Today's Real Estate Question
So, in the Taschen Icons book on photographer Edward Weston, the text tells us, on page 14:
In 1929 Weston rented a cottage in Carmel, an isolated seaside village in northern California with a history of being an artists' colony. There he lived simply and inexpensively, close to some of the most spectacular landscapes in the American West...That's all well and good, but if an up-and-coming photographer today wanted to do the same, he'd probably have to spend something in the neighborhood of $2 million to buy a house there. Carmel is only really open to artists these days if they're superstars.
And it's not just Carmel. Those of you who saw Dogtown and Z-Boys know that Venice in the 60s and 70s was a rough, downscale neighborhood (it's still kind of skeevy, just full of million-dollar homes). Even a place like Manhattan Beach was full of layabout surfers a few decades ago; when I was a toddler my family actually lived in a small rented house there when my dad got his first job out of grad school. I once visited an open house for a large yet much-in-need-of-renovation house on the beach in Seal Beach that was listed for $4,995,000.
So, my question is not "Why is real estate so expensive along the coast," because that's obvious---the weather's great, recreational opportunities abound, the culture is relaxed, and there is, of course, "some of the most spectacular landscapes in the American West." My question, rather, is how was this land ever cheap? Why was Carmel affordable for simple-living artists in 1929 instead of only for captains of industry? Why did wealthy people in Southern California not drive up the price of coastal property beyond the reach of surfers and recent grad students until recent decades?
And are there any affordable places to live on the coast in California now? Ventura? Somewhere farther up the coast? A lot of beach cities used to be working-class towns. Are there any working-class beach towns remaining?