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The push for prefab housing

 November 28, 2022 at 5:00 AM PST

Good Morning, I’m Debbie Cruz….it’s Monday, November 28th.>>>>

The push for prefab housing and modular apartment complexes

More on that next. But first... let’s do the headlines….######

75 percent of consumers are expected to finish their holiday spending by the end of today - cyber monday.

That’s according to SDSU economist Miro Copic.

He also says holiday spending is expected to increase, but not by as much as it did last year.

“Because of inflation and concerns in the economy consumers are going to be a little bit wary. So spending is expected to increase between 6 and 8 percent versus almost 14 percent last year.”

The increase is likely because consumers are expected to put more on credit this year and use more buy now, pay later services.


Team USA will play Iran (eee-ran) tomorrow in the World Cup after tying England on Friday.

17-year-old Sebastian Lopez watched the Friday game at the Rady’s Shell.

“Just seeing it completely full is just crazy to me. Because the support for soccer hasn’t been that great here in the U.S., and now we're seeing all this support coming out and it's just great.”

Tomorrow’s game starts at 11 am. It will be Team USA’s final match in the group stage of the Cup.

If they win they will advance to the next round. If they tie or lose, they’ll be eliminated.


It’s supposed to get a good deal cooler early this week.

Today’s high temps are expected to be 5 to 10 degrees below normal – for this time of year.

So if you haven’t left the house yet, wear layers when you do.

There’s also a slight chance of light showers late in the day today.


From KPBS, you’re listening to San Diego News Now.Stay with me for more of the local news you need.




Even though rents in San Diego County have dropped for two straight months, average prices are still too high for many to afford … and housing is in short supply.

KPBS reporter Jacob Aere has a look at what some say could be part of the solution.


A prefabricated house may look like most other modern homes … but the process to get there is rather different.

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Todd Kesseler | USModular Inc. President

11:27:42 - 11:27:46 (:04)

“Prefabricated simply means that it's built in a factory off site.”

That’s Todd Kesseler… he’s the president of USModular … a company that specializes in manufactured and modular housing.

For some people, there’s a stigma about prefab housing. Kesseler says getting past that is one of the biggest challenges. 

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Todd Kesseler | USModular Inc. President

11:27:15 - 11:27:32 (:17)

“We used to say that they were like your grandmothers’ trailers back in the day, in that they focused so much on being affordable that the quality really wasn't there. In today's pre-manufactured housing, the quality is there and they're still less expensive than site-built structures.”

How much less expensive? Roughly 10 to 30 percent cheaper than traditional on-site construction. And Kessler says it can be done faster.

David Lynch is adding a manufactured home next to his own house in El Cajon.

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David Lynch | Putting manufactured home on property

11:09:03 - 11:09:18 (:15)

“And everything is ready to go. So you just get the efficiency of time and then the cost is substantially less than having to do a custom build – which we've gone through before so we know how painful and how expensive it can be.”

There are several types of pre-fab housing… from one-story manufactured homes… to whole apartment blocks.

Drew Orenstein is the CEO of Impact Housing, which develops modular housing complexes.

Orenstein sees them as a way to build high-quality multi-family homes in a quicker and more cost effective way. That, he says, will improve the lives of low- and moderate-income households.

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Drew Orenstein | Impact Housing CEO

11:36 - 11:47 (:11)

“We take the cost savings, we take the time savings and we translate that into what we hope to be a reduction in the rental price point. It's everything starting from $1500 and up.”

Orenstein says his company is bringing more of these complexes to the region ... including a potential 900 unit development in Barrio Logan.

But there are concerns in the community that there won't be units for very-low income families, according to Barrio Logan’s Julie Corrales.

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Julie Corrales | Barrio Logan Resident

6:20 - 6:28 (:08)

“So unless you're building affordable housing and incorporating affordable housing units into every development in our community, you’re displacing folks.”

The state and region’s policy shift to a “build-now” approach has begun to open the doors for more prefabricated housing in the county.

In fact, a modular housing manufacturing facility is coming to the Imperial Valley next spring and is expected to serve San Diego County.

Pete Gombert co-founded the company, called indieDWELL.

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Pete Gombert | indieDwell Co-Founder

5:37 - 5:47 (:10)

“We can build it with labor that have a great job living where they are, and then ship the units to a high cost market.”

He says a perk of modular housing construction is that it can come in all shapes and sizes … so it also works for smaller units to shelter those experiencing homelessness.

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Pete Gombert | indieDwell Co-Founder

13:01 - 13:11 (:10)

“Those units are about 380 square feet, they're studios. We’ve actually got a 260 square foot microstudio that we do.”

But some projects could be up to seven stories, due to their use of steel frames instead of wood … with bigger units.

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Pete Gombert | indieDwell Co-Founder

13:15 - 13:23 (:08)

“We’ve got some larger projects where we're doing two or three bedrooms that are 960 to 1100 square feet.”

Regardless of the size, financing prefabricated developments can be an issue – partly because it’s a newer industry in the US and there aren’t many developers.

Shawn Harris is with San Diego Commercial and Business Financing.

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Shawn Harris | San Diego Commercial and Business Financing

14:01 - 14:16 (:15)

“It'll be easier the longer we go, the more builders of this type there are out there. I would say with this type of asset, this type of project you're going to need a lot of help from the city so that deflects some of the risk for an investor.”

Back in El Cajon, the speed and savings of getting a prefabricated home are allowing Lynch to list the unit under market value … with a young family in mind.

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David Lynch | Putting manufactured home on property

11:14:28 - 11:14:41 (:13)

“A one bedroom, two bedroom place to rent is already expensive – it's ridiculous. So the families need a bit more space. This is a three bedroom, so they have capacity to grow with a couple of kids.”

Amid a housing crisis that has taken the hardest toll on low and middle income earners, backers of prefabricated housing say it offers a glimmer of hope… to provide a quality home for rent or purchase … at a lower cost … that can be move-in ready in a fraction of the time. Jacob Aere, KPBS News.


Wednesday is the deadline for short-term rental hosts in San Diego to apply for a license…

It’s part of a new city program intended to regulate the industry.

Licenses will be made available through a lottery… with priority given to hosts who haven’t had code violations in the past two years.

But some operators are worried about the new rules. Paul Becker is President of Bluewater Vacation Homes, a San Diego company that manages vacation rentals.

STAPPS 2A (:15)

“And there’s definitely not enough hotels to accommodate the demand and there's not going to be enough short term rentals for people that want to stay together in homes. So they're going to be impacted and go somewhere else and it's really going to hurt our local economy.”

The lottery is for hosts who rent out entire homes more than 20 days out of the year. They’ll find out if they were chosen to get a license by Dec. 16.


San Diego’s Sanford Stem Cell Institute has rocketed stem cells into space a third time -- hoping to learn more about how human cells age. Here’s KPBS sci-tech reporter Thomas Fudge:

STEMCELLS 1  1:10    …SOQ.

A year-long residence aboard the International Space station caused astronaut Scott Kelly to have aging in his blood cells that’s normally seen only after ten years. Now, San Diego researchers are launching their third zero-gravity experiment to see how stem cells respond to stress. Catriona Jamieson is the director of UC San Diego’s Sanford Institute. She says earlier tests showed that zero gravity caused stem cells to work a lot harder. 

520 “In the experiment we launched in December of last year, what we saw was that the normal stem cells in space woke up and they divided quickly. And then they got exhausted compared to the ones on the ground.” 

Blood stem cells exist in bone marrow and become mature blood cells. Jamieson says the results of their experiment could help to protect people who enter space. It may also lead to therapies for people who are earthbound.

2021 Because we see these aging effects so quickly, it starts to make us think, wait a minute, maybe some of the aging we see on earth is partly predictable and preventable. Maybe we can turn back the clock on aging itself by having these accelerated insights into how we age.

Another point of the study could be to find therapies for cancer. The stem cells will be in zero gravity on the International Space Station for about a month. SOQ.  ##########

Coming up.... We tell you about a program to get low cost computers to students. We’ll have that story and more, next, just after the break.





The holiday season is now underway…and families in South County have a chance to buy low-cost refurbished computers for their children.

KPBS Education Reporter M.G. Perez has the story.


KIDCOMPUTERS  1   trt :51  SOQ

The core-series laptops, desk tops, and tablets are different brands collected from corporate and individual donors…by the Computers-2-Kids non-profit partnered with the San Diego County Office of Education.

The devices have been scrubbed and refurbished. They include webcams and headsets on some models for as little as 1-hundred dollars.

Cheri Pierre is with Computers-2-Kids hoping to help students and their parents.

SOT “we want to make sure that the system these kids or these adults are getting are as nice as what their neighbors have….we want them to feel as equally empowered.” 

The computers are being sold at Chula Vista High School this Saturday December 3rd. 

pre-registration for the event is at capacity …but walk-ups will be accommodated as supplies last. MGP KPBS News


In the 1970s, Baltimore filmmaker John Waters regularly shocked audiences with films such as Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble. But now he’s a member of the Academy and a beloved cult figure. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando says Waters will be returning to San Diego for a new John Waters Christmas show.

WATERS (ba) 1:10 SOQ


In Pink Flamingos, John Waters had his star Divine eat dog poop. Now Waters will be getting a star on Hollywood Boulevard and an exhibit dedicated to him at the Academy Museum.


JOHN WATERS I'm so respectable I could puke, but it's exciting and I'm doing the exact same thing. I haven't changed. I've been lucky enough that American humor has evolved towards my direction.


He credits his success to never being mean-spirited and always being willing to make fun of himself. That approach has allowed him to be embraced by the mainstream while remaining outside of it. That’s why he loves talking about Christmas.


JOHN WATERS No matter what nationality you are, what religion or anything, it's coming at you like a steamroller from hell. And I actually like it. For me, though, it's just now how I make my living. I'm like a drag queen at Halloween. If it's Christmas, I'm working.


Waters has just finished writing a new version of his "A John Waters Christmas," which he will bring to the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach on Dec. 4th. And since we are still reeling from the pandemic, he asks, is Christmas broken? Find out as the guru of bad taste returns to San Diego for a one-man show.


Beth Accomando, KPBS News.


That’s it for the podcast today. As always you can find more San Diego news online at KPBS dot org. I’m Debbie Cruz. Thanks for listening and have a great day.

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Some say prefabricated housing may be part of the solution in decreasing housing prices and increasing supply. And, San Diego’s Sanford Stem Cell Institute has rocketed stem cells into space a third time -- hoping to learn more about how human cells age. Then, John Waters returns to San Diego for his new Christmas show.