Lee Haydu | Cofair Court, Solana Beach
- - You see a for-sale sign on a house in your neighborhood.
- - Later you hear about a nasty battle at DRB.
- - You see a huge hole in the ground where previously there was a charming beach house that you thought exemplified the character of Del Mar.
- - You see a house under construction on multiple levels that looks like it covers half the block.
- - When the trucks are gone and the construction fence is taken down, you see a gigantic house that towers over nearby homes and clearly doesn’t fit the character of the neighborhood. And with a gated entrance and driveway, you never meet the new neighbor.
This pattern is becoming all too familiar. The big, luxury homes going up in Del Mar are designed from the inside out. Priority is given to the inside for more living space, and the outside suffers—less natural vegetation, less air space between homes, blocked views, a feeling of crowding with adjacent properties, fewer trees, less shade, and less natural ventilation. Oversized homes are less about shelter and more about image and entertaining. As a result, there are large outdoor patios, outdoor lights, outdoor kitchens, fire pits, amplified speakers, multiple chimneys, roof decks, swimming pools, Jacuzzis, etc.
So what’s the impact to the neighbors? There is less privacy and lower quality of life. No one remembers to turn off the music to the outdoor speakers when they come inside, so amplified music stays on …and on…and on. The neighbors don’t feel comfortable to call about the noise because of the bad relations caused at DRB. What was once a quiet, wooded street now has cars parked on it at most times because there isn’t enough garage space to match the number of cars for the house. With the loss of natural vegetation and trees, there is a loss of shade, privacy, unique neighborhood identity, and charm.
As Del Mar land becomes more valuable than the homes on it, the real estate market provides big profits for teardowns. Developers have a profit-maximizing mentality—every additional square foot of living space built equates to financial gain. But it has been proven time and time again that the cities with strong controls on real estate development appreciate much faster than those without strong controls. Del Mar is small but in a very choice location, and its unique geography makes it one of the most sought-after addresses in California. The city’s design review process needs improvement to assure that developers and architects don’t “game the system” for their own profit, when others comply. They need clear guidelines and rules so they design and build homes just as if they live next door themselves. The entire community will benefit—and profit.