My Two Cents is a weekly opinion column from Bethesda resident Joseph Hawkins. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of

If you live in a house like mine — circa 1963 — the answer is yes — a hole in the ground is your future.

I have come to accept this reality. I know with some certainty that if I sold my Bethesda home tomorrow it would be torn down and from the hole in the ground eventually would emerge a newly built mini-mansion costing anywhere from $1.8 to $2.5 million.

I think this reality harms the character of Bethesda.

First, what the heck is wrong with small and cute?  Look at the Bethesda house below — cute as all get-out, right? Why is it necessary to destroy these little gems? And once this type of housing stock is gone, it is gone forever.

Second, when we destroy these little gems they get replaced with mini-mansions (better known as McMansions) that we know cannot possibly be green-friendly, even when we factor in modern building codes and techniques.


Cute Not so much

The carbon footprint of our cute gem above is probably a fraction of the carbon footprint of a mini-mansion with its three-zone heating and cooling system, four-car garage, and a state-of-the-art kitchen to rival anything seen on the Food Network. Let’s face it, these mini-mansions suck down some serious energy resources.

Third, and this is just a frank observation, Bethesda ends up way less diverse on a whole range of demographic characteristics when all we have are folks living in McMansions. Basically, the people who move into these expensive homes are extremely affluent.


Bethesda may not end up feeling and looking like Potomac, but geez, eventually, we end up with less “soul” when everyone that moves in is over-the-top cookie-cutter affluent. Go to any online mortgage calculator and it takes a few seconds to figure out that anyone holding down a $1 million mortgage or greater is affluent. They may not be Daniel Snyder affluent, but affluent nonetheless.

I’m not one of those people standing in the way of change. I like change. And frankly, what I see happening in my own Bethesda neighborhood (Cohasset subdivision) cannot be altered. There is no going back, nor are any elected county officials coming to the rescue. The holes in the ground will continue to pop up, and the baby mansions will be built. But with this change we might get an end result that isn’t a better end or a better future for Bethesda.

Surely a less diverse Bethesda is not a better Bethesda. Right?


Joseph Hawkins is a longtime Bethesda resident who remembers when there was no Capital Crescent Trail. He works full-time for an employee-owned social science research firm located Montgomery County. He is a D.C. native and for nearly 10 years, he wrote a regular column for the Montgomery Journal. He also has essays and editorials published in Education Week, the Washington Post, and Teaching Tolerance Magazine. He is a serious live music fan and is committed to checking out some live act at least once a month.

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