As wildfires forced Charles Osgood and his wife to evacuate their San Diego home last October, he never doubted he would return. “I didn't believe there was any probability that our house would burn down,” says Osgood. “I even locked the doors behind me as I left.”
Four hours later, he learned his Scripps Ranch home of 20-plus years had burned to the ground. When the couple returned to the site to salvage what they could, “there was just ash and rubble,” Osgood says. “Nothing of any value could be found.”
Now Osgood and thousands of other San Diego wildfire victims face a new challenge: rebuilding their homes. “From day one, we knew we wanted to go back because we loved that neighborhood so much,” he says. He has lots of choices: Numerous builders and remodelers in the area have offered their services to those hit by the wildfires. Among them is Hallmark Communities, an award-winning builder founded by Mike Hall, a native San Diegoan.
Hallmark had hoped to help the fire victims quickly and inexpensively by rebuilding entire neighborhoods, block by block, in Scripps Ranch and Harbison Canyon, using Hallmark's customary production systems. But the company soon realized that strategy would be impossible, thanks to the complexity and variations in insurance coverage, not to mention people's requirements for a new home and progress in letting go of the house they'd lost. “We weren't able to keep the groups together,” Hall says. “It's a pretty individual, custom approach.”
To make its “Rebuilding San Diego” program work, Hallmark has established a separate division, led by Leonard Marshall, who was in charge of rebuilding thousands of housing units after the 1994 earthquake in Northridge, Calif. “We're an infill builder,” Hall says. “No one is better equipped to handle this than us.”
One fire victim who has chosen Hallmark is Terry Churchill, who believes more people will select Hallmark after the shock wears off. “It takes time for people to realize what a good offer this is, to appreciate Hallmark's flexibility and the quality of house they build,” he says.
Learn more about markets featured in this article: San Diego, CA.