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Good-neighbor remodels.

Good-neighbor remodels Is the ideal remodel virtually invisible? This is a question of increasing concern throughout the West. As housing costs escalate, it's easy to understand why someone who pays a high price for a small house in a desirable area might feel entitled to build the property out to its limits.

But is that appropriate? What does such a structure do to the neighborhood? Remodeling that involves changes in scale, materials, or styling can awkwardly alter street character and cause ill will among neighbors.

On these four pages, we show five quiet, low-key remodels. Though each incorporated a major addition and solved specific problems for its owners, we highlight them for another reason: they're good-neighbor additions. They don't infringe on their neighbors' privacy, they don't dominate the street, and they work within the context and scale of the surrounding houses.

They had to.

These conscientious remodels are all within the planned community of Woodbridge, a major development in Irvine, in Southern California's Orange County. With more than 27,000 residents in its 9,400 units, it's one of the larger association-governed communities in the United States. The Woodbridge Village Association considers them successful remodels within community guidelines. And we think they offer some valuable lessons about remodeling in any neighborhood.

To move into Woodbridge, you must agree to abide by its covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs), some very specific rules about upkeep and remodeling of the houses. For noncompliance, the association can levy heavy fines--or even slap a lien on the property (though that's never happened).

Woodbridge clearly spells out its regulations; in many other cases, the rules of neighborhood context are unwritten. But wherever we live, there are inherent advantages for all of us in abiding by such rules. For example, it's always a good idea to let your neighbors know about your plans for remodeling. At Woodbridge, you must submit neighbor-awareness forms as part of your package of plans. The architectural committee considers the neighbors' comments and concerns as part of the review process.

Life in a planned community does mean you have to embrace some degree of conformity, but it works both ways. As homeowner Wayne Call notes, "You have to be ready to give up a little freedom within your own property lines for the assurance that your neighbor isn't going to present you with an eyesore next door."

Why not just move out?

All the homeowners we visited said that before considering remodeling, they had decided to move. Indeed, the development had been planned as a "move-up" community. However, as in other planned communities, many residents here decided to stay after seeing how little their money could buy outside of "Irvana"--how many amenities they would have to sacrifice in moving to a development with houses better suited to larger families or changing needs.

Woodbridge's architectural guidelines and standards have had to keep up with such changes. Bill Golterman, a former member of the architectural review board, told us, "The original architectural guidelines covered fence extensions, patio covers, gazebos. Then it broadened to include room additions and major remodels--watching massing, setbacks, and detailing. Eventually, they're going to have to cover teardowns."
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:house remodeling
Date:Nov 1, 1989
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