2007 Street of (Materialistic) Dreams Torched

It looks like we may not get to have a 2007 Street of (Materialistic) Dreams follow-up post this year like we had for 2006, since the homes have apparently been torched.

2007 Street of Dreams Burns Down
KING 5 / AP

Several homes were destroyed by a series of fires early this morning in a Street of Dreams neighborhood near Maltby in Snohomish County.

The fires, first reported about 4 a.m., were left to burn through the morning because firefighters were concerned about possible booby traps.

More than four hours after the fires were reported, the houses continued to burn and smolder.

Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating, according to Snohomish County District Seven Chief Rick Eastman.

Eastman said one is a total loss, and two homes are substantially damaged. He says fires were set at a total of six homes.

Due to a spray-painted message left on a sheet at the scene, the immediate theory is that the “eco-terrorist” group Earth Liberation Front (ELF) is responsible for the fire.

Here’s another interesting fact worth mentioning that was left out of the Seattle Times story and tacked on to the very end of the P-I story:

None of the five showcase homes from the Street of Dreams last summer had been sold, said Grey Lundberg, a builder of one of the houses.

As some folks have pointed out in the forum discussion about these fires, whether the ELF was responsible or not, having the unsold homes burn might actually be better for the builders than having them sit unsold for who knows how long while the local housing market continues to decline. Personally, I doubt the builders are responsible, but who really knows in today’s environment.

(Associated Press, Seattle Times, 03.03.2008)
(Elizabeth M. Gillespie, Seattle P-I, 03.03.2008)

  

About The Tim

Tim Ellis is the founder of Seattle Bubble. His background in engineering and computer / internet technology, a fondness of data-based analysis of problems, and an addiction to spreadsheets all influence his perspective on the Seattle-area real estate market.

52 comments:

  1. 1
    Sniglet says:

    Whoever is responsible, this is one heck of a metaphor for what is happening in the real-estate market these days.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  2. 2
    Hot Trends says:

    It’s really terrible but unfortunatell according to Fox News no one was hurt but rebuilt will cost of $7 million.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  3. 3
    vboring says:

    yeah, sounds like insurance-motivated arson to me.

    ELF wouldn’t use spray-paint. too many toxins.

    besides, this year had an environmental theme, right? seems ELF would use their time burning SUVs and genetically engineered crops.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  4. 4
    Ubersalad says:

    ELF’s intention base on my interpretation is to punish the builders for falsely advertising GREEN.

    They should also know that none of these houses have been sold and their act would actually “benefit” the builders.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  5. 5
    Deran says:

    lol.

    Well, if they had just waited, given a few more months of Seattle’s housing bubble’s flaming collapse, these houses would have ended up squatter settlements anyway!

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  6. 6
    DeeJayK says:

    In looking back at your post on the 2006 SOD, one of those properties is likely to be back on the market soon. “Verandah Bay” is apparently home to Sonics forward Chris Wilcox (the address on the property record belongs to a sports management outfit). I would presume that he’ll sell the house when the team moves to OK City.

    It might be interesting to track this property to see the “bubble”s impact on the high end.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  7. 7

    One of the builders is currently on the radio with Dori Monsen @ Kiro 710 AM.

    …says the insurance will cover the cost of construction but not the land.
    He’s estimating that he will be out 5 million and that this will not be a sustainable hit for him.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  8. 8
    budbrad says:

    Cost of doing business…. Next topic?

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  9. 9

    Being “green” buildings and all, you’d think even the hit would be sustainable.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  10. 10
  11. 11
    Buceri says:

    One more thing about the article I linked. Notice it says “gas was 27 cents”, so today gas is about 11 times that. Would you imagine that house for $50K???

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  12. 12
    Olaf says:

    If you listen carefully to what the Sheriff’s Dept and the federal investigators on the scene are saying, it’s clear that they are VERY skeptical of the ELF banner. The ATF agent on the scene repeatedly said it has yet to be established whether the banner is even “real.” Obviously, it’s a real banner, but I think it’s clear he’s not jumping to conclusions about who put it there.

    Ten members of ELF were sentenced to Federal prison terms last year. There haven’t been any ELF incidents for several years. It seems really unlikely that they suddenly snapped back into action, just in time to torch some McMansions that have been stuck on the market since last summer (since teaser-rate jumbo loans dried up).

    Also: the builders were on the scene immediately — WITH free-lance P.R. representatives — by 8 a.m. God knows I don’t have MY P.R. rep on standby like that. If I had a P.R. rep.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  13. 13
    Alan says:

    Would ELF really have used aerosol spray paint cans to make their signs?

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  14. 14
    deeplennon says:

    Apparently a fifth home, the only one of the five with a buyer, had explosives inside that failed to ignite.

    Slog link with comments:

    http://slog.thestranger.com/2008/03/street_of_dreams

    PI story:

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/353498_arson04.html

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  15. 15
    Affluent Bitter Renter says:

    “Ten members of ELF were sentenced to Federal prison terms last year. There haven’t been any ELF incidents for several years. It seems really unlikely that they suddenly snapped back into action, just in time to torch some McMansions that have been stuck on the market since last summer (since teaser-rate jumbo loans dried up).”

    Well, a jury in Tacoma is currently deliberating in the Brianna Walters trial, a person accused of assisting in a number of ELF actions a number of years back. The arson would be a way of showing that ELF is still around, despite the prosecutions – make a quick hit in Snohomish County, and then scurry back to Olympia.

    If the arson was done by RE types, they had an excellent sense of timing in making it look like it was related to the trial.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  16. 16
    uptown says:

    “Lundberg said the homes had video-surveillance systems, but the one at his property had been turned off, since it was felt it wasn’t necessary.”

    hmmm…

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  17. 17
    local Realitor says:

    Actually, ELF claimed to have been behind a couple large houses under construction that were partially torched a couple years ago on Inglewood Hill Road in Sammamish.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  18. 18
    Olaf says:

    Yeah… I guess I’m reluctant to believe the builders really had anything to do with this. But there’s reason enough for investigators to consider that possibility.

    The thing about ELF is that it’s so decentralized… really, anybody can be ELF. Just start a fire for environmental reasons and — presto — you’re ELF. It could just as easily have been some local residents who were pissed off about losing their lawsuit to protect the local salmon stream and wetlands a couple of years ago.

    As to the coincidental timing with the trial in Tacoma: hell, anybody can read the newspaper. ELF, real estate guys, copycats. If it was a real estate guy or a copycat, that trial might have INSPIRED this.

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  19. 19
    Ubersalad says:

    When was the last time you heard about ELF, other than the recent trial about something they did 10+ years ago? Why would they burn down houses that have no significance other than being overpriced and unsold?

    The intent behind this just doesn’t make any sense…

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  20. 20
    David McManus says:

    Why would they burn down houses that have no significance other than being overpriced and unsold?

    Because they’re environmentalist nutjobs?

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  21. 21
    Affluent Bitter Renter says:

    “The thing about ELF is that it’s so decentralized… really, anybody can be ELF. Just start a fire for environmental reasons and — presto — you’re ELF. It could just as easily have been some local residents who were pissed off about losing their lawsuit to protect the local salmon stream and wetlands a couple of years ago.”

    The decentralization meme is what ELF would like you to think – that random people just start committing arsons after reading EarthFirst! magazine without ever talking to a current ELF member, that existing ELF cells never take on new recruits, yadda, yadda, yadda. In fact, as recent prosecutions have indicated, the spate of arsons a few years ago in the Northwest was the act of a rather organized organization (which is why it was so easy to roll up the organization after the feds flipped a few people). To get to the point of committing arson, and to be trained enough to do it in a fairly sophisticated fashion, requires being in a milieu that encourages that sort of behavior for quite a while. Torching six houses at the same time is not something the neighbors do because they are pissed off by a land use decision.

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  22. 22
    Ubersalad says:

    why would they come out and burn these houses when they have been off radar for so long?

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  23. 23
    Markor says:

    Torching six houses at the same time is not something the neighbors do because they are pissed off by a land use decision.

    No, but it’s something the builder might do. He’s out the land, he says? Did the land get demolished too?

    If people who fancy themselves to be ELF arsonists really did this, their motivation was clear from the sign they left: they don’t want oversized houses, esp. advertised-as-green oversized houses, in so-called rural cluster developments. It’s not like it’s a doomed strategy. At one time European Americans didn’t want Native Americans living & pooping on “their” property, so they killed them. It worked. Is this arson going to raise insurance rates on rural McMansions? Sure it is. Gonna be harder to build & sell them now.

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  24. 24
    Alan says:

    Were all of those houses owned by the same person?

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  25. 25
    Shawn says:

    We all want to change the world
    But when you talk about destruction
    Don’t you know that you can count me out

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  26. 26
    Olaf says:

    It’s true that the Feds managed to roll up ten ELF members by getting one to flip (the notorious “Jake,” a heroin addict who wore a wire). So yeah, maybe they’re not as decentralized as they make themselves out to be. But if that’s the case, it seems to be another argument for this NOT being ELF. Or at least, that it’s not the original ELF.

    But what’s really interesting (to a Bubblehead like me) is that the Street of Dreams houses — the very creme de la creme of suburban development — just ain’t selling.

    (To answer a Alan’s question: The houses were owned by a variety of builders; the burned houses were not owned by the same person. There was one land developer, however. Don’t know if he still owns a stake.)

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  27. 27
    Ray Pepper says:

    Good LORD!….Yes, I agree Nut, jobs….As long as nobody is physically injured…….Luckily 500 Realty decided against those listings or we would have been out 85.00 on each sign post that got baked. Not to mention the melting away of our $3.20 corex signs.

    WHEW……….

    http://www.500Realty.net

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  28. 28
    Affluent Bitter Renter says:

    The strongest argument that ELF didn’t do it is radical environmentalists around here now **know** what happens to you when you do stuff like this and get caught (now, or years later), thanks to the convictions. (And they have also discovered that when a close friend of yours is looking at a decade-plus in prison, odds are they’ll flip to get a better deal from the prosecutors – kind of hard to maintain a secret ELF cell under those conditions.)

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  29. 29
    Runs With Scissors says:

    Earth Liberation Front? How do you liberate the Earth from the Sun? It’s been a slave to its orbit for sometime, and I am not quite sure how to get it away???????

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  30. 30

    Is it just one elf who is accused of this, or a whole gang of fire luvin elves?

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  31. 31
    Jess-Pumpkin says:

    No reason not to believe this was ELF — their critical thinking and reasoning skills are severely lacking. I try to be environmentally conscious, I think probably many people do these days, but the ELF-type folks have some serious issues. I lived across the street from the UW horticulture center when they burned it in 2001 — they torched it because they assumed the profs were making strange mutant hybrid trees when they couldn’t have been further from the truth (they destroyed years of research a scholar had collected to SAVE trees). Burn first, ask questions later. Yeah, it’s a protest, man!

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  32. 32
    b says:

    I miss the good old days when bored trust fund kids would follow the Grateful Dead or go to Europe to bum around.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  33. 33
    disbelief says:

    The fact that these expensive homes have been sitting unsold in a market that does not show a hope of recovery any time soon definitely gives reason for pause.
    Due to the circumstances the police will certainly have their suspicions also. My personal “gut” feeling is that it is more probable that the builders torched these houses. If so, it would be a delicious irony if the props they manufactured (spray painting, banners, etc) are the clues that lead to their fraud being found out.

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  34. 34
    Cougar says:

    I can’t believe in this McMansion Neighborhood there were no security systems in place. Living in Woodinville for 20 years every neighbor around me had a state of the art security system that if tampered with triggered it off to the police and set off an extremely loud alarm. If the neighbor heard the explosions go off in the homes, she also would have heard a loud alarm. Interesting the fire department said the water pressure was not enough in the area to sustain such a fire. I’m glad I don’t own a McMansion there! Let’s see with all of our high tech identification tools if they can trace anything with the explosive that failed. I would think ELF would have made more of a statement during construction, not 7 months later.

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  35. 35
    b says:

    Cougar –

    Not only that, but one would assume the Street of Dreams would have security patrols at night. Leaving huge mansions sitting vacant with no security system or security patrol seems suspicious too me. I am sure some meth addicts would have wished they knew about that, they’d be the kings of scrap copper.

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  36. 36
    Alan says:

    I wonder how much burned copper is in the rubble.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  37. 37
    AndyMiami says:

    very simple, lots of folks with negative equity (which has yet to be felt in Seattle) will walk away from being slaves to the banks. So, builders cannot walk away..so they do the “BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE”..great Talking Heads album…people in Seattle are still in denial…lot’s have borrowed on artificial equity to pay for their cars, no matter what they drive as long as the cars are new…..

    I hope that Seattle takes a lead in the new trend where LESS IS MORE…this will happen as equities and bonds…along with home values fall MUCH MORE than anyone projects…THE CONSUMER IN THIS COUNTRY HAS BEEN LBO’d…now comes the work out, which will takes years, and most adults, all on legal drugs from BIG PHARMA, will still be in denial…and when panic strikes, this city finally realizes the WE ARE NOT IMMUNE FROM THE BUBBLES.. the rest of the country will be in a recovery…by the time the SEATTLE SHEEP figure out what has happened…people in this city ARE SO REMOVED..of course not TIM’s FLOCK..

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  38. 38
    AndyMiami says:

    BURNING DOWN THE HOUSE…classic video from David Burns and the Talking Heads…now there is true talent…enjoy

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ozc70JPGRMQ

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  39. 39
    AndyMiami says:

    So, did David Burns predict today’s materialistic housing phenomena with another classic..SAME AS IT EVER WAS…

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=EYbUCvz1LYE

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  40. 40
    AndyMiami says:

    and at last..we are all re born to reality…the last one..promise, but still a classic

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=QmEBlrRRMBQ

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  41. 41
    Catherine D. says:

    http://www.schlockmercenary.com/d/20040302.html

    An old Schlock Mercenary strip does the math . . .

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  42. 42
    Affluent Bitter Renter says:

    David Byrne, not David Burns…

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  43. 43
    AndyMiami says:

    used Burns in terms of burning down homes…

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  44. 44
    old timer says:

    All I can say is how amazed I was at how quickly and completely these state of the art homes were demolished.
    Is there no fire code about materials?
    1 hour walls, sprinklers somewhere?
    Hmm, for $1.5 to $2.0 mil I’d expect better.

    More important to the Housing Bubble IMO, where is the thread on Boeing and it’s lost tankers?

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  45. 45
    Ken Mott says:

    One video system was off at one house and an alarm was off at another.

    Insurance scam.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  46. 46
    biliruben says:

    I’m laying odds:

    60% chance builder.
    30% chance ELF.
    10% chance a disgruntled Meshugy, angry over the precipitous drop of his Zestimate.

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  47. 47
    TJ_98370 says:

    Why Boeing Lost

    Mission capability: The teams tied on most measures, but Air Force reviewers thought Northrop offered superior refueling and airlift capacity at certain ranges.

    Proposal risk: The competitors matched in this area but only after Boeing agreed to lengthen its development schedule. The rescheduling added cost to the Boeing proposal.

    Past performance: Northrop had higher ratings than Boeing on programs relevant to the tanker competition, and its subcontractors were more highly rated.

    Cost: Boeing failed to adequately explain its cost projections.

    Integrated assessment: When the planes were compared in a wartime scenario, it was determined that Northrop’s proposal could accomplish certain missions with fewer planes than Boeing’s.

    SOURCE: Lexington Institute

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  48. 48
    biliruben says:

    What sort of carrying costs were the builders jammed with on their CRE loan?

    Rate this comment: Thumb up 0

  49. 49
    redmondjp says:

    Old timer,

    Good point on the (lack of) fire sprinklers!

    One would think that for TWO POINT FOUR million dollars, the builder could pony up a few grand for a residential sprinkler system (which I see them installing more and more on these new-house shows on TV). In fact, many have been lobbying hard to change the codes to require all new construction to have sprinklers. Makes sense to me, although I have some serious reservations about the systems which use miles of plastic piping which is filled with pressurized cold water–the potential for leaks, as well as freezing issues in case of loss of building heat, are definite concerns.

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  50. 50
    B&W NIkes says:

    Wow an organization, uh ideology rather, without any working members, parts, or infrastructure but a rather neato identity reinforced by the media. Now how are we going to find those who, uh, who, uh, uh, those evil-doers?

    Though, it did make the BBC. The word “Seattle” was spoken repeatedly in the same sentence as “Street of Dreams” complimented with images of burning houses as broadcast to televisions all across the world.

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  51. 51
    mike2 says:

    Who would have guessed that it was this easy to torch 5 show homes? This has to he pretty hard on the current residents sense of security. The people in these communities tend to be insular, and the separation of the homes themselves no doubt adds to the risk that these activities can be carried out undetected.

    It will be interesting to see if this has any effect on resales over the next few months, and the design (and location) decisions made for future Street of Dreams subdivisions.

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  52. 52
    Runs With Scissors says:

    I have heard the ELF called a domestic terrorist group, as well as the fact the FBI is investigating this as an act of domestic terrorism. I know my insurance policy specifically excludes damages or loss due to an act of terrorism so it will be interesting to see how this pans out!!!

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