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Ask Dr. Rich
Rich Simons | Upper East 11th Street

Q - It seems that Del Mar is spinning its wheels in the sand. Have we made any progress recently? - s.w.

This cartoon, published in the June 2003 Sandpiper, is from the Sandpiper archives.
Click on image to enlarge.

Think back to how things were only 12 years ago, in June 2003.The first hint of what was to come was subtle, like the onset of autumn in this part of the world. You know - suddenly there’s an unexpected little something in the air. maybe a faint breeze from the wrong direction. And yet I sensed the change immediately, the very first morning after returning from my trip. It was elusive but at the same time undeniable: the four houses to the west of mine were no longer there!

Now I am not an alarmist at heart, but I thought perhaps the authorities should be notified. They are very busy at City Hall, as we all know, and this matter might easily have escaped their attention. So I hurried down there and located a young man in the Planning Department and asked him if he was aware that four houses in my neighborhood had disappeared, virtually overnight. Scraped!

The young planner (I’ll call him “YP”) looked at me for a moment as though I had just reported a unicorn in my garden, but he noted the address in question, consulted a few documents and returned with the answer: “Yes,” he said, “they have been scraped.”

“SCRAPED!” I said. “You mean ... scraped? As in ... off the face of.....” I couldn’t finish.

“Yes.” he said, “as in off.”

“Well, that’s a shock. Gosh. They were nice little houses.”

Perhaps I merely imagined the slight curl to his lip, but there was no mistaking the emphasis when he echoed, “Yes. they were nice little houses.”

“But why?” 1 asked.

“New folks in town.” he shrugged. “Bought all four lots. Apparently going to combine them to build a single home.”

“HOME? Home for what? Orphans? Retired jockeys? I thought this was a residential neighborhood.”

"Right. We’re just talking about a middle-aged couple here. ... and mother-in-law, as I understand it.”

I slunk back to my house and spent the night calculating how big a house you might be allowed to build on a roughly 40,000-square-foot lot. The answer: big enough to contain a stable and a gymnasium and still have room left over for a full-sized basketball court, five bedrooms, six baths and an Olympic-sized Jacuzzi! What were they planning?

It didn’t take long to find out. The digging began the next day at first light. Machines like enraged dinosaurs probed frantically into the dirt, piling it into trucks the width of my house. The tracks then had to navigate our winding streets, taking care, of course, not to lose their brakes. Ooooops! Well, that traffic light at 15* Street was a nuisance anyway.

And. what the heck, everyone is entitled to a basement, or two or three. Hang the risks. But when the digging had gone on for week. I was compelled to return to City Hall. “Something is terribly amiss,” I informed YP. “The digging equipment is now so far underground that I can’t see it!

“No. they just need the space. Look, you have to realize that according to the zoning code, they can ONLY build up to around 10,000 square feet on those four combined lots. BUT underground doesn’t count! So where do they go to get the extra space that they need? Toward China, if you get my drift.”

“NEED! NEED!” Okay, I was shouting. “NEED for WHAT?”

Patiently, almost condescendingly, YP consulted his notes: “Just your basic stuff. Look - besides the house itself, you have to fit in the garage to house the six SUVs and the two motorhomes. Then there’s the theatre - that’s a whole story by itself. Then you’ve got to figure in the bowling alley, the workout room, the swimming pool and the tennis court. Plus the vintage car collection, the wine cellar and the walk-in humidor. And, okay. I admit not everyone has an indoor arboretum or a polo field, but there you are.”

These comments were excerpted from Dr. Rich’s original piece, published in the June 2003 issue of the Sandpiper.


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