The Black Mountain Ranch house / Photo by Randy Dotinga

What the heck is that?

If you ever find yourself driving northwest on San Dieguito Road just past Camino Del Sur in the Black Mountain Ranch neighborhood, take a gander up and to the left. You’ll see an adobe-style house with peculiar tiny second-story windows. “Looks like Irving Gill designed a prison,” says one local wag who knows her architectural history.

But this house isn’t designed to keep people in. In fact, it’s designed to keep people out. There’s an imposing fence around it, and you’ll get hustled away by security for the Santaluz gated community if you park nearby and try to peer at the house through binoculars. (Never mind how I know this.)

So is some fancy-pants millionaire living there in isolation, peering peevishly at the traffic on the road below? Nope. As the multicolored hazardous-material warning sign on the front gate suggests, this building isn’t exactly the healthiest place to hide from prying eyes.

And since this is Santaluz, there really should be a golf cart out front. There isn’t.

Turns out that this house isn’t a home at all. It’s entirely bogus, a front to hide cellular antennas that serve an area where cell reception had previously been tricky.

A reader alerted me to the house’s existence after I reported that the strange structure now being constructed in North Park next to the 805 freeway is a fake “water tower” that will house cellular equipment.

According to a 2014 application by Verizon to the city, the 1,568-square-foot “faux house” in Black Mountain Ranch is designed to hide 15 panel antennas, a 2-foot-diameter microwave dish (in the chimney!), an emergency generator with a 210-gallon diesel fuel tank and other equipment.

The design, as a planning consultant told a community planning group, is “fauxdobe” – fake adobe. The house, it seems, is fake in more ways than one. On the bright side, you couldn’t ask for quieter neighbors.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.