardis Communities and some associates (see below), to simply be resigned to what savvy financial interests (Ranch Capital LLP), cannily supporting Bardis Homes’ Sacramento (affordability) acumen, describe in recent SacBee coverage of as: “the past.”
“The past,” (low-density, cookie-cutter-type residential development) was recently rejected for key projects, by Ranch Capital LLC, on the basis of innovative housing concepts developed by Bardis Homes (details in Part Two of this column).
What is involved here, is the valuable possibility of Woodland offering (truly contemporary) innovative homeownership products at about half of regular / conventional cost, because such homes are: “affordable-by-design” (relatively small, usually multi-story, some basements, lacking regular yards and set-backs, relying upon common-spaces, using a successfully emerging and proven concept: small-lot development).
Woodland City Council is presently being requested to reasonably delay allowance of proposed revision to this crucial plan, for purposes of adequate determination regarding actual feasibility of its previously approved project, especially since this original development scenario – if feasible — is obviously in the City’s best interests.
This impending Woodland City Council action will reflect and engage the arising future of homeownership; or else, this action will relapse into a remote past, by wrongly allowing a badly flawed revision of an — already approved project — possessing such affordable homeownership potential.
Details Of Impending City Council Decision
On May 5, Woodland City Council will take action on this proposal to significantly revise / amend the Spring Lake Central Project (SLCP), a fundamentally key 105 acre development within the 1100 acre, Spring Lake Specific Plan (SLSP).
SLCP (present version) contains the only remaining commercial area at SLSP, alongside an appealingly arranged, 4 acre park, within a graceful design certain to attract post-recessionary homebuyers, now beginning to surface in a gradually improving market.
Elegance, genuine allure and affordable homeownership – though — would be largely lost in this proposed revision, gravely undermining its ultimate marketability.
Woodland is under immense fiscal pressure to approve renewed projects at SLSP, since $2 million annually (one-half) of relevant city sales tax revenue has since 2009 been expended to back-fill speculative, development-fee based municipal bonds, related to SLSP.
Formerly a quite capable, aesthetic focus of SLCP, this proposed revision rather tucks its 4 acre park-site along the project’s edge, curiously floated on deeply speculative and distant prospects of annexation.
The project’s commercial zone is, in this adverse revision, instead of its park, highlighted / promoted, as if residents need to have this zone directly in their faces, so they might better find it.
High-density apartments are proposed by this revision — to wrap around its park and commercial areas.
Conventional (low-density) homes are this project revision’s remainder, directly across the street from this commercial – park – high-density apartment concentration.
Zoning available for innovative homeownership options (reflecting planning by Bardis Homes at “The Mill at Broadway” project) will be eliminated by proposed revision of SLCP.
This SLSP / SLCP revision is not (especially) graceful.
Woodland City Council should beware, while it best determines whether the existing SLCP zoning is feasible.
The Applicant For SLSP / SLCP Project Revision
So, who is the actual applicant for this SLCP revision?
A man named Les Hock, who in 2002 formed Hock Construction Management (HCM).
Hock represents an entity known as Woodland Spring Lake Partnership LP, located in Belmont, California. Participants in this partnership apparently are unknown, publicly undisclosed.
Hock was employed by Reynen & Bardis Communities as a development manager, from June 2005 to June 2009, during the time period in which Reynen & Bardis Communities owned Woodland’s SLCP and acquired (March, 2007) entitlements to develop it (as the existing project, of which Hock. as applicant, now demands revision).
During the time period Hock worked for Reynen & Bardis Communities, he also free-lanced with HCM and other ventures, one of which clearly reflects his ethical character.
Quite interestingly, in late 2008, Hock lost his appeal of a successful lawsuit filed by his former partners (Wood, Rogers), a shareholders’ derivative complaint — for breach of fiduciary duty — by an officer or director in usurping (for his own private benefit) a corporate opportunity worth upwards of $954,000.
The California Court of Appeal for the Third District, following several years of (unneeded) litigation, ordered swindling Hock to pay $500,000 in damages to these injured partners.
Hock was recently (mid-2013) the applicant for a development proposal in Elk Grove, representing Reynen & Bardis Communities, about which he was fairly circumspect with the press (Sacramento Business Journal).
This is the same person who is representing / advocating SLSP / SLCP revision, representing an entity which might likely be simply a shell-company, extended holding company, etc., for previous interests of Reynen & Bardis Communities, trying to finally squeeze and leave Woodland; while at the same time, Bardis Homes focuses on innovating housing in Sacramento (argument for analogous value in Woodland will comprise Part Two, to be published on May Day).