Dear Somerville…

Real estate is all about transition and change. We move, sometimes by necessity and sometimes by choice, in times of celebration (new relationships, growing families) and in times of loss (relationships changing, lives ending). The thing I love most about working in real estate is helping people through these transitions. I pride myself on always being there – knowledgeable, capable, and calm – a guide through a process that, even under the best circumstances, can be complicated and stressful. It’s been an honor to stand by so many of you as you celebrate, and as you say goodbye.

This spring, after twelve years of living and working in Somerville and helping others, through real estate, with life’s big transitions, I was in the midst of my own happy life changes. And while I’ve been quiet on this blog for many months, this post has been on my mind for some time:

To my dear City of Somerville, your maze of one-way streets and community gardens (Morse Kelley!), your 311 updates and festivals (so many festivals), your newly converted factories and flocked-wallpaper Victorians, thank you for being such a wonderful home to me for twelve years. I started off as the new kid on the block – a 26 year-old moving into a 3-family at the end of a dead-end street, a home that had been in the same family for 50 years. My older, more established neighbors were wary. Why had we converted the building into condos? (“I wish I could afford the whole property, Mary,” I explained.) How many cars did I have? Would I take my trash to the curb and, more importantly, bring the barrels back in the same day? And when it snowed, would I shovel? Then, with time, I became one of the older residents on the street. I told the new kids moving in every September where they could (and couldn’t) park, I closed trash bins and brought them in from the curb when they had been left out, blocking driveways. And I shoveled. I called 311 when our Terrace was plowed in, and I shoveled some more – in front of my own steps and on the sidewalk for my older neighbors. In Somerville, I became an experienced homeowner, I developed a business, and I got involved in civic life, joining advisory groups and committees, spending long hours in the evening at City Hall or in elementary school auditoriums, with other engaged, passionate citizens. Somerville was great to me.

To my Somerville people, all the dedicated, creative, smart, and funny folks I met, became friends with, and worked with, who care so deeply for their city, thank you for taking me in and teaching me so much. From you, I learned about civic engagement (Young Somerville Advisory Group), historic preservation (Historic Preservation Commission), zoning laws (Zoning Advisory Group), small business development (Somerville Local First), and the messy, frustrating, exhilarating process of trying to tackle some of the most contentious issues facing Somerville today, like affordable housing (Sustainable Neighborhoods Working Group). You are all an inspiration. I feel honored to have shared such a vibrant time in Somerville with you, and I continue to admire your work now from afar.

This spring, I moved from Somerville to Los Angeles. “LA?!” you might wonder. I’m a New Englander after all – and a two-time Illuminations Tour Trolley Leader no less! Well, dear readers, sometimes a choice in life is just so clear that it doesn’t even feel like a choice. And the next steps are so exciting that moving doesn’t feel like an ending, but a chapter of a much larger, more expansive, story. When I fell in love with a man who lives in Los Angeles, I never had any doubt about what I would do next. I packed up my condo, shipped my stuff west, and drove cross-country to live in a 600 SF cabin on a hillside overlooking a canyon a few miles outside of Downtown LA.

And as for the real estate business I built, the relationships I formed, and the specialized knowledge I compiled over years in the ‘Ville – I’ve carried it all with me, and it continues to evolve. While I no longer live in Somerville, I still work as a real estate consultant – advising clients, following the market, and making local referrals. And my approach to real estate – part historian, part urban planner – has informed how I’ve learned my new city, my new home. LA is truly a city of neighborhoods, an exciting, incongruous constellation of diverse places and people. While New England and Southern California don’t have a lot in common (on the surface), my approach to living – honed in Somerville from years of working in residential real estate and engaging in civic life – has remained the same: connect with your neighbors, walk as much as you can (even in LA!), and learn the history of a place to understand its current complexities. These truths, for me, are constant, no matter where you call home.