I am most grateful to my 17-year-old granddaughter, Mischa Minkler, because if it weren’t for her, I wouldn’t be living in Berkeley today.
When she was born, I was enjoying life in Las Vegas while her mom (my daughter Deborah) and her dad, Doug Minkler, were living in Richmond. Now, as a proud grandma, I began flying in every month to watch her grow and even witnessed her first step!
Since both parents were politically oriented artists, they dreamed of moving to Berkeley, but with Berkeley’s real estate market at a peak, and affordable rentals nonexistent, they felt it was the Impossible Dream. But Deborah told her real-estate agent to keep looking anyway.
And then, Eureka! They found something! She called me immediately with the good news. She had found this big house in downtown Berkeley. And what made it special was its three empty apartments. Because of rent control, they were of no interest to investors or potential landlords and the house had been siting, unoccupied, for over a year. It was only worthwhile for a family who could use all three apartments.
“And we might be that family, Mom,” she said breathlessly, “You’ve got to see it. If we all buy it together, we can sell our house and manage the down payment, and I’m sure you can raise your third. You can have one of the downstairs apartments, Doug and I will use the other downstairs apartment as our studio, and we’ll live upstairs. What do you say?”
I said, “Wow! I’ll come out and take a look.”
I flew to Oakland the next day, met the real estate agent, and while I didn’t immediately fall in love with the funky old house on the tree-lined street, I could see possibilities. However, I had one big question. “Remember, Debbie, I don’t drive. Even in Las Vegas, there’s a bus stop at my door. Where’s the nearest bus?”
“Don’t worry, Mom,” she said with a big grin, as we walked to University and up to Shattuck, where I saw different AC Transit busses going in all directions. And two blocks over was the Berkeley BART station. What more could I ask?
And so, we bought the house. I’ve watched it double in value, I’ve watched Mischa grow tall and beautiful, and I’ve lived, surrounded by family and friends happily ever after.