This week the Tribune publishes a five part series on water. The seeds for the issue were being planted in the late 20th Century as Paso Robles expanded to the east side of the Salinas River.
The property values seem economical when you look back 30 years but property buyers at the time also had to contend with 15 percent interest on loans.
The land near Paso Robles High School was so open that a hot air balloon was used to mark the location. On January 1, 1982 Telegram-Tribune reporter Phil Dirkx wrote about the real estate boom.
Lining up for Paso land
SLO firm promotes rush on lots
More than 200 people showed up on a chilly hilltop in Paso Robles Saturday morning for what had been advertised as a land rush.
The high ground near the new Paso Robles High School was bare except for streets, curbs, sidewalks and street lights. It had been graded, improved and staked out into 87 lots by Walter Brothers Construction Co. of San Luis Obispo. The buyers will have to provide the houses.
The sale started at 9 a.m. after a free pancake and sausage breakfast that started at 8.
The first buyer had been waiting since 6:30 a.m. He was Rob Neeper, a six-month transplant to Paso Robles from Brea and an electronic engineer at the Beckman Instruments Inc. plant in Paso Robles.
He and his wife have one child, a son, born last week.
He brought the lot 33, where the sales trailer and breakfast tent were placed. He said it had the best view.
When he walked out of the sales trailer he smiled and said, “Get off my land.”
The price listed for his lot was $27,900 The cash required for the down payment and closing costs was listed as 11,410.
The unpaid balance of $16,740 could be financed for five years at 15 percent interest with only interest payments ($209 a month) required during that time.
Many of those who showed up were in the real estate business and some were planning to develop other nearby tracts.
Somebody said, “There are as many peddlers as buyers here.”
Among the non-peddlers were Bob and Barbary Finley of Paso Robles.
“We decided we would at least look and see what they had to offer,” said Bob.
They lease their present home and would like to buy one “before we are priced completely out of the market.”
The “land rush” had been advertised in newspapers in Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno, San Jose and Paso Robles and on television stations in Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and San Luis Obispo.
A hot-air balloon was tethered on the tract as a temporary landmark for potential buyers.
Some of those attracted by the advertising were a family from Santa Barbara, Albert and Jean Escalera and their son Bryan and his wife, Jan.
Jean Escalera said they got up at 4:30 to get to Paso Robles for the sale.
“There’s a lot of growth yet to come here,” she said. “Young people from Santa Barbara have to go somewhere; there are no lots at this price there.”
The Escaleras bought one lot to build a house for possible sale to someone else.
The balloon and the breakfast tent were folded up by noon, and by the time the day drew to a close, a total of seven lots were marked “sold” on the signboard map.It is hard to judge whether the land rush promotion was a success, said Vicki Silva, President of the Paso Robes Board of Realtors.
There haven’t been any similar promotion[s] in Paso Robles recently, she said, and winter usually is not as good for selling real estate as the spring.
“We were very much aware that we would not sell them all,” said Walter Brothers spokeswoman Rachel Cannon.
“It was just a beginning promotion,” she said. “Just an attention getter.”
She also said there were 10 to 20 more people Saturday who said they were interested and were to check with their sources of financing this week before making a decision.
Walter Brothers had no intention of building the houses on the tract because they engineering contractors and houses are out of their line, she said.
Cannon declined to reveal how much the company had spend advertising the land rush but said: “It was a very considerable amount.
“We did not penny pinch,” she said.
“We are pleased and proud of the project.”