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Lobdell: Boat adds character to neighborhood

February 07, 2011|By William Lobdell

When I drive by Holland's home, I don't see an eyesore or a code violation. I see a unique and welcome relief to our everyday sameness that we will probably never witness again in our community. I mean, how many of these characters do we have in Newport-Mesa? I'd guess just one.

To shut Holland down would be a little like telling William Randolph Hearst that he'd better scale back his castle a bit — and hurry up and finish (yeah, I know, he didn't have any neighbors, but you get the idea).

Holland's most vocal critic is, not surprisingly, one of his neighbors. The stern of the Shawnee towers over the neighbor's backyard, less than an inch from the property line.

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I tried to be as honest with myself as possible. Would I want this massive sailboat looming over my backyard for years on end?

I looked out at my backyard. Like most people, I don't have the most dazzling view. I can see the recently installed playground equipment of our new next-door neighbor (disclosure: she happens to be Holland's married daughter, Julie Karges), and a giant dune buggy with a profanity painted on its side belonging to my neighbor in back.

Speaking for myself, I wouldn't mind having the Shawnee backed up to my house. I would enjoy watching the renovation progress, and I know Holland would patiently answer the thousands of questions my kids would put to them. Who else could say that a century-old sailboat was being restored right before their very eyes?

Holland says he works about 30 hours a week on the boat, unless he's slowed by his cancer treatments or just plain down by his battle with the city.

"It's depressing," he said. "They are trying to crush my dreams."

It's not just Holland's dreams. He's living out a fantasy for many of us.

WILLIAM LOBDELL — a former editor of the Daily Pilot and Los Angeles Times journalist — is a Costa Mesa resident who runs a boutique public relations firm. His column runs Tuesday and Friday. His e-mail is bill@cat5communications.com.

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