Some of you may be old enough to remember a TV show from early 60s called “The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis.” It was a relatively early attempt at a sit-com and it proved to be a smash hit for a couple of years. Dobie had a friend Named Maynard G. Krebs (played by Bob Denver) who was a “hippie.” Actually, in those days they called them beatniks, but the point of all this is that Maynard’s favorite movie, always playing at the Bijou, was “The Monster that Devoured Cleveland.”
The question that I ask, rhetorically, is whether we have a “Monster that’s devouring Aspen?” Let’s take a look! First of all, I am going to fill you in on a little secret. There is no such thing as a “Monster Home.” Like beauty, the size and appearance of a home is relative to the needs and eyes of the beholder. The term Monster Home, like Palestinian, is made up by those with a particular political agenda.
In fact, if you ask most Aspenites what is the ideal size of a home, they will usually respond that “it’s just a bit bigger than the one they live in.” A waiter in a studio wishes he had a one bedroom. An architect in a one bedroom wishes she had a two bedroom. A lawyer with a family would love to have an extra bathroom. Parents from Chicago yearn for a media room for their children. Grandparents from Kansas want a home large enough to for their children and grandchildren. Finally, the truly fortunate in this town hope to have a home large enough to serve as a family compound. Aspen has become a retreat for families. Ironically, when the Burlingame affordable housing complex was designed, our own politicians suggested that we increase the size of the typical units because “larger homes are more livable for families.” This is pure genius at work! In fact, that’s why we pay these guys the big bucks.
Our politicians, who are tighter with F.A.R. (floor area ratio) than the rusted lug nuts on a 54 Chevy, are entirely correct when they say that 5750 square feet is large enough for a family. However, most of Aspen’s homes are not just for Ozzie and Harriet and their two kids David and Ricky. More often than not, Aspen home owners are trying to squeeze in Ozzie, Harriet, David, Ricky, Uncle Tanoose and Aunt Bee, Grandpa Jed Clampett, the Brady Bunch grandkids, two nannies and Sky King with his co-pilot, who ferry the family back and forth from Los Angeles. 5750 Doesn’t work for a family compound!
Why should we care about these extended families? In simple to understand terms, the children and grandchildren, who can no longer afford to come to Aspen on their own, represent Aspen’s “seed corn” for the next generation. If Aspen continues to evolve into a place where folks only come to retire, how are young people going to learn about our wonderful town? Moreover, along with affordable housing, these family compounds provide a vibrant venue for the continued infusion of young blood. We don’t want Aspen to become a geriatric village.
By now we have all heard that Monster Homes are wasting energy like an open fire-pit on the mall. Ooooops….bad example! Anyway, since Monster Homes are in conflict with the Canary Initiative, we should ban them, right? Not so fast! Many of the newer homes in town are being constructed with solar and geothermal energy, beefed-up insulation, and greener building principles. These are not your grandfather’s monster homes.
When I travel, I sometimes ask people from other states innocent sounding questions. “Would you like to live in a town with large, spacious homes?” The answer is almost always a resounding “you-betcha!” My follow-up question is “how about living in a town with Monster Homes? Their response is usually a wrinkling of the nose and a shaking of the head. Of course, it’s the same question both times but with a change in the all-important “spin.”
What does all this mean? I have no bleeping idea, except of course that I wish my house had one extra room for my treadmill. If it did, Maynard G. Krebs would say “that’s cool, daddio.”