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Saturday, June 25, 2005
There goes the neighborhood
It would be wrong to not share some of the latest on Randy "Your Vote Is In Escrow" Cunningham:
Neighbors got their first inkling that something was going on at Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's Del Mar-area home when they saw him packing.
* Procurement deal keeps lawmaker's friend busy
* Poway firm contributed to Cunningham
Next door neighbor Kent Greene asked: "Are you selling your house?"
"Already sold," Cunningham answered.
When neighbors later learned the $1,675,000 price, they were even more astonished.
"There was something fishy with the whole thing," said Mark Konopacke, who had bought his home across the street six months before for $700,000 less.
Some have dubbed the controversy "Mansiongate," but the house's original owner, Barbara Casino-Mizer, laughs when she sees the house in the papers. She and her husband, Corky Mizer, bought the ocean-view home from the builder in April 1987 for $385,000.
Casino-Mizer loved the big kitchen, the mosaic-tiled bathtub and the mauve carpet that was all the rage in the late '80s. However, when the couple found another home with acreage nine months later, they put the Mercado home on the market. Cunningham, who had been teaching at the Navy's Top Gun flight school, bought it for $435,000.
"I didn't know him from a hole in the wall," said Casino-Mizer. "It broke my heart he was going to put bars over the windows, even on the skylights."
Some neighbors adored the larger-than-life fighter pilot who turned into a politician. One said she walked precincts for him. But he rarely participated in neighborhood get-togethers like the Labor Day block party. Some considered him standoffish.
"On Sundays when we were out washing cars in our shorts and jeans and T-shirts, he would come and go in long-sleeved shirts and cuff links," said neighbor Michele Kipnis.
The decorative bars Cunningham put over the windows gave the stylish home an ominous prison-like look, some neighbors said. They called it an eyesore. The neighborhood, though, was desirable. Many homes have ocean views, and each has its own style. Values shot up.
Neighbors say they never saw Wade. Some heard the house had been purchased by a government employee with tax dollars. Others heard a friend bought it. The house went on the market again almost immediately for $1,680,000.
"When I saw the price, I said, 'Thank you for raising my property values,' " Kipnis said.
Many neighbors peeked in during the open house.
"We all knew it wasn't market value," said Victoria Konopacke. "It was a dump. The place needed to be gutted."
Her husband, Mark, added: "I'm not surprised at all people are asking questions."
The 3,826-square-foot house sat on the market for months while most homes were getting multiple offers. After the bars were removed, Kerry and Warren Vail put in a "low-ball" offer. Wade didn't respond for more than a month, Kerry Vail said. Then, there was a call, and a deal was struck quickly: $975,000.
Next door to the congressman's old place, Kent Greene has a for-sale sign posted in front of his house. He's asking $1,650,000.
Greene said that while the price may have been "ridiculous" for Cunningham's house in 2003, his home is highly upgraded and the market has moved up.
"It's a good neighborhood," he said, "an improved house, and, let me put it this way, it's better without him here."
For this we will break our 'heh' embargo and just say, "Heh".