San Diego’s climate and vibe allows for an eclectic mix of architectural form. I knew, when moving to this city four years ago, that I wanted to come up with my own development project here. I was finishing my master of architecture degree and looking to the future. For most students, this would involve numerous internships in low-level positions and a lot of compromise with their own creative ideals. I felt a strong need to break away from that model, and began looking into real estate development as a way to become my own boss.

Kapela was the next logical step for me to take after my third and final master’s program in real estate finished up. Starting my own company and partnering with financial backers I found a rarely available site in one of San Diego’s most livable neighborhoods, designed and permitted the new homes in three months and constructed them in seven. Now a little over a year after first finding the site, I live in and manage the other three rental homes imagining and planning for the next design / develop / build project.

Residential In-fill Development

My first true design, develop, build project took form in residential in-fill development; a passion of mine throughout my educational process. Beautifully positioned in San Diego’s trendy, cultured, active community of Little Italy; Kapela was completed in April of 2011 and rose from the bones of a 1920’s home on a 2,540 square foot site. Each town home features everything I always wanted to draw and design while working for others, but due to the bottom line would always get nixed (high ceilings and double height living spaces, substantial garden patios, expansive roof decks and multiple oversized operable windows for natural ventilation). Being my own boss though, I could fight through the budget and find ways of creating a development that stays successful yet to me is architecture in every since of the word. I call the development Kapela (meaning union of old and new), as due to zoning and financing concerns, over 51% of the existing residence had to be saved and re-used. Inside the new walls reside portions of old redwood studs, a crumbling foundation that for all practical purposes had to be re-built with underpinning and the original floor system over a crawl space. Around all this though, grew my design for compact yet open urban living.


Materiality is one of my favorite things to be able to play with and explore. The way each individual material can play off of and enhance the quality of the next is an exciting thing. For this development I was able to choose a mix of four materials that are always seen in groups of threes. Picking Massaranduba hardwood siding for its lasting warmth and beauty along with long horizontal lines, asphalt shingle siding for its texture and architectural placement, galvanized metal accent siding for a reflective and durable surface that can be bent and formed to the building, and classic white Santa Barbara stucco that when polished properly acts as a blank canvas for shadow and light; all of these materials stand by and interact with each other protecting the homes within.

Trying to create a small footprint that functions as a much larger space, Kapela’s townhomes are each equipped with all the energy efficient creature comforts that people have come to expect. Inside each dwelling unit finishes are clean and modern with level five finish gyp board walls that accentuate the white stucco exterior, custom concrete counter tops and tile work and 5/8” engineered bamboo flooring in a porch grey finish. Each window casing instead of the normal drywall treatment that dirties and crumbles, incorporates aluminum accent casing bringing the large openings into the interior spaces. Wanting to stray from traditional closets, all townhomes feature built-in storage units that match and complement the custom kitchen cabinets in black/brown mahogany.

Outside Space

From the beginning of the design, I knew  outside space had to be a given. This took shape in the form of patio / roof decks ranging from 240 sf to 380 sf. In practice, this gives each home its own yard in the city with which to share with friends and family.


For me This development illustrates that in-fill architecture, when handled responsibly to climate, scale, locality and constructability can act as a successful means of development while not fitting into the typical cookie cutter mold that so often than not is the case. It was and is the most rewarding piece of work I have been able to accomplish, I look forward to the future.