John Allen is chief operating officer of Santa Rosa-based APM Homes, which had been building projects in and around the city for several years before the October 2017 fires.
An early player in the mass-rebuilding endeavor for the over 5,000 homes lost in the city, APM has upwards of 50 fire-lot speculative homes in the devastated Coffey Park northwest neighborhood under construction, and so far has completed another 45. Underway also are a couple each of rebuilds and spec homes in the northeast Fountaingrove area.
Allen also is assisting with the even more massive rebuild after the 2018 Camp Fire in Northern California.
Outside the burn zones in Santa Rosa, APM is starting construction on an 82-home subdivision on West Third Street, next to the Imwalle Gardens grocery store. The project, called The Gardens, was acquired from another developer and has entry-level to move-up homes ranging in size from 1,400–2,200 square feet. Model homes are set to be complete by fall.
In this interview, edited for clarity, Allen talks about why reconstruction is happening faster in certain areas than others. He's set to speak on the rebuild at the Business Journal's May 29 Building the North Bay conference in Santa Rosa.
What’s the pace of the rebuild?
It’s definitely a different atmosphere right now. When we first launched the rebuild, we had quite a bit of interest; we had quite a few folks signing up. That has somewhat tapered off now. Most folks have either hired a contractor or made the decision to sell or move on. We still are seeing some folks trickle in and inquire about the rebuild process. As far as being flooded with new rebuild clients, that’s not the case. It’s a very slow trickle.
We do have folks that are coming in and purchasing lots and having us build a home for them, so they’re not fire survivors. There are folks that purchase lots that are having us put a home on there for them, built from one of our plans.
We’re in the process of building out the lots that we purchased, and we were making those homes available for sale. Sales in Coffey Park have held pretty strong. The folks that we’re selling to in Coffey Park are not from Coffey Park. But due to the publicity that Coffey Park received after the tragedy, folks see that Coffey Park has a really strong sense of community connectedness. They can also take a look at what is currently available for new home construction.
The unique thing about Coffey Park is we’re building in a subdivision that was developed back in the late ’70s–’80s. And with that, you get a backyard for your children, you get some wider streets than normal. It’s new construction, but it’s a little bit different atmosphere.
Are they still from Sonoma County or elsewhere in the area?
They’re primarily from within Sonoma County. There’s a couple of outsiders that have come in.
What have you noticed about the pool of builders that are working with rebuilds?
Well, I can tell you that my counterparts — Gallaher, Synergy Group (by Christopherson), Christopherson (Builders), Tuxhorn (Homes), Shook & Waller; they’re all local builders here — right after the fire we all had communal discussions: What does this look like? How does this operate? I have really nothing but good things to say about my counterparts out there.