San Diego-based Jonathan Segal is a unique kind of builder in that his firm doesn’t have any clients. They act as both the architect and developer for all of their projects. This gives them a lot of control over the building process, but also more freedom to experiment.
ULI recently interviewed Segal about his micro-housing project on 320 West Cedar Street in San Diego’s Little Italy (called The Continental). And I think it’s a pretty interesting case study for us to discuss here on the blog.
It’s a 5,000 sf corner site, and Segal developed it with 42 micro units (5 of which are priced at 65% of AMR), two retail spaces at grade, and a separate “single-family townhouse” for his son that sits on top of the retail space at the corner.
The idea was to create relatively affordable “workforce” housing, which is why there’s also minimal parking. The 37 market-rate units are currently priced between $1,595 and $1,995 per month, and the affordable ones are about $900 per month.
Segal is forthright in the interview in saying that leasing velocity was slow following completion in December 2019. It was hard to rent these kinds of units in San Diego without any parking. But he viewed the project as an experiment and eventually he did find product-market fit.
The mix of housing types here is also noteworthy. Presumably his son could have just gone out and built a more typical grade-related home. But why do that when you can build on top of an urban retail space and add 42 other homes to the lot?