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1963, 6584 Saroni Dr.

1963 Saroni Dr. groundbreaking

In 1962 we decided the E15th St. house wasn’t big enough for our budding family, so we found a vacant lot in the Montclair District of the Oakland Hills. The lot cost $4000 which we bought with Darlene’s personal savings. At the time my landscape architectural firm, Ribera & Sue was in partnership with Mal Stern, an architect who had just completed his own do-it-yourself house. He showed me how to get a loan, conceptually designed our house on the difficult lot and helped me to prepare the  building permit drawings. So, using my mom’s E 15 st. house as collateral, we obtained a loan from Barclay’s Bank, co-signed by my mother, to finance the construction. Bankers know well how to exact a pound of flesh, so I was much obligated to make the project successful.

1963_Saroni Home 07

Topping off

I hired my high school classmate, Dick Wong, and using students from UC, we built the 3000 sf 3 story house in 1½ years of weekends and evenings and did it within budget. We had envisioned the funds at least making the top floor liveable, after which we would move in and finish the rest later. Fortunately, the loan finished all three levels as well as the landscape work. The only thing we lacked were carpets. For a while we lived on the plywood subfloors some of which were covered with cork tile.

In 1964, we moved into Montclair, a white middle class neighborhood. With the move, our children became immersed with their white schools and friends, becoming considerably isolated from Chinatown and Chinese. These factors have influenced their lives in a multitude of ways, in some ways good, and in other ways, not so good.

1969, Sues & Ongs at Saroni Dr.

1969, Sues & Ongs at Saroni Dr.


  • Draft on smart friend’s wisdom. If they’ve been there and done that, get ahead by leveraging their experiences.
  • Old-fashioned “barn-raising” is a great way to bootstrap your dreams.
  • Anything you do in life has it’s pros & cons.

4 Responses to “How to Bootstrap Your Dreams: 6584 Saroni Dr., Oakland”

  1. sjsue says:

    That was a super great house and we enjoyed it for years! And Dick Wong was my hero… he gave me my first book at 3 years old–The Little Train That Could… thx Dick!

  2. johnsue says:

    I went dancing and to church, as the doctor thought I was depressed, and so prescribed activities to counteract my loneliness and gave me anti depression pills.

    The first pill made me violently sick. I was wiped out for a whole day. That pill cured me. At least it convinced me, it’s absolutely too tough and unreasonable to be depressed. so I immediately flushed them down the W.C.

    Subsequently I convinced myself the rest of the prescription was perhaps more appropriate, even fun, and am in the throes of following directives.

  3. lgsue says:

    Regarding the Kaimuki house, I insisted on it being centrally-located and near a bus line, so that as we age things will be close by and we can still easily get to other places, when we cannot drive anymore.

  4. sjsue says:

    Ah-ha! You’re getting the hang of this blogging thing… very good! More detail and side-notes are a good thing. If we can get others to add their thoughts, we’ll have quite a terrific view on our little world… You know, a post on the Kimberlin house might be nice… put it in and we’ll add some photos… 🙂

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