Throughout the years of their real estate careers, Judith Glass and Sheila
Sabine have met many people who have lived in their homes a long time and
suddenly realize that their residences are requiring too much upkeep and they no
longer want the responsibility. Although many people feel this way, they are
often paralyzed and overwhelmed by the idea of actually making a move. One brave
couple, Mary Spletter and Jeff Robbins, decided to take the plunge and begin the
process of scaling down. For over 30 years, they had lived in their beautiful
Claremont residence - a three-story home with enchanting gardens, and an easy
walk to Star Grocery, College Ave. and the Claremont Hotel. For health reasons,
they faced the truth - life was not going to get easier. Negotiating all the
stairs and maintaining the gardens had become too much to handle.
Mary had also just gone through the death of her
father who had left the entire responsibility of clearing his home and
belongings to his children. Mary did not want to do the same thing. After 31 one
years of accumulation, Mary realized that she did not need all her belongings.
She looked at simplifying as not just the clearing of clutter – it was a major
act of freedom!
Jeff and Mary actively began their search for the
next property. They were clear that they wanted to stay in Alameda County and
wanted to live on one level. Also, Mary did not want a small bungalow so she
began to broaden her search. Mary had jogged around Lake Merritt years ago and
was drawn to that area. She thought the older condo buildings would have more
space as opposed to the newer, splashier buildings that have started to appear
on the Oakland landscape.
Mary and Jeff were attracted to a unit in the
historic Bellevue Staten. It was a “short sale”- a great value but needed a lot
of work. Purely by chance, another unit in the building became available with
wonderful views, polished hardwood floors, high ceilings, fireplace with ornate
mantle, and had a sophisticated remodeled kitchen. They jumped on it. To make it
feel like their own, they decided to change the paint colors and worked closely
with local decorator, William Anderson, for advice on color choices,
furnishings, rugs, paintings and a myriad of design details. Mary did not want
to make critical mistakes - she wanted to be a smart buyer with strategic
furnishings. She was very resourceful visiting local antique stores and Harvey
Clar, the Oakland auction house, where she found some real treasures.
Mary says that there is a certain snob appeal
about living in Berkeley as opposed to moving to Oakland. That attitude quickly
changed when her friends who visited her were in awe of the views offered by
Lake Merritt - the boats, childrens’ playgrounds, a bird sanctuary – creating a
feeling not unlike Central Park. In addition, she can walk up the street to the
elegant private Bellevue Club for her exercise classes, swimming, meals, and
many social activities.
Indeed, the Bellevue-Staten has long been
recognized as one of the most beautiful buildings in the East Bay. In 1991 it
was added to the National Registry of Historic Places. It was designed by H.C.
Bauman in 1928 to include a full service restaurant and servants’ quarters. It
was the first large building on the West Coast to be constructed out of steel.
It is an intricate blend of Spanish Colonial and Art Deco design. It has fifteen
floors of red brick, the walls are decorated with Spanish Baroque, and the
two-story high lobby is very impressive with its ornately painted interior and
bronze elevator doors. It has a 24/7 doorman and valet parking.
The building is directly opposite Lake Merritt-
another famous East Bay site. The Lake is actually a very large estuary that was
declared the first U.S. official wildlife refuge in 1870. It continually
attracts hundreds of Canada geese, herons, egrets, cormorants, ducks, pelicans
and an occasional swan. At nite, the lake takes on a magical appearance with its
3,400 pearly bulbs called “the necklace of lights” and 126 lampposts encircling
the shiny water.
Jeff and Mary are very encouraged to see growth
all around them including some wonderful new hot restaurants like The Boathouse,
Side Bar, Lake Chalet, and Pican. It’s also an easy walk to Trader Joes, Whole
Foods and the Saturday Farmer’s Market. Soon there will be a shuttle service
from Jack London Square all the way up to Grand Ave.
In summary, Jeff and Mary believe they have found
what they were looking for. They have gracious and easy living in an interesting
area where they do not feel isolated. They do not have to navigate freeways and
are within walking distance to many social events. Mary has had the time to
write her first play about Julia Morgan, which has been very well received in
the world of theater. Mary has also developed a new perspective on possessions.
She says they are very transitory- “Let go of them and let others enjoy them.
You can’t take it with you - enjoy what you have now.”
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