It’s Memorial Day during the COVID-19 pandemic. While I probably could have come up with something to do if I really wanted to, I’m one of those people where all this isolation really works for me. So I continue to take advantage of it. I did a 3.5 mile walk this morning down to the Tower Bridge, along the Sacramento River a bit then back up R Street, thinking when I got back I would do some writing. All kinds of blog ideas floating around in my head. But the idea that got the most energy was preparing for the next big adventure in my life: a complete facelift of my current residence.

I’d written some blogs about this property back in 2015 on the Blogger platform that I was using at the time. I knew before I wrote anything new I’d want to move those here to WordPress so I would have it all in one place. For some reason, this was a bigger deal in my head than it turned out to be (as is almost always the case). There were 8 entries, mostly related to the remodel of the upstairs unit where I’ve been living since 10/31/2015. You’re welcome to review those here if you’ve never seen the inside of my house. It pretty much looks exactly the same now as it did then. (And if you’re a subscriber, apologies for all of the earlier posts. It took me a minute to figure out how to update the old material where needed without republishing each one…)

Before I get started, a personal update although most of you know this: Dan and I split up in 2018. He still lives in Raleigh, NC, where he’s been since 2016. But it was a super amicable split and we quickly transitioned to business partners with regards to continuing to develop this property. So if I still reference him from time to time as this progresses, that’s why.

And another update before I forget: the earlier entries referenced us building a 6 unit apartment building on the vacant portion of this lot. Very, VERY long story short: those plans had to be scrapped once we learned that there wasn’t enough water pressure available on this street to support those needs, and the cost to connect to the water main on 19th Street was prohibitive. So that’s that.

The plan now is to build another duplex on the vacant lot. And we’re ready to go on that front: plans approved in August, contractor hired in February. He’s likely going to begin late June or early July. The update to the existing house will get started along with the foundation work on the new at the same time. So my objective here was to make sure I captured the “before” of the existing house before he starts tearing stuff apart.

I titled this entry Facelift because that’s essentially what’s happening: the entire exterior will be redone, with a new roof, new windows, new siding. And a couple of other changes to round it out.

Front of the house, faces west
Front of the house, faces west

For all the pain those stairs caused us – delaying closing by 6 months so the seller could get them up to code – they are going away. The new set will be oriented off the left side of this photo: enter from the sidewalk, 180 degree turn midway up, enter the upstairs front porch from the alley-side. The porch will have a roof (this one doesn’t although you can’t really tell in this photo). And the trees right in front of the house – filthy privets – will go away which I’m super happy about.

North side of the house
North side of the house from the alley

This photo provides a better view of those privets. They provide a lot of shade but they drop stuff All Year Long it seems. Makes it impossible to keep the porch clean and you’re always tracking stuff into the house.

The window AC units will go away and we’re putting in a split system. The window in the kitchen will be removed and replaced with a door, and a deck will be put on that roof area on the far left of this photo. I’m very excited about that and the city loved that idea. (Dan’s, of course.)

Back of the house
Back of the house

I laugh every time I pull up to the house from the alley. “What a dump” goes through my head Every Time. First-time visitors are always Quite Surprised when they first enter because they had already formed an image of the inside based on their impression of the outside and, thankfully, those don’t match. Those stairs are going away and both upstairs and downstairs doors will be removed and walled in. Because where my car is now will be a 2-car tandem garage that will be associated with the back unit of the new duplex.

Security fence surrounding the vacant lot
Security fence surrounding the vacant lot

In January of 2019 I agreed to let the guy who built a new 3-unit place in the alley use this lot for storage. He put up a security fence and that solved my homeless problem: for over 3 years I’d been constantly shooing homeless folks away from my property. I didn’t even realize what an underlying stressor that was until the fence went up and I felt an immediate sense of relief. That project was done in December, so I had the lease transferred to my name because it was worth every penny.

I don’t know when the graffiti happened. Apparently the city doesn’t care about it on these tarp things or I’m sure I would’ve heard about it. When the fence was graffitied in early 2016 I had to have it painted or be fined.

South side of the house
South side of the house

The privet tree goes away of course, and so does that huge tree on the right, (better seen in the photo below). I don’t remember what it’s called.

The vacant lot from the street
The vacant lot from the street

I held my phone above the security fence to get this shot. This will be a duplex, two 2-story units, each 2 bedroom/2.5 bath. The one in the back will have a tandem 2 -car garage. The one in front will have a 1 car garage and a driveway that could park one vehicle as well. We tried for a 2-car tandem there, too, but the city won’t allow the garage to butt up against the street sidewalk. They didn’t care about that in the alley. The entrances to both units will be in the middle where there will also be a shared courtyard. All those trees on the right go as well.

Back of the vacant lot
Back of the vacant lot

The building next to our property it the American Heart Association. The back unit will have a little private yard that backs up to that building so that the two buildings themselves aren’t that close.

So that’s the grand plan. Given this has been in the works for essentially 5 years, that we may be starting in 5 weeks may as well be tomorrow. It’s going to get here very quickly. I’m planning on staying here throughout, and have notified the tenants downstairs, who also seem excited about it. Everyone asks me if I’m going to move to one of the new units once complete and the answer is “I don’t know yet.” I’m actually excited about staying here for a bit after it’s all done. It’s going to feel different with new windows, the deck off the kitchen and, oh yeah, Insulation! I’m looking forward to experiencing winter in this 120 year old house without freezing.

This is a really nice unit but if working from home continues with any regularity, it would be nice to have the extra space. This is about 800 and the new ones will be about 1300. So we’ll see.

I won’t update this again for awhile, but I’m excited to have gotten this far.

Whatever you’re doing this Memorial Day, I hope you’re safe and happy. And in honor of the season, a couple of other photos.

American cemetery in France. US Troops who died during the D-Day invasion burred at Normandy. Taken in 2014.
American Cemetery in Luxembourg. US Troops who died mostly in the Battle of the Bulge. But Patton is buried here as well, although he died after the war. Taken in 2015.

PS: I’ve gotten feedback from many of you over the last few travel blogs that you’ve had trouble entering comments directly into the blog. This is actually always my preference because there are many readers who aren’t on Facebook and I’d like everyone to see everything. So I made some changes on the backend that should make it easier to do. I’d love it if some of you would test that out so we can see how it goes!

Here’s the next entry: Site Prep


  1. […] May 25: Facelift on 20th: Before […]

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  4. Anonymous June 2, 2020 at 6:07 am - Reply

    It’s just fantastic that you will catalog this adventure with your posts. You will bring others along with your great writing in this journey!

  5. Greg Wine May 26, 2020 at 6:45 am - Reply

    Very excited for you and I can’t wait to see the plans and hear all about it. You may just go from “What a dump” to “Hold on its going to be a bumpy ride” to “I survived because I was tougher than anybody else”. All Bette Davis quotes.

  6. Debbie Colbath May 25, 2020 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    I’m so excited for you! Looking forward to seeing the progression along the way

  7. Tracy Threlfall May 25, 2020 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    Love this and you :) Makes me feel like I’m sitting across the table from you … and hungry for Thai food. Looking forward to watching the progress. ?

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