Thursday, August 07, 2008

Treehouse in Lafayette, CA

A drawing of a treehouse proposed by a Pixar executive in Lafayette, Calif. (Courtesy City of Lafayette)

This is one of the coolest things I've ever heard of! And it's all happening not too far from where I live!

From: The Contra Costa Times

Treehouse home proposed for Lafayette

By Paul Thissen
Contra Costa Times

Article Launched: 08/06/2008 07:12:01 PM PDT

LAFAYETTE — The three treehouses would be nestled into the branches of a mighty oak, just as in a Disney movie, with steps up the tree's trunk and a bridge to a nearby house.

A Pixar writer and director dreamed up this idea — not for his next movie, but for his family's next house.

He and his wife bought 15 acres of secluded, vacant land in Lafayette and proposed a 60-foot-tall artificial oak tree with three treehouses. A suspension bridge would link them to a new house on the adjacent hill. An elevator would connect the house to a garage 25 feet below, burrowed 80 feet into the hillside.

Senior city planner Greg Wolff said he had never seen anything like this proposal except on the big screen. One of the tree's designers has created structures for Disney, according to the city's staff report.

"It's a whimsical project," he said. "Everybody who hears about it smiles."

The proposed site, off Springhill Lane, is hidden from view by hills and evergreen trees. The driveway would be more than 500 feet long, and none of the neighbors would be able to see the tree or house, Wolff said.

Tonight, the Lafayette's Planning Commission will consider the project, proposed by Peter and Amanda Docter. Peter Docter directed "Monsters, Inc." and was a writer for numerous other Pixar films, including "Toy Story" and "WALL-E."

The Docters did not return phone or e-mail messages this week. Their architect, reached by phone Tuesday, said he was traveling and too busy to talk about the project.

The tree, 14 feet in diameter, is to have a steel frame, a stucco exterior and artificial leaves, according to the application to the city. The Docters have hired "high-end" structural engineers to design it and ensure its stability with "cutting-edge" three-dimensional modeling, Wolff said.

"It's demonstrated by Disney that this can be done," Wolff said.

One of the treehouses would be a bedroom, another would contain two bedrooms, and the third would be a common room, according to the application. Combined, they would have 871 square feet of space.

The two-story house on the hill would be 1,815 square feet, according to the application.

Contra Costa County building and fire inspectors gave the concept a preliminary OK this week, Wolff said.

No one has built anything like it, said Anna Daeuble, a designer and business manager for Seattle TreeHouse Workshop, which builds treehouses across the country in real trees and on supports.

"We've had a couple designs that have kind of gone to that outlandish (size), but it has never gone through to the building" stage, she said. "The live-in treehouse is something we don't see a lot of."

Tonight, the Planning Commission will consider whether the site selected by the Docters is the best location for a project. The only alternative mentioned in the city's staff report would be to build a house right next to the existing houses on Springhill Lane at one end of the property. The Docters paid $950,000 for the land in November, according to county records.

The application will then be considered by the Design Review Commission, the Planning Commission again and the City Council. The city's staff supports the project because of its isolated location, Wolff said. And it's not just a joke application, he said.

"If the city will allow him to do it, I have every belief that he will follow through," Wolff said.

Reach Paul Thissen at 925-943-8163 or