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April 19, 2007

What do you think about enormous homes being built in Los Gatos?

Should folks be able to do whatever they want, if they have enough land, as long as it’s in good taste?

Or is building a super-sized estate a scar on the land, a permanent change to the landscape that everyone has to live with afterwards?

I can’t provide an easy answer, but as a valley native and local Realtor since 1993, I do have a few opinions.

I think the sizes of the homes reflect not just on the individual owner (which is a very American kind of concept) but on the whole town – because we permit it (or not).  Are we after a look of money and prestige?  Are we wanting to be more like Woodside and keep the “I have money” houses down and the hedges high?

I think that you can have too much of a good thing.  I used to have a “whatever they want to build” kind of mentality until a decade ago when I viewed a home with large diamonds built into the faucets of the half bath…and three more diamonds built into the toilet flusher in the master bedroom.  You know, there are starving people in the world.  What were they thinking when they put diamonds in a room associated with human waste?  Yes, it’s crass. Crass consumerism.  It was – it is – too much.

Right now a gentleman wants to build a home of nearly 10,000 square feet off Kennedy Road – a beautiful street with oodles of oaks that courses through a small valley out from Los Gatos toward Almaden.  There are modest homes out there, there are big ones, but he wants to build a huge home. Apparently the guidelines for hillside homes now state that they need to be no more than about 6000 square feet. (That’s still not small. The average American home is about 2200 SF.)

Before going into real estate, I would have said, “what could you possibly do with that large a house?” But I have seen amazing things in Los Gatos homes.  There are places with indoor firing ranges, movie theaters, ballrooms, racquetball courts, wine cellars and tasting rooms, pools, driving ranges and on and on.  Silicon Valley people can be very creative with their money and space.  And we don’t even have harsh winters and a need to hide out.

I don’t know what this large home is going to look like if completed. I do know that people in town will fight about whether or not a particular tree can be removed or not – so I know that the townsfolk care a LOT about appearance.

Should the landowner be limited to 6000 SF or allowed to go to 10,000? I am no town planner, I don’t know. I tend to think that “less is more”, but hey, I live in 2500 sf and grew up in homes ranging from 1400 to 4000. Anything past 6000 seems a little extreme to me.

But could we at least prohibit putting diamonds into the bathroom?