Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Urban infill and higher density sound like a good idea until you live the dream. Grr.

Remember my bad neighbors who moved away? Another bad neighbor just moved into the apartment next door. (You can see their unit, 10 feet away from my townhouse, in the photograph at bad neighbors.)

When we moved in, the apartments next door were reasonable enough that families with kids could afford to live in the larger units and singles lived in the smaller units without roommates. Now that rents have more than doubled, 3-4 singles pile into each apartment, each bringing their own car, or even 2 cars apiece. (One single owns 3 cars, but then another family in a 2 bedroom unit owns 7 cars.) Anyway, this is not a post about parking.

This is about neighborliness.

I was not happy to come home from the Lair to find glass bottles and beer cans in our side yard. Who throws bottles and cans over a six foot fence? I was so mad, I called the police and a guy came from next door to apologize.

Then lit cigarette butts started coming over the fence. What's up with that? Our clothesline is on the other side of that fence. He wants to set our laundry on fire now, too?

The past couple of weeks, it has been unbearable. Their patio is 5 feet to the west of our home. We don't have air conditioning. In the summer, we open our windows to catch the ocean breeze (natural a/c). The guy smokes outside. But does he smoke to the west of his apartment? Noooo. That would cause the smoke to blow into his own apartment. That's why he smokes downwind of his apartment. Upwind from mine.

Whenever we get a lungful, we have to scramble and close all the windows quickly. It's like a fire drill. One of us runs upstairs to get all the upstairs windows while the other one shuts the downstairs ones. It is especially hard when only one of us is at home.

Monday, I was working at the potting bench in the side yard when he lit up. I yelled over the fence if he would mind smoking on the other side of his house so it doesn't blow into ours. He didn't say a word and just finished his cigarette. It it interesting to note that, when he smokes in his patio, he closes his patio door. Maybe I should have tried to ask him to give us fair warning so we can also have a chance to close our doors and windows?

Today, I was so mad, I went over there and spoke to his roommate, the one who apologized for the party that got out of hand. The roommate said that the smoker is a new roommate that just moved here from Europe. OH. NO.

I asked if he would be living here short-term. No such luck. He will be living and smoking here for a very long time. NO! NO! NO!

The backstory:
I have severe asthma and lymphocytes that are very sensitive to Volatile Organic Compounds. Cigarette smoke is full of VOCs.

[I am just one of the lucky ones that inherited this "canary in a gold mine" genetic ability to be sickened by VOCs at much lower concentrations than the general public. My immunologist says this genetic trait is very beneficial for the population as a whole, but I say it sucks to be the canary.]

We bought this townhouse because we were smoked out of a condo by a chain smoking next door neighbor. When we looked at the place and signed the lease, she was at the hospital, recovering from a stroke. She came home, and started puffing away immediately. We tried sealing the place up with tricks like tape over the electrical outlets on our adjoining walls. But, we just couldn't keep our windows closed during the summer. It was too hot. And she liked to smoke on her balcony during the summer.

Before that, we were smoked out of an affordable ocean view apartment by a cigar smoker. (Notice a pattern?) He would go out on his balcony, close his window so that the smoke doesn't blow into his apartment, and smoke a cigar while gazing at the ocean. That sounds lovely, only he didn't warn anyone else in the complex. Everyone has their windows open for the ocean breeze and sounds. Of course, we had no warning and our apartments filled with cigar smoke as the ocean breeze blew the smoke right into the open windows.

Grr. I can't afford to move again. Now, how do I retrain this bad neighbor?


  1. Ugh, how frustrating, Grace. The only suggestion I would have is to get an A/C (which unfortunately, would aid to the global warming and energy problems). But A/Cs are great for improving indoor air quality. Hope you are able to get through to this neighbor. People are so inconsiderate sometimes.

  2. I thought about your neighbor when we had to shut off our "natural a/c" due to skunks last night. I don't know who is less likely to cooperate--your neighbors or our family of skunks (now featuring a new baby skunk, which would be cute if it wasn't so smelly).

  3. We had a family of skunks under our house in Boulder.

    We tried loud rock music because we heard they didn't like that. It didn't work because we weren't willing to live with music that loud.

    Then my roommate poured ammonia into their next one morning (after the rest of us left the house for the day). The skunk family left, and the smell dissipated by the time we came home in the evening.

    I wonder if the skunks were just biding their time until the baby skunk was big enough to move.