Romney's Mansion Expansion Plan Riles Left-Wing Neighbors

It may be a campaign distraction, but it's a local one too

The great news: My husband and I are new, first-time homeowners! Now the flipside: We’re in the middle of a renovation on our 1936-era Los Angeles property, and we learned immediately how stressful that process can be—especially in the era of shrinking paychecks and home values. As newlyweds with plans for growing our family, we look at our two-bedroom, 1,331-square-foot nest as a 3-D blueprint for what it can become when we can afford to expand. Who among us, especially those of us with big and growing families, wouldn’t love to enlarge our homes?

Mitt Romney, with his five children and 18 grandchildren, finds himself in just such a position. Only the home in question is a beach residence in tony La Jolla, California, and the proposed plan includes nearly quadrupling the size of the property from 3,000 to 11,000 square feet. He paid $12 million for the place four years ago. For a recession-era candidate whose previous gaffes have included references to car elevators and multiple Cadillacs, the news requires a spot of damage control.

And it’s not just the voters who may find the development (so to speak) distracting. It’s the neighbors, too. According to The New York Times, neighbors’ complaints range from potential obstructions of their views, to construction disruptions and blockages—to just plain politics.

The Times: “For partisan candor it was hard to top Karen Webber, who lives several blocks away and dislikes the heightened security measures. ‘If this were Obama,’ she said, standing near bright orange barriers restricting access to Dunemere, ‘I’d probably be fine with it.’”

Indeed the neighborhood, once squarely Republican dominated, is now almost evenly divided along political lines, with 7,764 registered Republicans and 7,024 Democrats in the precinct.

Among the other neighborhood demographics that will prove a challenge for Romney and his expansion plans: Six gay households sit within a three-block radius. Just up the street live Randy Clark and Tom Maddox, a gay couple who married in San Francisco four years ago, and who refused to sign a document presented to them by Romney’s architect regarding the renovation’s obstruction of their views. To wit, the candidate who wants to ban same-sex marriage isn’t exactly the favorite neighbor among the same-sex married demo.

Although the scope of Romney’s expansion plans is—shall we say—out of reach for the average American, the need for delicate neighbor relations is hardly unique.

On day one after taking title to our new home, we asked our disabled neighbors in their nineties to sign a document allowing our lethal but necessary termite-extermination tent to intrude on the yard where they keep pets. We hoped we weren’t becoming “those people” right off the bat.

So it seems unlikely that, after all the fuss, Romney’s neighbors will welcome him with fresh-baked cookies when the plaster dust settles. But perhaps more importantly to the candidate, will they vote for him in November?

Alesandra Dubin is a Los Angeles-based writer. Follow her on Twitter: @alicedubin.

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