Blogging Bayport Alameda

August 28, 2019

Historic cookie cutter

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:08 am

I was reading this article about how Amazon might be the future of the tiny home movement (and maybe the accessory dwelling unit movement if we ever get approvals for an “off the rack” type of ADU).  The article mentioned how buying a house from a retailer was huge back in the day.  From City Lab:

Novel as it may seem today, the mail-order house—tiny or otherwise—has a solid pedigree in North America. Beginning in 1908, after establishing an empire in the mail-order catalog business not unlike Amazon’s contemporary domination of online retail, Sears introduced the Sears Modern Home catalog, selling everything from modest bungalows to proto-McMansions.

Early models ranged from roughly $20,000 to $70,000 in 2019 dollars; then as now, buyers brought the land and labor. Combining amateur homebuilders with budget materials might seem like a recipe for shoddy quality, but more than a few Sears houses have ended up on the National Register of Historic Places. According to one estimate, over 70 percent are still standing. One D.C. model, purchased in 1925 for $3,727, recently sold for over $1 million. In all, Sears sold 75,000 homes. The kits provided a low-cost path to homeownership at a time when cities were booming and housing costs were rising.

I mean, these really were the first sets of cookie cutter homes that offend the personal aesthetics of so many Alamedans and beyond.

I wonder how many cherished “historic” bungalows and cottages  in Alameda were birthed from a Sears catalog.

I’m not really good at identifying architecture, but I swear I recognize some of these houses in Alameda.  Anyone?


  1. If building an ADU or ordering a “tiny house” was financially feasible, more landowners would do it. You will incur costs for construction, permits and increased insurance, and may have to provide land for parking. Your property will be reassessed, and the rental income will be limited by the City of Alameda, and rent increases capped per the orders of the council. The legal headaches from having someone living in your backyard, besides possible eviction proceedings if rent isn’t paid, also may include having to ”pay them to move out” not at the rental you charge, but at market value. In the end the market dictates the answer. No thanks.

    Comment by Nowyouknow — August 28, 2019 @ 9:32 am

    • How does the city cap rent increases on ADUs? Has the city been trying to condition permits on accepting caps? Assuming it is new construction, isn’t there a general exemption from rent regs under Costa Hawkins?

      Where’s the risk?

      Comment by MP — August 28, 2019 @ 10:37 am

      • I *think* new eviction law requires relo ransom even on SFH. Please correct me if I’m wrong.

        Comment by dave — August 28, 2019 @ 11:16 am

        • yes, relocation assistance is required in “no fault” (owner move in, etc.) evictions, including in SFR units, though even in “fault” evictions (for cause), monetary settlements with tenants are not uncommon.

          under consideration is a change to the ordinance that would require relocation asst. to be paid where the tenant is unable to afford an (otherwise permissible, I suppose) rent increase. maybe the trigger for that would be an increase over a certain percentage. assuming rent increases are already capped generally, it would be something that would apply only to SFR or other units otherwise not subject to controls on rent increases (b/c Costa Hawkins). maybe it would apply also to regulated units were an application to go above max increase has been granted by the city (say in order to allow a constitutionally minimum reasonable rate of return in the particular case).

          I don’t know if requiring relocation asst. payments in either scenario has been tried out elsewhere or if it would be consistent with state law. Would seem likely to draw a legal challenge, whereas thus far there have not been concerning Alameda’s ordinance.

          Comment by MP — August 28, 2019 @ 3:48 pm

    • I presume one would be required to accept section 8.

      Comment by Ed Hirshberg — August 28, 2019 @ 12:11 pm

    • Do you people have your own bathrooms, or do you just come here to shit on everything?

      Comment by Rod — August 28, 2019 @ 1:31 pm

      • Give it up, shit for brains.

        Comment by Jack — August 28, 2019 @ 5:31 pm

        • Like Beetlejuice, mention shitposters and one will appear.

          Comment by Rod — August 29, 2019 @ 6:30 am

  2. is a blog with detail about these homes and how to identify them.

    Comment by MMcG — August 28, 2019 @ 9:42 am

  3. I showed a home in Oakland that was a Sears home. The listing did not identify it as such. But at some moment it dawned on me that it might be a Sears home. I started snooping around and found the tag. It was pretty fun.

    Comment by Karen Manuel — August 29, 2019 @ 9:51 am

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