Biz Buzz: 2010 to beat 2009 in building permits

Residential building permits granted countywide this past year are expected to exceed 2009 — the worst year on record in San Luis Obispo County — by more than 15 percent, based on information through October.

But it will still wind up as the second worst year on record, predicted Jerry Bunin, government affairs director for the Home Builders Association of the Central Coast.

He estimates that about 430 residential permits will be granted through Dec. 31, compared to 372 in 2009 and 597 in 2008. That compares to a record high 2,263 permits issued in 2004.

Some of the increase in 2010 could be because builders rushed to get permits before fees increase and new regulations take effect today.

Bunin said there are several reasons the housing industry is having a difficult time building itself back to prerecession levels.

“Competition with foreclosures and depressed properties is keeping the median below our cost,” Bunin said.

Making an already bad situation worse, he added, are looming fee increases and new regulations that go into effect for builders this year.

“There have been changes to the storm water management law, fire sprinkler law and the green building law. All of this drives construction costs up,” Bunin said.

Because of that, he added, “Some people are applying upfront for the permits but not planning to build.”

For the past year through October, the last month for which statistics are available, 20 fewer permits were issued for single-family homes than in 2009 — 232 compared to 252.

There were 81 more permits issued for multifamily homes through October compared to the year-earlier period — 142 compared to 61.

Looking ahead to this year is difficult, Bunin said, “I think we’ll see a minor recovery but not a building boom — maybe a small increase like last year.”

Bunin estimates construction and the economic output is down 80 percent from its peak in 2004.

“We’re a cyclical industry; we go up and we go down. But nobody expected it to be this dramatic and to last this long.”

— Stacy Daniel

New vice president for Digital West

Digital West, a San Luis Obispo-based provider of Internet Services, has promoted Bob Fasulkey to vice president of engineering.

A former Marine, Fasulkey has managed engineering and production teams in the telecommunications industry for three decades.

He moved to Pismo Beach in 2008 and started with Digital West that August. Since then, he has played a key role in the company’s success.

Digital West employs 19 people and is projected to grow to 23 employees this year. The privately held company began in February 1999.

In its first 10 years, Digital West averaged a 60 percent year-over-year growth. In 2009 and 2010, Digital West had moderate growth.

The company is projecting 25 percent growth this year and 35 percent in 2012.

— Stacy Daniel