There goes the neighborhood

old coveSo I ruined Paradise Cove.

Yeah, that's a self-important little sentence and my friends openly mock me for it but the truth is, before a certain story ran in the Home section of the LA Times, life was different here. Quieter. More modest. More, well, trailer-ish.

We bought our place 11 years ago. It was the only thing in Malibu we could afford. Paradise Cove had been through a series of bruising lawsuits about whether the park's owner could evict the trailers and develop the property (the law said no) and prices here were still pretty low. It was considered a risky buy.

Our new neighbors were a mix of retirees, young families, artists, professionals and a few eccentrics. They drove older cars. They didn't have a lot of visitors. Golf carts were few. Installing a berber carpet and painting the awful brown paneling white was considered a remodel. Sure, some brave souls put in drywall, hardwood floors and tiled their kitchens and baths but privately, that was considered money down the drain. Then the real estate boom began and, after a year or so, trickled down to the Cove.

Trailers that had languished on the market started to sell. Prices even rose a bit. New people with real money moved in and did complete shelter-magazine remodels. They'd strip a trailer down to the chassis and in its place would rise a Craftsman house with vintage wavy glass in the windows, or a Tuscan villa with plaster walls and a terra cotta tile roof. It was a good story and I pitched it. I got a deadline, wrote 2,000 words and sold the soul of my beloved trailer park for a freelance fee.

A week after my piece ran in the Times, a camera crew from "Good Morning America" arrived. They interviewed most of my sources, went on the air a few days later and that was that. Trailers started to sell as fast as they landed on the market. Prices doubled, then tripled. Within a year, a trailer in Paradise Cove sold for over a million dollars.

It's not that the new neighbors aren't good people. They are. They have kids and pets and marvel at the good luck that brought them to such a beautiful spot. But for many of them the trailers are second or even third homes and they don't think of Paradise Cove as where they live. It's a vacation spot. It's where they unwind. It's Disneyland with golf carts.

So it's louder here now. People drive too fast. They don't know each other's names. They don't have a sense of the neighborhood, can't quite feel the community, and that's a loss to those of us who have lived here for a while. And while it's gratifying that a risky investment has turned out so unexpectedly well, when a golf cart full of tipsy, shouting strangers races by my bedroom window at midnight, I'm not really sure it was worth the price.

Editor's note: For a guide to finding and enjoying three of Malibu's public beaches where residents try to keep you out, visit Native Intelligence

Posted August 11, 2006 11:29 PM • Email Veronique de Turenne

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