Huge houses with tiny families in Cayucos

February 21, 2021

Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted biweekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin. 

Franklin’s memoir, “Life On The Mississippi, 1969,” is currently on Amazon.


On the small street I have lived on for over 20 years, three new homes are being built and two more are slated for construction down below me. Each of these homes are at least two stories, cover entire lots and appear to have four to six bedrooms.

I wonder who will move into them or if anybody will move into them because in this day and age there are very few large families, except in the poorest neighborhoods in America, especially in big cities in California, where often families of five and six or more are squished together in modest two bedroom homes.

It’s different here in Cayucos, where there are hardly any big families but all kinds of huge new estate-like homes, many of which sit empty or are occupied by a retired couple with a miniature dog. Many of these homes are squarish and resemble army barracks with decks to view the ocean.

Some of the people who have these homes built don’t live here, but because of the new pandemic economy, realize they can sink their money with low interest rates into real estate and become richer while those saps in the big cities squashed into tiny homes work two crappy jobs to pay the rent so as to escape homelessness.

For years, while walking or driving along Pacific Avenue, our Cayucos Riviera (I actually lived here in a one-bedroom stand-alone cottage no longer in existence from 1993 until 1998), I’ll check out one of these almost-always-empty massive mini mansions along the sea shore and imagine myself contacting the owners and asking if I can live in one of the rooms and get hired as a caretaker, even if I am pretty worthless at home maintenance.

Thing is, if they want, I could find a few homeless people down along the seawall and rent a room or two to them and ride herd while delegating maintenance to them and collecting rent. Most of these people are quiet and just want a roof over their heads and a toilet and shower, and since just about every room in these places has an adjoining bathroom with high-end accouterments, they’d be overjoyed just to be in such a place, and also know that as a senior citizen in charge, I run a stern ship and will report them to my masters if they screw up and start partying and then some.

Just a thought. I mean, what kind of place is Cayucos if people who hang out at the seawall and surf can’t find a tiny little alcove to live in? What’s wrong with allowing a bunch of surfers hanging their wetsuits from windows and laying their surfboards and bicycles against outer walls and parking their corroded vans and jalopies in driveways and playing a little Dick Dale and the Deltones, so that Cayucos looks and sounds again like a real beach town, instead of an empty pampered no-mans-land full of limping, wheezing strollers.

This is all troubling. I live next door to a huge three-story home where a family has lived ever since I’ve been here. But now the kids are all grown and the parents are selling, and they’re the best neighbors I’ve ever had, look after me, love dogs, bring me goodies on holidays, and I’m sure whoever buys it will be either old and scared or probably level it and build a new mini mansion even though this home is not even twenty years old—and nobody will probably live in it, because large happy dysfunctional families these days are practically extinct.

It’s a lonely feeling being an old codger and having no neighbors on either side. You get to the point where you hang out on the end of your deck and start conversations with dog walkers below, or joggers, or walkers. It’s a desperate situation.

Lately, my sole source of entertainment has been the two sets of 7 and 10 -year-old twins two doors down skateboarding, bicycle riding and generally darting about nonstop while jabbering and arguing nonstop, a welcome addition to my stale, too quiet life on the deck.

They like my dog and even invite me to shoot basketballs on their hoop and have also asked me to teach them the game, which I will, because doing so is a lot better than limping and wheezing down the street with a 14-year-old limping, wheezing brown Lab.

What I’m saying, I guess, is it’s a pretty dire situation when I have little more alternatives these days than to seek the company of children, because the bars are closed and everybody around me is old and scared of the pandemic and marking time in ponderous, barracks-like mini mansions.


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LOL, great social commentary

Adam Trask

While I love your writing Dell, the last time I checked, California employed a free market economy which has made it one of the major economic drivers in the world. That includes real estate and unless you want the government to come in and dictate size and scope of new construction, you’re out of luck.

That type of regulation is precisely what they’ve done on the Italian and French Riveira where you have to conform to certain prerequisites as far as size, roofs, etc. It is, not surprisingly, the most beautiful place in the world, in my opinion. But, of course, it’s socialist and we don’t want that.

So, I’m sorry Cayucos is no longer the charming ramshackle little town it used to be, but time moves inexorably forward.


At some point we lost track of what California is all about and our current houses reflect that. Once upon a time, it was said, California was like one big summer camp in the sunshine and fresh air. Our houses were small, and spilled out — each in its own appropriate manner — into the sun and air, which made them feel large and made us feel good. Then housing became a commodity, a box, with boxes within boxes, each a prison for body and soul and cut off from the sun and air and the freshness of life. We’ve become pathetic, measuring “house” not in quality of life, but in square feet of enclosure enhanced with shiny stuff. And so it goes, each generation having less clue about what’s been lost.

Jorge Estrada

Great idea! Rent the homeless a room in your house and after a year let us know how the experiment went. In America we can spend as much on taxes as we want, your welcome.


VRBO type rentals taking the place of full time rentals formerly occupied by working families who sent their kids through school here has changed the beach town dynamic drastically for the worse over the last 25 years as well. How it remains legal to use R1 zoned properties as Motels, while most other regulations in the state continue to get tighter is odd. Why anyone would want to stand in a crowded line in Cayucos on a random Thursday in 25 mph bone chilling onshore winds with a mask on waiting to buy an expensive cookie is another recent mystery.


Work hard and maybe you can have nice things. If you had the money you would probably build your own private monstrosity of a home wherever you wanted. Poor people who don’t work hard are jealous of those that have nice things.

George Garrigues

That’s silly. Working hard does not equate with wealth. Having wealthy parents is more to the point. But I’m sure you know that. Best wishes.


Your 20 years puts you about 30 years behind me. Yes, Cayucos was undiscovered and cheap. Lots of drunks, drug addicts, and fisherman, frequently all three. Nobody paid attention to the incredible south-facing beach climate. An old house on the water for $30,000 was the going rate in the 70’s.


Cayucos will very soon look nothing like Cayucos…….The SoCal effect is in full motion. All homes will soon be remodeled to max. These rich folk have plenty of money for all of the over regulated building BS that keeps regular folks out of the game. Leaves a little taste of puke in my mouth every time I am forced drive through town


Nice article, As we age & become less & less able to do what was easy when younger we have to adapt. In my case I hire workers to paint & do repairs but do the mental thins now. Things like campaigning for those who believe in people control of the government. Those who feel hat America is a wonder full place to live and be free.