Coming Soon to El Norte

By Dave Fratello | March 19th, 2008
They're tearing up one of the last big lots in the land formerly known as El Porto (officially, "North Manhattan Beach," but we prefer El Norte).

On the way: 5 new condos in 2 technically separate, simultaneous projects. (See artist's rendering from the developer's website).

The development is at 44th/Highland, on the east side of the street, where for years you may have noticed a giant hill of sand. Up at the top was an older home at 4321 Crest.

You might have wondered, in passing: When are they going to unload that land? And what's it worth?

Well, recently the green construction fences went up. The home at the top came down. And this prompted some questions: What finally happened? What's coming?

The answers: The land was sold quite nearly at the local RE market's peak, with a sale closing for $3m a year ago, in late February 2007.

The parcel is considered a double lot. (Photo: Microsoft Virtual Earth via On that space, zoning would allow up to 9 units, but the developers plan only 5, which is a nice stroke for lower density, we suppose. (It's 4 more units than previously occupied the space.) Approvals were mostly worked out late in 2007.

It's an ambitious project starting up at a rough time for the local market. (Let alone the credit markets.) Give the developers credit for having cojones.

The units will have ocean views, and they'll be new, but the location is going to be a problem.

Nearby, an SFR at 4104 Highland has sat on the market, unwanted, for more than 8 months. (It has technically canceled but there's still a sign out.) 305 Gull, a dated (and bright green!) duplex just a tad north on Highland, has now dropped below $1m after 5+ months. The most spectacular new entry, a trapezoidal tower at 4419 Highland, hasn't sold after 9 months and is now available for rent.

SFRs aren't a perfect comparison, but it's noteworthy that buyers are steering clear of the area while they have options.

There are condos further down the block (nearer to 41st) that have had their issues in recent years, but which all got sold and filled up, mostly in 2006. It can be done.

These builders are like toros, bullish on the future. The question is whether they'll find buyers in a year or two, or whether this project will offer some of El Norte's most splendid new rentals.

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