“The McMansions are coming!” to Modesto

Maybe the broader statistics don’t matter – opposition to McMansions is often strongest at the local level, like when teardowns arrive in Modesto:

In the old College area of Modesto, I’ve spotted an unsettling trend – the sprouting of what folks in the Bay Area call “McMansions.”…

These behemoths bring nothing to the locales, and basically boil down to somebody wanting to live in an older neighborhood in a development-style home with maximum square footage. You can imagine how people who have lived among one-story neighbors feel when a McMansion glares down at them. Many choose to move or erect tall plants as barriers in an effort to recapture a sense of privacy.

McMansions are a hot issue in the Bay Area, with existing homeowners protesting the intrusion. But few cities have any restrictions or guidelines in place for protecting and/or building in older neighborhoods. Those who do have recognized the value of managing older neighborhoods to bring value to their town. Along the same lines as preserving historic downtowns for their appeal, they preserve historic neighborhoods.

Large homes equal larger tax revenues from the city’s point of view. But as historic old neighborhoods succumb to McMansions, it’s just a matter of time before these areas look like the row houses in the 1970s Archie Bunker sitcom; they will have ruined the “old” neighborhood ambiance they sought.

Not a positive view of teardown McMansions. I wonder how this works in communities like Modesto which have been hit hard by foreclosures (though some Central Valley cities are not below national foreclosure rates). Can a city afford a NIMBY approach to McMansions if the housing stock isn’t doing so well on the whole? At least the teardowns suggest there is some demand for living in certain neighborhoods in Modesto – not all communities have even that.

This question regarding teardowns could also apply elsewhere: are big teardowns and gentrification better than no development at all? Both involve changing the character of a neighborhood, particularly upgrading the housing options. Both are often viewed negatively by residents already there. Both typically involve outsiders and new residents. Of course, these aren’t the only choices available in neighborhoods but are they better than negative conditions or decline?

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