The unknown owner, who has another home in Canada, watched from outside helplessly as security cameras showed the approaching fire, and eventually the house’s demise.
The mansion, listed for less than $10 million, is perhaps the most expensive 66 homes in the oceanfront ridgetop Coronado Point neighborhood.
Fire officials said 11 homes were destroyed and 20 homes were destroyed by the rapid bushfires that swept through the Laguna Niguel neighborhood west of Crown Valley Parkway.
The prices of fire-affected homes along Coronado Point ranged from $2.85 million to $9.61 million, averaging just under $4 million, according to the latest Zillow “Zestimates” home valuer. The mansion on the impasse at the north end of the building is up for sale for just under $9.9 million.
Most homes ranged in size from 4,000 to over 6,000 square feet. It’s impossible to find homes of this size for those values in nearby Laguna Beach.
“It’s a very exclusive neighborhood … very quiet,” said Leo Goldschwartz, a Newport Beach real estate agent, who was selling the lavish French-style mansion at the northern end of the neighborhood. “It is a luxurious community that is little known.”
Future plans destroyed
The original single-gate Coronado Pointe community dates back to the late 1980s, when a partnership called Coronado Pointe LP launched construction, according to news excerpts. Most of the homes were built by the original developer, but six at the north end were custom homes that were built later.
The custom-built mansion at the north end of the building was Coronado Pointe’s crown jewel, with an elegant car court up front, twin wings that jut into the valley and a curving rear wall overlooking the pool, golf course, and Aliso Beach in the distance. Built in 1999, Goldschwartz said the house was designed by a French architect with a feng shui sensibility.
“It is a very private property. “You can’t duplicate that house,” said the agent, who works for Compass Real Estate. “The house had separate suites. The adults went one way, and the kids went the other way. …it was like a palace. The house was a really beautiful home. The finishes were great.”
Goldschwartz said potential buyers were devastated. They had plans to do a massive remodel. The custom adjoining house, which was also badly damaged by the fire, recently completed an extensive remodel.
Goldschwartz added that the mansion is insured, but fire insurance is becoming more difficult and more expensive as global warming and drought have increased risks in fire-prone California.
“I do a lot of business here on the coast, and for the past three years it has been difficult for a lot of my clients to get insurance,” he said.
Undo the danger zones
Insurance payments have skyrocketed: Between 2011 and 2018, insurers paid about $4 billion a year to cover wildfire losses, but recent fire seasons have driven homeowners $26 billion in claims, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley in A study published last year. More than 1 in 12 California homes are located in high-risk areas, and more than half a million new homes can be built in these areas under current California rules.
The University of California, Berkeley study concluded that the state should reform its policies to allow owners to rebuild their homes after a wildfire.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that American International Group Inc. and Chubb Ltd. They were withdrawing from the regulated fire insurance market in California and introducing policies in high-cost excess and excess lines.
Other insurance companies have laid off tens of thousands of California homeowners in rural areas and other fire-prone parts of California in the wake of the 2017-18 wildfires in Santa Rosa, Paradise and Ventura County, although that trend has eased somewhat recently.
“We saw increases in non-renewals by insurers after the 2017 and 2018 wildfires, but recently some positive indicators have emerged,” said Michael Soler, deputy state insurance commissioner. “In our most recent data, the number of non-renovations decreased by 10%, which means that the number of homes that were not renovated is approximately 22,000 homes in 2020 compared to 2019.”
Discounts have been offered to homeowners to reduce the risk of wildfires in their homes through measures such as the use of non-combustible materials and the removal of flammable brushes and plants from around the home.
Soler said the new state regulations would “require insurance companies to recognize wildfire safety measures taken by homeowners in their rates.” “If you do the hard work of making your home safer, you should see the reward.”
In addition to discount pricing incentives, Soller said California’s “Safer than Wildfires” insurance framework aims to create transparency in forest fire risk scores for the insurers used to assess risk.
“Most homeowners don’t know there is a rating for their risk,” Soler said. “It will require that these results be available. If you add a fireproof roof or double-paned windows, that result should reflect that.”
Soler said he expects the new regulations to be in effect this summer. Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara also sponsored legislation to strengthen consumer protections for bushfire survivors and evacuees.
Protection includes an advance payment for claims without an itemized inventory, at least two weeks of additional living expenses to cover the costs of a mandatory evacuation, increased payments for a full loss if you choose to move rather than rebuild, and additional insurance for disaster survivors who choose to. Rebuilding to cover updated building codes.
Soler suggested that homebuyers should take property insurance costs into account during the buying process. Fire survivors can contact the Department of Insurance if they have questions about their policies or about how to file a claim by calling 800-927-4357 or visiting bit.ly/calinsurancehelp.
SCNG Art Director Jeff Gortzen and Bay Area News Group contributed to this report.