Duke's Real Estate and Neighborhood

We've collected here a few snapshots of Randy "Duke" Cunningham's Rancho Santa Fe home and some others in his neighborhood. I took these photos June 25, 2005, and the commentary reflects my own observations. I am not a real estate agent, nor should I try to impersonate one on the Web.

Political/Moral Context: Randy Cunningham is the Representative for California's 50th Congressional District and sits on both the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House of Reps Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. These positions of public trust give him significant influence over the awarding of military contracts, and he has recently come under suspicion (and FBI investigation) for his (personally highly lucrative) role in a couple of real estate deals. Government officials don't have to report their residences on financial disclosure forms, but they are prohibited from receiving more or paying less than fair market value in their financial transactions. If his huge profits from real estate deals influenced him to award contracts to his financial benefactors, then not only is he repugnantly corrupt, but it is highly likely that our troops and intelligence services are getting less than the best equipment and support for their missions. You can learn lots more on this subject from the archives of the San Diego Union-Tribune or from the thorough reporting of moderate-Democratic blogger Joshua Marshall in his Talking Points Memo or his article “Cunningham issue raises questions of war profiteering.”

Real Estate Context: This area of Rancho Santa Fe consists mostly of large, multi-acre plots situated in rolling terrain with lots of horse stables, riding areas, etc. A large (9-foot diag?) sign at the foot of the street contains a NIMBY protestation of how poor a site this neighborhood would be for a school. One recent San Diego-savvy visitor to this site urges me to inform you that Rancho Santa Fe is "basically the wealthiest area in San Diego," surpassing even Del Mar and La Jolla. [1]

You can click on any of the pictures below to see a larger (1024x768) version of the same shot. And if you'd like, you can send me feedback.

Duke's own Mansion

This is a view of Duke's spread, taken from near the end of his 200-foot (at least) driveway. It's located at 7094 Via del Charro in Rancho Santa Fe, California. As you can see, this humble dwelling sits atop a local hill. What you can't see is that this is easily the highest hill in the immediate area (at least the surrounding square mile or two) and commands the best views. Duke paid a major campaign donor (currently indicted on felony fraud charges) $2.55 million for this mansion in December 2003.
This telephoto shot gives you a better idea of the size and style of our friend's simple digs (when he's not slumming it on a yacht subsidized by a defense contractor/friend who is also trolling for military contracts). What you lose in this shot, as in all of them, is the sense of just how huge and gorgeous a plot the house sits on, atop a large hill overlooking the entire valley across on the other side and to the right.
This shot, taken from Duke's next-door neighbor's driveway, tries to give some idea of the lay of the land and the size of the plot our humble public servant calls home. I don't know the point of the fence going up the median stripe of the house, but don't be fooled into imagining that the land on both sides isn't our Congressman's. If you're interested, here's a satellite view with the lot outlined.

A much less desirable plot down the road (for nearly the same price)

A couple weeks after Duke paid $2.55 million for his palatial spread, someone else paid $2.25 million for what appears to have been a small "tear down" property down the street. This lot shares a 50-foot driveway with two other small lots. The original structure (now torn down) on this lot was less than 40% the size of Duke's bungalow, and the lot appears to be both much smaller and much less ideally placed.
As you can see from these three photos, the primary structure on this lot is gone, leaving only a concrete slab. I'm guessing that the remaining structure is a set of horse stalls, but I'm not sure. The lot is now fenced completely closed.
What you can't see in these shots is that this lot lies at pretty much the lowest point in the surrounding area, and it enjoys no desirable views at all (unless you groove on trying to descry the local congressman's house up the hill).

Another local house for sale NOW!

So, you wanna move into the neighborhood? This house just up the road from Duke's is on the market now, eighteen months after Duke's December 2003 deal, for a mere $5 million or so. It's a nice place, too. Perhaps not as imposing as Duke's, being somewhat more hidden rather than grandly surmounting the main hill in the area, but it has a nice 120-degree view of the valley shown in the next shot. Viewed from the street, neither the lot nor the home looks as large, but it's hard to say. The listing on the Web does make it look pretty expansive, too.
Here's a sense of the view you can enjoy for your small investment. You're not especially high up, but the surrounding area on at least two sides is pretty low and flat. Duke's view is probably better, as his place is higher than its surroundings on all sides.

[1] In fact it appears to be the second or third ritziest zip code in the country. Visit http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7646178 or http://www.adage.com/images/random/zips05_50topb.xls