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HAYWARD, CA-The 34-unit luxury townhouse development that replaced a run-down mobile home park near the BART station here was a long time coming. Too long, in fact; by the time Forest Circle was completed the recession was in full bloom and the value of the units had dropped well below what it cost to develop.

With the lenders approval, developer Forest Circle LLC sold the 31 remaining unsold units at auction earlier this week. There were 175 bidders. The 31 1,200- to 1,600-square-foot units sold for a combined price of more than $11.5 million, according to Kennedy Wilson Auction Group, which conducted the Oct. 25 event at The Freemont Marriott.

Kevin Herman, the owner Herman Commercial Real Estate of Walnut Creek, CA, a member of the LLC who provided some of the equity for the main developer, Scott Andrews. Herman tells GlobeSt.com that the revenue from the sale of the units wasn’t even enough to make the lender whole, let alone the development entity. Andrews was out of town Monday and could not be reached for comment.

“It’s not a good financial situation for us but as auctions go, it went pretty well,” he says. “It was well received because of its location near BART.”

That is to say it’s a bittersweet end to something that could have been highly profitable had it not taken four-and-a-half years to complete. First, there was the task of negotiating a healthy relocation assistance deal with each and every mobile home tenant—without any government assistance–in order to clear the decks for the development.

As it turns out, however, that process was apparently a breeze compared to working with Alameda County. Herman, who has been in the business a long time, says the county is “one of the most dysfunctional counties I have ever worked with” and that its inability to coordinate its side of the process ultimately kept the project from coming to market at a better time.

“The left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing,” Herman says. “They did not have enough staff and delayed and delayed and delayed. They came back with everything you could imagine and every department had to do things separately whereas normally they work together. We ultimately had 132 inspections of every unit. It was absolutely insane and it took forever.”

GlobeSt.com called Alameda County’s administrator Susan Muranishi on Tuesday morning for the government’s side of the story. It got voice mail and never received a return phone call.

“We built the right product, a nice product, in the right location,” Herman says. “It took longer than it should have [to permit and inspect] and that was a big part of the reason we got caught in the storm. The good news is we were able to sell the units and pay the bank back some of its money; a lot of projects can’t even do that.”

Looking ahead, Herman says there will be little opportunity to build anything in the next three- to five years. So in addition to being a commercial real estate broker Herman says he will be looking for opportunities in the REO and short-sale market, and the note sale market as well.

“The only opportunity it to try to buy existing product at good numbers and manage and hold until the economy comes back,” he says. “That’s what we did in the 1990s.”

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