Bickford Ranch – Placer County, California

bickford  

Overview

In the spring of 2013, Westpark Communities was approached by the holding company of Lehman Brothers to assist them with the repositioning of an asset they acquired through foreclosure and the bankruptcy of a previous business partner. The role of Westpark Communities in the property was unusual in that rather than a principal in the development of the property; we played the role as a consultant to Lehman Brothers Holdings, LLC.

The property was well known in the market having endured an 8+ year entitlement process in the late 1990’s into the early 2000’s that include very contentious public hearings and protracted litigation by local residents, regional and national environmental groups. Lennar Homes was the initial developer who completed the entitlements and had intended to commence with development when SunCal acquired the site in late 2005 and commenced development of the property including grading, off site trunk sewer and water lines to serve the site. In 2008 all development ceased on the site and was left in various stages of completion, including half built sewer and water lines, and unfinished grading.

Westpark Communities task was to evaluate the then existing entitlements and regulatory permits as well as various agreements with utility providers and propose amendments to better reflect current market conditions. The original entitlements include 1,890 residential units, a 10 acre commercial site, 190 unit affordable multi-family site, and an 18-hole championship golf course. The residential mix was split evenly between conventional housing and age-restricted community that included the golf course as well as 2 community recreation centers. Included with the conventional product was a mixture of housing and lot options including large acreage lots (5+ acres) to attached townhome units. Our initial recommendation to Lehman Brothers was to keep the active adult community, but eliminate the golf course and replace it with open space that would include walking and hiking trails as well as more opportunity for open space view premiums. Removing the golf course also created opportunities to revise the residential portions of the land plan and create better residential neighborhoods. In addition we recommended a revised grading strategy for the site to serve two purposes, it reduced the visibility of the development from neighboring properties, but also allowed for a reduction in tree impacts.

The project was issued a US Army Corps of Engineers 404 Permit in 2007 and expired in February 2012, prior to our involvement in the project. Despite the prior non-compliance issues with the permit, Westpark Communities successfully negotiated an extension of the expired 404 permit without additional mitigation requirement and brought the property back into compliance with the Corps.

Westpark Communities reviewed the major infrastructure phasing plan for Bickford Ranch. The original plan had trunk sewer improvements coming from the west and the primary water supply coming from the west. This created an extremely costly phasing plan requiring significant offsite infrastructure and constructing infrastructure in some cases many years ahead of when it would otherwise be required. Working with the local service providers Westpark Communities developed a phasing plan to bring both water and sewer to the site from the west, creating a much more favorable phasing plan than was previously in place. In addition Westpark Communities looked for other infrastructure savings and efficiencies that ultimately lead to a backbone cost savings of more than 10% and nearly $40 million.

Despite the previous contentious entitlement process, Westpark Communities developed an outreach plan that included multiple community meetings with local planning committees to vet the changes to the plan and address issues ahead of public hearings. The project moved through the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors with only a single dissenting vote.