April 8, 2012

Lights Out for Los Gatos Painter Thomas Kinkade

Here’s something to deepen your observation of Easter.  While devout Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus today, this man’s passing on Good Friday leads to a kind of different kind of immortality, and we are not talking about paintings.

Thomas Kinkade, one of nation’s most popular painters, dies suddenly in Los Gatos at 54

120407-kinkade-2002By Mike Rosenberg, San Jose Mercury News
Posted:  04/06/2012 06:43:30 PM PDT; Updated:  04/07/2012 03:41:26 AM PDT

Thomas Kinkade, the “Painter of Light” and one of the most popular artists in America, died suddenly Friday at his Los Gatos home. He was 54.

His family said in a statement that his death appeared to be from natural causes.

“Thom provided a wonderful life for his family,” his wife, Nanette, said in a statement. “We are shocked and saddened by his death.”

120407-kinkade-tasteHis paintings are hanging in an estimated one of every 20 homes in the United States. Fans cite the warm, familiar feeling of his mass-produced works of art, while it has become fashionable for art critics to dismiss his pieces as tacky. In any event, his prints of idyllic cottages and bucolic garden gates helped establish a brand — famed for their painted highlights — not commonly seen in the art world.

“I’m a warrior for light,” Kinkade told the Mercury News in 2002, alluding not just to his technical skill at creating light on canvas but to the medieval practice of using light to symbolize the divine. “With whatever talent and resources I have, I’m trying to bring light to penetrate the darkness many people feel.”

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Now, if you want to instead refer to the Los Gatos Patch (an AOL-owned series of hyperlocal blogs), Kinkade actually died in Monte Sereno, while with his live-in girlfriend, as he had been estranged from his wife for two years.  That would explain why his family was in Australia at the time of his death.  Kincade’s passing is indeed relevant to the Real Bay Area, since he lived in Los Gatos.  Or Monte Sereno, depending on which reported version you prefer.  But this scan of the firefighters’ frequency shows an engine was dispatched to 16342 Ridgecrest Ave, due to a 54 year old male “drinking all night, not moving.”  That address is owned by someone named Kinkade, and also had an “under influence of drugs/alcohol” arrest there last year.  The address is missing from most property databases, though, including the Recorder’s Office.

120407-kinkade-vallejo-village-at-hiddenbrookeKinkade certainly has his staunch supporters and determined detractors.  This Mercury News article generated 150 comments in just a few hours and had more than 250 by the following afternoon.  Most Merc articles draw under 20 comments.  The NY Times obituary generated an even more derisive stream of criticism, while the Washington Post put the negative commentary in the article itself.  The daddy of all Kinkade-dissing news items has to go to this 2006 Los Angeles Times piece, though.

But there’s an aspect of Thomas Kinkade that had managed to elude us all this time.  It turns out that his kitschy paintings of cottages in the woods inspired multiple housing developments.

That’s right, for the fan who isn’t content with buying a snowglobe or a throw rug, there were plans for actual tract houses trying to look like his paintings.    And one of the first such developments, the Village at Hiddenbrooke, was built in Vallejo right as dot.com went dot.bomb in 2001.  4259 Andover, The Villages at HiddenbrookeThe homes were 1800-2600 square feet on 4000 square foot lots.  The large photo above is interior décor from one of those model homes.  Most of the links to the builder and the development in the Salon article are now defunct.

It’s not easy figuring out which streets in Hiddenbrooke are part of The Village.  And given that the builder was London-based, that’s a particularly interesting name for a community accused of being somewhat, um, ersatz.  Here’s a home that sold last year, and do check out its history, because it sold for less in 2011 than when it was sold new nine years beforehand.  You can check out the neighborhood on Redfin but nothing seems to be for sale there now.

However, Kinkade did not stop with just the one housing development in Vallejo.

Architect Rann Haight, left, financier Roger Stewart, center, and builder Steve Torres have signed a deal to build luxury homes that will be based on the Thomas Kinkade paintings on the table in front of them in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, April 21, 2006. The luxury homes, to be built around Lake Coeur d'Alene, will cost $4 million to $6 million. (AP Photo/SPOKESMAN-REVIEW, Jesse Tinsley)The photo at right shows the team planning for five Kinkade-inspired $4 to $6 million luxury homes around Lake Coeur d’Alene in Idaho named The Gates of Coeur d’Alene.  This project was launched in (of course) 2006, at the height of bubblicious housing insanity.

Plans for 100 homes based on the cottage paintings were being developed later that winter for a project in Columbia, Missouri called The Gates at Old Hawthorne.  Prices were expected to come in at $500,000 to $1 million.  It’s not clear if any of these plans came to fruition, as the builder’s website no longer seems to exist.  This 2007 article reflects the typical attitude of housing boosters, acknowledging the slowdown but insisting that It’s Special Here and full steam ahead for the Kinkade development:

120407-kinkade--missouriThe homes are being built at a time when the U.S. home market is declining. However, Columbia and Boone County have been able to avoid the national trend. The median price for new single-family homes in Boone County has steadily increased, going from around $136,000 in May 2003 to a little over $188,000 in May of this year. And while the price of new homes is rising, the number of homes being built has decreased from 79 single-family units in May 2003 to 52 this May.

“In general, our home market is good, (but) it’s not as good as last year’s,” said Brent Jones, president of the Columbia Board of Realtors. According to Jones, the present home market is a buyer’s market. The effects of the market are even more apparent in the sale of high-end houses, like the Kinkade homes. […]

“News stories give the idea that the market is homogenous,” Jones said. He cited cities that have experienced extreme home appreciation, and are now experiencing just as extreme depreciation. The Columbia market is relatively stable and hasn’t had the appreciation that other markets have experienced, .

However, market fluctuations are not a concern for HST.

“One of the reasons we came to Columbia is because Columbia’s economy is so strong,” Stewart said. Sales of the Kinkade houses are surpassing the inventory, Stewart added.

120407-kinkade-empty-caveThere is no evidence that either of these Kinkade-inspired home developments were ever built.  Most references to them are from 2006, when everyone was drunk on Kool-aid.  Here’s an application for an alternative use for the Missouri land, which suggests nothing was ever built from the Kinkade project.  The Gates of Old Hawthorne website is gone, and here are some empty lots for sale from that project.

Just like the empty cave in today’s Holiday Story.

Have yourselves a Happy Easter, and remember: This means Spring Bounce has begun!

Comments (19) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:09 am






March 31, 2012

Is there a Grow House in your ‘hood?

120330-31st-growhouseRecently, there was a rather notable marijuana bust in San Mateo that netted 530 plants, due to a tip from a “concerned citizen.”  Every one of us probably has some kind of self-appointed concerned citizen living in our neighborhoods, and it’s thanks to people like them that we can discover there’s a pot house in an otherwise quiet, suburban subdivision.

Like this one.  Someone recently updated the Redfin record despite it not changing hands in nine years.

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Check out the neighborhood, courtesy of Zillow.  This does not look like the meth district.  And the house isn’t just on the West side of El Camino, it’s on the West side of Alameda.  And on the Peninsula, West means more prestige, more appeal, and more Real.  If any part of San Mateo is going to aspire to Real Bay Areahood, this is a good place to start looking.

1206-31st-zillow

The local San Mateo Patch has some helpful hints on how you too can be a concerned citizen and rat your neighbors out for running a grow house.  Here’s how to tell what they’re up to:

Manheimer and Alcantara encourage the help of citizens in locating neighborhood grow sites. Each suggested some indicators that there might be an operation in your neighborhood.

"You’d hear whirring noises," says Alcantara, "because they need to have filtration inside the house. They need to get the oxygen out, and the carbon dioxide in for the plants, so they have filtration systems set up.

120330-31st-minivanYes, definitely call 911 at the first sign of a ceiling fan.  Those fiendish fixtures are a gateway appliance to high-energy lamps.  Here are some more tips from the San Mateo police:

  • Infrequent visits by individuals who stay for a couple hours and then leave.

Because everyone knows that suburban get-togethers last all the livelong day.

  • Lights in the house appear to be regulated, and on timers. Sometimes, rooms inside seem perpetually lit.

120330-31st-remodelI wonder who it was who suggested putting lights on timers (see Home Safety).

  • Initial construction and the noise that comes from that work.

Because nothing says grow house like noise from contractors.

  • A "skunky" marijuana odor, and other odors, such as those from mothballs, air fresheners or chlorine, which are used in an attempt to mask the marijuana smell.

120330-31st-cleanerIn fact, call 911 if you smell anything other than the approved chocolate chip cookie dough used during Open Houses.

  • Unusual garbage strewn across lawn. Items used for growing marijuana, such as wiring, PVC piping and nutrient containers, may be discarded and left around the house.

So that’s why we’re seeing so many nominations for the Burbed Good Housekeeping Tag of Approval.

  • Windows covered in dark plastic or newspaper.

Better have them check out the goth teen across the street for the blackout curtains, too.

  • 120330-31st-fenceExtra security, such as guard dogs, fences, or cars loitering for long periods of time.

Remember the words of Robert Frost: Bad neighbors make good fences.

Let us know about any questionable signs your neighbor is running something nefarious, or any interesting things you see when touring Open Houses.  This is an Open Thread, so open up.

Comments (10) -- Posted by: madhaus @ 5:04 am