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Verwers+Petersen Villa: An Architect's Home (Part 1 - The Site)

aerial view over house site
Elfin Forest parcel

Building the family home on a virgin plot of land is the dream of many, and for architects designing and building their own home it is a very personal, challenging, and sometimes tortureous journey. I have earlier designed and constructed a home for my small family of three in San Francisco years ago, which involved the major renovation of an existing spec home in the city. Now, three years after moving back to California after many years in Denmark, I have embarked on a new project to design and build a family home on an undeveloped parcel in Elfin Forest - a secluded, semi-rural neighborhood of homes on large lots, equestrian stables and arenas, and commercial greenhouses, which is located about a ten minutes drive from the Pacific Ocean in north San Diego County.

At the time of this writing, the project is still in a permit processing phase with the public authorities. This post is intended to be the first in a series of posts which chronologically outline my personal journey as architect and homebuilder of this project a s a case study, and to provide insight into the joys and challenges of building a custom home in California.

The Community

The community of Elfin Forest is a isolated pocket of semi-rural culture within the suburban building fabric of north San Diego County., and it is populated by an eclectic group of individualists - equestrians, artists, professionals, farmers, and other private rural folk. The community is adamant about "keeping it rural". Interestingly, the historical lore of bucolic Elfin Forest includes extensive tales of paranormal activity and ghosts.

We have already met many of our coming neighbors, and were pleased to discover a number of European transplants like ourselves.

The Site

The setting for our future home is idyllic - a three acre upslope parcel surrounded by a natural chaparral preserve, with beautiful views over green hills to the east and south. The soil is rocky, and grading the site may uncover some challenges, i.e. solid bedrock! The upslope is borderline steep, which will trigger additional costs for grading and foundation work. There is an existing tree-lined asphalt driveway and landscaped gate within the property boundary along the lower end of the parcel. This road serves two other large parcels as an access easement. While I initially assumed that access to my house would be facilitated by this road, for reasons to be covered in a coming post, I now plan a separate driveway to my house site.

Among the many attractive features of my parcel is the adjacent Sage Hill Preserve, which ensures no adjacent home construction and preserves unhindered chaparral upslope views in perpetuity. From the site, views over distant hills and valleys evoke a sense of primordial California. Here is a sales video describing the undeveloped parcel.


This is not a "marginal" lot, although it does present several challenges for development. While water service is located along the main road, the water main runs along the opposite side of the road. I will need to trench through road with a lateral connection from the main to establish a service meter on my parcel. All homes in the area are connected to a septic waste treatment system, as no public sewer exists.

Power poles run along the road utility easement, but power has yet to be brought down the ground, and there is currently no available transformer.

When considering the purchase of vacant land for development it is important to consider a myriad of factors, of course including the proximity of existing utilities.

In my next post, I will illuminate my thoughts regarding development of the parcel and siting options for the house, as well as motivations for early design concepts for an architect's home - The Verwers+Petersen Villa.

Finally, please subscribe to updates regarding this ongoing project and other topics by entering your email and clicking subscribe at the bottom of this page. Thank you.

169 views2 comments


Jun 08, 2023

Hi Todd,

It will be fun to see how this process develops. Some of our clients have done major renonvations to their homes in the Bay Area, and the surprise for everyone is just how expensive the process is. Hopefully in this rural setting you will have an easier time.

Best, Richard Knight


Hi Todd, it has been a while since we met at a Home Opera event in Copenhagen. I will look forward to follow your endeavours in planning and executing your dream home in San Diego.

Kind regards

Mark Larsson


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