When writer Jeff Siegel was researching this month’s story about teardowns, he received an angry, anonymous e-mail calling everyone who does a teardown “trash.”
That’s a rather single-minded way to approach a serious problem that has already divided several other neighborhoods and appears to be coming to ours. Teardowns are an issue that requires thoughtful discussion, not anonymous name calling. But as often happens on divisive issues, there has on occasion been too little dialogue and too much taunting and heckling on this subject.
The point isn’t so much whether teardowns are good or bad. The point is that we’re going to have to learn to live with them – no matter how we feel about them. And this goes for the teardowners, too. They must understand why residents don’t like teardowns and make allowances, instead of beating their chests and proclaiming their constitutional right to put whatever house they want on the lot they’ve purchased.
I understand why someone would want to do a teardown, but as a homeowner they don’t particularly interest me. I also don’t see why someone who contemplates a teardown should unilaterally be treated like a criminal. That’s not the way we do things in this neighborhood, and it’s one of the reasons why living here is so much more pleasant than living anonymously in a brand-new subdivision where a long commute is a fact of life.
The way we do things in this neighborhood doesn’t involve anonymous e-mails or smear campaigns in the media or trash-talking web sites. The way we do things around here requires that neighbors work together – despite their differences – to make this a better place to live. That’s what being a neighbor is all about. And the minute we forget that, we might as well hop in our cars and move to Frisco.
In 1991, when we began publishing neighborhood magazines, many people thought we would fail because the neighborhoods we chose were dying, victims of urban blight and indifference from City Hall. After all, it wasn’t all that long ago that $100,000 bought a pretty nice home around here.
But the exact opposite has happened. Our neighborhood has blossomed because we, as neighbors, worked to overcome those obstacles – despite the variety of opinions and approaches on most subjects. And ironically, our neighborhood’s very success over the years raised property values and made teardowns that much more attractive.
So we have two choices: We can sit around and worry about the future, or we can sit down together and figure out a way to make teardowns, if they come, more palatable to everyone.
That’s more difficult and time-consuming than sending anonymous e-mails, but in the long run, it’s a whole lot more satisfying and productive for our neighborhood.