The Old Neighborhood

 Perspective is off (top is Google Street View), but essentially the same view of my neighbor's property. Original house to the left, behind the lawn and growth (my house is immediately behind it). Bottom picture from yesterday. Lock in on the picket fence if you need orientation.

Perspective is off (top is Google Street View), but essentially the same view of my neighbor's property. Original house to the left, behind the lawn and growth (my house is immediately behind it). Bottom picture from yesterday. Lock in on the picket fence if you need orientation.

It's been Infrastructure Week here on my block for about a year. We aren't bitter.

But even though I've mentioned this a few times, it's hard to describe the daily disruption. It's a relative disruption. You all have relatives; you get it.

I mean, it's not that big of a deal, just kind of a hassle. A year ago, developers began finally excavating the decades next door, prepping for the new neighborhood. It was fairly sedate and quiet over the summer, with the exception of a couple of days of the wood chipper going full blast. Not a lot of fun, but temporary.

And now they're in full swing, and as daylight lingers past 9PM I can hear hammers at night, a few lone wolves finishing something up.

Meanwhile, a long-planned sewer and drainage project began last fall on this street, and slowly began to creep up the block toward my place. Sections were blocked off at a time, completely screwing up some usual commute routes. It wasn't hard to find the motivation to walk to the grocery store, and lately even that's been problematic, since they've been working in front of my house all week.

I'm talking holes 30 feet long and six feet across. We're fortunate to have homes on either side of our driveway that allow us to slip over onto their property and exit, but it's still a huge hassle. And it's been going on since Halloween.

...

I wrote a few weeks ago about the experience of having my backyard transformed into a community of not-yet neighbors, in my column.

My wife teaches a few voice students here at home on the weekend, and one of them came over the week following the column. I ran into her mother outside, a lovely woman who seemed astonished at the construction. She mentioned reading my column, which is always a worlds-colliding sort of thing. I'm aware; I just don't run into readers more than a few times a year, usually. I don't necessarily resemble the picture the paper currently runs, for one thing.

And as I told this woman, I don't have strong feelings in the matter. I always knew they'd build on the place. Commerce abhors a vacuum, and this was always going to be an empty plot of land, begging for development. See this:

 The red lines are the development lots. My house has the little Google pointer, on the right. It's actually pointing to about the exact location I'm at this very moment.

The red lines are the development lots. My house has the little Google pointer, on the right. It's actually pointing to about the exact location I'm at this very moment.

OK, even I'm a little impressed with the green stuff. This is the Pacific Northwest.

But you can tell how much room is there, and the truth is we've been left alone far longer than we should have been. All up and down the block, big lots have been razed and replaced by cul-de-sacs. It's our turn, and complaining seems pointless and unhelpful. People gotta live somewhere. Now they can live next door to me.

Assuming they can swing the mortgages, which begin at north of half a million bucks. About 10 of those. The math isn't hard.

And if you're wondering about that section up at the top left, why the developers didn't buy that property too, the answer is, they really wanted to. The owners wouldn't sell, according to the story. It's not a big house, I'd say maybe 1500 square feet, and apparently they offered them over a million and they refused.

If you're wondering, this is very understandable. These are retired folks, maybe 10 years older than me, and where would they move? The median price of a home in this area is rapidly approaching that million-dollar mark. It's a very nice house, and they're the sort of home owners who put a lot of effort into keeping it beautiful. I must make them crazy.

So we're in a situation in which, 30 years ago, I bought a house for $85,000. Lots of room, lots of yard, good school system. Lots of potential. I didn't take advantage of much of that, but I wasn't really cut out for this business. It's a deficit of mine, home ownership.

But 85K looks pretty sweet when they're handing out checks with seven figures. I assume that someday, someone will want to demolish my rickety house and build several more. I have no idea where I'll be at that point. Hopefully cashing the check and downsizing, but that's definitely something to think about.

Nostalgia isn't strong with me, or my daughter for that matter; we'd both prefer to see this old house meet a wrecking ball. My wife and son are more connected and reluctant to consider ever leaving, but leave we must, I suspect, sooner or later.

A neighbor further down the street is considering moving back to his home in Louisiana, now that his kids have spread their wings and scattered. When he checked with a realtor, he was told what I assume everyone is told: List it on Monday, by Tuesday you have five offers and a bidding war. The expected sale price could be pushing that seven-figure mark.

This is an ordinary house. It's very nice, but doesn't seem all that big, and certainly not fancy. You'll find this house in any suburban neighborhood. It's crazy.

...

I'll tell you a story and then I'll stop. I don't really have much of a point to make. I really don't think about it much, honestly. Thinking isn't going to stop the bulldozer.

We built a fence 20 years ago, when we got a puppy. A chain link fence around the backyard portion of our house, bigger than really necessary, but something was necessary.

Since the backyard was wide open to our neighbors' place, with their acre of wilderness and pasture, it all blended together. My wife skipped the surveyor and just eyeballed the boundaries when talking to the fence people, and it was constructed about six inches onto my neighbors' property. We talked about this, made some jokes. They knew, we knew, nobody cared. Someone in the future might, we agreed, but not at the moment.

The neighbors died a long time ago. Actually, out of the 8 neighbors when we moved in, four couples, six have died. One of the remaining is almost 80, and the other is in her 90s. That's what 30 years feels like.

A few months ago, the construction manager for these developers called me. They're going to build a tall wooden fence on the boundary with my property, and so needed to tear down that chain link and, of course, needed my permission.

"And I don't know if you're aware..." this guy said and I started to chuckle. After 20 years, we weren't six inches over onto his new property. It was my property now. Dat's the law.

He laughed a little weakly when he heard this, understood that I knew my rights, but it was all in fun. Tear down that wall! All dogs go to heaven and that's where the sainted Strider is. The fence isn't needed, and neither are those six inches. I suppose I could have dinged him for some cash, but I don't have the energy or the philosophy. Take it. I get a nice new fence in my backyard.

Now that I think of it, I might have persuaded him to send some guys over to build me a new back deck. Might have been a fair deal. I had to tear that deck down and I'm not sure where I can find the money to rebuild it at this point.

But again: Home owning is not a strength. I'm pretty good at mowing the lawn but that's about it. Maybe I'll be better at selling one. In the meantime, since I don't know how to build my own sewer line, I'll take the big hole in front of my driveway as a positive thing, and try not to fall in, which is basically my life strategy anyway.

Chuck Sigars1 Comment