From Adversary to Mentor to Friend
During my nine years on the Tamalpais Design Review Board, I met numerous local small builders. At one meeting, a builder named David Coddaire appeared before the board with a house he was proposing to build on Alturas Way in Tam Valley. The board made recommendations and I suggested that the proposed house was designed backwards on the lot and that a mirror-image version would be better. David stood up, grabbed his plans, gave me an angry look, and left without saying a word.
At the next meeting, David returned with revisions to his house. To my surprise, he had reversed the house like I had suggested. Apparently, he considered my idea and realized that it made the best use of the building site.
A few weeks later, David showed up unannounced at my office in Sausalito. I had no idea what to expect. He then asked me to design two houses for him farther down on Alturas Way. He already had approval for these two houses, but he wanted to discard the approved plans and start over by having me redesign the houses. I found out later that he had visited an “open house” of a house I had designed and inquired from the realtor who the designer was. So, on some level, my reputation had preceded me.
After that, he asked me to design a house for himself and his family in Nicasio on Laurel Canyon road on some acreage he owned above the Nicasio Dam. After he had moved into his new home, he had me design a spec house a few parcels away. (pictured)
A year or so later, David told me he was planning on buying the former Maiden Lane Dog Kennel property, a ten-acre parcel in Fairfax with an investor. The idea was to subdivide the property into ten lots and for me to design ten new Craftsman houses. Part of my job was to determine where the lot lines and streets should go, while preserving a swath of land along the creek as open space. He christened the subdivision “Shadow Creek” and asked me to choose names for the streets. The original farmhouse was beyond repair, so David asked me to replicate it to preserve the character of the original farmhouse and to set the tone for the rest of the homes.
Shortly thereafter, David drove up to Petaluma with me to study old homes in and around the historic “D” Street neighborhood. We took photos of some of the best examples and he instructed me to use those as a design template to incorporate into the new homes for Shadow Creek.
Up until then, I had not considered integrating traditional Craftsman bungalow elements into home design, but it soon became my signature style.
The Shadow Creek project was a success and so he and his partners acquired another ten-lot subdivision in Tennessee Valley. Again, he put me to work designing ten Craftsman houses in what is now known as Tennessee Glen.
Unfortunately, while supervising on the Fairfax project, David suffered a mild stroke. After the Tennessee Valley project was underway, the investor used the stroke as an excuse to marginalize David’s involvement in the project. He never received his portion of the profits and went away disillusioned with the whole affair.
David moved to a big industrial space in Oakland and resumed his career as an artist and sculptor, quitting the building business once and for all. We stayed in touch over the years, as we had become friends. For a time, David rented a house from me in Vallejo. In true David fashion, one day he moved without giving me any notice.
David traveled around the country in his van to art shows displaying sculptures and paintings he had created. David had had early design training both in the US and Italy, and was already well-known in the art world.
Within a few years of returning to his work as an artist, David contracted meningitis, languishing in the hospital for a year and a half before he passed away in 2012. I still think of him often, and miss his gruff demeanor and his friendship.
I have always credited David Coddaire with inspiring me to branch out into a new direction, one that has become my signature style: traditional Craftsman home design.