You Must Remember This: a community of permanent residents and summer visitors, not

By NANCY GARDNER

I recently read a paper that described the population of Newport Beach as divided into two categories, permanent and summer – at first glance a characterization hardly worth mentioning, but on closer examination….

Living here as a child it certainly was true. Almost everyone I knew lived in homes their parents owned. Land values were such that almost anyone, even someone as frugal as my mother, could buy a lot and build a house. What made it so affordable, in addition to low land costs, was that since the lots were small, people tended to build small houses, essentially what most of us would consider a typical beach cottage. Generally, they had two or three bedrooms, a by-today’s-standards compact kitchen and living room, and maybe a dining area – usually around 800 square feet. I am sure there are people living here today who goggle at the thought of regular-sized families crammed into such meager spaces, shaking their heads in sadness at the miseries endured by those so domiciled.

Fortunately, we earlier residents didn’t realize how underprivileged we were and managed to live quite happily in those archaic conditions. At the risk of further distressing sensitive readers, I relate that our family of four shared one bathroom in our house on Iris. That’s right. One bathroom. Two was a luxury not to be considered by my mother. As we two children grew and demanded more and more bathroom time, she eventually let convenience predominate over cost.  Our house in Shore Cliffs had two bathrooms, but as for a powder room? Perish the thought.

Obviously, things have changed, particularly when it comes to bathrooms. Just as royalty needs an heir and a spare, it seems that when it comes to bathrooms, one per person is deemed barely adequate, and as far as powder rooms? You’d be blackballed from the country club without at least one. This is all possible because the houses are so much bigger. They are also more expensive – a lot more expensive – and this gets us back to the two categories of permanent residents and summer visitors.

As previously stated, when I was growing up here most units were owner-occupied. Indeed, so predominant were owner-occupied houses that if I learned someone’s parents rented their abode it was almost like hearing their parents were divorced. You lived here; you owned here. If you lived in an R2 neighborhood, you might rent out the unit over the garage, but you lived in the main house. When I bought our current house on Jasmine in the late ‘70s, that was still true. Our block was almost exclusively owner-occupied, but that’s not the case today. Somewhere in the last decade or so, it’s been flipped on its head. Owner-occupied units are now a minority on our block, replaced by short-term rentals (on both sides, lucky me), a good number of second homes, and – here we get to a big difference – a large number of houses leased out. The going rental rate is so high that people rent out their houses here, live someplace less expensive and enjoy the profits.

If our block is a microcosm of what’s happening in the city as a whole (and from all the For Lease signs I see along Ocean Boulevard I suspect it may be), then we are no longer a community of permanent residents and summer visitors. We’re a community of lessees, some long term some not, second homeowners, short-term lodgers, summer visitors and oh, yes, some permanent residents. On the bright side, this does cut down on the nosy neighbor syndrome. On the darker side, I wonder if this is just one more sign of the fragmentation of our society. If that’s the case, at least if we go down, we go down with plenty of bathrooms.

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Nancy Gardner, former Mayor of Newport Beach, long-time resident and daughter of Judge Robert Gardner, is a regular contributor to Stu News Newport.


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