Big, Ugly Houses: Chapter 2, those Alamo freeway palaces

Back by questionably popular demand, here is the next installment of Big Ugly Houses, and it deals with perhaps the most famous Big Ugly Houses of them all in our happy, shiny suburban area: those McMansions perched on the hillside near Stone Valley Road in Alamo.

You absolutely cannot miss them if you drive up and down Interstate 680. There’s the frilly, multi-level one that seems to be cascading down the north side of what’s referred to as Mona Lisa Hill (pictured, left). And there’s the flat-topped, 14,300 square foot “palace” that, for much of its years-long construction, looked like a beer distribution plant (pictured, right).

The owner this flat-topped palace insists on referring to it as a “Tuscan-style” villa, according to an interview he gave and excellently reported in this Danville Weekly story: “[Owner Kelly Adamic says] everybody should be allowed to build their fantasy house. … ‘Why does every house have to look the same? This is about expression and personality,’ he says.”

His dream is 25-feet tall and features an 80,000-pound steel roof, a movie theater, sports court, au pair suite and a guest tower for Adamic’s parents, the Weekly says. “It’s built around a large rectangular courtyard that would have been used for a market place, if the structure were actually from fifth century Italy.”

Well, this isn’t fifth-century Italy. And you generally don’t see monstrosities like this traveling around Italy, which I had the opportunity to do back in my more fancy-free days. This seems more like an Ugly Americanized vision of Old World elegance.

Actually, these houses are factors in an ongoing news story: the effort by a group of Alamo residents to transform this affluent, unincorporated community of 16,000 into a city, free of Contra Costa County control. The Alamo cityhood effort received an okay from the Local Agency Formation Commission to hold a vote on incorporation. That vote takes place March 3. Coming up this Thursday evening: 16 candidates running on the March 3 ballot for Alamo Town Council will attend a Candidates’ Faire.

Alamo incorporation leaders say that the desire for cityhood involves a lot more than preventing construction of more of what I’m calling Big Ugly Houses. It has to do with creating a sense of “community” and having more local control over how public money is spent on road maintenance, traffic control, public safety, and community development.
Of course, though, the Big Ugly Houses play into the community development issue. One Alamo incorporation leader, while downplaying the role of the Mona Lisa houses in the cityhood drive, acknowledged that an Alamo-based design review commission and town council would probably not have okayed their being constructed in their present form.
As the Weekly says: “To many Alamo folks, [Adamic’s] home and its neighboring house … are one big, blaring symbol for why county planning isn’t cutting it anymore. When it comes to planning in the unincorporated area, the county planning commission calls the shots”

Speaking of the cascading home near Adamic’s villa, that cascading home has what I’ll call an “evil twin,” or “ugly stepcousin,” lower down the hill, just above Stone Valley Road (pictured left), and near the electronic gate to the pretentious sounding Alamo Ranch Estates gated community. This house, for interesting reasons, decided to take its design inspirations from the cascading house.
To read more about the Kelly Adamic’s amazing Tuscan-style villa, you can check out the Danville Weekly story, which also has interior shots. To read more about the Alamo incorporation effort, go to the Town of Alamo website. You can also read the first installment of Crazy in Suburbia’s Big Ugly Houses series by clicking here.

6 thoughts on “Big, Ugly Houses: Chapter 2, those Alamo freeway palaces

  1. I don’t live in Alamo but have to drive by these hideous houses on my way to and from work. I guess I should be happy for the owner of that so-called Italian villa that he gets to pursue his big design dream, but what a selfish jerk to make the rest of us have to look at this.

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  2. I love Big Ugly houses. The builders and owners of these homes deserve to be installed in a Hall of Shame for their unslightly excesses. And this Adamic fellow has a movie theater. Who does he think he is? Some old-fashioned movie mogul? The ego of some people!

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  3. That flat-topped “Tuscan-style” villa just had it’s 2nd paint and patch job due to the stucco/concrete siding having all kinds of cracks.The center of the house is open, the owner likes to open His castle style doors and store his cigar boat and other toys inside.If you want to see more Big Ugly Houses go check out the Biltmore/Oakshire area off Stone valley rd.

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  4. Jealously in it's truest and ugliest form… Knocking other peoples “Dream Homes”… The monstrosity here is the nerve of these people who think that their version of beauty is the only way to see beauty. Beauty is subjective. Anyone who has anything bad to say about both of these homes that are, btw, beautiful, not only have bad taste but are obviously jealous and ugly on the inside. It took a lot of talent, creativity, resources, time, and individuality to think outside the box and build their “Dream Homes”. Talk about egotistic, selfish jerks! Keep your ugly and selfish opinions to yourself and do something constructive. I highly doubt you could even build a garage as fantastic as one of these homes have. ~ Juli Andra

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