Brightly painted wooden tropical fish hang in the kitchen window of the "Triangle House" on Coast Highway in Del Mar. Homeowner and architect Lew Dominy said his wife, Marlene, jokingly hung up the fish because living in the house, with its unusual shape and glass walls, sometimes feels like living in a fish bowl.
"We've had people knock on the door asking to take a tour," said Dominy, who took on the challenge of building a house on a tiny triangular slice of land 90 by 26 feet and tapering to a sharp point at one end. "Everybody thought I was crazy, including my wife. It looked like a traffic island," said Dominy, 57, a principal of Dominy + Associates Architects of San Diego. "People look at it now and don't realize how hard it was, because it works."
In an upscale neighborhood renowned for unique homes, the slice-of-pie-shaped house does stand out. Though the vacant lot was a mere wedge of dirt when Dominy first saw it, he discovered through city planners that it was a legal lot ---- the smallest in town at 1,200 square feet. He contacted the owner in Los Angeles and made an offer of $50,000, which was accepted. "It was an affordable way for us to get down here in the beach area," he said.
Dominy had to pay for more than the lot, though. Over four years, some $40,000 went into fees dealing with legalities and public hearings before he won full approval from the building commission to build his Triangle House. "It took 18 hearings and six variances ---- how big? how far back? how near to the street?" he said.
Another concern was neighborhood reaction. "Some of the neighbors thought there was just no way it was going to work ---- 'It can't be livable,' " Dominy said. One neighbor spoke against construction of the small house because he feared it would reduce property values. And another had wanted the lot made into a park, though they've all been fine since he built the house, Dominy said. The neighbor immediately behind him has been most supportive, though, "because we took them off the highway," Dominy said.