Project Description

Buyers snap up solar-powered homes in Pacoima

PACOIMA — There is one place in the San Fernando Valley where the new home market seems frozen in the last boom — the 12220 block of Pierce Street in Pacoima.

That’s where 57 solar powered homes are selling as fast as they are built despite the lingering aftershocks of the Great Recession.

“This new project is exactly what our buyers are looking for — smaller, more energy-efficient homes with creative design at an affordable price,” said Shawn Evenhaim, president and founder of Canoga Park-based California Home Builders.

Rafael Sanchez and his wife, Jannette Paz, bought a four-bedroom, two-and-a-half bathroom home for about $290,000 and moved in Dec. 23 from a two-bedroom apartment in Echo Park.

The couple and their two daughters live on Relaxed Lane and celebrated their slice of the American Dream with a New Year’s party for their family.

“It was a real nice experience. It’s kind of hard to … realize it’s your own,” said Sanchez, a radiologist assistant. “The girls were running around and going crazy. It’s a nice feeling of accomplishment.”

Evenhaim bought the nearly 5-acre site out of foreclosure in early 2009 for about $2 million. Construction started in 2010.

“When the housing market slowed down in 2007 we, as a company, had to make a choice. Shut down and lay off people or continue going,” Evenhaim said.

Since the company had prospered during the boom, Evenhaim felt he owed it to the 20 employees to keep the business open.

“You shouldn’t shut down and let them go,” he reasoned.

The Village is being built in four phases, with the homes selling in the $275,900 to $309,900 range. The first phase of 12 homes has been sold and the 13-home phase two is 85 percent completed and nine homes are in escrow, Evenhaim said.

The trick to selling in this market is finding an affordable price point, he said.

The company didn’t have a big debt load when the recession hit, but it did lose money on some projects over the past several years.

The company is getting back on track.

Including the Village, it now has eight projects consisting of 97 homes and 155 condo units going in Canoga Park, Valley Village and Pacoima.

The company subcontracts out the construction work and has about 100 people on the job each day.

“We keep a lot of people working, and I think that’s what a lot of businesses need to do,” he said.

Evenhaim, along with Los Angeles city officials, will celebrate the Village opening at a ceremony today at the project site.

All of the homes are equipped with rooftop solar-power systems through a joint venture of two Northern California companies, Sunrun and Petersen Dean Roofing and Solar Systems.

Petersen is the roofing contractor and solar-system installer. Sunrun owns the solar systems and takes care of monitoring and maintenance.

In return, the homeowners pay a fixed power fee of $49 a month for 20 years.

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The development is tied into the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power grid and the homeowner gets credit for the power the home generates.

Each home received a $10,000 solar incentive from the DWP, said Joe Ramallo, spokesman for the utility.

Sunrun spokeswoman Susan Wise said that the new owners should start saving immediately on their electric bills.

“It’s different for every homeowner but on average with Sunrun homeowners will save between 5 percent and 15 percent right away on their electricity, and those savings will grow over time, depending on the costs of fossil fuels,” Wise said.

Evenhaim said the solar system is proving to be a good selling point, too.

“We really see ourselves today as part of the American Dream,” said Evenhaim, who chose streets names to reflect his vision for the community — Inspire Lane, Dream Lane and Believe Lane.

“We are proud of building homes for people and creating jobs.”