When Karen Brown went searching for a property in Petaluma where she and a longtime friend might co-invest and coexist, there was nothing on the market that fit the bill. It was 2013, the nation was coming out of a deep recession and the pickings were slim, especially for affordable properties with two units or enough area to build an accessory dwelling. So Brown walked the streets of the old west side and ended up beating the bushes — literally — to find her dream home hidden among an overgrowth of acacias.
The house was so concealed she almost missed it. A “no trespassing“ sign did not encourage exploration. But she was intrigued. There, set back on a third of an acre, was an abandoned shack with plywood nailed over the doors. It had no foundation and perched on piers in the ground. It hadn’t been occupied in at least