Thursday, November 26, 2015 • 08:03

Where is Valley Center?


March 12, 2014
I grew up in Escondido, and have lived in Valley Center over 20 years. But still, when I tell people where I live, many say "Where's Valley Center? Is that like near Escondido, or where exactly is it?" they often ask.

Well, my answer is, I clench my teeth and give the quick, polite answer, saying Valley Center is about 8 miles North of Escondido, about 35 miles east of Oceanside, and 5 miles south of Fallbrook off the I-15.

But what I really want to tell them is Valley Center is where Superman Steve Reeves retired, where Ronald Reagan had lunch, and the past and present home to numerous Hollywood stars.

Well, let's take a look at the question, where Valley Center is from a real estate perspective, where it has come from, and where it is likely going in the future. But first, for a brief historical recap, it is worth noting the land we now stand on was once controlled by Native Americans, Spain, Mexico and then the USA after the Mexican-American war ended in 1848.

For the first ten thousand years of local human and real estate history, Valley Center was occupied by Native Americans, who many Historians say migrated across the Bering Sea land bridge in Alaska, and down the Pacific coast to California thousands of years ago. It is nice to know that almost everywhere we go in Valley Center, we walk in ancient footsteps where our community members have walked, worked and lived for thousands of years.

The real land rush in Valley Center began in 1862, when President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, which awarded 160 acres of land to any free man, or woman, who would farm and stay on the land for five years or more.

Now, 150 years after the Homestead Act created many original Valley Center land parcels, another major land use change is happening here in our little town. Change has come. Water prices have doubled in the last 4 years, and the VCMWD sells 50 percent less water than it did just four years ago due to high water prices.

So, the era of large commercial citrus and avocado groves is coming to an end in Valley Center. This is due to high water costs, and low fruit prices. Most citrus and avocado groves we see in Valley Center today do not make much or any money. Many of our local groves could be considered a free scenic public service provided by our farming families who water and care for the crops.

Still, one bright spot in Valley Center's agricultural future goes back to our past in the 1850s when San Diego County's first commercial Vineyard was planted and operated for decades at what is now known as Melrose Ranch off Guejito Road.

As you may know, grapes are a low water-use crop, well suited to Valley Centers' warm days and cool nights. Olive groves may also see resurgence in Valley Center, since established olive trees can produce high quality fruit with very little water.

San Diego County and all of California is experiencing a re-birth of artisanal small-scale farms growing fresh olives and vineyards growing wine grapes. So with citrus groves gradually going away, and new building land becoming available, people will continue moving to Valley Center.

Former growers who can afford the roughly $125k cost to create new building parcels may do so, if the supply of good building lots dwindles and prices go up. The market will also be ready to absorb these new building lots, as Valley Center remains one of the few places in the county where good building lots can be bought for $150k or less.

The long-term real estate trend will be for VC to become more gradually suburbanized with custom homes on 2-acre lots.

So maybe next time someone asks you where's Valley Center, you can tell them we live in a beautiful Valley just North of Escondido, a place president Abraham Lincoln helped create in 1862, home of numerous Hollywood stars like John Wayne and Bill Murray, and where the President's wife Eleanor Roosevelt spent many summers past relaxing at Lilac Ranch. With so much beauty and history in this landscape, Valley Center will continue to be one of the best housing values in San Diego County, and our favorite corner of the world.

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