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The Ocean, It Makes Me Wax Poetic

Seaside living brings out the bard in some people. This is evidenced by the (regretfully abridged) message left on the Reader’s voice mail by an enthusiastic ex–Mission Beach resident who, for some reason, failed to leave his name. He shares his unbridled rapture with us about beach living:

“Yeah. I used to live by the beach at Mission Beach. Yeah, it was pretty great, seeing the waves crash and everything. Except it got #$%& crowded and noisy, and there were these guys taking their girlfriends there and &%$#@ them at night. And yeah, sometimes you had gangs getting into all kinds of @&^ and there were fights breaking out all the time. The teenagers would drink and leave their %$&%[email protected] beer bottles all over the place. But yeah, mostly it was cool to live there. Thanks. That’s all I have to say.”

My Multimillion-Dollar Bungalow by the Sea

“Joe Jones” is an intensely private man who recently moved into a 3000-square-foot, meticulously kept home overlooking the ocean in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. No, he said, the Reader can’t print his name. Or his occupation. Or anything about the house’s other residents. But he permitted me to walk through his unusual concrete-and-glass house, gaze out its 21-foot windows to the waves below, and imagine what daily life is like for a man such as “Joe Jones.”

“I love this area. I’ve been in San Diego all my life, and I’m a beach person. I have to say, this is the best place for a good beach lifestyle. I was looking for something in North County, and I wanted a white-water view, but most of the lots available were small lots. This lot sold the day it went on the market.

“It’s like Hawaii here. There are no sidewalks. We ride our bikes everywhere. Most beach communities are congested, but this isn’t at all. It’s really a laid-back place, kind of spiritual, and still has agricultural zoning in some parts, so it’s got a country ambiance. It’s also pretty diverse — you’ve got million-dollar homes amid one-story beach bungalows. The neighbors wave when they pass by.

“From these windows overlooking the ocean, and from the roof deck, I can see from La Jolla to Dana Point. I surf in the mornings, so I just walk right down to the beach. There’s a four-acre retreat — a white-water surfing area — called Swami’s, which is pretty well known.

“Concrete offers a lot of benefits over other building materials — security, fire, pests, seismic, and maintenance. Ocean salt plays real havoc on other materials, but concrete is stable against salt.

“I have no insulation in these walls. On the beach you don’t have to worry about temperature. And as for sound, this neighborhood is quiet. Really quiet. We go to sleep with the sound of the ocean every night.”

Getting Design Review Board Approval for a Waterfront Home…Can Be a Beach

Architect Lou Dominy had a dream, a goal, a desire. He wanted to build a second home — a beach house — on a teeny, oddly shaped lot at Camino del Mar and 23rd Street in Del Mar that some people mistook for a traffic island. Why pursue such an unusual construction?

For Dominy, the lure of the sea was strong, but the repellent high prices of more normal-sized seaside homes in Del Mar were stronger. So Dominy chose to construct a small house on an affordable piece of turf. But he had not anticipated the glowering disapproval of Del Mar’s Design Review Board. It was less than thrilled with his proposal.

Created in the 1970s to protect Del Mar residents’ property values, privacy, and the area’s aesthetic character, the board (whose machinations another architect called “a form of torture”) rejected Dominy’s proposed stucco exterior, roof deck, and sidewalk. Then it demanded that Dominy change the house’s proposed shape, color, floor plan, and landscaping, and eliminate stairs. He did. But still the board would not bless Dominy’s residential creation.

Finally, however, Dominy’s perseverance paid off. He received a green light to build and joined the elite ranks of San Diego’s beachside property owners.

“The piece of land this house is on is shaped like a piece of pizza. Some people call the house the Triangle House because both the house and the lot are triangle-shaped.

“The prices in Del Mar are rather high, and I thought that this was the only way I could live by the beach there. To me, that’s what California is about — the beach. It took four years to get the house approved. The city did all they could to stop it. They said it was too much house on too little lot. The lot is 1200 feet, and the house is 700 feet. It’s a one-bedroom, two-bath. In the bedroom there’s a queen-sized bed that you can walk around.

“It took about a year to build. We were trying to make it not seem small. There is very little furniture. It’s very boatlike. My plan was to make it efficient, just like living on a yacht. I love the sound of the ocean and the cool breeze. We did a whole lot of soundproofing, so there’s not any traffic noise. I love to get up in the morning and walk or jog on the beach. We’re just 100 yards away from it. We can watch the waves from the kitchen, dining room, and roof deck.

“When you look at the house, you’ll see that there’s very little metal on the house. The only metal you’ll see is roof flashing, which is copper, and two portholes, which are bronze. A true fact about living near the beach is that you can’t have metals that’ll rust.

“I’ve gotten a bunch of referrals from people seeing this house. Some are beachside projects and some are very difficult sites. This house, you know, is on a site 90 feet long, and it goes from a point — 0 feet wide to 26 feet wide. It really is shaped like a piece of pizza.”

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