El Dorado Hills

Village lifestyle appeals

03/19/2012 5:16 PM

03/19/2012 5:39 PM

Imagine living on a hillside with views of Folsom Lake, the snow-capped Sierra Nevada and the city of Sacramento. Or picture settling into a small, friendly neighborhood where everybody knows your name.

Both scenarios reflect the appeal — and the contrasts — of El Dorado Hills.

The El Dorado County area has diverse neighborhoods — from the master-planned Serrano development with its large, custom homes in the hills to small gated neighborhoods for people age 55 and older.

The amicable atmosphere at Versante, a community of 100 homes, attracted Beverly Willhoft to El Dorado Hills.

Willhoft wanted to be closer to her daughter and grandchildren so she left the familiarity of the Bay Area peninsula where she lived and worked for several years and headed for the hills.

“It’s unique, small, very warm and friendly,” she said of Versante. “Everybody knows one another, and everybody who lives here loves it. It’s a comfortable place to be.”

She likes the active lifestyle. She’s the community’s social committee chairman, and she and her friends enjoy potluck meals, monthly gatherings and playing bridge and pinochle.

Serrano residents like living in the hills next to the Serrano Country Club and championship golf course designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr.

Developed by the Parker Co., Serrano offers custom homes, a 34,000-square-foot clubhouse, 17 miles of biking trails and 1,000 acres of open space.

Standard Pacific Homes’ Legacy Oaks at Serrano offers homesites with views of the hills, open spaces and restored wetlands. Legacy Oaks has four home plans ranging from 2,566 square feet to 3,364 square feet, with as many as five bedrooms. Prices start at $440,000.

On the opposite side of Highway 50 in the El Dorado foothills is master-planned Blackstone, which has a homeowner-exclusive clubhouse, a swimming pool and a fitness center.

Lennar will celebrate the grand opening of its Shenandoah at Blackstone this weekend. The builder’s “Next Gen” multigenerational homes have three to five bedrooms and can be as large as 3,491 square feet. Prices start at $439,950.

Taylor Morrison’s Pinnacle at Blackstone features homes ranging from 2,541 square feet to 3,402 square feet, with as many as four bedrooms. Prices start in the low $400,000s.

“Resale activity is just popping,” said Kendra Bishop, a broker associate for Bishop Real Estate Group, Coldwell Banker. “I’ve seen kind of a flop in the last few months, where the market has shifted. We have low inventory with an excess of buyers. It helps that interest rates are so good. We are seeing a lot of cash in the marketplace as well.”

The average list price for a home is $677,000; the average sales price is $474,000. The lowest list price of a home is $215,000, and the highest $5,875,000. The latter property has been on the market for 470 days.

Most high-end homes are priced at approximately $2 million. Condominiums and townhouses are listed at $127,000.

El Dorado Hills has a range of businesses and attractions that appeal to residents and visitors alike. The area has some of the region’s best restaurants, as well as specialty shopping centers with boutiques, warehouse stores, movie theaters and entertainment venues.

Selland’s Market-Cafe, a staple in Sacramento, has opened in the El Dorado Hills Town Center, which also has Bistro 33 and other fine dining and casual restaurant. Town Center and the newest shopping destination, Montaño de El Dorado, have a variety of shops, salons and services.

“It seems like El Dorado Hills is positioning for growth — otherwise, Selland’s wouldn’t have moved in,” said Linda Ellen Anderson, board chairman of the El Dorado Hills Chamber of Commerce and a Realtor with Intero Real Estate Services.

The El Dorado Welcome Center is thriving, Anderson said. Last year the center greeted almost 12,950 people. Next to Regal Cinemas’ Imax theaters, the center has information on the community and area attractions.

The chamber of commerce and the El Dorado Hills Community Services District stage events year-round that attract crowds.

The district will kick off its Friday Concerts in the Park series May 18, with a celebration featuring giveaways, food and music at El Dorado Hills’ community park. Concerts will be held every Thursday evening at the Steven Young Amphitheater at Town Center.

A spring egg hunt is planned for April 7 at the community park. The El Dorado Hills Art and Wine Affair, with vendors and wine tasting, is set for May 12-13 in the Town Center, the locale for a weekly Showcase Saturday, featuring live bands and vendors. Also popular is a farmers market Sundays at the center.

The community services district oversees youth sports, teen programs, a skate park, a senior center and public parks, one of which is named for Allen H. Lindsey, an El Dorado Hills developer.

El Dorado Hills was originally known as Clarkston’s Town during the Gold Rush and was renamed Clarksville in 1855.

More than a century later, Lindsey renamed the area El Dorado Hills after purchasing 20 parcels of ranchland totaling 11,000 acres. He designed a master plan for what he hoped would be a community of 75,000 people, according to his daughter, Valerie Lindsey, and “The El Dorado Hills Handbook” by Anna van Raaphorst-Johnson and Richard H. Johnson.

El Dorado Hills, as Allan Lindsey proposed, was developed into 12 distinct villages, defined by terrain, natural parks, streets and architectural style.

Park Village was the first to open in 1962, followed by Governors and St. Andrews. Lindsey envisioned a bedroom community for employees at Aerojet and Mather Air Force Base, said Valerie Lindsey, who worked with her father in the development business for 25 years. But as models opened in 1962, Aerojet laid off workers, and sales lagged. Lindsey sold his company to the John Hancock Insurance Co.

His vision of villages continued, with developments that include Crown, Stonegate, the Promontory, Franciscan and Serrano.

Approximately 50 villages are noted in “The El Dorado Hills Handbook,” far more than the original dozen Lindsey planned.

His vision continues today as builders offer new homes in scenic areas of town.

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