Tear Downs

One of the commenters, Redmondjp, asked about tear downs. Kirkland is famous for new homes being put where old ones used to be. But our conversation stemmed around whether or not Bellevue and Redmond ramblers built in the 50s and 60s will go the way of these Kirkland teardowns. I know of a few in Bellevue. I don’t know any in Redmond.

Here are a few recent tear downs, before and after, from Kirkand. What do you think?

Should the old ones have stayed?





24 thoughts on “Tear Downs

  1. Those are some gorgeous examples Ardell. You make a good point in your post and I like that you used houses from multiple architectural styles to prove your point. Someone I work with likes to say that “everyone has their favorite movie” and I think you could just as easily say that everyone has their favorite style of house and will revolt against developers tearing that style down. I myself, am relieved when the tear out the ramblers and the ranches, but have other friends who wax pontific about “mid-century design”. Either way, I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who prefers the original to its replacement in the examples you provided.

  2. I’m certainly not going to argue that the new houses themselves aren’t far more stunning than the tear-downs. However, there’s something that just doesn’t rub me right in the “after” pictures: horticultural homogeneity. In nearly every one of these examples a pleasing variety of trees, bushes, and shrubs has been ripped out and replaced with a bland pattern of overused bushes and perfectly green grass.

    I may be in the minority in this one, but I say bleh. I like a varied yard with established plants. I wish new construction had more respect for existing landscaping & plant life.

  3. Eric,

    You’d be surprised. Most of the people in Kirkland just hate seeing anything torn down. I try to attend as many of the meetings on “bulk and volume”, Accessory Dwelling Unit and Floor Area Ratio meetings as I can. It’s a mixed bag. There’s aways a few people (like the mayor) who want to know why the builders don’t put 1,500 square foot homes on the lots.

    They want affordable housing but don’t want townhomes. Some day I’ll have to explain that affordable 1,500 square foot housing IS townhomes.

    They have a new reg, pretty sure it passed, that anyone who preserves an older home can have a special pass to subdivide the lot to smaller than the area zoning dictates. They are trying to come up with perks to slow down the tear downs. House number one and three up there would be considered “historic” here. I don’t think anyone would have objected to two and four.

  4. The Tim,

    I have noticed a growing aversion to yard maintenance. People just don’t see themselves spending all of their free time tending to the yard.

    Also, it is usually a value booster to take out “mature” plantings and replace with newer landscaping. It updates the whole look of the property. Twice this year I sold property with some fabulous old rhododendrons. When I remarked about them, the buyer said, “Oh them? They are going!”. I can’t imagine someone not liking a rhodie, but small plantings and easy maintenance seems to be the trend.

    A lot of people are afraid of tall trees. They think it will one day fall on the house. Others hate fruit trees and the “garbage” it dumps into the yard. I seriously have not seen too many buyers this year who appreciate mature plantings. More square footage and less “yard” to maintain please, is the word of the day.

    In Kirkland, some extra favors are granted to those who leave at least 20 feet between the house and the garage, as in photo number two. This puts the “yard” in between the two structures. We have some street to alley lots, I live on one, so the yard either has to be in the front or between the garage and house. House number one there must have a rear access road for the garage door not to be showing anywhere from the front.

  5. I’m with you, The Tim! Landscaping for new homes is the cheapest thing they can use to make it look green.

    The first one looked pretty nice before the tear down.

    Way to find a night-shot, Ardell. Any luck with yours yet?

  6. Hi Ardell,

    These are good examples of teardowns, but from your comments yesterday, I thought you were going to post an article about what factors determine whether a house is a teardown, and how to determine whether to maintain/upgrade an older house which is starting to be surrounded by new, much more expensive, construction. This would be more beneficial than just looking at pretty pictures of teardown replacements and asking for people’s comments IMO.

  7. The first and third examples are sad, in my opinion. The original homes were modest , yes — but charming, attractive homes. The third example in particular — that new home is an architectural monstrosity! And a ostentatious one at that. What a shame.

  8. At least in Kirkland, it’s replaced with a somewhat architecturally pleasing (#2) single family home, even if they don’t have trees. In Seattle, we get 4-8 bland townhouses for every tear down.

  9. OK, Thanks Ardell, I’m looking forward to it.

    Here are some things that I’ve noticed about most teardown replacements:

    1. A modest-sized house with a large yard is replaced with a house having 2-4 times the square footage and almost no yard. In many cases, the number of occupants in the new, much-larger house is no greater than would have been in the previously-existing house. What is different about people today, compared to 50 years ago? Why was 1500 s.f. sufficient for a family with 3 kids back then, but a yuppie couple now ‘needs’ 4500 s.f.? The yuppie couple both work 10-11 hours per day to afford the place, so most rooms are empty a vast majority of the time anyways. And then somebody has to clean them. And pay to heat them. What am I missing here? I’d really like to hear why people want/need this.

    And with no yard to play in, any children living there will most likely be sitting inside playing their video games or on Myspace. Granted, maybe kids don’t play outside any more, but can we make the case that new-contruction RE is contributing to childhood obesity?

    The structure value of the new house is much higher than what it replaced (using the replacement cost of the old one, not the depreciated value), thus making the overall property significantly more expensive than it would have been otherwise. IMO this is the driving force behind the median price increases that have been happening over the past few years. This raises comps. and reduces affordability in the area (and can really piss off the long-time homeowner neighbors, esp. when you block their view, OR make them really happy, if they’re planning on selling).

    I do like the large garages that the new houses have. I’ll have to give some credit to the builders of the house in pictures 4 and 8–they actually have a WIDE garage door, as opposed to the typical multiple-narrow garage doors that most full-sized pickups and SUVs can’t even fit through (the narrow doors in pictures 4, 6, and 8 ). Why people will spend $1M on a house with three 7-ft. wide garage doors that they can’t even get their H2 or Dodge pickup through just boggles my mind.

    I do agree with you Ardell that most people today don’t want to deal with yard maintenance. But if you look at the type and variety of plants put into most new yards, they require MORE maintenance than the yards that they replaced (and a lot more knowledge of how and when to prune things, which can get pretty complicated). As a perfect example of this, look at the Grasslawn development just off 148th Ave NE in Redmond (just N. of my house)–I can send you pictures if you’d like. There are things which are just stupid–like 3ft. wide by 10 ft. long patches of grass on a raised bed along the side of the house, with NO WAY to even roll a lawn mower to the area to mow it! I’ll take a larger yard with just grass any day–it’s a no-brainer to take care of. Of course, everybody is so rich these days that we can all afford $3-400/month for ‘Dung’s Yard Service’ (name not made up–from an actual flyer left in my mailbox). And when you don’t keep up on all these various types of plants and don’t mow those tiny, useless strips of sod placed around the new yards, the places really look like crap in a hurry.

  10. I’m in the “bigger is not necessarily better” camp myself. For the most part, I look at those new houses and frown. I’d much prefer the orignial house. Give me 2000sf with a yard over 4000sf tyat fills the lot any day, but apparently I’m in the minority. All they seem to build are monstrosities and (cringe) townhomes these days. I’ll pass, thanks.

  11. I’m not always a fan of the “built to the edges” homes, but why do we have to go insulting the couples that buy them or the families that live in them. Throwing around terms like “yuppie” and saying all the rooms are empty is just unnecessary.

    All the “cookie-cutter” suburbs of the 1950s look like a monstrosity these days, but they represented something great to the returning war-vets who bought them in droves back then.

    These homes being built are just a reflection of the values of the time.

    For specific data, the average square footage of a home for an American family has increased from the low 1000s to the high 2000s until (I believe) a couple of years ago, where it leveled off (probably because of rising property values, construction costs and the limits of how far out people will be willing to live).

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