What's it like to have a polarizing political figure as a neighbor? What's it like when that polarizing political figure is planning a massive construction project on your block?
Some residents of San Diego's La Jolla community have firsthand experience -- they live next to presidential candidate Mitt Romney's vacation home. In 2008, the former Massachusetts governor purchased a $12 million, 3,000-square-foot home on La Jolla's Dunemere Drive. But in 2011, he decided it was simply too small; his five children and 18 grandchildren couldn't properly enjoy the two-bedroom house with only a two-car garage.
Romney released plans in August 2011 to raze the house and build an 11,000-square-foot home in its place. The new house will feature a 3,600-square-foot basement and a split-level four-car garage with a $55,000 car elevator.
But Romney's presence in the upscale oceanside community has garnered some complaints from neighbors. Besides the expected gripes from those who disagree with the Republican's politics, some nonpartisan issues involve the new home's impact on nearby properties.
See 6 of Mitt Romney's Homes
Romney's 'Housing Plan' Already Making an Impact in La Jolla
Mitt Romney spent the first five years of his life in this 5,500-square-foot home (above) in the upscale Detroit Palmer Woods neighborhood before moving to Detroit’s Bloomfield Hills suburb. Although Detroit real estate has been hard hit in the past few years, Palmer Woods real estate remained steady as a high-end neighborhood. However, even an upscale location couldn’t save Romney’s childhood home from foreclosure or the wrecking ball. After falling into disrepair in 2009, the house was one of 3,000 Detroit homes razed in the city’s renewal plan.
According to property records, Romney and his family purchased the seven-bedroom, 6.5-bath home in Belmont in 1989 — five years after Romney founded the investment firm Bain Capital. The Romneys’ home sold for $3.5 million in 2009 — 293 percent more than the 1989 purchase price of $890,000.
Situated on 2.44 acres and within 25-minute drive from downtown Boston, the 6,434-square-foot Colonial was an ideal home base for Romney, his wife Ann and their five sons for 20 years.
In 1997, the Romneys plunked down $3 million for a summer home situated on 11 acres of lakefront in New Hampshire. The three-story, six-bedroom contemporary sits along Lake Winnipesaukee in Wolfeboro, purportedly “the oldest summer resort in America.”
In 1999, the Romneys picked up another vacation home. This time, the family decided on a mountain ski home in Park City, Utah. At the time, Romney was working as CEO and President of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, where he is credited with establishing credibility after scandal plagued the organizing committee. Romney’s leadership in the Olympics was largely viewed as a success, leading him to write “Turnaround: Crisis, Leadership and the Olympic Games” about his experience.
More chalet than cabin, Romney’s seven-bedroom, 9.5-bath home sits at the end of a cul-de-sac on nearly 11 acres. A premier destination for snow sport enthusiasts, Park City real estate doesn’t come cheap. Romney’s home was no exception; the 9,514-square-foot home sold in 2009 for a little under the $5.25 million asking price.
It may be the ideal location, but it isn’t quite the ideal home, at least not yet. In August 2011, Romney filed an application with the city to bulldoze the single-story beachfront home and replace it with a larger, two-story home.
A spokesperson for the politician explained: "They [the Romneys] want to enlarge their two-bedroom home because with five married sons and 16 grandchildren it is inadequate for their needs.” The spokesperson added that the renovation wouldn’t begin until after the campaign has wrapped up.
Romney’s recent real estate purchase is the most modest on the list. In June 2010, he and Ann bought a two-bedroom townhouse in suburban Belmont. According to property listing information, the Romneys paid $895,000 for the 2,100-square-foot home in the new residential development The Woodlands.
Since selling their Belmont mansion, this is the first property they’ve owned in the Boston area in two years. Previously, the Romneys claimed a basement apartment in their eldest son’s home as their legal Massachusetts address.
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Neighbors Randy Clark and Tom Maddox told The New York Times that they refused to sign a document stating that they have no objections to the planned renovations, which would block part of their ocean view.
The Times also reports that residents are weary of how a big construction project can take place on what a resident describes as "a quaint little one-way street." Another Romney neighbor, Mark Quint, is quoted as fearing a "nightmare of construction." Then there's the Secret Service presence. Whenever the presumptive GOP presidential nominee is at his La Jolla house, the newspaper says, a "giant SUV" blocks all incoming traffic to the cul-de-sac where Romney's home is located.
The inconvenience of construction shouldn't be a problem for Romney, though: He owns several other homes where he can stay once construction begins in La Jolla later this year -- not to mention that exclusive Washington, D.C., residence that he's hoping to occupy in January 2013.
Romney's 'Housing Plan' Already Making an Impact in La Jolla
Joe and Melissa P. saved this 1904 South Wayne, Wis., farmhouse with seven bedrooms -- but no indoor plumbing. The house had been abandoned since the 1970s, and the remodel took 13 months (including work done during their engagement and wedding plans).
The project included a new roof, new siding, new windows, and the restoration of three porches. Inside, of course, they added all-new plumbing (and two bathrooms) and finished all the rooms (they'd been previously occupied by raccoons, honeybees and other critters). The couple even restored all of the house's original trim and doors.
Walt and Patricia Purcell saw this Petersburg, Va., cottage while visiting their son and daughter-in-law. The kids had bought the adjacent, larger house as a vacation getaway -- and potential retirement spot for their parents. The house wasn't much to look at, really. Abandoned for 20 years after a fire, the windows and doors were missing, charred or boarded up. There was no flooring downstairs, and its water-damaged plaster was crumbling. Squirrels ran in and out, and birds nested in the clawfoot tub. Yet there was a certain charm to the place. The old brick, dating from the 1850s, had wonderful color, the window lintels were solid granite, and the upstairs had heart-pine floors.
With just four rooms, it seemed like it could be a cozy home. So in May 2006, Walt and Patricia moved into the main house. Patricia cried that first night and asked Walt if they were doing the right thing, taking on this rundown little house in a slowly revitalizing urban area. But by the next morning, that moment of doubt had passed.
The homeowner gutted it completely and tore off the two attached garages, raised the roof for a second story, and added two bedrooms and a full bath, a front porch, an entryway, and a sunroom on the first floor. It took five years to complete, and they tried to use as much salvaged material as possible in the renovation.
Vic and Cindy Young never planned on ending up back in Ohio. But when their four children settled in the Midwest, coming home started to look like a pretty good idea. "We decided to find a place where they would all be able to come down in just one day to visit us," Vic says. But not just any place. They wanted a historic house in a historic town. And since Vic, a full-time restorer of old houses, was hankering for a new DIY project, it wouldn't hurt if the place was a fixer-upper.
Set atop a steep hillside overlooking the Ohio River in the town of Ripley, the 1840s Italianate had original double-hung windows crowned with drip lintels, columns flanking a wide front porch, and broad eaves supported by ornate brackets. "It looked so forlorn up there on the hill," Vic recalls of the house, which had stood abandoned for decades. "There were more majestic houses to be found, but this one spoke to both of us."
After a year of work, with a lot of help from friends, the couple had a new kitchen, an extra bedroom, a bathroom twice the size, and a house that looks like the ghosts are gone -- all for under $35,000.
This Craftsman-style bungalow in Houston was built in 1910. It survived an extended economic downturn but suffered from a segregated floorplan, a severely outdated kitchen and bathroom, and a neglected yard. David S. wanted to add modern amenities while maintaining its historic character.
The homeowner replaced all of the systems, opened up the floor plan, and added a bigger kitchen, a master bed and bath, a den, and a laundry room. He boosted the curb appeal by removing overgrowth, brightening up the paint job, and adding some colorful landscaping. David did all of the design work himself; with much help from This Old House, of course!
This circa 1900 home in Marietta, Ga., had served as a rooming house for decades when Marion S. snapped it up. With help from a historic-home architect and a builder, Marion and her family sussed out the home's original layout and began work.
After lifting the house, digging a new foundation, re-creating a porch, and refinishing all the doors and woodwork, the house was so beautiful that the architect won an award for the renovation from the local historical society.
When Rick and Michelle D. saw this 1876 Italianate, the vegetation was overgrown, all the windows had been broken, the front porch was falling off, the roof had six layers of shingles, the interior was sagging, and it had been set on fire a few times. But it also had original tin ceilings, hardwood floors, 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and some beautiful carving on the front gable. So they bought it for $1.
Kara O'Brien wanted to buy this house from the first time she laid eyes on it. "It was just so sad looking. I thought, I need to fix it up." The 1911 bungalow was one of three vintage houses that sat in a row on the same block in the Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia. While the area was starting to revitalize, the house bore the marks of its rough recent history: Iron bars secured the living room windows, and bullets were lodged in the siding. "Still, the solid heart-pine house had character and potential, even if its cedar shingles and roof were rotting from neglect. We desperately wanted to save it. But the owner, who showed up every three months to mow the lawn, refused to sell, though he rented it just once in five years."
Kara settled for the house next door. But five years later, the owner changed his mind, and they leaped at their chance. They bought the house in 2005 and immediately began gutting the space -- but saved everything of value. A few weeks into the project, while on vacation in Puerto Rico, Kara got word that the third vintage house on our block had been set on fire, and the blaze threatened both the house she was working on and the one she was living in. Both homes survived with no structural damage, but it was a close call.
Scott C. in Milford, N.H., picked up this eyesore on a main street. He managed to look beyond the surface and saw a solid building form with potential, nestled among Victorian, Colonial and Craftsman neighbors.