In the Game of Zones, you win or. . .
September 11, 2020 2:49 PM   Subscribe

You lose. George R.R. Martin's proposal to build a 7-sided castle of a library was rejected by the Santa Fe Historic Districts Review Board after objections by more than 40 neighbors.

The sticking point appears to be that the "Water Gardens Keep" (as the castle/library is called in the proposal) is planned to be 25'6" tall, just in excess of the 24' height that is allowed without a variance. The proposed structure is 2 stories, with a full basement, great room, rooftop deck, and elevator/stair tower. The property itself is a 4-acre walled compound with a house, 3 casitas, a garage and a stable, with the castle proposed for the back of the lot, just barely visible from the street, despite being set back 420 feet. This is Martin's second defeat in front of the board, after an earlier Gothic Revivial design was rejected in January. Sometimes a man's home just isn't his castle.
posted by fogovonslack (52 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
More than 40 neighbors signed a letter urging the review board to reject the project saying that a prominent castle ‘will be visible’

I mean, imagine if he built an invisible castle. You'd have upwards of three broken toes in the ER per day.
posted by selfnoise at 2:59 PM on September 11 [12 favorites]


The Zoning Board will have its due.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 3:02 PM on September 11 [2 favorites]


(2nd link, "The sticking point", is broken.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 3:08 PM on September 11


I can get pretty angsty about the tedious malevolence of most architectural review boards but in this case it's all just short-circuited by the fact that nobody needs that much house.
posted by aramaic at 3:09 PM on September 11 [15 favorites]


Hot take: your neighbors shouldn't get a say in your home design. But hot take #2: zoning code should forbid building a house that size for one person's use.

George RR Martin: build a LEED certified, subsidized apartment castle and I'll have your back.
posted by latkes at 3:39 PM on September 11 [12 favorites]


Hot take: your neighbors shouldn't get a say in your home design.

I don't know if the zoning regs are anything like what I'm used to, but with what I'm used to and if the height is what's drawing it into the variance process, if he just lowered the height of the thing by 18" the neighbors wouldn't have any say at all.
posted by LionIndex at 3:46 PM on September 11 [7 favorites]


Santa Fe is infamous for having a strict building code dating back to 1957 enforcing "Santa Fe Style". That style is actually several different things. The Pueblo style which is most familiar is the primary one but there's a couple of Territorial style variants that are more Spanish in origin. The review board is notoriously strict and occasionally makes the news when saying that some stucco is too pink or someone's window openings are too big. Having lived in Santa Fe I kind of liked the architectural restrictions. It felt a bit fake at times but at least it was distinctive and mostly tasteful.

So in that context it's pretty weird for GRRM to be all "fuck it, I'm building a medieval tower". I have to think they did their best to make it match requirements but I don't understand how they'd get it past the architecture style requirements, whatever height it is. Maybe his house is far enough out of town not be in the historic district? It's in city limits but that part of town is pretty sparse and off the tourist trail (I used to live two blocks away!). I couldn't find a map of where the historic district applies but maybe I missed it on their GIS site.
posted by Nelson at 3:48 PM on September 11 [16 favorites]


Mr. Martin wants a castle, he needs to move to some unincorporated county land without a design review board. Any grownup should have a little tingle in the back of the neck when ever your in a place where everything is basically the same, and basically beautiful. Santa Fe is NOT for the architecturally free spirited person. It is a highly ordered community who thinks how things look is IMPORTANT. Clearly, Mr. Martin up to this point has been down with that.

What a dick.

just a second too long before i hit post!
posted by Carmody'sPrize at 3:50 PM on September 11 [17 favorites]


They're probably most concerned that he'd never finish building it.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 4:00 PM on September 11 [168 favorites]


Mr. Martin: pay the iron price.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 4:03 PM on September 11 [4 favorites]


It felt a bit fake at times

As opposed to the C21st medieval castle...
posted by biffa at 4:04 PM on September 11 [2 favorites]


If Martin chooses to go to war with the zoning board over multi-family housing and density restrictions, I'm on his side. Otherwise this is just rich people fighting another rich person who happens to be eccentric.
posted by Think_Long at 4:11 PM on September 11 [2 favorites]


pay the iron price.

Viking the neighbours is likely not the best solution here either. I mean everyone likes a good blood eagle, but that's best done abroad, on a summer cruise, not at home. Traditional methods in this case would be to chase them into the sea and set their steads and barns on fire. Small difference, but tradition should be followed.

Otherwise, you might have to move to Iceland.
posted by bonehead at 4:12 PM on September 11 [2 favorites]


[removed the broken link; if OP wants to get me a working one, I'll go ahead and insert it!]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 4:17 PM on September 11


Santa Fe is NOT for the architecturally free spirited person.

He can move a couple of miles and build whatever he wants. It's not like the strict rules in that part of Santa Fe are new or a surprise.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:18 PM on September 11 [3 favorites]


I think it's going to be OK. Martin just invited the 40 neighbors over for dinner.
posted by PlusDistance at 4:24 PM on September 11 [59 favorites]


Santa Fe is often compared to Disneyland in its building code enforcement described by Nelson and Carmody'sPrize's comment above (some folks derisively call it Fanta Se). Allowing Sleeping Beauty Castle architecture would certainly go a long way in transforming the town into the Magic Kingdom Southwest.

It's too bad because he's done a lot to revitalize the town with investments in a local movie theater, Meow Wolf and now the historic local railroad (and a video about it).
posted by jabo at 4:27 PM on September 11 [3 favorites]


Hot take: your neighbors shouldn't get a say in your home design. But hot take #2: zoning code should forbid building a house that size for one person's use.

Depending on whom you consider your neighbors, those hot takes are in direct contradiction.

But I came here to hate on George Martin, whose general aesthetic I've always found moderately embarrassing, more so than the most twee Santa Fe kitsch.
posted by aspersioncast at 4:33 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


Hot take: your neighbors shouldn't get a say in your home design.

That's basically the opposite of how it works in Santa Fe.

For all that I appreciate kitschy architecture, I'm glad he got turned down for his ridiculous proposal.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:37 PM on September 11 [2 favorites]


This is dumb. There is a very old and well established process here. No one worthy of a castle runs it by a Review Board first. You gets your vassals together and you just build the thing. If Review Board doesn't like it, it's their responsibility to retain sufficient trebuchets to lay siege to it, as it is a castle owner's prerogative to retain a company knights to protect it from such.

It's basic castle etiquette. I would expect as much from a modern city but Mr. Martin really should know better.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 4:40 PM on September 11 [42 favorites]


Jeez, how can I import these guys to Cleveland. This man can't build a library, but our historic neighborhoods are filling up with hideous fucking yuppie hamster cages that are all tax abated until 2067.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 4:42 PM on September 11 [6 favorites]


George RR Martin: build a LEED certified, subsidized apartment castle and I'll have your back.

Is it even possible to build something LEED certified in Sante Fe that isn't also a suicide booth in the summer?
posted by pwnguin at 5:18 PM on September 11


Is it even possible to build something LEED certified in Sante Fe that isn't also a suicide booth in the summer?

Eh, it's not too hard -- and if your designer is any good it's actually probably going to be MORE comfortable. Santa Fe has fairly strict requirements to begin with (iirc!) so getting a LEED rating isn't that much more expensive even (I found one house that got Platinum for a total of $188/SF, new build).
posted by aramaic at 5:34 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


He should just open up a restaurant.
posted by Betty_effn_White at 5:40 PM on September 11 [2 favorites]


This is a funny story about a rich idiot, but shit like this is why we have a housing shortage.
posted by Automocar at 5:47 PM on September 11 [4 favorites]


Just build it behind a big pile of hay and wait for the statute of limitations to pass. Oh wait, that didn't work...
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 5:49 PM on September 11 [5 favorites]


He should just open up a restaurant.

Hello, I’m George RR Martin. Do you like the never finished fantasy epic, Game of Thrones? And do you like fajitas, flautas, quesadillas, and other Tex-Mex specialties? Then come on down to my new restaurant in Sedona, Arizona – George RR Martin’s Fajita Roundup. In the nineties, I dedicated myself to medieval realism, willingness to kill characters, and high born women. But now I use that same energy and dedication to bring you an affordable dining experience you’ll never forget.
posted by geoff. at 6:37 PM on September 11 [53 favorites]


I hope he planted enough Wildfire under the town to carry out a suitable revenge.
posted by Liquidwolf at 6:40 PM on September 11


George RR Martin’s Fajita Roundup

Only if he sings the songs.
posted by Saxon Kane at 6:45 PM on September 11 [5 favorites]


But now I use that same energy and dedication to bring you an affordable dining experience you’ll never forget.

The courses take longer and longer until the waiter prepares dessert himself and throws it in your face, and it’s not very good.
posted by condour75 at 6:54 PM on September 11 [16 favorites]


"But now I use that same energy and dedication to bring you an affordable dining experience you’ll never forget."
"The courses take longer and longer until the waiter prepares dessert himself and throws it in your face, and it’s not very good."


The waitresses provide you a heck of a lot of unnecessary background information on where the ingredients came from, while inexplicably topless.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:07 PM on September 11 [25 favorites]


‘Build a seven sided Library’ is fine and laudable so long as GRRM stops cribbing from pulp Westerns And starts cribbing from Umberto Eco. Tell the design review board to handle the design brief with gloves on
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:12 PM on September 11 [10 favorites]


They're probably most concerned that he'd never finish building it.

[ Slow clapping...gradually intensifying...rising from seat ]
posted by jquinby at 7:31 PM on September 11 [14 favorites]


That's basically the opposite of how it works in Santa Fe.

In fairness to Santa Fe, no one pictures this city and thinks "tits and dragons".
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 7:49 PM on September 11 [10 favorites]


You know, he is actually trying to build a library, which is a nice thing to do.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:23 PM on September 11 [3 favorites]


Okay, but what about the giant snail on the cutting boards and that frog sculpture in the real estate photos?

One of my former employees and his wife (I think mostly his wife) were obsessed with George R.R. Martin and would go park on his street and watch for him as a fun weekend activity. I was pretty sure they were going to get arrested.
posted by Missense Mutation at 8:42 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]


I can’t bring myself to care one way or another since everyone involved is so far removed from actual problems (ie housing, energy efficiency) and actual solutions to them that don’t require fundamentally restructuring society into something considerably less in thrall to capitalism.

Mostly I’m just sad because glancing through the photos of that real estate listing my first and immediate thought was, “oh, he’s planning to die here.” Every single image practically screams it. I became a GoT reader about two weeks before the third book was released and that particular entry remains one of my favorite fantasy reads because of the second half’s slow crescendo of payoff after payoff for attentive readers. The rest of the series is of highly varying quality but that part was a *lot* of sustained pages of truly sublime plot work.

And this is the first time I’ve ever started to really think...fuck, he’s probably not going to finish. I’d been holding out hope for over a decade he’d pull it off and then spend his twilight years Victarion-style sitting in his hall brooding over the banners of vanquished Internet critics...and after seeing that listing I no longer believe that’s how the story ends.
posted by Ryvar at 8:44 PM on September 11 [6 favorites]


It's a shame there's not a photo of the proposed library...
posted by bshort at 8:45 PM on September 11


There's this article, which gives a bit more detail on the history of the requests, including revisions to the original plans.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:01 PM on September 11


Hidden underground tunnel to secret mountain fortress. Done.
posted by Zed at 10:48 PM on September 11


if he just lowered the height of the thing by 18" the neighbors wouldn't have any say at all.

- Look... this is what I was asked to build. Eighteen inches. Right here, it says eighteen inches; I was given this napkin -
posted by Cardinal Fang at 11:35 PM on September 11 [8 favorites]


You know, he is actually trying to build a library, which is a nice thing to do.

Librarian here! A library built specifically in defiance of the wishes of a community it would be situated in may be not 100% good. I've worked in libraries that were donated by famous philanthropists which were, yup, useful, and functional, but also served as PR for the philanthropist's business interests at the time it was built.
posted by StarkRoads at 1:01 AM on September 12 [6 favorites]


I didn't get the impression it was a public library at all, just a personal one?
posted by stillnocturnal at 1:08 AM on September 12 [16 favorites]


OMG, y’all! Some of these comments are giving me the best belly laugh I’ve had in weeks!
posted by darkstar at 2:52 AM on September 12


Dude's lived in SF since '79. He had to know a castle wasn't going to fly, especially in a residential area. Money's a helluva drug, I guess.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:42 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]


You know, he is actually trying to build a library, which is a nice thing to do.

I think this confusion really illustrates the problem. A normal person hears "a rich person is building a library" and takes it that they are building a public facility, because that's what a normal person would build a library for.

Meanwhile what's the rich person is actually doing is building a place to hoard more books, for his own use, than he can possibly read or usefully refer to.
posted by howfar at 6:01 AM on September 12 [13 favorites]


Guys. Guys. I don't think his inability to get zoning permission for his personal private library is the only or necessarily even biggest real estate related woe that George R.R. Martin is facing. Someone sold him what clearly looks like a conference center, under false pretenses that it is a single family home??

Heck, maybe a mini faux medieval castle with rooftop deck would be a stylistic improvement, atrocious as it sounds.
posted by eviemath at 6:37 AM on September 12 [4 favorites]


After looking at the drawings in the article posted by Halloween Jack, I'd bet that if he lowered the overall height and removed the little crenelation detail from the top of the tower (might also help to make it rectangular instead of round) he'd skate right through review.
posted by LionIndex at 8:17 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]


After looking at the drawings in the article posted by Halloween Jack, I'd bet that if he lowered the overall height and removed the little crenelation detail from the top of the tower (might also help to make it rectangular instead of round) he'd skate right through review.

For the neighbors, the elevator to the roof deck seems to be a big deal as well, with fears of him using the space for big parties.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:16 AM on September 12 [2 favorites]


Right, my assumption is tied in with my earlier guess that if he lowered the building so that it didn't require a variance it would only be subject to administrative review (by the building department) rather than being open to commentary from neighbors.

Just as an example - I used to work in residential architecture in San Diego. We had one client who wanted to expand the deck at the back of their house and put in a relatively small screen wall that would give the hot tub they wanted to put out there a small measure of privacy. Only thing was, their property was right on the beach (their back property line was the mean high tide line), and in California, if you propose any significant modifications to building in a location like that you get dragged into a review process that can take 6 months at a minimum and is subject to neighborhood review. The deck expansion was large enough to trigger that requirement, and the screen wall would partially block the view of the neighbor to the north. That neighbor was politically connected and fought us all the way to getting a vote in front of City Council (in San Diego, a city of 1 million +, for a deck), where we were denied. Instead, we figured out a way to build the deck at the same proposed size that wouldn't trigger the neighborhood review and went ahead and built it anyway. I don't know if the same thing would apply here, but I'm thinking lowering the building gets you out of neighborhood review and removing the crenelation gets you past the mandatory aesthetic review by the building department.

Deck story epilogue: we had photos from our documentation of our site that showed construction going on at the neighbor's, and went through a bunch of historical photographs (largely at the same site that's responsible for the "Barbra Streisand Effect") that showed a number of alterations to that property, none of which had been permitted, and we reported him to the building department. At one point he offered to rescind his objections to our project if we stopped notifying the building department of his transgressions, but we'd already figured out our new solution by then so it didn't buy him anything. He's presumably a few thousand dollars poorer (insignificant for people in that neighborhood) and still has his view blocked for all his trouble.
posted by LionIndex at 9:44 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]


So that was a really fun revenge story but I gotta double down now on my assertion that everyone involved here is so far removed from actual problems that it is impossible to care.
posted by Ryvar at 9:55 AM on September 12 [8 favorites]


I would generally agree.
posted by LionIndex at 10:02 AM on September 12 [1 favorite]


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