Billings MT seeks Craftsman homes for annual home tour
if you live in Wisconsin, turn on the tube tonight

what makes a neighborhood - new building or older, well-kept homes?

A good column from John Canalis in the Long Beach Press-Telegram. He explores two very different points of view on the increased property values in Long Beach's Belmont Heights neighborhood - one, that new development (McMansions, mostly) drive prices up, and the other, that the better-constructed and much more humble Craftsman and Mission Revival bungalows built there in the 1920s sustain prices and make the neighborhood what it is. As Belmont Heights explores ways to keep its character and at the same time allow folks independence in what is built and how, they come up against many of the same challenges that other historic review boards and permitting bodies have faced over the years.

"Gorgeous" is the word Curtis Watkins chooses to describe his neighborhood's newer homes.    

"I consider what is happening in Belmont Heights progress," he says. "The property values are just skyrocketing."    

But Elizabeth Lambe prefers the Craftsman-era houses of the 1920s and 1930s. She believes it is the older homes, not the newer ones, that sustain prices.

"I grew up in Orange County and moved to Belmont Heights because I really loved the look of the neighborhood and the lovely historic homes," she says. "And I think it's important that we preserve that because it's part of our history."

Just as it transformed Belmont Shore, the Peninsula and Naples, "mansionization" - a growth of houses 3,000 square feet and up - is changing the Heights, where homes a third to half of that size were once the norm on many streets.

ZIP Code 90803, which includes the Heights, is the most expensive in Long Beach, with a median home price of $850,000 and plenty of properties in the $1 million to $2 million range.

Well-heeled owners, buyers and speculators often want - and can afford - more room for children, home offices and entertaining than a two-bedroom cottage can offer.

Critics say the new homes, sometimes constructed in Mediterranean, Tuscan and contemporary "box" styles, clash with the lines of original Craftsman, Spanish, Storybook, Tudor and Victorian homes. They complain that the manses dwarf their homes, shade once-sunny gardens and give the nosy a perch to peer into backyards.