City Lights: The model of the future

A bit of "Sesame Street" terminology is in order here: One of these homes is not like the others.

Last week, I toured what may be the greenest house in Huntington Beach, a 2,300-square-foot property that Russell and Susan Kadota have spent the last year converting into an eco-friendly haven.

The Kadotas, who won the city's annual Environmental Award in January for their efforts, tore down most of the structure that once stood on Elizabeth Lane and rebuilt it with fluorescent lights, low-flow plumbing, cork floors, recycled tiles and more.

I don't need to give you the address because, frankly, if you drive down Elizabeth Lane, you'll probably guess the one. The Kadota residence, where Russell and Susan live with their two children and Russell's father, features a V-shaped roof with two inward-facing planes reserved for solar panels.

The panels haven't gone in yet, but just about everything else is done — and the family, after nine months in an apartment and about $420,000 invested, has moved back in.

I toured the property last summer while construction crews were busy tearing apart the original 1966 building. All that remained then was the original wood framing, which is just about the only thing that survived the renovation except for the foundation, roof and exterior walls.

When I visited the house last week, the transformation was remarkable. The house looked clean, spacious, echoey (the vaulted roof allows for rich acoustics) and awash in natural light. The family plans to make it even greener, literally, by adding a courtyard in front with a hedge or trellis.

Judging from the Environmental Award, the Kadotas' home may be the green model of the future. But considering the amount of work and money involved, will it be the future for only a select few?

Not necessarily, according to Victoria Yust, one of the project's architects. Yust's Venice-based firm, Tierra Sol y Mar, hadn't done a project in Huntington Beach before the Kadotas came calling, but it's done similar ones around Los Angeles — gutting and renovating homes in some cases and even building new eco-savvy homes on empty lots.

"Fortunately, green has become much more common now," she said. "It's something that architects should always do, but there's a much greater awareness now."

Maybe someday, the Kadota residence will be recognized as a historic home in Surf City. And in that case, the city can honor it with a plaque made out of cork.

City Editor MICHAEL MILLER can be reached at (714) 966-4617 or at

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