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BOOK REVIVES PRAISE FOR SEA RANCH HOMES : 1960S PROJECT CALLED AN ECOLOGICAL `UTOPIA'.

Byline: Karyn Hunt Associated Press

In its 33-year history, The Sea Ranch development on the spectacular Sonoma County coast has been lauded for ecologically sensitive planning and panned for failing to reach its lofty goals.

Now it is being recognized again as one of two ``utopias'' in the United States, an example of what the nation should do to house its growing population without ruining any more scenic countryside.

The 5,000-acre development, located 90 miles north of San Francisco straddling scenic Highway 1, is a 1960s experiment in environmentally sensitive living that has endured, despite massive changes in approaches to home building.

The idea was to ``tread lightly on the land.'' An over-grazed sheep ranch was to be transformed into a weekend paradise of homes that harmonized with and did no damage to the environment.

The houses were designed to blend with their environment by using natural wood sidings, sod roofs and other camouflaging techniques. Wherever possible, natural weather patterns were used to heat homes. Native grasses and flowers were used for landscaping and redwood trees replanted. Communal areas were declared marine and wildlife refuges.

The Sea Ranch began winning design and planning awards and became recognized and copied internationally.

The development again is coming in for praise with the publication of a book describing it as one of two U.S. utopias. The Sea Ranch and Seaside, Fla., are two examples of what planners nationwide should strive for, New Orleans author Richard Sexton writes in ``Parallel Utopias,'' to be published in the fall by Chronicle Books.

``Increasingly, we're finding ourselves in a position of needing to provide for shelter that is meaningful, but we don't want to keep gobbling up landscape to do it,'' Sexton said.

The Sea Ranch has become more of a bedroom community in recent years as people move further out of the crowded San Francisco Bay Area to live and work at home by computer.

That has caused friction with longtime residents who dislike the multimillion-dollar castles those newcomers are building.

Some residents say the ranch has lost its Bohemian character as more doctors, lawyers and business executives move in. The price is prohibitive for anyone else, as lots sell for up to $575,000 and the cost of a house ranges from $150,000 to $3 million.

There also is a schism between the younger residents, who want more bicycle trails and recreation vs. the older homeowners, who find a quiet stroll and bird-watching to be ample entertainment.

That disagreement doesn't dampen the love 26-year residents George and Mary Louise Wickstead feel for the ranch.

``I frankly think it's the best place we've ever lived, and we've lived in a lot,'' George Wickstead said.

SEA RANCH RULES

An almost military attention to detail has been the hallmark of planning at The Sea Ranch and one of the reasons it has maintained its beauty.Some of the guidelines:

The natural appearance of redwood boards is particularly appropriate as an exterior finish at The Sea Ranch. Reflective finishes may not be used. Colors on exterior surfaces must be shades of gray or brown.

The Design Committee recommends the use of window coverings in subdued color tones.

Landscape planting requires Design Committee approval. A lot line made visible by extensive planting, gardening, clearing or mowing completely denies the open-space philosophy that underlies The Sea Ranch development.

Maximum height for all structures between Highway 1 and the coastline is 24 feet.

The simpler the fence at The Sea Ranch, the better.

Redwood and cedar shingles have been found to be the most suitable roofing materials. Tar and gravel roofs are not allowed.

Hot tubs and spas must be screened from view.

Satellite dish installations shall not be within view of neighboring properties, trails on commons or roadways within half a mile of the installation.

CAPTION(S):

Photo, Box

Photo: The idea of environmentally sensitive living ha s endured for 33 years at the 5,000-acre coastal community north of San Francisco.

Associated Press

Box: RULES AT SEA RANCH (see text)
COPYRIGHT 1996 Daily News
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1996, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 28, 1996
Words:673
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