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Take Five: Meet Richard Julian, developer/resident of the AERIE condo project in CdM

By AMY SENK

A decade or so ago, as a journalist covering all things Corona del Mar, the Aerie condominium project was my bread and butter. For years, I covered the proposed project, which aimed to replace a 50-year-old apartment complex with high-end luxury condos, as it wound through the city Planning Commission and later the California Coastal Commission. The project broke ground in 2015, and eight months ago, developer Richard Julian and his wife, Karen, moved to the top floor, to one of seven units. I watched it go through the approval process, I watched it being constructed, and last December, I watched the new residents enjoy the boat parade from a terrace near the pool and spa. After such a long journey, I decided I needed to catch up with Julian to learn more.

Take Five Ricahrd Julian

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Courtesy of Richard Julian

Richard Julian

Q: You’ve been living in Aerie for eight months now. What is the best part so far?

A: The view and sunsets. Waking up each morning and going to bed looking at the vibrant lights in the harbor are mesmerizing. Although there are several other benefits of living here, those are priceless and impossible to match. Especially after waiting six months, living on a boat, waiting for it to be finished, looking up at it and thinking, “Oh, we could be there….” Not that that was that bad, but….The first night we stayed here, (a neighbor) happened to be walking past and said she wanted to see it. We took her up, and we sat there looking out. It was fun talking to her. And the next morning, I had shoulder surgery, shoulder replacement. I got to be there one night and then I was in the hospital recovering.

Q: What were some of the biggest challenges in getting the project built?

A: Permitting took over 10 years. And…when a builder builds a tract of houses, there are no real neighbors around. He’s building a big tract. When you are building like we did, you’re trying to be sensitive to and careful with the neighbors, but every day is an expense. At the height of this, it was costing almost $40,000 a day to carry costs, because it’s seven homes in one. Every day there was a surprise. A lot of it went smoothly, but at the end, when we were waiting for a transformer that was bigger than originally planned, mostly because of the electric company, that was frustrating. The finishing touches take way longer than you think. Generally, it was a challenge, working in such a beautiful and longstanding neighborhood in an environment where our design needed to pass muster with all neighbors. There were many ideas of what would or wouldn’t be fitting in this neighborhood. We wanted to address all of those concerns.

Q: What other projects are you working on now?

A: My main business is joining forces with long-time partners and purchasing apartment communities here in Southern California. At present, our investors and Advanced (Real Estate Services) own more than 10,000 apartments in Southern California, all within an hour of here. We have about 1,600 units in Santa Ana, a similar number in Anaheim, Bellflower, Lakewood, some out in the Inland Empire. We’re a long-term holder, so we keep them forever. We don’t buy-sell, buy-sell. We’re a different landlord with how we renovate things and fix them up, probably more sensitive to our tenants. We have our own crews. Our employment base is more than 420 devoted employees. We are devoted to preserving these properties as beautiful communities. It’s a lot of headaches, but it’s pretty rewarding. I like to think we’re really sensitive to the needs of our tenants and sensitive to our investors and sensitive to our employees. We’re always trying to think of what makes life better for tenants without spending a fortune of your investor dollars, so there’s a balance there.

Take Five Richard with Aerie

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Photo by Amy Senk

Richard Julian with AERIE in the background

Q: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to build a home in Newport Beach?

A: Study the neighborhood. Talk with your neighbors. Be patient and appreciate that everyone has their own opinions. When building, respect that your neighbors are being burdened by the construction. Supervise your construction crews to be mindful of your neighbors’ needs. Control noise and dust. Instruct your workers to park responsibly. Check in with your neighbors to make sure that they are not being inconvenienced.

Take Five Aerie on bluffs

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Courtesy of Richard Julian

AERIE, located on the bluffs (at Carnation and Ocean), provides unparalleled sunset and water views

Q: What are your thoughts on housing in Newport Beach and government requirements when it comes to housing?

A: As in all of the state, housing is short, and prices are at a premium. Life in our area is unlike most of the world. We are blessed to be able to live in one of the most beautiful and stable places in the world. Government requirements…what is really complicated about it is why the government has to be involved with it to begin with. I mean, we are a free country, right? We were built on freedom of speech, freedom, supply and demand. If a builder wanted to build a 300-unit apartment building, he’ll probably be saddled with 20 percent of the units being affordable. How do you calculate what affordable means? Is it based on median income in the City of Newport Beach? Is it based on the income of the county, the state? What says what median income is, and why does a builder have to provide that within his development, his apartment building? If he has a 300-unit apartment building, and 60 of the units have to rent for $1,200 a month, and the others are $3,000 a month. Why is the government really involved with that? Versus maybe the government allowing, and when I say government, I mean city or whatever it is, allowing the right density, higher density, in a certain location within the city, or in a different city even within the county. Should Newport Beach even have affordable units versus another city? I’m not running for office. We buy buildings, and we live with whatever the rules are. But we’re seeing an owner of a piece of property, to provide affordable housing within his development, means he’s charging more for the other units. 

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Amy Senk is a long-time resident of Corona del Mar and a regular contributor to Stu News Newport