LOS ANGELES — Construction activity in California declined 13.1 percent last year as the slumping economy scared off lenders, an industry report shows.
Builders received $20.4 billion in funding for residential and commercial projects in 2001, compared to $23.5 billion a year earlier, according to a report released Thursday by DataQuick Information Systems, a La Jolla-based real estate information service.
Demand for new homes and commercial buildings remained firm, especially with interest rates low. But the sagging economy has made banks and other lenders more cautious, DataQuick said.
In the early 1990s, lenders supported many projects only to see the market crash during that recession.
“They burned themselves back then with ... overexuberance,” said John Karevoll, a DataQuick analyst.
Today, builders are selling nearly everything they’re putting on the market but didn’t know the market would stay so strong when they did their planning, said Mike Ela, DataQuick’s president.
“There’s a good chance building activity will pick back up this year,” he said.
The San Francisco Bay area, where the collapse of Internet companies ended a frenzied few years of construction, returned to a more normal pace ln 2001, said John Karevoll, a DataQuick analyst.
Construction activity in the nine-county area fell 28.4 percent last year from the 2000 figure.
San Francisco County’s 59.2 percent decline led the state, followed by Marin County at 54 percent and San Mateo at 50.8 percent.
Santa Clara County, the heart of Silicon Valley, saw construction activity dip 26.7 percent to a still-sizable $1.39 billion.
In Southern California, Los Angeles County dipped 10 percent while neighboring Orange County saw a 32.2 percent decline, partially because of the tech industry decline.
However, counties bordering those dense urban regions continued to grow, attracting people unable to afford homes in the more expensive markets.
For example, San Bernardino County east of Los Angeles reported a 25.3 percent jump to $1.16 billion.
In the farming areas of the Central Valley, Merced County’s construction activity jumped 57.3 percent to $153 million and Madera County’s total increased 50.7 percent to $53 million.
North of San Francisco, Napa County, center of the state’s wine industry, reported a 51 percent jump in construction activity to $124 million.
DataQuick’s figures are based on analysis of loan deeds filed for residential and commercial projects.