Silicon Bay Rising

Developer Christian Salceda brings his brand of lean, luxe residential development to the South Bay

In Spanish there is a saying, cosas cambios, which means, things change. In few places is this more evident than in the South Bay, where the real estate map is perpetually shifting—quickly, in some cases dramatically, and block by block.

Factors speeding this rate of change include an increasing number of homebuyers with cash on hand entering the local market courtesy of Google, Facebook, and other tech firms that are coming to Los Angeles. And we’d be remiss to exclude the recent green-light given to the LA Rams stadium complex in Inglewood, with a buildout cost estimated as high as $2.6 billion, making it the most expensive stadium in the world, with 300 acres set to be transformed, just 10 miles away from the Manhattan Beach pier. Not blind to this metamorphosis is city hall; Manhattan Beach has recently formed the Economic Development Advisory Council, which consists of a panel of experts tasked with bringing in more Silicon Beach firms.

DEMAND, MEET SUPPLY

“Anybody who’s been here for a decade or so has seen it change quite a bit,” says Christian Salceda, whose Silicon Bay Development has recently expanded to the South Bay from the Westside, where the firm has been building striking au courant, luxury homes for just over 10 years, most of them in the vicinity of Abbot Kinney or along the Venice canals. Opening his new office at 1300 Highland Avenue in Manhattan Beach just weeks ago, he cites demand, demographics and elevated margins on residential development, particularly in Manhattan Beach, as reasons to shift his business. “Parts of the South Bay market have just completely reset.”

A new focus of the firm, and apropos of the times, is a custom home offering aimed at high-end buyers that can range from simple construction management to a turnkey offering that includes conceptual design and architecture, along with entitlements, construction and even furnishings. “Consolidating these services and offering very detailed transparency in terms of budgeting and accounting, so homeowners have a really clear picture, is very important.” As a standard for his South Bay projects, he points to the sophistication—though not the price—of $50 and $100 million dollar homes on the Westside. “The people who build those, I’ve brought them on board to Silicon Bay Development.”

Notably, Silicon Bay has partnered with Ryan Schlee, a general contractor and veteran of resorts and big-home building, to manage the firm’s custom residential projects. “I come from a commercial construction background, building resorts like Terranea,” says Schlee. Following the completion of Terranea, Schlee transitioned into residential construction and spent nearly a decade with Peter McCoy, building uber-luxe residences in Beverly Hills and Bel-Air. Two of Schlee’s previous projects have been featured on the cover of the Robb Report and Wall Street Journal. “My time working on estates of that magnitude allows me to easily bridge my experience to smaller, but still very upscale homes in the South Bay and Westside. When you’re building a home with a budget upwards of $100 million dollars, there’s a level of detail involved that can be beyond one’s imagination, and that’s what sets my experience apart.”

In the end, Silicon Bay’s focus is to flatten the traditional layers between contractors, architects and designers, and do everything under one roof. “Removing inefficiencies,” Christian Salceda calls it, pointing to the resulting value, usually in the form of lower prices, that a lean home-building operation brings customers.



SILICON BAY STYLE

Two current Manhattan Beach spec projects serve as blueprints of Silicon Bay’s style—glamorous, showcasetype residences decked out with the latest trimmings. “Every project we do now, we’re doing with solar and full home-automation systems, including automatic shades and pocket doors,” Christian says. “It’s an area that’s quickly evolving.”

A walk through a glass-front six-bedroom home currently being built by Silicon Bay on 6th Street in the Hill Section reveals a place with ocean views on every floor. Christian points out the glass-lined wine wall, a central feature of the open dining area. The home’s stone hearths and exterior walls clad in porcelain stone and mahogany. The gym and health center with an infrared sauna and a steamer. And his favorite architectural feature: A mahogany trellis that runs over the length of the 11-foot ceilings on the top floor, plus the patios and entryway.

A design enthusiast who’s been developing for about 20 years—his first project was a late-‘90s development in La Quinta—he gets enthusiastic talking about his hunt for new home innovations and materials, like the brick he’s importing from Denmark to use on a new Silicon Bay home on 16th Street in Manhattan Beach. “There are 71 color variations to choose from. It’s bullet-proof for sustainability by the beach and it looks amazing.”

Also a banker by trade, Christian, who’s spent most of his time in mortgages that include construction lending, can provide bridge financing—essentially, a short term loan taken out against a current property to finance the purchase of a new property—via his firm 5th Street Capital. On this, he notes, “Regulation has made lending very cookie cutter, and in the end it doesn’t necessarily determine whether or not a person is a great borrower. There’s a huge need for an alternative to conventional underwriting and that’s why we’re offering it.”

And to those who might sigh at the prospect of yet another developer being added to the South Bay mix, Christian, who is the son of a Santa Ana gang cop and who has lived in Manhattan Beach for the last 20 years, shrugs, “I just feel it’s a good opportunity to provide another option. I can offer a good value and not sacrifice on quality. It’s compelling.”

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