Sunday, April 15, 2012

ThomasKinkadeLand In Semi-Decline


Today in the SF Chron, Kathleen Pender writes up her foray into The Village, A Thomas Kinkade Community. This is the housing development in recently de-bankrupted Vallejo, California inspired by recently demised painter Thomas Kinkade, who was in so many ways a master of glowing promises.

The Village was too juicy a target not to be written up before. A.S. Hamrah took an extended tour of its ironies for The Baffler in 2010.

But Pender has some good new stuff here. E.g.:
"Homes here average 2,400 square feet. The four models were named after Kinkade's daughters - Merritt, Chandler, Winsor and Everett. The styles might be described as pseudo Victorian, pseudo French provincial, pseudo New England cottage and pseudo arts and crafts.
The streetlights (electric) look like Kinkade's gaslight logo and the walkways (stamped concrete) resemble cobblestones.
Residents can't change the color of their homes, and cars are not allowed to be parked on the street (although several were during my visit)....
... "Kinkade created this vision of a perfect small-town America where neighborhoods were safe, there were rosebushes and well-lit paths," says Richard Polsky, an art dealer in Sausalito. He calls this vision "a fraud."
Residents say it's real.
"We liked the ambience. It's like one of his little villages. The lights have to be on at night. We felt safe," says Diedra Plagman, who moved in seven years ago... 
...The neighborhood has had its share of short sales, but [neighbor Ramona] Sampayan says when the house next door was vacant, the neighbors mowed the lawn and parked a car in the driveway to make it look lived in.
Dennis Harrison, who moved in a year ago, says, "It's a quiet community. Nobody is ever home. They are always working."..."
By Pender's account the subdivision and its surrounding Hiddenbrooke area have stabilized a good bit since the Baffler's 2010 report of damage from the home loan debt collapse. Still, though,
"Valerie Bechelli, a [r]ealtor with Coldwell Banker, says homes in Hiddenbrooke, the Village included, have dropped at least 40 percent from their peak and most are selling for less than they did new.
A home in the Village on Nottingham - approximately 2,600 square feet on a 5,000-square-foot lot - sold for $476,000 in 2002, $699,000 in 2006 and $349,000 in October..."
BTW, I'm surprised this feature is already available free online, i.e. the SF Chron managers didn't choose to embargo it, as they do with work they regard as the paper's best. They should show Kathleen Pender more respect. Also, she should win more awards. It would be sad to think gender was involved but you never know.

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