Things are not as bleak as a recent national article would suggest
■ Matt McPherson / Columnist
Another year is upon us, and real estate values will continue to rise in 2018 surrounded by growth and development. San Jacinto persists in expansion with dozens of commercial and residential developments throughout the city, while Hemet struggles to escape the stigma of crime, poverty, and unemployment.
From November 2016 to November 2017, Hemet home values averaged $231,740, up 10 percent from last year. One huge indicator of the prosperous Hemet real estate market was the 184 homes sold during the month of November. Usually during the holidays the volume of homes sold slows down significantly, which was not the case this year. Speculation suggests the number of homes sold in a typically stagnant market will translate to a robust spring and summer selling season.
Commercial-wise, Hemet has seen a fair amount of growth with a new Taco Bell, Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen, Ono Hawaiian BBQ, Burlington Coat Factory, ULTA Beauty, and a relocated and enlarged Sprouts. Rumors continue to circle around the old K-Mart building on the northwest corner of Stetson and State. A nursing college, a charter school, even an indoor go-cart and arcade facility have all been rumored to be going in, but to date, nothing has been verified. Another area of interest is the old Ramona Lanes bowling alley on the southwest corner of Hemet and Florida. Several developers and entrepreneurs have voiced an interest in expanding the existing area into a strip mall with a couple anchor tenants.
In San Jacinto, the average home value came in at $261,404, up a surprising 12 percent from last year. Although San Jacinto saw a lower sales volume with only 63, desirability fueled by development is a major contributing factor. ALDI, The Mason Jar Brewing Company, and the highly anticipated new Soboba Hotel and Casino all will create jobs and enrich the booming economy we’re seeing in San Jacinto.
A recent article in “The Atlantic” by Alana Semuels mentioned Hemet as one of the few semi-rural areas in the country that has not yet recovered from the Great Recession. Pervasive crime and poverty were cited as symptoms of the slow return to prosperity. As much as I agree with most of the article, I feel it painted Hemet in a poor light. Numerous factors from poor city management to a city that welcomes the nonprofit/homeless industry play a significant role in what Hemet has become. I’m under the assumption the author was unaware of the decade-long high turnover rate for city managers and the state audit which named Hemet as one of the worst managed cities in California. Can the blame rest anywhere but on city government?
Instead, we seem to have a council that caters to dozens of nonprofits and a growing homeless industry throughout the valley.”
One previous city manager I felt understood the city’s problems and expressed his ideas to the city council was Alex Meyerhoff. He had pushed an agenda towards bringing in manufacturing and light industrial, which would have created hundreds of jobs and increased the area’s average per-capita income. His ideas, however, fell on deaf ears. The city council ignored this approach with high hopes of shiny new shopping centers, not understanding that to attract those types of developers, you need a significantly higher average income of the city’s citizens. One approach would have created the other.
Instead, we seem to have a council that caters to dozens of nonprofits and a growing homeless industry throughout the valley. Meyerhoff was thrown under the bus, but reemerged as the new city manager for the prospering city of San Fernando. Hopefully, our new City Manager Allen Parker will have better luck educating the council on what needs to be done before any shiny new shopping centers can be developed.
One housing development that the writer called out by name was Willowalk, which was previously known as “The Gated Ghetto.” CBS news even had done a story on the out of control Section 8 problem in the community. Since then, I feel the gated community has made a significant recovery with homes selling to eager buyers looking for a large home in an affordable area. Growing families and commuters looking to upsize in an association with low maintenance and wide-open spaces, parks, and ponds find the neighborhood very inviting.
Even before the recession, purposeful destruction of downtown Hemet and development instead at the east end of town contributed to the blight throughout the community once the recession hit. A lengthy lawsuit involving my family sadly revealed the inner working of a backwards city. During the discovery process, a hidden agenda by the city and a shadow government known as “The Action Group” revealed a corrupt motive to the city’s neglect.
One witness, a real estate broker, divulged some interesting information about how certain businesspeople were bent on seeing the downtown decline, a misguided effort motivated by financial gain. Upon researching the issue, we discovered the city to be complicit in much of their activities. Ironically, many of these individuals push Facebook sites such as Rebuilding Hemet and Hemet Politics attempting to repair what they helped destroy. This Münchausen syndrome (a parenting disorder in which the parent either fabricates an illness or induces an illness in their child) persists in creating more problems than it’s solving from poor decision-making by council to over-taxing citizens under false pretense.
From my perspective, The San Jacinto Valley and The City of Hemet are hidden gems in an ever evolving Southern California. On the east coast, Bostonians and New Yorkers huddle indoors to celebrate Christmas and the New Year while we can sit in our backyards in shorts and sandals enjoying the warm 75-degree holidays. I will continue to raise my daughters in the valley I know and love and work to make a difference in the community.