property involves complex decisions, mixing emotion and logic to reach
a conclusion. In the process of choosing this property, we looked
at many sites over many months, some with existing houses and some as
raw land. In the process, we learned a lot, which helped us make
the choice best for us.
There are sites and houses in this general area in many different
situations, where the differences are not always obvious.
Some houses are on the edge of the ocean bluff, with dramatic
views. Others are ensconced in the woods, or perched on the
ridges. Some are in established neighborhoods; some may be part of a Home Owners' Association. Some have
access to public or private services, such as water, sewer, and the
like, and amenities such as private beaches, pools, and parks.
Making a choice in a complex situation requires first thinking about
what you're seeking. In our case, we wanted a full-time home, in
a peaceful and private setting near the ocean, with enough space inside
and outside to pursue a variety of hobbies and interests, and space to
accommodate guests or possibly a live-in parent or eventually an
au-pair or similar help when it became appropriate. Cooking,
weaving, gardening, woodworking, photography, model railroading,
hiking, and such personal activities would be complemented by volunteer
activities in the local library, state parks, theaters, and even
government. We also wanted a house that would be easy to maintain, and with a design that would accommodate us as we aged.
We learned a
lot from conversations with local residents. One
recurring theme was that the drama of the ocean blufftop was a great
attraction for the classic vacation or weekend getaway, but that many
people preferred some distance from the water for fulltime
living. The views of the ocean are inspiring, but come with
steady winds, salt spray, noise of heavy surf and marine wildlife,
glare of the sun off the water, and often
persistent fog that hugs the edge of the land. For a
vacation it is part of the experience, but, when experienced
continuously, it can become a nuisance. Lots at the ocean's edge
tend also to be
small, and often close to the traffic on Highway One. Although
they are close to the water's edge, a vertical bluff face can mean
that it's very difficult to actually get to the water
As you go inland and gain altitude, the situation
changes, becoming warmer and less fog-prone as you go higher toward the
ridge. In the same week, people who live at the bluff edge may
complain about the cold and fog, while people on the ridge complain
about the intense sun and heat.
theme was the character of neighborhoods. Many
local homes were originally built as second homes or vacation homes,
which usually means that
there is little space for hobby activities. It also means that
in some neighborhoods, houses are either vacant, or occupied by
vacation renters. A neighborhood could be a ghost town
during the week, and metamorphose into a busy vacation resort for the
Many neighborhoods are part of a Home Owners'
Association. Some of these are very small, and are concerned only
with basic infrastructure issues such as maintenance of shared roadways
or water systems. Others are quite large, and have authority over many aspects of their members'
home and landscaping designs.
found our 20 acre lot, we knew it was right
for us. It's about a mile from the water, and 400 feet above sea
level - which means it's often in the sun when the immediate coast is
fogbound, but doesn't get hot like properties on the ridge.
With 20 acres, we could readily find a house site where no other
houses, roads, or buildings are in sight, but which has a blue-water
view of the ocean. Instead of being surrounded by other homes or weekend renters, we're surrounded by meadow, forest, and
wildlife. No one, except, of course, governmental laws
such as zoning, affects our design decisions.
Although we can see the ocean, we can also easily go to it for
photography, tidepooling, kayaking, or simply walking on the beach. Our
property has deeded access to a private beach just a few minutes from
the house. Several public beach areas, including Schooner Gulch
State Beach, are just another few minutes away.
Since the property has large areas that are very level and flat, it was
easy to find a site for a solar power installation. There's
plenty of room left for other activities as well, or just to leave as
The raw land fit our needs perfectly. For us, it
was the right choice, and started the process of designing amd building the spaces
we would need.