A young man and his mother pleaded with the during the public comments portion of the meeting Tuesday night, asking them to reconsider the recent decision not to allow residents to change their house addresses to remove the perceived stigma relating to the number four.
The young man made a passionate plea, explaining that his family recently experienced some financial issues, forcing them to sell their home. He said they have already reduced the price by a whopping $300,000 and are still unable to find a buyer as they grow ever more desperate.
Their home's street address number is 44.
The council was considering a request by Councilman Robert Harbicht to allow homeowners to change their numbers so long as they remained in numerical order with homes on each side of them and so long as they didn’t change more than the final digit.
One of Arcadia’s top real estate agents, Imy Dulake, is of Korean heritage and explained that because the word “four” sounds like the Chinese word for “death,” Chinese buyers will not buy homes that carry that number.
Regardless of their race or nationality, it creates a problem for everyone, from the homeowner to the realty agent to neighboring homeowners, whose home prices become devalued when an adjacent house with a “four” on it sells well below market value.
Dulake notes many instances of Americans changing numbers due to superstitions, such as hotels not having a 13th floor, and Ronald Reagan was famously granted approval to change his home number because he believed 666 was the Biblical mark of the devil.
In the case of the number “four,” it is not even a superstition, but rather a word that sounds like "death." I wonder how many Americans would be happy if there house was identified as “Death Death Death” or "One Death."
A check of Zillow.com shows that the mother and son's home is on the market for $1.425 million. The large 19,000 square-foot lot size is identical to the house next door, with a house address number of 52, which sold last month for $1.7 mil.
Both homes have three bedrooms and three baths, though the one at 52 is 2,700 square feet, compared to the smaller 2,200 square foot home belonging to the son and his mother.
Most likely, the size of the home is irrelevant, since homes of that size on a lot that large are typically torn down and replaced with mansions of 6,000 square feet or larger.
Most proponents of allowing the change would happily accept whatever fee the city would impose to cover any and all costs to make the change. Numbers discussed were $600-$1,500 and could even be a premium charge of $5,000 for the service, the latter of which is not legal (cities cannot charge more than the actual costs for services.)
But the majority of the council rebuffed consideration of a change on the grounds that it sets a bad precedent and that home addresses should not be changed because of cultural issues.
I somewhat agree that this is probably not a good reason on its own. But in the case of the young man and his mother with houses on each side of their home numbered 52 and 36, all they are asking is to change their house number to 38 or 50, which would maintain the even numbers and consecutive home numbers on their side of the street. Heck, even losing one of the two “4’s” would be a little better–40, 42, 46 or 48.
Cultural issues aside, I have to agree with Harbicht that it’s hard to find a downside to simply allowing the change of a digit or two on a house–all costs paid by the homeowner–which would have the enormous upside benefit to the homeowners and their neighbors to retain the value of their homes.
Higher sale prices also mean higher property taxes, which is good for all of us in Arcadia.
Mayor Gary Kovacic told the young man and his mother that Harbicht can choose to raise the issue again, but it will require three votes from the five-member council to even reconsider it, three of whom were strongly opposed to it last time.
Something tells me this could become an election issue during the next City Council campaign of January-April 2012.
Read more by Scott Hetttrick at ArcadiasBest.com.