April 8, 2010

Gated Ghettos

And now, a guest post from Burbed reader Madhaus! Take it away, Madhaus:

From bucolic bliss to ‘gated ghetto’

Willow Walk bank-owned homeHemet’s Willowalk tract was family-friendly. Then the recession hit.

March 30, 2010|By Alana Semuels, LA Times

Home foreclosures have devastated neighborhoods throughout the country, but the transformation from suburban paradise to blighted community has been especially stark in places like Willowalk — isolated developments on the far fringes of metropolitan areas that found ready buyers when home prices were soaring but then saw an exodus as values crashed.

Vacant homes are sprinkled throughout Willowalk, betrayed by foot-high grass. Others are rented, including some to families that use government Section 8 vouchers to live in homes with granite countertops and vaulted ceilings.

The Los Angeles Times describes a gated community turning into a slum in just a few years.  Most of the properties sit empty, or are rented to large numbers of people.  Meanwhile, underwater homedebtors not only watch their investment fail, their supposedly safe and secure neighborhood is vandalized and taken over by street toughs.

Welcome to Willowalk. Oh, Willowalk isn’t in the Bay Area, it’s in Hemet.  People bought this far away from LA because they could get a luxury home in a gated community for under half a million.  The 5000 sf home bought by Eddie and Maria Lopez for $440,000 is now worth about $170k according to neighborhood comps.

Think it wouldn’t happen here?  It already has.  Hemet to Los Angeles is about a hundred mile commute.  Have you priced anything around Stockton (America’s Most Miserable City!) (80 miles) lately? Prices are at 2001 levels.

Google Maps Link showing commute from Hemet
Google Maps Link showing commute from Stockton
Link to Stockton Real Estate Prices over 10 years

Comments (33) -- Posted by: burbed @ 5:15 am

33 Responses to “Gated Ghettos”

  1. SEA Says:

    I’d like to imagine what would happen in the entire country were comprised of the RBA. Oh, that’s right, the important part is. All those other areas are not important or special. There is only one special area, the RBA, where 70k buyers exist for each home.

  2. ES Says:

    Nice job Madhouse. My only critique is that I’m not sure if Hemet is a commuter suburb of L.A. It may be 80 miles, but that’s totally prohibitive in L.A. traffic. This is just a guess mostly. Stockton is probably more of a commuter town to, say, Livermore, *maybe* Walnut Creek. Hemet is probably a commuter suburb of Eastern Orange County. Plus, there’s no train like the Altamont Commuter Express. I can’t imagine that people are commuting from Hemet to L.A. Although, that could just be wishful thinking.

    Also, the entire town of Hemet reeks of cow carcasses. There are piles of hides tanning in the sun. Stockton sucks, and may be the most miserable city in the US, but Hemet doesn’t even qualify as a city. It’s more like the most miserable dusty town in the US.

  3. Petsmart groomer Says:

    Official link to Willowalk.

    Link to rental in Willowalk (1,888 sq ft, lucky lucky long time).

    Are the schools any good in Hemet? I’m wondering if they send their 7 children to private schools.

  4. nomadic Says:

    You may be right, ES, but I knew a couple of guys who lived in Turlock and commuted to Hayward. 78 miles each way every day M-F and sometimes Saturday. They would alternate weeks for who got to sleep in the backseat on the way to work.

  5. Joe Says:

    Think it wouldn’t happen here? I’m sure it will happen here and in the interior of the bay area.


    CA MLS Inventory 115k
    CA Shadow Inventory 273k

    Look out below.

  6. nomadic Says:

    Is it just me, or do none of the links from the Willowalk website work?

  7. Petsmart groomer Says:

    Try http://willowalkhoa.com/welcome.htm

  8. Mike408 Says:

    Hemet is not a commuter city for LA.
    People who live in Hemet usually commute to Riverside, Ontario, San Bernadino or the other inland empire cities for work. People who commute to LA in newer communities live in cities like Santa Clarita, Valencia(Magic Mountain),older communities: Glendale, Burbank, etc. Socal traffic sucks in a big way. I lived in Socal for 4 years. I still have family in Irvine, LA, and San Diego.

  9. maryjane Says:

    The link worked for me. I only glanced at a few of the pictures but everyone seems so happy. Are they growing something in Hemet?

  10. CowD Says:

    Hemet is like the most miserable armpit of Riverside county. It’s where the state penitentiary system dumps paroled sex offenders. That’s where incompetent doctors go to live after they get dogged by a series of malpractice lawsuits elsewhere.

  11. am Says:

    mr lopez a buyer in the gated community :41-year-old construction supervisor and father of seven

    not getting upscale community here

  12. anon Says:

    Am, you are missing the point. These homes in Hemet are all million dollar homes. If they aren’t already, they will be in a couple years. It’s only a matter of time!!! You sure sound like an angry renter!

    Enough joking. This illustrates a good point: Gates don’t keep out the riff raff when they can simply borrow their way in. This is how real estater managed to slime his way into palo alto.

  13. madEstater Says:

    It’s too quiet here. Hey, is everyone driving to Hemet now? Hurry! The folks in Gilroy are going to get there ahead of you!

  14. nomadic Says:

    They’re duking it out over inflation on the “dream team” thread. Hemet is abandoned once again!

  15. madhaus Says:

    Seriously, the first 2 grafs in this article are from the LA Times, not mine. Don’t want to be accused of plagiarism. Guess being a guest blogger is going to have a few ouches here and there since I’m not the one publishing this stuff.

    As to killer commutes, I’ve seen people coming in from Stockton to SV… and further, like Fresno.

  16. anon Says:

    Too bad. It was such as wonderful “community” while it lasted!

  17. Petsmart groomer Says:

    From http://willowalkhoa.com/arch_plans.htm:

    Follow the steps below to avoid a potential fine and possibly having to spend money removing backyard improvements that do not follow Association guidelines.

    Why I would never buy anything in such a community: community handbook.

  18. madhaus Says:

    Groomer: is there anything in the handbook disallowing gang members taking over the pool?

    Just asking.

  19. anon Says:

    Don’t worry! The bagholder’s association doesn’t have the funds to enforce their CC&Rs.

  20. nomadic Says:

    They even meddle with backyards?! Ridiculous if the lots are all fenced.

    The one about holiday decorations cracks me up. It makes me think of the Chinese restaurant I walked past yesterday. It had a Christmas tree up, and Valentine’s decorations on the wall. I think they were trying to cover all their bases. There were probably other holidays represented as well.

    The one I like is the rule about garbage cans. My neighbors not only leave theirs in the street all weekend (Friday is garbage day), but they put them in front of my house. They have four freakin’ kids; you’d think they’d assign one to bring the cans in before Sunday.

  21. madhaus Says:

    The one I like is the rule about garbage cans. My neighbors not only leave theirs in the street all weekend (Friday is garbage day), but they put them in front of my house. They have four freakin’ kids; you’d think they’d assign one to bring the cans in before Sunday.

    Let me guess, nomadic, you don’t have any kids,right?

  22. Petsmart groomer Says:

    Some of my favorites:

    Window coverings should be harmonious with and not in conflict with the color scheme of the exterior wall surface of the home.

    Boats and other recreational vehicles may not be stored in the garages.

    Residents may not have more than a total of two (2) dogs, cats or combination thereof (but not to exceed two (2) total).

    As a Petsmart groomer, I particularly dislike the last one.

  23. nomadic Says:

    Let me guess, nomadic, you don’t have any kids,right?

    Nope, but when I was a young ‘un, my parents gave us all chores and there was hell to pay if we didn’t do them. (Now I’m sounding like the crotchety old people I dislike! lol)

  24. nomadic Says:

    oh yeah, I saw the one about not keeping boats in your garage too – wtf? What business is it of theirs?! Another rule says you can keep two cars in the driveway. (Not that you should need permission for that.)

    I agree that the last one you mentioned is the worst. They’re discriminating against weird old ladies who like to keep 10 cats.

  25. Petsmart groomer Says:

    On the bright side, they don’t say anything about redhead/Asian double-teaming. Alex would be delighted.

  26. madhaus Says:

    Long, long ago I lived in this condo… and we had the usual stupid CC&Rs… anyway someone on the top floor built this lanai and the architecture committee told him to take it out and restore everything the way it was. I remember the suits and countersuits just went on forever.

    This shack I live in actually was in some kind of homeowners group as well, complete with an architectural committee. I think the whole thing was defunct, but when these shacks were new, some self-important twits were walking around the neighborhood making sure the paint scheme didn’t clash with the interior window coverings.

  27. SEA Says:

    “The bagholder’s association doesn’t have the funds to enforce their CC&Rs.”

    Oh, but right before the fall things get bad. These bagholder associations attempt to put out all the fires by blaming all the external problems on the residents. I know a guy who lives in one of these crazy associations that suggested that he parked his car at the wrong angle to the curb, and thus homes were not selling, partly because of the appearance of his car relative to the curb.

  28. ES Says:

    I LOVE the term “bagholders’ association.” The place I rent has a bagholder’s association… and one night they had my mother in law’s car towed because we forgot to put a permit on it. I was super pissed at the $300 bucks we had to spend on getting the car back… BUT- I realized these other people are paying $300/ month for complete and utter incompetence from a nazi regime HOA. And the BOA HATES renters- because it reminds potential bagholders how much the place is *really* worth to live in per month.

  29. madhaus Says:

    Agree, ES, and kudos to anon for that term. I can’t tell you how glad I was to dump that condo. The endless CC&Rs, the gung-ho Disciplinary Committee, the never-ending spiral of lawsuits where the HOA was probably suing itself, and the truly fascinating yet corrupt practice of the HOA board ousting the management company and hiring themselves to do the job… it made for great stories but who wants an investment tied to so much drama?

  30. Letters, We Get Letters | Burbed.com Says:

    […] Dear Now, of course school district matters.  You’re asking the wrong question.  Instead of asking about value, you should ask about preserving your investment.  Buy in the best school district you can afford. In your case, I think that would be Hemet. […]

  31. Dave Says:

    please remove this old information, there are a great deal of people working very hard at making this a beautiful neighborhood and community and this is very disruptive to those efforts.

    Thank you!


  32. Petsmart groomer Says:

    Dave, please send your request to ministryoftruth@burbed.com.

  33. madhaus Says:

    Yes it is extremely disruptive for there to be old information on the internet with old dates. Dave I will rectify this immediately by:
    – changing every date in this post and comments to one in 2014 instead
    – adding more pictures from 2010 (for consistency) but dating them 2014 so it isn’t perceived as old information
    – finding some good stock photos of gang members intimidating bagholders whose interior window treatments clash with the color scheme of the exterior wall surface of the home.
    – adding in the obligatory photo of the crazy old lady with ten cats

    Thanks for your help! Much appreciated!

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