In a burgeoning market of vehicle-storage facilities, Eucalyptus at Beaumont, Calif., answers the need with condominiums and resort-inspired amenities. The $10-million property offers 108 condo units priced between $55,000 and $182,000, and provides the extras many owners of luxury vehicles expect.
A due diligence survey of about 1,200 potential customers revealed some surprising things buyers wanted:
- Variety of unit sizes and door widths
- Customizable interiors
- Restrooms and showers
- Dump stations
- Dog run
- Wash bay
- Ice machine
- 60-amp for each unit
- Propane tank
- Wi-Fi availability
- Valet service
But before Southern California’s first-of-its-kind storage facility opened, several challenges had to be overcome.
The Hunt for the Perfect Location
The first real challenge was finding a location. Over a span of three years, 15 different cites rejected the proposed facility plans. Zoning boards argued that vehicle storage wouldn’t bring in residual revenue for the city or enough employment opportunities.
In 2005, I finally found a 4.5 acre parcel in Beaumont, Calif. Architect Miles Folsom, of Folsom Architecture in Anaheim, Calif., and I designed the project and submitted the plans. Beaumont has strict building standards that limit the use of metal buildings. For approval, it was necessary to propose something unique.
In addition, Beaumont zoning officials required a street bordering the project be lowered by 3 feet. The project’s two dump stations needed a tie-in to the city’s sewage main. Trenching for the 250-foot pipe brought the cost of the dump station to nearly $65,000.
A Trip Down Amenity Lane
Eucalyptus at Beaumont pre-sold 50 percent of its units in two initial offerings before construction even began. The 80,000-square-foot building has a striking façade painted green and beige with gray trim set amid luxurious landscaping. The facility is constructed of metal, stucco and block. Structural steel construction began in April. Metal-building supplier Mako Steel Inc., Carlsbad, Calif., averaged 10,000 square feet of erection per week.
There are five standard unit sizes. Nearly all units have a depth of 50 feet, with a few at 35 to 45 feet, and all have 14-foot door heights. Widths range from 11 feet to 26 feet with 10- to 20-foot-wide sectional doors. Some units can be combined to create a unit up to 100 feet deep.
Each unit features individual alarms, private electricity with 60-amp sub panels, 30-amp RV plugs and sectional insulated doors with automatic openers integrated with the unit’s alarm systems. Entry is through a coded gate that allows 24-hour access via a two-button key ring. A Digitech International Inc. security system provides added protection.
A Country Club for RVers
The goal was to provide more than secure storage for high- end recreational toys. RVers are social people. What better way to bring this social group together to meet and greet than by providing a luxurious clubhouse?
Most of the initial buyers live more than an hour away with some as far as Australia and Hawaii. Therefore, the intention was to provide as many amenities necessary to support their traveling needs. After a long trip, or while preparing for the next excursion, customers can relax and watch the LCD TV, use the free Wi-Fi for online connectivity, or relax with a shower in the men’s or women’s room.
The aesthetically pleasing site is environmentally responsible as well. The 2,700-square-foot clubhouse features a designer interior with wood flooring made from bamboo. The carpet is constructed from recycled plastic bottles. Chairs and sofas are all made of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) materials certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. The paint is odor-free and made from low-volatile organic compounds that will not release significant pollutants.
A Quagmire of Building Codes
The zoning definition for this type of project lies somewhere between residential, commercial and industrial. A great deal of gray area is left for interpretation by municipal boards. Significant design pioneering was needed to get this project through Beaumont’s approval process.
Four occupancy codes exist for this type of construction and use. The least desirable is the S-3 Occupancy, which applies only to parking garages where vehicles will be driven. Eucalyptus is more of a residential garage used for parking, not driving. However, the closest occupancy rating to this at the time was the S-3 occupancy that requires an elaborate ventilation system in each unit and costs more than $250,000. Do we need it? No. Will RVs be driving around inside a 13-by-50 unit? No. Therefore, a petition for a change of occupancy code now resides with the city.
Another challenge occurred due to a recent change by the city from the Universal Building Code (UBC) to the International Building Code (IBC). Under the new code, the facility’s occupancy and ventilation system requirements had to be re-engineered.
Public Works Predicaments
Several public works problems involving utilities and infrastructure also had to be dealt with before the project would meet code.
Sanitary dump stations. The sewer hook-up fee was originally $141,000, not including installation. The city engineer based the figure on his estimate of the hundreds of gallons of sewage an RV can hold. The city was concerned about the quantity of effluent from the RVs overwhelming the sewer system.
I surveyed clients and found that the maximum sewer usage would be only about 160 gallons per day, about half of a single-family home. Based on this information, city officials agreed to reduce the sewer connection fee by about 70 percent.
Electrical service. To obtain electrical service, engineers at Southern California Edison (SCE) calculated demand of 3,000 amps for the facility, which was far in excess of our projections. (An adjacent 600,000-square-foot plastic-molding factory uses only 6,000 amps.) The cost for this service would have been about $500,000 above my budget.
Again, I surveyed my clients, this time revealing that except for keeping their RV’s batteries charged or running a small freezer in their unit, electrical consumption would be minor. In addition, I contacted several other RV-storage sites that all concluded consumption to be around 1,200 amps. Thus, the engineer allotted a far more reasonable electrical service, and the property will save in excess of $300,000 in unnecessary electrical costs.
Metering. Each unit is individually metered for power to be paid by the condo owner. Since the project’s electrical demands will be low, I planned on using compact residential electrical meters. However, the facility is zoned industrial and SCE required commercial meters.
These meters are expensive and would have required using two already sold storage units to house them. To save space and money, private meters were installed. The cost was about $60,000 for the entire project. Other benefits include:
- The monthly meter charge is reduced to about $6 per month, saving the consumer about 50 percent of the monthly meter charges.
- The meter billing is done by an outside company with detailed electrical usage available online for each consumer.
- Each cluster of 20 meters only requires a 2-by-3-foot area.
- The expensive connection loops are eliminated, saving about $250,000 in electrical costs.
- The possibility of back-charging is eliminated.
From Dream to Diamond
Beaumont residents are calling Eucalyptus a “diamond.” Storage unit owners have the security of knowing they’re keeping their recreational vehicles at a luxurious facility, and their ownership guarantees the cost of storage will never go up.
Throughout the trials and tribulations of this project, I have learned a great deal. I am planning other projects: Eucalyptus at Bermuda Dunes in Palm Springs, Calif.; Eucalyptus at Reno, Nev.; and two other locations are in the early stages of development in California. Hopefully, the struggles will be less and the rewards many.
Ted Deits is president and CEO of 20 Seconds and Building LLC, the creator of Eucalyptus at Beaumont. He is the former vice president of Alloy Research Inc., a metallurgical services company founded in 1977. He is also the owner of Surfline.com, Water Magazine and Buoyweather.com. For more information, visit www.rvstorage.biz.