Orange County faithful hit the road for Pope’s visit

Alex Zamudio has only heard about what it is like to be in the presence of a pope, the Vicar of Christ.

“I’ve heard from so many people what a great experience it is,” he said. “That it’s not something you can explain, but have to experience for yourself.”

Zamudio will get that chance Wednesday when he goes to Washington, D.C., along with 249 others from his congregation at St. Anne Catholic Church in Santa Ana.

In all, at least 1,000 Catholics from Orange County are expected to head east this week to get a glimpse of Pope Francis, said Diocese of Orange spokesman Ryan Lilyengren. Among those on the road trip will be Bishop Kevin Vann and other diocese officials.

Last week, after St. Anne congregants participated in a liturgy and confessional in preparation for their pilgrimage to Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia (the pope’s route), Zamudio won one of 100 raffle tickets given out to attend the pope’s canonization Mass for Father Junipero Serra.

The tickets were made available through the diocese, said Ivan Rodriguez, one of the church members leading the traveling contingent.

While many members of the group will witness Serra’s canonization at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, they also hope to see the pope after his address to Congress on Thursday. If not then, they’ll try to see him later in New York City and Philadelphia, where Vann will hold a Mass for the Orange County group. They also will see the pope at the World Meeting of Families on Saturday in Philadelphia.

Vann said an opportunity to see Pope Francis is a potentially momentous event for local Catholics.

“There is a lot of excitement,” he said. “This is the Holy Father’s first visit to the United States. And to add to that, one of our own is being elevated to sainthood.”

For Lorena Mendoza of Anaheim, no sacrifice is too big to be in the presence of divinity. She has seen Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, as well as Pope Francis two years ago in Brazil.

“I live paycheck to paycheck,” said the St. Anne’s congregant. “But I give up what I can – my cup of Starbucks coffee or going to the movies. The experience is worth it.”

Mendoza describes the feeling she has in the presence of a pope as “an immense sense of peace and hope.”

“Whatever you are going through in your life, you know it’s going to be OK and that you are loved, no matter what,” she said.

She recalls attending World Youth Day in 2005 Cologne, Germany, where she saw Pope Benedict.

“It was so hot there that firemen were throwing buckets of water into the crowd,” she said. “There were thousands of people there and, still, I felt like I was the only one there. It was an amazing, peaceful feeling.”

Alma and Juan Martinez of Santa Ana plan to take their three sons – Andy, 12; Alex, 11; and Abraham, 5. They’ll bring clothes and themselves, but no electronics, their mother says.

“This is not a vacation,” Alma Martinez said. “I want my sons to be more present and take in the experience. They are not happy we’re taking their games away from them, but I think they’ll appreciate the experience more when they are not distracted.”

She said she is inspired by Pope Francis.

“I like that he is candid,” Martinez said. “The truth is the truth, and it’s refreshing to hear it. I feel that Pope Francis can be blunt, but always loving.”

Celso and Rosa Calderon will take the trip with their two daughters, son, sons-in-law and grandchildren. “We’re a large group,” Celso Calderon said with a laugh. “We are 14 of us.”

For Celso Calderon, the trip is an affirmation of faith, which he says brought him back to his family after a life of violence.

“God made me the man I am today, and I will forever feel his love,” he said. “The pope, for me, is God’s representative on Earth.”

Anthony Tran and Brandon Dang, seminary students from Orange County, will be able to afford the trip to see Pope Francis thanks to a basketball game last month at St. Jeanne de Lestonnac School in Tustin. The game, which pitted priests against seminarians, raised thousands of dollars so seminarians could make the trip.

“He seems like the people’s pope,” Tran said of Pope Francis. “He brings the human side of himself to every situation. I love that he places an emphasis on helping the poor, always reminding us not to forget those in need.”

Dang is looking forward to the Serra canonization and traveling with his fellow seminarians.

“Witnessing a canonization is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” he said.

“And traveling with my fellow seminarians is a wonderful opportunity to build a fraternity as future priests.”

Contact the writer: 714-796-7909 or

The Flintstone House, Palazzo di Amore, the Rock House: What’s the real worth of an over-the-top home?

When Brian Grey had to figure out the value of a landmark home known as the Flintstone House, the appraiser couldn’t look to comparable residences. With its clump of bubble-shaped rooms, the home seemed to spring out of a Hanna-Barbera cartoon.

Grey quickly realized, “I just don’t have another house that’s like this.”

That didn’t make the property a white elephant, though.

When Grey asked several real estate agents in the Bay Area whether there was a market for the unusual home, he recalled, “The consensus was there’s constant demand.”

Sure enough, a buyer snapped it up for $800,000.

Nearly two decades later, the quirky marvel – remodeled and enhanced – is on the market again, this time for $4.2 million.

It’s one of several out-of-the-ordinary dwellings that have been making headlines lately.

In the Mojave Desert, a house shaped like a spaceship and set on the 150-foot cinder cone of an extinct volcano was listed at $650,000 earlier this month and went into escrow Friday. The property, on 60 acres with a lake, got multiple offers. In Beverly Hills, a sprawling compound touted as the priciest home in the U.S. last year just took a $46 million price cut.

Despite their differences, houses like these raise a common question: How does anyone – real estate professionals, sellers or buyers – figure out what off-the-wall, over-the-top homes are worth?


The Volcano House was owned by TV personality Huell Howser, who gave it to Chapman University in 2012, a year before his death. The university had originally planned to use the house for desert studies, astronomy and geology pursuits. But it’s selling the property because its desert location, in Newberry Springs east of Barstow, was deemed too isolated for students.

Brady Sandahl of Hom Sotheby’s International Realty says he and another agent listing the house considered other “architecturally significant” properties, mostly in the high desert, in coming up with the $650,000 price tag.

“You just develop a business gut as to what you think the market will capture,” he said. “Then you turn to the buyers, and they’ll tell you why they’re giving you what they’re giving you. That’s the beauty of an open market.”

Sandahl said the multiple offers he received show the asking price was appropriate; three offers came in at $650,000 or more.

But clearly, the price tag would be higher if the property wasn’t so remote.

“This is real estate,” said Grey, who appraised the Flintstone House. “The first three rules of real estate are location, location, location.”

The Flintstone House is on the opposite side of that rule. It’s 17 miles from San Francisco and right near I-280, a major freeway.

“When you’re in the yard of the Flintstone House,” Grey said, “you hear that freeway very clearly.”

While the noise outside the home is a minus, on the plus side, Grey said, the house itself is nearly soundproof: “It’s like being in a cave.”

He attributes that to the construction. Steel rebar and wire mesh frames were built over large inflated weather balloons then covered with gunite, or “shotcrete.” He said that makes the walls thicker than a typical home’s.

Appraising even unusual homes involves the basics, Grey said. Size, number of rooms, quality of finishes and condition are all factors considered in addition to location.

“Those are relevant to any house, no matter how unusual or historical or plain it is,” he said.


With no truly comparable homes, Grey said, he used a bracketing system to determine where the Flintstone House fit on a spectrum. He placed the area’s high-end Tudor homes and plain ranch homes at opposite ends.

“Appraising something … it’s quite a bit more art than science,” he said. “In terms of appraising that house, I put it right in the middle.”

He did not make comparisons with unusual homes elsewhere in the country, he said.

With land value varying greatly, he explained, “You could be avoiding an adjustment regarding the design of the house and making a huge adjustment for the difference in location.”

In Southern California, Realtors Joyce Rey and Stacy Gottula of Coldwell Banker Previews International cast a considerably wider net to come up with Palazzo di Amore’s $195 million price tag, which has since dropped to $149 million.

The agents said they looked to the most expensive homes worldwide.

The 25-acre compound with its own vineyard in Beverly Hills was touted as the most expensive in the U.S. when it came on the market last year.

The gated, 12-bedroom, 23-bathroom property was eight years in the making. It’s reached by a quarter-mile, tree-lined drive and has a guard station. A two-level entertainment center, with a 50-seat screening room and a bowling alley, is entered through a floating glass-floor walkway over pools lined by 70-year-old olive trees.

The main residence tops 35,000 square feet, while the entire estate has more than 53,000 square feet of living space. There’s garage parking for 27 cars, though the site “can easily accommodate parking for (approximately) 150 cars,” according to the listing.

“There are so few comps, you really have to look at the history of sales in the area as well as the global sales,” Gottula said.

“They’re going to be a global citizen of some kind,” Rey said of the likely buyers. “They’re going to have houses in various places, and they’re going to be looking, in all probability, in all of those markets.”

The Realtors considered the highest sales in London, Hong Kong, France and elsewhere. They also looked at the priciest home ever sold in the U.S., a $147 million East Hampton estate that hedge fund manager Barry Rosenstein of Jana Partners bought in 2014, according to Forbes.

“New York is on fire with their condominium market,” Rey said. “They’re selling condominiums for $100 million a pop that aren’t even built yet.

“That makes our house look like a bargain.”


Dean Zibas, an appraiser based in San Clemente, said appraisers generally consider what a typical buyer would pay for a property. But the “right” buyer, he noted, could easily pay more.

“Unique properties such as the ones you are citing would typically only sell to a right buyer,” he said.

In Laguna Beach, the landmark Rock House, a cutting-edge home wedged into a large, oceanfront boulder, has been awaiting such a buyer.

Designed by Orange County architect Brion Jeannette for Dennis Morin, who was a software entrepreneur, the 3,000-square-foot, steel-and-glass residence has a reinforced concrete roof that sustains the weight of the rock.

A creek runs through the home’s interior, which includes a round kitchen with black terrazzo floors inlaid with abalone shells, a floating ceiling cove around the living room skylight, a concrete hallway fashioned to evoke the exterior rock, and handmade glass tiles.

The house, which took shape after years of meetings with city officials, drew widespread attention even before it was completed in 1996. In the early ’90s, a Russian newspaper published a front-page story about it under the headline, “Only in America.”

Morin died in 2012. Annie Speck, an interior designer, was his fiancee.

The house has attracted interest from tech, creative and “entrepreneureal types who think out of the box,” said Speck, who envisions the next owner this way: “I see a single person who is very confident with their own taste and has an affinity for whimsical art forms.”

In April 2014, the house was for sale at $15 million. It went off the market in November, and another agent re-listed it in March at $9.99 million.

So far, the right buyer remains elusive.

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As cities struggle with home sharing, here’s a guide to what they are doing to restrict Airbnb listings

Short-term rentals are nothing new to Orange County. But with the recent surge in home-sharing listings online, homeowners and city officials from the beaches to the hills are on a quest to rein them in, and in some cases, quash them altogether.

Just this week, city councils in Santa Ana and Anaheim passed restrictions on such lodging, most of them marketed on “sharing economy” websites like Airbnb, VRBO and HomeAway. Many listing their properties on such sites typically aren’t permitted. In a lot of cases, Airbnb hosts say they aren’t aware of local laws addressing rentals.

City actions are in direct conflict with property owners and renters eager to jump into the often profitable business of renting out extra bedrooms or entire homes to vacationers and road warriors.

Michael Bargetto, who lists his Newport Beach condo on Airbnb, said most hosts, himself included, rent out their units responsibly and regulation would only stand in the way of long-needed innovation in the hospitality industry.

“Airbnb is the solution to this very (longstanding) problem of how people travel,” Bargetto said. “It’s allowed me to supply a product that people want to purchase.”

Anaheim resident Howard Vaughn welcomes more regulation. He and neighbors, he said, have noticed an uptick in noise and trash complaints as a result of five short-term rentals going live in the last four months. One, he said, is a home that was renovated to accommodate as many as 30 people.

“I don’t feel comfortable coming out there,” said Vaughn, referring to his residential block.

Rules on vacation rentals already exist in most cities in the region but they vary greatly. They’ve been banned outright in some areas as far back as the 1950s. In others, they must be permitted and taxed. And in a growing number of cases, cities are revisiting– and potentially revising – regulations that are already in the books.

Here’s a breakdown of what most major local cities are doing to address home sharing:



Active Airbnb listings: 333

Status: Applications halted. Council members on Tuesday approved a 45-day moratorium on new short-term rental applications, with the possibility that the stay can be extended. During that time, the city will examine how it can better regulate short-term listings. One suggestion: Increase the $250 registration fee charged each year to property owners who rent out their homes. One council member proposed spending an additional $200,000 to ramp up code enforcement on evenings and weekends. Those with existing permits are allowed to continue operating. Council members are expecting a report on this issue Oct. 20.

Santa Ana

Active Airbnb listings: 121

Status: Temporarily banned. The City Council approved a 45-day moratorium Tuesday and is also eyeing permanent regulation. The vote was prompted by Santa Ana’s first run-in with a short-term rental issue: a six-bedroom house that neighbors say hosted a frequently changing cast of renters and pool parties sometimes going late into the night.

Laguna Beach

Active Airbnb listings: 174

Status: New applications halted. An existing moratorium was extended in August until Oct. 1, 2016. Though there may be close to 200 short-term vacation rentals in the city, only 53 units are permitted. In the meantime, city staff members are crafting an ordinance to ban all short-term lodging in residential zones, which constitute the majority of the city. Short-term lodging options in commercial zones may be considered. But if allowed, the permits would come with requirements, such as fire inspections and on-site parking.


Huntington Beach

Active Airbnb listings: 266

Status: Prohibited since the 1950s. Exceptions include bed and breakfasts. However, the City Council plans to review the issue of vacation rentals at a study session in the fall.

San Clemente

Active Airbnb listings: 170

Status: Vacation rentals must be registered and are subject to a 10 percent transient occupancy tax, according to the city code. Owners must collect the taxes and file tax returns. The city recently imposed a moratorium on issuing permits to sober-living homes, partly to review city codes related to all home-based businesses, including short-term lodging.

Laguna Niguel

Active Airbnb listings: 155

Status: No regulations are on the books, but the City Council plans to address the issue of vacation rentals in October.


Active Airbnb listings: 62

Status: The city has no restrictions in place, but officials say home-sharing rentals are becoming an issue. For now, they will monitor complaint calls.



Active Airbnb listings: 369

Status: The city bans the rental of a space or unit for 30 days or fewer, unless it’s in a hotel-motel zone. Those who violate the policy could face a $100 fine for the first day, $200 for the second day, $500 for the third day and every day thereafter.

Newport Beach

Active Airbnb listings: 315

Status: Since 2004, the city has had a long-term moratorium on short-term lodging permits for areas zoned for detached single family homes.

Dana Point

Active Airbnb listings: 114

Status: A permit, which costs $150, is required. The rule has been in place since April 2013.

Staff writers Jessica Kwong, Art Marroquin, Greg Mellen, Megan Nicolai, Lou Ponsi, Erika Ritchie, Fred Swegles and Christopher Yee contributed to this report. Airbnb listings provided by Beyond Pricing.

Contact the writer: 714-796-4976 or lleung@ocregister.comTwitter: @LilyShumLeung

Week 3: Here are the tackles, touchdowns and fan fun from Orange County high school football

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Pacific City will bring change, luxury to Surf City

South Coast Plaza has Bloomingdale’s. Fashion Island has Nieman Marcus.

So how will Orange County’s next luxury shopping center, Pacific City, compete with rivals?

“The Pacific Ocean is our anchor,” said Linda Berman, chief marketing officer for Pacific City developer DJM Capital Partners.

The $135 million lifestyle hub on Pacific Coast Highway provides expansive views of Huntington Beach’s open coastline. Close to 60 shops and restaurants are planned for the 191,000-square-foot mall, the centerpiece of a larger, 31-acre hotel and residential project emerging among the city’s eclectic mix of surf shacks and bohemian bars.

Taking cues from other revamped Orange County shopping centers, Pacific City’s backers are betting big on food and nightlife. Key attractions at the site will be a casual dining hall dubbed Lot 579, a cocktail lounge from Santa Monica and the first Orange County outpost for craft beer pub Simmzy’s.

One-third of the food and retail shops are expected to open by the end of the year. The open-air mall also will have a public outdoor lounge with sofas and coffee tables called Main Plaza, offering a front-and-center view of the beach at sunset.

“We are really trying to change the adjectives about Huntington Beach,” said DJM President Lindsay Parton. “Traditionally it hasn’t been an upscale destination.”


Huntington Beach’s lively Main Street is home to countless surf shops, dive bars and chains such as Starbucks, BJ’s Restaurants, Wahoo’s Fish Taco and Avila’s El Ranchito.

But two blocks away at Pacific City, developer DJM is going for a modern lifestyle center – one that is unified in theme from its chef-driven restaurants to its independent boutiques.

The center with a bungalow motif is part of a city that attracts 11 million visitors a year and has an annual median household income of $81,000. The eye-popping demographics, combined with the coastal setting, have made it easier for DJM to curate tenants for a built-from-scratch center with no track record.

“Orange County is not a cliche,” said Berman with DJM. “Orange County is a very unique, very eclectic. And the demographics are very attractive.”

The ocean-facing property lured Mike Simms, owner of the craft-beer-centric restaurant Simmzy’s.

Of his four Los Angeles-area pubs, Huntington Beach is the first to open in a new retail center, said Simms, whose father founded Mimi’s Cafe. Initially he thought it could be risky – until he set foot on the property, which had been vacant for years.

“You step out on the patio, and you see the pier, and the surfers. The ocean views are unbelievable,” said Simms, whose brother founded Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar.

Jennifer Delcham, who is bringing Ways & Means Oyster House to the center, said Pacific City offers residents a premium dining and shopping experience closer to home.

“It really feels like Pacific City is bringing a lot of luxury and upscale touches that (locals) are traveling down the coast for,” Delcham said.

Still, she says, Pacific City is not “better” than Main Street: “It’s just that it is different.”


Pacific City’s cachet will be its hipster food brands, which carry a large following in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York.

PopBar, a gelato-on-a-stick sensation from New York, is opening at Lot 579. Los Angeles hospitality guru Brent Bolthouse is bringing his rustic Bungalow, a popular cocktail and music lounge in Santa Monica. Old Crow Smokehouse is a fusion barbecue eatery coming from Chicago.

“Food is the new fashion,” said Parton with DJM. “It’s going to be a very unique waterfront experience. Best in class.”

Hospitality consultant Jeffrey McNeal said savvy developers like DJM know that next-generation shoppers, especially millennials, are looking for buzzworthy experiences when it comes to shopping.

“Malls are tough places to do business. No longer can you put (in) a Nordstrom or a Macy’s and expect that to drive traffic,” said McNeal, president of Fessel International in Arcadia.

With consumers able to buy everything online – from shoes to bed sheets to home computers and mobile devices – McNeal said DJM is smart to use restaurants as anchor tenants.

“Restaurants will continue to be a social experience that can’t be replaced by the Internet,” he said.


On the retail side, DJM is targeting chic indie stores such as bohemian clothing shop Irene’s Story (Mission Viejo and Irvine), men’s shop TankFarm (Seal Beach) and men’s and women’s boutique West of Camden (Corona del Mar).

Though niche concepts are preferred, DJM is not ignoring national and regional brands.

Pacific City will have upscale fitness club Equinox, H&M, Crazy Shirts and MAC Cosmetics. All four are expected to open in November.

Restaurants slated to open before the end of the year include Simmzy’s, Lemonade, Ola Mexican Cuisine, Backhouse Yakitori & Sushi, Ways & Means and Saint Marc.

While Pacific City is attracting food entrepreneurs outside of Orange County, homegrown brands are the heart of the project.

Ways & Means is relocating from its original location in Orange, which closed last year. The 3,600-square-foot restaurant plans to offer “approachable pricing” on small plates from $4 to $12, as well as fish, chicken and steak entrees from $12 to $40.

The restaurant also is opening a culinary store geared toward at-home chefs. Ways & Means At Home will sell chef-driven merchandise and offer carry-out picnic baskets for dining on the beach.

Other locally based concepts include Burnt Crumbs, Bear Flag Fish Co., American Dream, Hans’ Homemade Ice Cream, Ola Mexican Cuisine and Pie-Not.

Some are rookie concepts, like sandwich shop Burnt Crumbs and burger bar American Dream. While other mall developers might balk at leasing to untested brands, Berman said DJM likes entrepreneurs with a built-in fan base.

Burnt Crumbs, she notes, will be run by a food truck operator (The Burnt Truck) with a proven track record.

“We love the idea of somebody doing something (successful) before, and has the desire to incubate something new,” she said.


Many of the locally conceived eateries are opening at Lot 579, a food hall expected to open in 2016.

Lot 579, named after the lifeguard towers in front of the center, is part of a growing number of culinary hubs being developed under one roof.

The OC Mix at South Coast Collection in Costa Mesa, the Anaheim Packing House, 4th Street Market in Santa Ana and Union Market Tustin at The District are some of the food halls that have opened in the county in recent years.

When the Tustin food hall launched last year, it struggled because many of the restaurants didn’t open at once.

Berman said she is encouraging Lot 579 tenants to open at the same time.

“Some of these markets open way before they should, and the customer experience isn’t as good as it should be,” she said.

For Paul Cao of Burnt Crumbs, opening at Lot 579 marks a dream come true.

The chef is the co-founder of The Burnt Truck and the recently opened Burntzilla restaurant in Irvine. The latter is a hybrid restaurant that sells Burnt Truck-inspired sliders, mini versions of Dogzilla food truck’s signature Asian-fusion hot dogs.

The 36-year-old Cao has been developing the chef-driven sandwich shop for six years. Landing at Pacific City, he said, is icing on the cake.

“This is my passion project. I’ve been doing everything – the truck, Burntzilla – to get to this,” Cao said.

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