Sunday, June 16, 2024


From one wealthy, AAA-rated community to the next – that is, from Cambridge to Manhattan Beach, Calif. – of course there will be parallels, mainly where you see rich residents or developers buy land to make grand property out of what once belonged to people in the middle or working classes. Some will be glad this coastal city of one-third Cambridge’s population but two-thirds its size is too unlike Cambridge to serve as a model.

Think Cambridge is high end? While the median household in Manhattan Beach was pulling in $132,752 in income between 2007-11, that figure was a mere $69,017 in Cambridge. (We have 15.1 percent of our population living in poverty, while only 3.2 percent of Manhattan Beach’s population lives in poverty.)

Think Cambridge’s residential real estate market is unstoppable? The real estate experts at Zillow give Cambridge a Home Value Index of $522,400, up 24 percent in the past five years, but the company gives Manhattan Beach an index value of $1.7 million, up 34 percent in that time.

It’s true Cambridge has the occasionally startling home design, with architect Robert Augustine’s modernist home on Grove Street being the prime example:


But architecture in Manhattan Beach (incorporated in 1912, a full 282 years after Cambridge was settled and still 66 years after it became a city) has seemingly no rules to play by. Look at this structure reminiscent of an office building, which is actually only part of a two-story home that stretches along the entire side of a block at Crest Drive and 10th Street:


But one block away, on 10th Place, there’s this remnant beach shack:


Cambridge still has plenty of modest family home stock. Its most common stand-in for Manhattan Beach’s smaller homes and even beach shacks are its triple-deckers:


It’s hard to match the ubiquity of this form of housing in Cambridge and Somerville, but the oppressive McMansioning of Manhattan Beach brings its own form of architectural repetition. For example, look at this single-family home at 1043 Ninth St.:


And then this one at 1310 11th St., less than a half-mile away:


And while Cambridge and Somerville triple-deckers can have their quirks, with the bathtub Madonnas (far more common in Somerville) being a prime example …


… these fancy Manhattan Beach homes have their own – tackier and simultaneously more pretentious – design go-tos. Notice that this Miami Vice thriller at 845 11th St. (complete with limo!) has a lawn jockey by the front door:


And so does this house at 922 11th St. – just one block east.