In 1961, the population of Paso Robles was fewer than 7,000, but the late Winfield Scott Condict hoped to increase it in a big way. He planned to build 4,000 new homes of various kinds on 1,262 acres he owned just east of Paso Robles. Buyers would have to be at least 50 years old.
Condict called his real estate development Our Town. He held a grand opening in 1963, but he was never able to sell a single house. I thought of him again on Feb. 23 when the Tribune carried a front-page story about a planned real estate development in the same area where Condict attempted his.
The Tribune reported that developer Doug Ayres is now planning to build more than 350 multifamily and single-family homes in that same vicinity of Paso Robles. Mayor Steve Martin described the homes as “workforce housing.”
Ayres has contracted to buy 85 acres for that development, near the intersection of Sherwood and Fontana roads. Sherwood Road, if you’re wondering, is the name of the easternmost half-mile of Niblick Road. Don’t ask me why.
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So on Feb. 21, the Paso Robles City Council gave permission to Ayres and North Coast Engineering to seek a General Plan amendment on 154 acres in the Sherwood and Fontana roads neighborhood. It would include the 15 acres and 13 houses that Condict managed to hold on to after going bankrupt in the 1960s.
I interviewed Condict several times through the years. His big problem in 1963 was that he ran out of money and credit before he could get the first phase of his development ready to sell. He told me that even when he was holding the grand opening, he was short of money.
He didn’t have enough money to install septic tanks for all 13 model homes. The only home that had a septic tank on grand opening day was the one Condict used as an office. And almost all of his bills were going unpaid. Finally, in February 1964, Condict filed for bankruptcy.
The Condict family eventually lost nearly everything to its creditors. They lost all their property except the 15 Our Town acres, including 13 homes and 54 lots. They lost their fashionable house in Fullerton. They lost their rental houses and 48 apartments in Anaheim. They were broke.
So in 1970, the Condicts and their children moved to Our Town. The 13 houses had been plundered and vandalized. They had a well, but state officials decreed they weren’t financially sound enough to run a water company, so they couldn’t sell or rent the homes or lots.
But somehow life continued for them. Their children went to school. Condict was a general contractor. He rehabilitated houses, and he worked at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant and Atascadero State Hospital.
But still, in 1993 he told me, “We’re in bondage here. If you work hard and can’t sell your property, you’re in bondage.”