Metate Meadows

12920 Metate Lane
Poway, California 92064
A Powegian's Perspective
by Derrick Garbell

"Metate Meadows" is a low income housing project sponsored by the City of Poway through
the Poway Redevelopment Agency ("RDA").
The Poway City Council claims California State mandates require the City to buy property and build modest residential housing that will be rented or sold to lower income families. The South Poway Residents Association (SPRA) complains that all Poway's redevelopment projects have been built in the city's southern neighborhood. Since the projects are higher density and inhabited by low income citizens, SPRA has pushed for some of these developments to be located in the northern, wealthiest regions of Poway. The push has been entirely unsuccessful, and south Poway remains a dumping ground for "affordable" housing.

The Metate Meadows property was acquired in November, 2004 from the family that owned the Starlight Stables, for $4.5 million. It covers four acres, abuts the Poway Royal Estates mobile home park to the east, and to the south it faces the Tustin Hills dedicated open space below the Stowe Drive sector of the Poway Business Park. On the west and north it is surrounded by single family homes built between 1960-1970, including the Tustin Hills subdivision.

On 3 August 2005, Ingrid Alverde, the Redevelopment Agency's Housing Program Manager, announced that Metate Meadows would be developed with between 33-40 single family homes on lot pads of approximately 4,500 sq. ft. each, and the homes would be sold, not rented.  The selling of redevelopment housing was a first in Poway's history. The Redevelopment Agency's prior projects included Haley Ranch Estates (prefabricated, detached SFR homes), Hillside Village (townhouse homes), and Solara (apartments), and they had all been for lease or rent only.

Alverde said the City was looking for a development partner for planning and design, and that search plus securing construction financing would take twelve to twenty-four months overall. This would be followed by a year of construction. Alverde estimated that occupancy of the completed project would be two to three years, between August 2007 and August 2008 at the outside.

The project continually changed design over time, and by spring 2008, its format was quite different. Rather than build 33-40 detached homes, the decision was made to build 30 houses, with only 2 detached, and 28 as twin-homes.
Rather than be 100% completed by summer, 2008 as Alverde first estimated as the latest probable finish date, site preparation did not even begin until October of that year.

Many citizens complain that the City Council and RDA do not shepherd these projects efficiently enough, greatly lengthening their development time frame. As a result, the City must pay far greater holding costs before recouping its investment; Poway's tax payers bear these costs. With the City facing budget shortages, these protracted redevelopment expenditures are a sizable component of municipal waste and indebtedness.

Construction concluded in November, 2009, taking 13 months from grading to completion. But by December 31, 2009 only five of the 30 homes were sold.
Perhaps the remaining 25 homes will be sold out by the fall. That may be overly optimistic given the housing market slump. But if the homes are all bought and off the City's books by November 2010, that means Poway will have had to carry the $4.5 million acquisition debt service for six full years! Even at a nominal 8% rate, this component alone cost Powegians well over $2 million in interest.

The finishing minor details of the Hillside Village project took over six months, and then the units sat vacant for many months more.  If this had been a privately owned townhouse apartment complex, such wasteful downtime never would have been tolerated.

It is simple math to see how pushing for quick construction completion, followed by swift occupancy or sale of these publicly-funded projects, both would assure that the City Council would not be forced later to choose cutbacks and layoffs to balance the books during lean times. To me, this passive, lackadaisical mismanagement is fiscally irresponsible, and I remain disappointed with the City Council's oversight.

Photos from the first six months of construction. As of April 17, 2009, less than half the foundations have been poured:
"Fact Sheet" from the City, preparatory to public hearings; the area enclosed in yellow triangle was marked incorrectly by the RDA; it fails to encompass the main, western area of the project, causing several Tustin Hills residents to mistakenly conclude that Metate Meadows would not abutt their properties.Thus they were duped into not submitting objections to the impact this would have on their views and neighborhood density. The eventual site plan showing 30 homes,
28 as twin duplex models.
SD Union article October, 2004 North County Times article Ag07 promotional brochure pdf
initial grading - view from Reo Real 1Nv2008 project panorama 1Nv08 #1 from south project panorama 1Nv08 #2 from south
western foundation pads 17Ap09 overview of the first pads fronting Metate Ln
with Rick St & Orpah to the west
slabs from Metate Ln looking west 17Ap09
main entrance to Metate Meadows, aligns with Reo Real,
formerly a culdesac
eastern foundation pads, looking westward short panorama movie of Metate Meadows 17 April 2009
short pan of skyline above Metate Meadows - from Twin Peaks Mountain due north, to Mt. Woodson, northeast
Construction progess 20 June 2009, looking south from old Reo Real:
due south = new Reo Real
February 2011: six and half years after property acquisition many units remain unsold, carrying costs being paid by Poway City taxpayers:
panoramic view of Metate Meadows facing north February 2011 short panorama movie of Metate Meadows Feb 2011
February 2012: seven and half years after property acquisition three units remain unsold, carrying costs still being paid by Poway City taxpayers
our town dimly Fb12