When Your Neighbor Builds a Jackass Home

While out on the lake this weekend, I came across this sign:

So nice. I love how the neighbors not only call out the homeowner but the architect as well. Wrecking a neighborhood is a team process.

Here’s a shot of the offending house. It’s tough to tell how overbearing the concrete wall is from a straight-on angle, but it’s pretty awful:

UPDATE: Below is a better (worse) shot of the prison wall —

115 comments on “When Your Neighbor Builds a Jackass Home”. Leave your own?
  1. ted kaemming says:

    i’ve had several discussions with a friend of mine on a similar subject — we’re both interested in modern architecture, but at the same time, we can both agree that there’s definitely something wrong when you build a house in a contextually inappropriate location such as the one above.

  2. ha ha … Awesome.

    Lemons and lemonaide man, looks like your one neightbor just got the begining of a rock climbing wall installed and paid for :).

  3. Joel Price says:

    The only guy that looks like a jackass, IMO, is the ever so friendly neighbor who put up the huge terrible looking sign. You would think the neighbor would have invested in a decent graphic artist when calling your neighbor out on bad taste. It’s the classic case of the pot calling the kettle black.

  4. And all I can see is the comma splice in that sign. And all of the typography.

    “Proof That Bad Taste is Alive and Well” indeed!

  5. Mike D. says:

    Joel: Ha! True, it’s not a beautiful sign, but much like Uncle Ben’s Rice, it’s simply designed to catch your attention as you’re speeding by… and it did, for me. The homeowner and commissioner of the sign actually came out to greet us as we started snapping pictures of it, and he was quite friendly. Apparently, both neighbors tried to thwart construction at multiple points in the process but couldn’t gain any legal footholds so the sign was kind of a last resort.

  6. Reed says:

    I think the sign is completely justified. Most people don’t know how to do typography and layout well, but most people DO know when a house is ugly.

  7. Stephen Mok says:

    Aren’t there planning laws that stop this sort of thing happening?

  8. Tom says:

    I would say the McMansion on the right is the eyesore. Different strokes for different folks I guess.

  9. Martin says:

    Looks like it’s way too early in construction to complain about a concrete wall. My guess would be that it’s not a part of the outer construction..

    And I guess they should have removed the 4th floor to avoid any people peaking in to others windows..

    It’s a funny sign, but I can’t really agree with him about any egotistical jackasses. If the gardenview was so important to him he should have bought the property himself.

  10. ~bc says:

    I’m of the opinion that neither house is very contextually relevant, and the sign is plain gaudy. The McMansion appears (going only by the picture I have to judge from) to barely fit on the postage-stamp-sized property. That’s poor architecture, IMO. The big cement wall appears to be a big FU to that neighbor. The signs right about the other neighbor, that they should have been more aware of “the view” but when you build big houses with that proximity, that’s nearly unavoidable.

    Of course, they’re all eye sores from the water.

  11. Nic says:

    Hummer house: A huge and architecturally inappropriate house built in an existing neighborhood destroying the aesthetic integrity of said neighborhood.


  12. Mike D. says:

    Stephen: There are setback rules and the 30 foot height restriction, but that’s about it.

    Tom and ~bc: Yeah, the house on the right isn’t my idea of great architecture either, but at least it fits in with the neighborhood.

    Martin: Actually, I’m pretty sure the concrete wall is “as designed”. If you look at the architects other houses, he does a lot of that stuff.

    This whole thing reminds me of the most controversial post I’ve ever written on this blog: Airplane Seat Etiquette. The premise is essentially: just because you have the legal right to do something that inconveniences your neighbor, doesn’t mean you should.

  13. Riley says:

    Maybe it is just me, but I have a hard time feeling sorry for someone with lakeside property.

    Judging from the photo, it seems like the house is too large for the lot. The house looks like it was built to the ‘build line’ on both sides! (Can’t see the lot sizes of the other homes….perhaps this is a normal size lot on the lake.)

    Since the lot on which the new home is built is very narrow, I can’t help but wonder if one of the houses on either side sub-divided their lot? Now THAT would be funny.

  14. Dave F says:

    Let me say first that I prefer modern architecture.

    However, I agree that it’s ill-advised to mix something that contemporary with traditional style McMansions in developments with that tight of spacing. You can maybe get away with it when the lots are .75 acre in size or more with trees and natural camouflage between structures. But as an old art director of mine used to say… that just don’t go!

    They must not have any kind of Home Owners Association… must be nice, you have to get our HOA’s approval before you change your underwear… well nearly.

    As for the sign… pretty juvenile… it would be fitting if the people building the new house put up their own giant sign that said “We’re rubber, they’re Glue…” or something else playground-esque… that’d show ’em.

  15. Jim Ray says:

    Seems to me that people living in tacky (glass) houses shouldn’t throw stones – the oh so tacky home of the complainer doesn’t seem much better. But, alas.

    Hey, Mike, how about a Google map pinpointing the location so we can all go point and laugh?

  16. Mike D. says:

    Jim: Here’s the the Zillow Map of the exact location.

  17. Court says:

    It looks like loopholes were used to build that wall–by attaching it to the house they can get away with claiming its a functional part of the house instead of the ugly-ass wall that it is. Pretty rude.

  18. Calvin says:

    I’ve had a neighbor build a gigantic house a few feet from the property line. Right after the 2 years of construction, he subdivided and took what little yard he had left and built another monster, also right up against the property line, and sold it to finance his place. YAY!

  19. Jason says:

    Wow, in my opinion the sign is just going to make matters worse. Talk about starting out on the wrong foot. Sounds like to me that they deserve each other. I have little sympathy for people who own million dollar lake homes complaining about aesthetics as they themselves destroy shorelines that everyone could enjoy, just so they can enjoy their own “little” refuge a couple weekends out of the year. If I want to go to a lake I have to camp, and because of houses like those I have to camp a mile from the lake.

  20. Kyle says:

    wait, which one is the atrocity? the one on the right, correct? sorry, but suburbia is ugly.

  21. Martin says:

    Are there any chanse you will go by to have another look in a few months time and maybe share some more picture with us?

  22. Jason Beaird says:

    As a person who enjoys seeing eclectic, architecturally diverse neighborhoods (I loathe cookie-cutters), I think that house is going to look spectacular. For those arguing that the builder is putting in something that is contextually inappropriate, take a look at the rest of Mercer Island in birds eye view. There are McMansions of every shape, size, and style. It seems that most are within spitting distance of one another as well. While the sign is quite humorous, the angry neighbors need to grow up or move. It’s the owners (very expensive) piece of dirt. He can do with it what he wants.

  23. Brad says:

    Why does the homeowner with the huge house get to complain about someone else with a huge house?

  24. Rick says:

    I’m in the opinion that people should be able to build whatever they want in their property as long as they stay within the restrictions applied by their local laws. The complaining neighbor should just shut up if he/she does not have a legal base to set his whining on.

  25. Martin says:

    Two McMansions cheek-by-jowl, albeit in different ‘styles’. They deserve each other.

    But totally agree with your premise: just because you have the legal right to do something that inconveniences your neighbor, doesn’t mean you should. Unfortunately things like common decency seem to be in short supply these days.

  26. Jeff says:

    To view what the home will probably look like when it is finished you can go here:


    Wonder if owner is the Justin Gramm from Microsoft

  27. Jason Beaird says:

    Wonder if owner is the Justin Gramm from Microsoft

    Me thinks you are correct, sir.

  28. Mike D. says:

    Martin: Yeah, I’ll take follow-up pics when it’s done. As Jeff points out, Eric Cobb has a style that pervades a lot of the houses he builds, so there’s a good chance it will look a lot like the house in Magnolia he linked to in comment 26. Fun footnote about that Magnolia house: it was on the market for months and never sold, so it was eventually pulled off. I think the owner is probably painfully aware that most of the market is not interested in that style of house.

    Jeff and Jason: Nope, it’s a different Justin Gramm. CEO of a company called “Grakon”.

  29. Chris says:

    The owner of the house on the right should have a huge mirror mounted on his side of the wall. He could get up everyday and say “Hey, my neighbour has great style, and good looking guy too!”

  30. Brian says:

    “I’m in the opinion that people should be able to build whatever they want in their property as long as they stay within the restrictions applied by their local laws. The complaining neighbor should just shut up if he/she does not have a legal base to set his whining on.”

    I agree with Rick.

    This sign is new – “The complaining neighbor” originally taped a porno doll to the post on his dock with another sign that read – “Our view a 30 foot concrete wall. Your view a porno doll.”

    You want to talk about inappropriate. There are children in the area – how would you like to explain that one to your 4 year old.

  31. Karen Anderson says:

    Even young children in school learn “fact” from “opinion”. The sign is just an opinion, and not a fact.

  32. zack deanglelo says:

    the house under construction looks interesting. the house to the right of it kinda sucks.

  33. Grant says:

    Seriously, the house on the right, that one that everyone is convinced the definition of context and thus everything else must match, is HIDEOUS. It would be one thing if this house was built amongst a row of 900 square foot bungalows from the 20’s, but both house are pretty much sprawling trophy homes. As someone else pointed out, it’s hard to have sympathy for some rich bastard with a 7,000 square foot house on the water. At least the new house is taking risks and not trying to vaguely emulate a historical style in the most half-assed kind of way.

  34. Mike D. says:

    The more I think about it, the only part of this that really offends me is the seeming lack of consideration on the part of the builder. The style of the house is fine, because to each their own, and yes, the house on the right isn’t great either, but I guess I just feel like the house is a big F-U to both neighbors and that doesn’t seem entirely ethical to me. It is legal? Yep. Does it happen all the time? Probably. But that doesn’t make it something that should be overlooked or forgiven.

  35. Peter says:

    This is hilarious. Justin Gramm who owns the house under construction paid $3.7 million for the property in 2006. He’s probably invested a few hundred thousand dollars in a architectural design to build the house of his dreams. Then he gets a bunch of neighbors that think he’s a complete jackass and post disgraceful signs about him on their dock. The guy next to him, Greg James, bought his house for $7 million in 2005. Looking at the topography of their lots, it’s pretty obvious that Justin’s lot sticks out further than Greg’s lot. When Greg bought his house he had a nice 180 degree view of the lake. Now he’s got a huge house next to him which is cutting off a huge portion of that. Well, IMO, Greg should have done his due dilligence and studied that before plopping down $7 million dollars. If you’re going to spend that kind of money, you should at least do some due dilligence and make sure that your view is going to be taken away by someone else. What’s done here is completely ethical. I don’t think that you have to build a house that looks similar to your neighbors house. If you want that kind of look or consistency in design then one should go live in a typical spec community where you see the reverse floor plan scattered throughout the development. I don’t know this guy Justin, but, I certainly don’t support what Greg James is doing. Suck it up Greg, you didn’t do your homework. Mike, I think the builder just builds what the architect designs, I don’t think you can blame the builder. The architect is doing what Justin is asking him to do. An architect is not going to keep his “high society” customers if he tells them that they can’t have a certain design on a lot which they paid $3.7 million for. Blame Justin for wanting a house that doesn’t match his neighbors house.

    (Editor’s Note: I actually meant the architect/owner and not the construction company)

  36. Gwen Lowen says:

    Wow, that is one ugly McMansion. How is the modern home on the left any less stylistically appropriate than the disaster next to it? He’s just mad about the style; if it had been an out-of-place “Italian” villa or an out-of-place “French” chateau, he wouldn’t have batted an eye.

    The guy has a lot of nerve to gripe about a lot-to-lot home next to his lot-to-lot home.

  37. Nikos says:

    I’m with the jackass here.
    The ugly big house on the right is disturbing my view.

    An architect.

  38. Liam Egan says:

    I’m with those who think the house on the right looks like the eyesore. Granted money doesn’t bestow taste, but that thing is just ugly.

  39. Former Architect says:

    If architectural contextuality were that sacred in this country, we’d all still be living in teepees!!!

  40. anonyme says:

    Sorry to interject, but all of the parties that have bared the blame on this blog actually seem like good people, from what I understand. E. Cobb is a premiere architect that is highly regarded in the industry (I’m guessing that’s why he was sought after for this project). The firm also incorporates a certain amount of “green” implements in it’s design, probably much more friendly to the environment than the right sided resident. The builder/general contractor takes on their projects on a contract award basis, they have exactly no control of the local codes, the setbacks or the enforcement of local codes and setbacks, they build to another’s design and work within the parameters of the law, or they would be heavily fined and out of business. (Psssst, this house conforms to local codes and setbacks, or it wouldn’t be there). The sign-happy neighbor holds no grudge against the builder that I am aware of and is seemingly pleasant to deal with personally (from what I gather). He’s seemingly perturbed that he lost a portion of his view. He has an opinion and is entitled to it. He even has the right to protest from his own property, which is what he has done. If the doll or the sign were posted any other place than on his property, I would assume he would be in violation of local laws. As far as taste is concerned, to each his own. Oh and by the way, the owner of big mansion on the right probably lost about 20% of his view, part of that view was of the other neighbors yard. The owner of the property in question has the right to build whatever he wants on the property that he OWNS as long as he conforms to local codes and setbacks. When you own that piece of property or change the local code, you can tell the owner what to build and how to build it, until then, get back to work and quit projecting about something you know little about. Good thing none of you have the power to keep people from utilizing their imaginations, otherwise we would have been without Michaelangelo, Wright, Gerry, and any other person that designs outside of the box, you would be much happier people if you just embraced diversity instead of trying to dictate it to others from within your own acceptable “Taste”.
    C’est la vie

    **Disclaimer, this entire post is in jest and is not meant to offend any of the above mentioned parties, their affiliates or the bloggers or the posters or anyone on the face of the planet outside of Al-Qaeda war-mongers and Taliban insurgents, amen.

  41. Lillan says:

    To quote Martin: “Looks like it’s way too early in construction to complain about a concrete wall. My guess would be that it’s not a part of the outer construction..”

    And even if – the final result can still be awsome. Why so traditional? And who can claim what’s good taste?

    Pls Mike – take a new shot when the house is ready :)

  42. Greg P says:

    Thanks for the laugh!

  43. Wade Rockett says:

    In our little neighborhood in Bothell someone built a McMansion directly in front of the cozy old one-story house just up the hill, turning their neighbor’s view of trees and hills into a view of their back wall.


  44. Greg says:

    I have read a lot of the above comments. I’m the guy that posted the sign. Let me state right off that I have no problem with modern house designs. What I do have a problem with, is when someone builds something that is so completely without regard for the neighbors. Just because a design is within code does not make it right (And, in a recent discussion with the M-I planning dept, they told me that because of how this house was designed, they will now likely have to change the codes).
    First of all, you cannot from the above picture have ANY idea how big and ugly the 30 foot high wall of concrete is. It literally runs from the street nearly all the way to the water. I’m not an expert on unrban/suburban planning, but from what I’ve read over the years, good house design usually revolves around community and interaction. Some developments even require open porches and low fences to promote a sense of community. Now try to imagine if EVERY home in every neighborhood had a 30 foot high wall of concrete around it. So much for “community”.
    What you also can’t see from the angle of the photo is that the 4th floor literally sits above and looks directly into the back yard of the house on the east. Anyone reading this that has a back yard should try to imagine how they’d feel if someone built a 4 story building that peered directly into their yard, living room and bedrooms. Not exactly a nice way to treat someone you’re moving next to.
    In addition to the above, we’ve had survey stakes/markers pulled out and missing on several occasions, and a huge crane fall over a few months ago that scared the hell out of my family (And could have killed someone had it hit our house).
    The people on our west side also built a new home where a smaller one once was. it was built in a way that didn’t say “F-U, we’ll do whatever we want, and stick it in your face!” It’s tasteful, (Still big), and fits in. It does NOT look like a parking garage (or industrial building), and fits into the neighborhood.
    Finally, let me also add that I’ve had dozens of boats come up while on our dock. not one single person has had anything nice to say about the structure being built next to us. 100% of the comments I’ve heard (and they can see from the POV on the water how ugly it is) have been negative regarding the house, its design, and how it sits on the lot. (Sadly, the neighbors on the other side have said they’re probably going to move because of it, and how it invades their privacy – they’ll probably also take a big loss in the value of their home).
    Trust me when I say I’m not a complainer. I’ve put up with a lot of bull___t in my life, and built a business from scratch with NO HELP FROM DADDY. I did 4 years in the navy, and know about taking crap! However, at this point in my life, I’d like to think I’ve managed to obtain a bit of self-awareness. I also know when something is right, and when its NOT. That house is not right!

    P.S – One of the above comments is factually incorrect. We are the most northerly lot on the point.

  45. Madame X says:

    I have to agree with the previous poster who pointed out the responsibility to look at potential redevelopments next to your property. I feel sorry for “Greg’s” obvious distress over the situation but he’s sounds like an educated guy. You have to be aware that people can do things on their own property that you aren’t going to like–things that can impact your property and your enjoyment of your house and property. I mean, that’s life in a democracy. As much as we’d like to sometimes, we can’t control our neighbors. As for the “responsibility” of the people building the new house not to look into their neighbor’s yard/house…where the hell has “Greg” been? That’s what happens with rebuilds. Everywhere. That’s why there has been such a movement to pass anti-McMansion laws in so many communities. Laws, I might add, that would have surely denied the building of his own house, which is oversized for the lot, from what I can see from the water. I have friends who have lived in their house in Seattle for 20 years and a neighboring property was purchased that has zoning for a three story condo complex, which is going to be built and look directly over their backyard and cut off all their sunlight. They are sad but they aren’t bitching about it or putting up juvenile signs on their property. They had done their homework and they knew it was a possibility. If you want to paint your house pink or overlook your neighbor’s yard, you can. I doubt very seriously that the people who designed “Greg’s” house were getting input from the neighbors, that guy building a new house shouldn’t be held to a different standard. If I were you, Greg, I’d stop wasting my life with this silly posturing, call a good landscape architect/contractor, and realize that, even if you don’t like the house, it’s there and there to stay. A good landscape architect could do wonders with that situation and make you and your new neighbor happier.

  46. […] Mike Davidson spotted the sign and offending new construction when out on his boat, and shot a few photos. […]

  47. Jeff Turner says:

    I guess rich people have nothing better to complain about.

    Must be nice if your biggest “problem” was a concrete wall next to your 3500 sq ft mansion…:rolleyes:

  48. Leigh-Ann says:

    I’ve had the opportunity to tour the Magnolia house referenced in post 26 above, and it’s flat out amazing (side note — the owners of the house are friends of friends of friends and I did hear that there was an offer on the house, but the owners decided that they couldn’t bear to give up their highly-customized home when it came down to it). When the house was under construction, I was walking in the area and had the opportunity to chat about it with a couple of residents of the neighborhood. One of the ladies was concerned about the obtrusive style of the home and the other thought that it was amazing. To each his own. I think that the Magnolia house is a bit scary on the outside, but once I went in, I completely understand why modern architecture is desirable. The house is basically flipped inside out and as a result, there’s a great focus on space and light and views. You focus not on the house, but notice the details (BTW, in my opinion, Eric Cobb is clearly a master of very intricate architectural details). True, J⋃stin should be more considerate of his neighbor’s views, but at the same time, Greg’s response is completely childish and inappropriate. Who in their right mind puts up blow-up dolls as a statement in a neighborhood full of children?!? That’s just in bad taste.
    I think there’s a saying that ultimately, all PR is good PR. My feeling is that in Greg’s attempts to negatively impact J⋃stin and Eric, he’s probably going to end up making folks more aware of and interested in Eric Cobb. Seems like the payback Greg deserves for being just a jerk about this…more Eric Cobb designs in the area!!

  49. MJackson says:

    One of the beautiful things about America is that a person who likes modern architecture can build a modern home, and his neighbor’s stylistic tyranny can do little about it.

    Personally, I think the sign-poster’s house is an abombination: a pseudo-traditional mcmansion with THREE chimneys. Who needs that much fire?

    I hope the owner of the modern house paints the concrete wall bright orange, or puts some loud supergraphic mural on it.

    The sign-poster has just generated huge ill-will between he and his neighbor, and all because he wants the world to conform to HIS taste.

  50. Mike D. says:

    … and one of the ugliest things about America is how so many Americans think predominantly of themselves and never even stop for a moment to think about what impact their own actions have on the lives of others. It’s *my* land, damn the world. Sigh.

  51. j says:

    typography? the house to the right is about as fugly as a house can get. how can you talk of context and ugliness when it’s already been built? take two aspirin and call me later.

  52. guest says:

    I personally think that not only should houses conform identically to the attitudes and mannerisms of its neighbors but also humans should conform to the attitudes and mannerisms of others. Also, if someone doesn’t think another human is conforming they should have the right to ‘force’ them to be a contextual person or send the non-matching human to jail. Freedom of thought and speech are antiquated ideas that should be abolished. Being a non-contextual human is unpatriotic and expresses symathies with the terrorists. The person who put up the sign is incredibly forward thinking.

  53. h says:

    No matter what he says, he is mad because he doesn’t like modern architecture, oh my got there’s no pitched roof. He is probably also mad that he lost some view. His stucco box McMansion is that one that lacks all merit. See, not everyone thinks like that. We don’t ALL want to live in a world of tastless neo-classical developer designed homes sitting next to mcdonalds and wal-mart. Poor folks who are building a real home on that shoreline after spending all that money, time and energy only to learn that the guy that lives next to them is an idiot.

  54. h says:

    Ah yes….thats why the 30′ high wall. Block the blinding light of uglyness to the right! Way to go Mr. Cobb. Well done. Perhaps Greg should tear down his home and build something that is not so offensive and them they’ll tear down that wall.

  55. blake says:

    the guy with the mcmansion is the jackass, has he bothered to see the renderings of his neighbor’s house? That thing is going to be stunning, not like that piece of shit i bought my house plans from a magazine i bought at barnes and nobles that he lives in. nice work mr. cobb. and mr gramm, try to round up a couple more million dollars and buy out that neighbor and burn his house down and piss on the ashes and then do a hell of a landscaping job on it!


  56. Greg says:

    This is becoming fun! I am going to guess from some of the above recent comments that we’ve either got the “Friends of Eric Cobb” fan club writing (Read: employees), or the same crowd in architectural circles that tastes “burnt saddle leather” and “essense of Alki sea kelp” in a bottle of cheap wine in the food and wine community. I have to further wonder how many of the same people that deride the “McMansion” style of home are driving silver, white or black cars (“Yea buddy give me that Ford Taurus in purple polka dot. That would be original, and I want to show off my really neato sense of style to my friends!!”)
    Anyway, just in case you’re not really good at comprehension, let me point out that my sign never adresses the style of the Cobb/Gramm house. I have nothing against modern or original homes (a lot of my decision to buy the “McMansion” had to do with re-sale, livability, how it sits on the lot, and location, NOT its style – but I guess if I’m truly honest, it’s because my wife liked it, and the style-while fairly bland – works fine for me!).
    But lets be real here, “Original” (if Eric and J⋃stin really wanted to be different) would be a solar heated dome house made of compressed Yak dung and mud, with a bright purple VW bug in the driveway. (As opposed to a black BMW). I digress.
    My bitch is this: The Cobb/Gramm house sits on the lot like 80 lbs of wet laundry stuffed in a 40lb bag. It is placed as far forward and as high as possible,(something you cannot possibly see from the photos) instead of following the same “string line” as the rest of the homes in the neighborhood and the contour of the lakeshore. The result being that It completely destroys all sense of privacy for the house on its eastside (Which is itself somewhat modern in design), and has a 4th floor that sits 30+Feet directly above their backgarden while affording unobstructed views right into their bedrooms. (Maybe that was Cobbs intention? Maybe his client has voyeristic tendencies?). On our side, a solid 30 foot wall of concrete runs from near the lake to the street. (OK, so maybe living next to a parking garage isn’t a big deal, and I’ll eventually enjoy the shade in sun drenched Seattle!).
    Being different is fine, and variety is the spice of life. However, if your version of “different” destroys my privacy and home value. Screw you!
    (Which goes a long way toward explaining why I have yet to hear someone that has seen how the home sits on the lot relative to the other houses nearby say anything positive about it).
    Finally, let me say that a string of bright colored plastic dolls on my BIG DOCK that just happens to sit in front of J⋃stin’s house will be my personal contribution to artsy and different (There are lots of contemporary homes on the lake, but I know of NONE with a dock that has colorful blow up dolls on it!). I look forward to the positive comments from the Architectural snob community when they see a bland “McMansion” in which the owner took the time to create a really cool dock with all kinds of “stunning” pieces of art on it!

    (Blake, FYI, the house isn’t for sale, and you couldn’t afford it anyway! – and neither could J⋃stin now. And, when he takes the same “bath” in the future that all other Cobb home owners take when they sell, he’ll probably be looking for a tract house in the suburbs!)

  57. greg.org says:

    While I prefer modernist architecture to phony traditional styles, I’m no fan of Cobb, or of Seattle’s smug suburbs; MI reminds me of an oversized Newport Beach, where people with no idea how to spend their money well pile on top of one another in their own, cloistered “Dream Homes” [sic].

    But I’m seeing a lot in Greg’s comments that tells me this wall and the living room thing are just symptoms of nouveau insecurity. This all caps nonsense about “NO HELP FROM DADDY’ and “BIG DOCKS” and wine and snobs, scratch the surface of a land use issue, and it turns out to be all about class and educational differences–and matters of taste.

    I’m in NYC, so I haven’t been to the site, or even puttered by on a boat, but from the aerial views online, I can’t see the original “string line” that the Cobb house supposedly violates. If there are waterfront setbacks in the zoning that have been violated, presumably Greg could just sue and shut it down. If there were variances required, he could have fought them.

    But the primary architectural condition on this dead-end road seems to be maxed-out houses with flat walls on property lines, which are hidden behind shrubbery. So if Greg doesn’t like concrete, he should just suck it up and buy a bunch of mature trees. And if he want to be a dock about it, he could have them delivered during his new neighbor’s housewarming party.

    When t

  58. Swinia says:

    Clearly all of this could’ve been avoided if Greg would’ve bought the property when it became available back in ’06. Surely someone that built their own company from scratch, served a whole four years in the Navy, and dropped $7M on waterfront Mercer Island property would have some money in the bank or enough assets. At the very least, Greg could’ve combined resources with the other neighbor to buy the property and subdivide to increase their lot size/lake frontage/property value?

    Can you really fault the owner and architect for wanting to maximize (to the legal limit) the opportunities for space, light, and view on such a spectacular site? Sure the concrete wall is huge, but I’m sure it’s not there without good reason – in this case, it’s probably because the owner/architect found Greg’s house/yard to be so offensive that they sought to erase it from the Gramm’s experience.

    Don’t hate the players – hate the game…

  59. Mike D. says:

    Alright, I just uploaded a better angle of the prison wall. The portion of the wall in the shot is probably about 10% of the total length of the wall.

  60. Liam Egan says:

    Sorry Mike, as ugly as that wall is, I think it’s still far more attractive than the neo-classical egofest next door.

  61. Liam Egan says:

    Also, you’re sounding a little less than the impartial party you make yourself out to be above by calling it a “prison wall”.

  62. Mike D. says:

    Liam: I’m impartial in that I don’t know either homeowner, but I do have an opinion. My opinion is not that Greg’s house is more attractive than J⋃stin’s or that modern architecture is better or worse than McMansion architecture. My interest in this issue comes down to one thing — I am disappointed by the mindset that pervades our culture which allows us to rationalize making others uncomfortable in order to serve our own needs.

    “It’s my land, I’ll build whatever I want on it.”

    “It’s my money, I’ll drive an SUV if I want.”

    “It’s my airplane seat, I’ll recline it into your knees if I want.”

    That’s my only problem with this particular situation. I think building a house is not just a right but also a matter of social responsibility. You can easily make arguments that Greg’s house is too big or too ugly as well and I won’t necessarily defend them… but that doesn’t make building something like this much more acceptable.

  63. Joel Price says:

    I see it a bit different, more like someone with a big head setting in from of him on a plane. He complains, flight attendant apologizes but says theirs nothing they can do. So the guy in the back shouts out “Hey Jackass! Your head is too big! I can’t see the movie.” Unfortunately, the guy shouting is the real Jackass!

  64. Mike D. says:

    Joel: That makes no sense whatsoever. How can people control the size of their own heads?

    It’s more like if the guy in front was wearing a big two foot tall foam hat, just because it was “his head”.

  65. Keenan says:

    hahahahaha the mcmansion/zymogentics-tiered smoked stack compound, who probably maxed out its zoning envelope, is complaining about the guy next door who intelligently placed the structure on the site? Sorry pal, your views are not protected and neither is your disgusting taste in design. Maybe they can mount a huge mirror on the concrete wall so you can enjoy the suburban assarchitecture typology reflecting back.

  66. Liam Egan says:

    Mike, the problem that I see is that you’re saying that you’re disappointed in out lack of consideration for the comfort of others in our culture, but the sign demonstrates exactly that! It could be argued that while J⋃stin’s house is a big F-U to the neighbours; so too is the Greg’s sign which is equally self-serving and is at best an attempt to shame J⋃stin.

    I think Greg is more obviously guilty of the societal problem that you lament above.

  67. Mike D. says:

    Liam: Yep, I agree with that, and I expect that once J⋃stin is all moved in, that sign will be gone. I think I give it some leeway for now because it seems like a temporary public protest.

  68. Joel says:

    Mike – Okay, lets say instead of a BIG head he has huge afro or mohawk. To make this similar the guy with the unusual hairdo isn’t even blocking the direct view, he’s siting next to him. I assume the complaining neighbor would want him to cut his hair and have it look much like his. Sorry, but a guy who goes to this extent with ugly signs and a “porno doll” to get attention about the neighbors house is the real JACKASS!

  69. Liam Egan says:

    In my experience, neighbourhood disputes are normally petty, never pretty, never really accomplish anything substantial and neither party every really comes out of it squeaky-clean – really though, such is life.

    It’s interesting; your reader division on this issue is a pretty good indication of why and how these disputes start to begin with.

  70. Joel says:

    Liam – You nailed it!

    Mike – It’s good to know Greg is being a “temporary” jackass. It’s no fun being a full time jackass.

  71. betadinesutures says:

    uh mike…

    [quote]My interest in this issue comes down to one thing — I am disappointed by the mindset that pervades our culture which allows us to rationalize making others uncomfortable in order to serve our own needs.

    “It’s my land, I’ll build whatever I want on it.”

    “It’s my money, I’ll drive an SUV if I want.”

    “It’s my airplane seat, I’ll recline it into your knees if I want.”

    That’s my only problem with this particular situation. I think building a house is not just a right but also a matter of social responsibility. You can easily make arguments that Greg’s house is too big or too ugly as well and I won’t necessarily defend them… but that doesn’t make building something like this much more acceptable.[quote]

    Where is Greg’s responsibility in all this, to the larger community, when he builds this monstrosity of a Mc Mansion? Or, the entire island community and their responsibility to the environment, ecology and health of the wild life of the eco system, they are destroying?

    Look, these people are elitist upper class snobs and hate the fact that they are building something that is different than their EIFS faced coffins.

    Perhaps next time private island enclaves will consider creating design covenants, before building monstrous big-box homes that affect their “delicate” sensibilities.

    Oh, and Greg, you are a petulant child, perhaps talking to your neighbor would have done more to averting this “disaster” than putting up childish protest off you private dock.

    Better to have people think you are an asshole, than to create a sign proving you are one.

    All my love betadinesutures.

  72. Maggie says:

    We have built two homes on MI and each time the architect has made sure
    that the design did not obstruct the view or privacy of the homes on either
    side of us. Also that the design enhanced the visual quality of the neighborhood. That is why our architect is probably the top architect in
    Seattle. (we have lived in this house 15 years) You can not build in a neighborhood and not consider others around you. Because of the Eric Cobb designed home we have no privacy. His design looks into every room
    in our home. Because of this we are told that our home has lost value. We
    had a very private patio in the front of our home but Eric designed a quest
    house looking down into our last bit of seclusion. Since the main house
    is 4 floors and is 35 feet tall it is very hard to get away from J⋃stin and
    family seeing every move we make. We have always felt that you should
    do to others as you would like them to do to you. That is part of being
    called a considerate person. I wonder if J⋃stin of Eric Cobb have
    ever heard of that?

  73. TOM says:


  74. Well, the new house might be a little big for the lot, and it is bad if you look directly into your neighbors windows. But from an architectural perspective, the new house is clearly a huge step up in design from its neighbor. The neighbor should be happy to have something beautiful like this going in next to him! It will increase the value of his distasteful mess of a house. Neighborhoods are much more interesting if they are full of contrast rather than all the same…


  75. csg says:

    I think that we have underestimated the neighbor who has clearly put a lot of thought and money to have this sign printed. It it truly par for the course that he decided to throw away his money on something like this without the knowledge that he could have received a much more effective sign had he hired a graphic designer.
    It seems rather akin to building a McMansion with very limited views, 5 bedrooms, 7 bathrooms, 2 theaters, and what ever other seldom used amenities that thing likely has when he could have hired an architect who would have given him only what he needed, in a much more comfortable, exciting, and efficient home. Then again, who would want to crowd that lakefront property with useable space that has views to the lake???!!!

  76. csg says:

    okay…I have to clarify a little, now that I got that rant out. (b/c right now, I’m feeling like the “jackass”…
    To keep it short and simple, I don’t think that a sign of this ilk is warranted just b/c what is being constructed isn’t just like your vision of a perfect world. It certainly does not HELP neighbor relations.
    yes, maybe it should have been slightly more considerate to the neighbors…BUT I don’t believe for a second that the goal of the design was to sit and stare into the neighbors house. In fact, it is quite likely that the new family would have very little interest in what is going on in the neighbor’s house as they might be a little distracted by the lake or whatever activities they might be doing at the time.
    I would say, if anything, the neighbor has increased the chances of J⋃stin and family looking over to give the “stink eye” rather than a quick glance and maybe a wave hello.

    I truly do hope that somehow these neighbors can mend fences as I would imagine the cookouts on that deck will be phenomenal!

    Good luck!

  77. MK says:

    While I do prefer the overall aesthetic of the new home on the left, the issues brought up by the homeowners on the right are important questions of the many contextualities commonly ignored in single-family architecture of this scale. We can almost be assured by E. Cobb that the drawings completed for the project had no inkling of the neighboring homes and their critical adjacencies. For that matter, what homeowner would pay an architect to draw their future neighbors home next to their new home?! In my opinion that’s a huge problem and is a slap in the face to a huge facet of architecture.

    However, that’s not to say the older home hasn’t ignored their own context in their own time. Bottom line, single family architecture is an expression of the homeowner through the architect they’ve selected. It’s all just a big egotistic hedonist fest really… from all sides, including the individual who posted the sign. It’s as American (and Seattle) as that passive-aggressive whining sign posted on that private boat dock in the back of their excessively large house on a lake. The ironies astound. The beach ALL of those houses are perched upon should be public land for everyone to enjoy, so quit complaining and enjoy your posh life already.

  78. Greg says:

    1. Can we get away from the comments about architectural design? – It’s like someone putting up a sign complaining about a neighbor playing AC/DC until late at night, and then having a bunch of people give the sign guy a hard time because they love AC/DC.
    the point is NOT the architectural style. The point is where the house sits, and how it completely invades the other neighbors privacy.
    2. For all the folks that DO think the style is cool, try to imagine if every house in every neighborhood was built with a 30 foot high wall of concrete around it. (I noticed that Cobbs own hose in the Madrona neighborhood doesn’t have a big wall of concrete around it, and that none of his neighbors do either). As I said earlier, I’m no expert in architecture, but I have to believe that if all the homes in American neighborhoods were surrounded by high walls of concrete, there would not be neighborhood as we know it.
    3. As for my sign, I remember a few years ago when folks were putting up signs questioning the wisdom/motivation of a war with Iraq. I also recall that a lot of people called those “protesters” idiots, jackasses, cowards, and all kind of other names. Personally (Without inserting my own opinion about the war), I’m glad they had the guts to call attention to what they thought was a bad idea.
    Obviously I’m not comparing the two in seriousness, but if my sign gives pause to someone else thinking about “jamming” a house right in front of their neighbors views and ruining their privacy “just because they can”, I will have achived something.

    BTW, a Cobb house (MT) just came up for sale on Queen Ann hill. $5.9m. I wonder how long it will sit on the market. My guess, it that lots of people will look, and think it’s “neato” but it will be very hard to sell.

  79. Mike D. says:

    Not that I value architecture enthusiasts’ opinions any less, but it should be noted that this thread over at Archinect has sent 889 people over to this discussion, so that would probably explain all of the architecture discussion.

    Along with Greg, I don’t so much care about the discussion surrounding which house’s architecture is cooler. Being a fan of modern architecture, I’m sure I’d pick Cobb’s house too if I had to live in one. What I care about more is the social responsibility of building a house in an existing neighborhood. To me, the Cobb house is the epitome of not giving a shit about your neighbors. Deplorable, in my opinion.

  80. MK says:

    Just to follow-up with the architecture rebuttal by Greg…

    First, it’s naive to think that a discussion about this issue would EVER be anything beyond design (especially in an architectural sense) when you slap the name of the architect right on the sign.

    However, design and style are two different things. What the sign IS most definitely talking about is the design of the house. Which I agree is a terrible response to the fact that site and community inherently work together and not independently of each other.

    The aesthetic or ‘style’ as some like to call it, I agree is not the problem. But to clarify, if it even matters to you (and it probably does not), is something that many prefer over the adjacent property. To each their own. Furthermore, you could indeed make the same bad design choices using Neo-Georgian, Queen Anne Revival, California Bungalow ‘styles’, or a pile of sticks.

    I do have to say, that if you’re truly worried about your ‘neighborhood’ there are/were probably better and more direct way(s) to address this problem of a design, rather than making a sign calling your neighbor a ‘jackass’. (Such as a trip to the department of planning where the drawings are by law within the public domain. Or how about a conversation with your neighbor when they bought the land about their plans for the property?) Publicly personal verbal attacks are only going to escalate the issue, and create a division between you and your neighbor greater than that concrete wall.

    Even if you drive this so-called ‘jackass’ who commissioned the house out of your neighborhood, their house will still be there. So you may as well try and make the best of it somehow. Sometimes you have to be a neighbor first, for someone to think neighborly of you.

  81. JM says:

    Appropriateness to Context is a very muddy concept. Sure everyone feels that good buildings are ones that ahear to this ideal. However, it is a personal choice as to what about the context one chooses to repond to and why. It sounds like these neightbors probably didn’t get along before this house was designed, so in a way the architect may be intentionally responding to a very real site contstraint – the neighbor, and taking advantages of the property’s afforded views according to the zoning regulations. If the neighbor can’t handle it – they should have paid more attention to the zoning codes before spending so much money on their newly devalued house, and made their complaints to the city. The reality is that unless you live in a planned nightborhood with strict homeowners covenants, your neighbor can and will build their property to its fullest valued potential allowed by code. What this is REALLY about is the fact that people use their houses as banks, desperately holding in highest regard property values above all else, and will screw their neighbor (or make a fuss) to do so. This is the capitalist reality we live in, and i think every person has the right to do whatever they wish to their own homes, for better or for worse.

  82. MK says:

    Smartly stated.

  83. greg says:

    There is a little back story, but it’s not worth bring up now. Suffice to say that what was represented as going up, and what actually went up are quite different. (the neighbor on the other side experienced the same thing). if you go to the Cobb website, you’ll notice that the artists rendition doesn’t even begin to represent the way the place actually sits on the lot, and how badly it violates privacy.
    I have mixed feelings about the sign, and have from day one. I was at first hesitant because i knew it would stir things up. However, in the end I did it to show my disgust.
    Many of the people who live in the area and who stop in their boats have been 100% supportive, and the typical response usually centers around one or two themes: “What a pity that people these days feel so entitled” or “What were they thinking?”.

    Note also that there are some pretty amazing (read: different/exciting)houses on the lake and a lot of cool styles (Gates, Myhrvold, Simoni, etc). All the above are placed on their lots without making a huge and blatent statement at the EXPENSE of their neighbors.

    I guess you’d call it subtle vs “in your face”.

  84. Mike D. says:

    So, I have a question then, Greg. When someone builds a house, they need to submit their *exact* plans to the city. These aren’t just rough renderings but rather precise construction docs outlining what will be built, including heights, angles, etc. These documents are available to the general public for the very purposes of protest. If anything changes during the construction process, to my knowledge those plans must be resubmitted.

    Were you vigilant about examining these plans and protesting them but the city just ended up denying the protests?

  85. JM says:

    Seriously, isn’t there something more important in this world to “protest”? I’d like to see someone take this kind of action on a issue a little less self-serving.

  86. greg says:

    Admittedly we did not closely examine the plans. my wife though we should. I trusted. big mistake.
    the guy who approved them no longer works for the city.
    It has been suggested by others in the department that they should have looked more closely themselves.

    The sign cost me $200 bucks. Time to put it up: 5 minutes. Reaction from the rest of the neighbors: priceless!
    (You know how the Mastercard commercials go)

    Again, it might seem like overkill or a bit childish, but if it causes another potential owner/builder from building in a way that disregards neighbors privacy it has served a purpose.

  87. MK says:


    I respect your feelings but the only expense I’m seeing here is your $8.36 million dollar property. Which in a similar vain to what you find fault in your neighbor’s new home, blocks access to beaches along a public waterway by establishing that space as private property. If it’s justice you’re after, where’s the justice in that? Granted you didn’t parcel the land (I’m assuming), but let’s not be hypocritical.

    You do not own the views of whatever it is you now can’t see from your back deck, living room, or home office (but I’m sure you can see plenty if you walk out into your yard or private dock). It seems to me you have plenty of access to everything. More than many people could even imagine in an entire generation of existence. I would hope you’d consider expense within that framework when discussing this and commiserating with neighbors passing by.

  88. Liam Egan says:


    If you didn’t examine our neighbour’s plans prior to them being approved then that’s simple naivety on your part and frankly it’s your own fault that you have a “prison wall” next to you.

    How about you put up a sign next to the one you have there that says:
    “Only a naive jackass doesn’t examine their neighbours plans prior to a house being built.”

  89. John Mulcahy says:

    The wall is big! So instead of calling out your neighbor and looking like a Jackass, Did you ever try talking to your neighbor. Have him plant some trees. or really piss him off and Tag the wall.

  90. […] the view itself is the fact that the backyard drops right off a 300 foot cliff so no one can ever block your view. Additionally, the house is completely separated from its neighboring structures on both sides by […]

  91. Greg says:

    I reject the idea that you have to closely police what people do before they do it. I’m not the litigous type, and probably never will be, and I’m certainly not going to spend my life worrying about the taste and sensebility of others.
    I see the house and my response in the same way I see a lot of what happened in Iraq: An incredibly egotistical jackass actually had the nerve (or stupidity) to think that we would be greeted with “Flowers and sweets” when we invaded. Regardless of what you personally think of the motivations behind the war, you have to be an idiot to think we’d be greeted with flowers invading ANY country.
    This place is exactly the same thing: Only an egotistical jackass would think that neighbors would be happy to see his version of an invasion of privacy.
    (My sign is a response – maybe it was appropriate, maybe not)
    I might also add that I had the pleasure of cruising the lake shore this weekend, and it is amazing that you simply cannot find anything anywhere on Mercer Island or Bellevue/Medina where a builder/owner has so blatently stuck a big “monument to ego” in front of his neighbors in such a flagrantly disrespectful and tasteless way. As several people expressed above, it all comes down to following a “String line”, and the old “do unto others…” thing.

    Some friends were over this weekend, and one commented that in the end its all about Karma. You do shitty things to others, and it eventually comes back at you.

    As for the wall: I will wait until the house is finished. Then a big row of fast- growing leaf-shedding poplars will probably do the trick.

  92. Liam Egan says:

    Amazing Greg, you could be talking about YOURSELF in most of the above statements..

    Your sign could also be considered a “monument to ego”
    Your sign could also be considered “flagrant and disrespectful”
    Your sign certainly doesn’t betray your own “do unto others” attitude

    You know what? I hope you don’t get YOUR karma come back to you for your shitty sign.. You don’t seem like a very nice person, but I wouldn’t wish that kind of thing on anyone.

  93. Mike D. says:

    Liam: The difference is that a sign is a temporary instrument of protest and not a permanent destroyer of value for both of your new neighbors. The effect of the sign can be essentially disintegrated as soon as it comes down.

  94. Liam Egan says:

    Greg I think you underestimate the effects of your own public smear campaign… Perhaps there’s some philosophical merit in eating your own humble pie and learning the lesson that there was a time you could have done something about the wall, but that that time is now past.

  95. Liam Egan says:

    Oops, sorry Mike jumped the gun a bit there :)

  96. Oscar says:

    What about the property between roads at the end of the bridge?

    Well, from my Spanish point of view (sorry for grammar), here in Spain we have a lot of some kind of “classic” houses all around, and when a modern house is built, first neighbor reaction was to blame it like a demon in heaven. Others talk about breaking harmony of the area, another people talks about how ugly is the new house… Anyway, we have a lot of codes and laws about construction here so it would be impossible to build such wall so near the fence of the neighbor, but also build Greg’s house for the same reason, we have to respect alignments and distances.

    On the other way, only a few private properties have direct access to sea because beaches are public domain everywhere in Spain if you could have a way to get there, of course.

    As an architect I think that perhaps a bit of kindness to neighbors can’t hurt anyone (including Greg, Cobb & J⋃stin ego’s), the same way that prevention about neighbor plans could help in future…

  97. Greg says:

    Not sure where you’re coming from, or where you live, but the first move was by Cobb/Gramm. I could do a couple of things when the house started to materialize and it became really obvious that there was little or no consideration to neighbors in the design: do nothing, or express my disdain. I chose to express disdain. you can have you own opinion of course, and thats you’re right.
    Had I experienced a lot of people showing their obvious disapproval of the sign (Which I actually expected), I probably would have taken it down. I was actually rather (pleasantly) surprised at how overwhelmingly supportive the neighbors were. Older neighbors that had lived here for years, that I least expected to approve, told me to keep it up. In a way, I’m expressing what most of the people around here think, and to me it’s no big deal if I’m the guy that has to take some heat, and be the visible one.

    Live and let live has always been my attitude, but at the same time, I admit to being the type of person that does not like to be “Fuck__d with”. The house next door was done in a way that the owner took a risk. he decided to shove his crap in my face and take his chances. I put up a sign pointing out that I don’t like it, and consider it to be rude, ugly, and inconsiderate. whats the big deal?

  98. MercerIslandShoreline says:

    The sign might be temporary protest as it can be taken down, but, the Internet is a going to be a permanent reminder that Greg James can be found on the Internet by typing in his name combined with the word “jackass”. Also, I’m surprised there hasn’t been a lawsuit from J⋃stin or Cobb against Greg as this looks like written defamation trying to injure their reputation.

  99. MK says:

    The big deal to me at this point, is the fact that you seem to require the affirmation of the people in this forum as well as your neighbors to justify your actions in conceiving and posting the sign. I don’t think you’ll get a balanced response.

    Your neighbors are clearly of like mind about the situation because they LIVE in your community and have similar values. The overwhelming majority of people in this forum do not share those values because they are so far removed from your position – in multiple regards. In fact, they will potentially will never side with you on the validity of a public verbal flogging regarding a matter which probably should have taken place in private between you and J⋃stin.

    I sincerely doubt people will give you their honest opinion on whether that sign should stay up in Seattle. There’s such a community of passive-aggression there – that I must say you are completely falling in line with – that people would tell you anything you wanted to hear and then bitch about it behind your back.

    Bottom line. Your sign is tacky, in content, style and format and I should hope you’ve removed it by now… and I’d be wary of this being covered under the right to Free Speech if I were you.

  100. Mike D. says:

    MercerIslandShoreline: 1) Defamation of character involved libel or slander. Neither have occurred here, to my knowledge. Libel and slander both have very clear legal definitions and each involves the presentation of false facts, not opinions. 2) I doubt many people go around doing Google searches for {insert name here} and “jackass”.

    MK: I’m not sure Greg requires the approval of anyone here. He’s just defending his stance against a large group of visitors who all came from the same architecture forum site (not mine). You’re probably right in that it’s barking up the wrong tree though, and you’re definitely right about people being passive-aggressive up here in Seattle… I’ve definitely noticed that at times. Not sure how it compares to the rest of the country though. There are probably P/A people everywhere.

  101. MK says:

    Yeah I’ve lived in a diverse array of places and I’d have to say there is a higher concentration of P/A people in Seattle than I’ve encountered anywhere else I’ve lived.

    I just find it fascinating that as the author of the sign, Greg has worried himself so many times with defending himself on your blog. Not that there’s any better place to handle it, but honestly why does he even care to participate in this forum? Greg will merely do what he wants. He already has in posting the sign. What does it matter to him what we all think of his actions?

    It’s not like someone will post the magical comment and he’ll change his mind and remove the sign.

    So I guess I could echo his last question and redirect it back at Greg… What’s the point of all this?

    Neither side is convincing the other, really. Whether in the forum or over at J⋃stin’s house. Take the sign down and stop defending why you put it up in the first place. It’s serving absolutely no purpose physically. (Namely it’s not moving or changing the house.) Which is the only response which will satisfy your disdain, Greg.

    Your sign will not make the concrete wall go away, nor the fourth floor come down a notch or two.

    Exercise in the right to make nasty signage… ok. Yeah. Check. Successful.

    Exercise resulting in actually getting something resolved. Not so much.

  102. Mike D. says:

    MK: I’m not sure it’s not serving a purpose. I’m about to build a house, and although I wasn’t planning on crushing my neighbors in the process before, it’s definitely made me hyper-aware of the issue. Even more so than I was before. I also read a comment up above about how the Mercer Island local government may revise their code to prohibit things like this. Who knows if that will happen, but if it does, great. While you’re right in that the sign isn’t going to change the house itself, it may help change (in a small way) the perception that we are entitled to build whatever we want in this world without guilt, shame, or other negative consequences manifested by those we live near.

  103. MercerIslandShoreline says:

    Mike, that’s quite nobel of you to think that way. I wish all people were that considerate. Have you ever heard the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished”? What’s your thought on that?

  104. Mike D. says:

    MercerIslandShoreline: I don’t know. I think while it may have some truth to it, it’s no way to live your life. If everybody thought that no matter what they do, bad things will happen to them, then nobody would do anything good. Me personally, I couldn’t even live with myself if I was Justin Gramm. If I’m Eric Cobb, maybe, because I could at least rationalize my way out of any blame saying that I’m just doing what my client asked. But if I’m Justin, I just materially devalued at least one and possibly both of my neighbors properties. There is no getting around that fact. Yes, I had the “right” to do it, but that doesn’t mean it was morally the right thing to do. Forget about Greg for a second, and look at Maggie’s comment above (she is the neighbor who got the even shorter end of the stick):

    We have built two homes on MI and each time the architect has made sure that the design did not obstruct the view or privacy of the homes on either side of us.

    Here is a lady who has tried to do (and done) the right thing whenever she has built houses in the past, and what happens to her? She is now part of Justin Gramm’s fishbowl. Sort of backs up your “no good deed” theory, but again, I don’t think that excuses this sort of contempt for your neighbors.

  105. My_View_Got_Wiped_Out says:

    Interesting debate.

    Mike – curious, are you going to invite your future neighbors to some or all of your meetings with your designers/builders? (just got done reading your other site, A House In The Park). If you do, you’ll probably get a feel-good groovy feeling first meeting, then it would turn to nausea as you realize the can of worms you opened up. You can’t please everyone all the time. Especially when it comes to an individuals taste in architecture. Sure you’re a smart guy, taking extra care, extra thought into every move you make but your future house is still going to be labeled an eyesore by someone close by. Guarantee it.

  106. Mike D. says:

    My_View_Got_Wiped_Out: I’m not sure I will have the neighbors actually attending design meetings, but I’ve already identified a few areas where I will have my neighbors in mind during the design stage:

    1. My neighbors to the east cannot see the water because the existing house already blocks them. They can probably just see maybe the upper tips of the mountains from their upper level. Although my house may get taller in some areas, I’m thinking about taking out the trees on the right side of the property to give them a possible peek-a-boo of the water through the sideyard. If their view actually ends up being better after I’m done, then great!

    2. I’m going to tear out the existing fence between my house and my neighbor to the north and rebuild it. It’s very low in one spot which reduces privacy for me but allows them to see southward towards Elliott Bay. I am going to keep the fence low enough so they do not lose this visibility.

    3. Although I want the master bedroom to face northwest, I am taking care to make sure it has no visibility into the neighbor’s house to the north.

    Additionally, I’ve already met a lot of neighbors from the block (there have been two block parties over the last month! awesome) and everyone I’ve talked to has been extremely supportive of getting rid of what’s there and replacing it with a modern home. The more nice houses on this block, the better it is for everyone’s property value.

  107. Greg says:

    my sign got a lot of people talking. thats a good thing to me. it also drew attention to a house that was built in a very offensive way. thats also a good thing.
    Thats all I really care about.
    As I said above, if I give pause to some other idiot that thinks shoving his Ego statement in front of all his neighbors is acceptable behavior then good.

    In the end, its about whats “cool”. most of us understand that. it’s “cool” to drive a multi colored VW van with flowers all over it. its not cool to drive it at 50 MPH down the freeway while slowing traffic. its “cool” to like weird art, its not cool to stick it all over your yard and force everyone to look at it. the house next door may be “cool” in its design (to each his own). how it sits on the lot and agressively denies the neighbors privacy is NOT COOL.

    Anyone can figure that out, and thats likely why 100% of the people that cruise by give the thumbs up and state their disgust with the house and how it sits. (BTW, the more you look at it, the more stupid it really appears)

  108. Not Greg says:

    Welcome to living with neighbors greg.

  109. Where's the Sign? says:


    Just stumbled upon this, several months later, and was struck by the insistence that the sign was temporary, although there were no indications by Greg either in your on-dock discussion or by him in the post.

    Is the sign still up? That would make it less than temporary, and a tick in favor of all who are asking who is the real jerk here? If it’s down, then it’s down and a tick in your argument’s favor.

    Greg, about the thumbs up from passers by, that’s unprovable evidence because you aren’t able to count the people who are boating past thinking the sign is a bad idea, nor the people who are boating past saying, that is going to be a gorgeous house and worth being stacked up on each other.

    You are arguing to contradictory points as well, both the wall is ugly, but its not about aesthetics its about privacy. I agree with the some sort of trees native to your area, especially something you like looking at.

    Privacy is a strange thing. What exactly do you do in your house/yard that curtains or a pergola etc, can’t protect your privacy? I apparently have a less developed sense of privacy or more of a proclivity to draw the curtains at night so people on the sidewalk don’t see me watching TV in my boxers.

  110. John Haggard says:

    Wow, I ran into this feud after watching the home being built. I always was scratching my head on what it would look like and then I saw the feud.

    Here is my documentation: http://picasaweb.google.com/jhaggard1/MercerIslandNeighborlyLove#.

    One thing that saddens me is the sign placed at the foot of the complainant’s slide for their children, not a good example for young people.

    My solution would to make amends with the neighbor and to jointly commission a top rate artist to turn that concrete wall into a mural that would make both home owners proud.

    The sign(s), humorous at first are massive indicators of deep unhappiness (with or without the offending design). Might wish to proof read the signs as well.

    Let’s hope they turn this around.

    Fan of the Lake.

  111. Mike D. says:

    John: Interesting… I like the mural idea. I’m in the process of demolishing my house right now to build a new one and although I was much more polite with my building plans than Cobb’s client, I feel very lucky to have nice, understanding neighbors. I feel like living in the middle of a neighborhood feud would reduce everyone’s happiness by a large amount, and thus reduce intrinsic property value as well.

  112. AJ says:

    No offense intended, but am I correct in assuming everyone involved here is a multi-millionaire? Frankly, having a slightly ugly monster house next to your pastiche-colonial-mansion monster house is the supreme case of a first world problem. Here’s a challenge more worth of you folks, all creative and well-connected: Help build enough decent housing in New Orleans for the people who are STILL living in FEMA trailers post-Katrina.

  113. Lamar says:

    I’m personally offended by the site of most of the houses that front Lake Washington, which surrounds Mercer Island. There are so many more of these ugly pieces of horse sh__. Five of these huge McMansions went up next to I90 on Mercer Island, nearly causing a major accident everyday as commuters puke their guts out passing them. So mister my sh__ looks better than your sh__, shut your farking pie hole.

  114. kit_cat says:

    I realize that this debate was taking place quite some time ago. Today I had an interview with Mr. Gramm at his home. I would like to say that his home is absolutely stunning inside and out! It was an architectural masterpiece and Mr. Gramm was extremely nice. I can’t imagine why having a thirty foot concrete wall to the side of your home is such a huge deal when all you have to do is look FORWARD and you have all of Lake Washington? And if there wasn’t a wall what would you be looking at? Your neighbors home? Do you often spend time staring at your neighbors property? Honestly! It’s not like he built it in FRONT of your house.

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