The local real estate agent and chairman of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce board of trustees shares his favorite places in town and his hopes for the future.
By Sharon Stello
A long line of real estate agents fill J.J. Ballesteros’ family: His mother has been a Realtor for more than 35 years and his grandmother owned her own real estate company. So, you could say, Ballesteros has a passion for real estate coursing through his veins.
Following his family’s example while setting his own course in the industry, Ballesteros, who has over 21 years of sales and management experience, is a principal of the Ballesteros Real Estate Group along with his wife, Andrea, under the Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. He also serves as chairman of the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce board of trustees, helping look out for the best interests of local businesses.
The Chamber has made several strides during his tenure—for example, working with an urban economist hired by the city to study the downtown area, which led to an easing of parking and conditional use permit requirements for new businesses. Chamber leaders also helped to facilitate and support the initial study for the proposed downtown parking structure. And, recently, the Chamber worked with the city to close lower Forest Avenue to vehicle traffic to create The Promenade on Forest, which has been an “overwhelming success” in providing additional outdoor seating for restaurants since June, Ballesteros says. As of press time, these seating areas were temporarily closed in response to rising number of COVID-19 cases in the region.
“During the pandemic, the biggest challenge for [businesses] is surviving,” Ballesteros says. “The restrictions being placed on all our businesses due to COVID are making it extremely difficult to keep their doors open.”
Ballesteros adds that “once we return to our new normal,” businesses will still face the challenges of competing with online shopping and the community will need to continue recruiting new, innovative businesses that attract people to shop here.
Ballesteros and his wife are indeed familiar with this unique town’s challenges and positive aspects as they live in Laguna with their sons Cruz, 10, and Christian, 7. “They are at fun ages and I could not be more blessed,” Ballesteros says.
Before coming to Laguna, Ballesteros grew up in Tustin, graduating from Mater Dei High School and then San Diego State University with a psychology degree. He and his wife lived in Rancho Santa Margarita for 10 years together before deciding to move to Laguna Beach, where they already spent plenty of time. “I love the beauty, people, active lifestyle and sense of community,” he adds. “There is nothing else like it.”
What do you love about working in the real estate industry?
J.J. Ballesteros: I love [to] accomplish my clients’ goals, whether it is by finding them their dream home or selling their home for the highest amount possible. We meet great people and sell beautiful homes. I enjoy negotiating on their behalf and winning for them.
What trends are you seeing in real estate now?
2020 was one of our busiest years. Quarantine showed us that many people, after being home for extended periods of time, want[ed] something different. Many people wanted a second home, larger space or bigger yards. The historically low [interest] rates enabled people to accomplish their goals. 2021 should be another strong year in real estate.
What are your goals or hopes for the new year ahead?
My hope for the new year is [that] we get on the other side of the pandemic. I would love to see our economy come back. It has been difficult to see so many good businesses close down and people struggle.
What’s your go-to restaurant in Laguna Beach?
Our favorite restaurants are Broadway [by Amar Santana], Selanne Steak Tavern and the Wine Gallery. At Broadway, I always have the skirt steak—it never disappoints. [At] Selanne’s, [it] is always a steak of some kind. Wine Gallery pizza is outstanding along with the short rib tacos.
Do you have a favorite store in town?
For clothes, I like Simple [Laguna]. You will also find my family in Gelato Paradiso. My boys always ask for it. I also spend time at Coast Hardware when I feel like being handy.
What do you like about serving with the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce and giving back to the community?
2021 will be my third year as chairman of the board. I enjoy making progress for our local businesses and working with the city. We’ve had some big wins in the last couple years and that is rewarding. I have always felt it is important to give back in any stage of my life. The Chamber was a natural fit and I’ve enjoyed … [helping make] it the strong voice for business it is today.