By Cheri Rae
A decade ago, there was no such thing as Bungalow Haven. Located roughly between Victoria and Micheltorena, Laguna and Alta Vista, the area was known officially to the city as a part of the Lower Riviera, to local residents as a great place to live. Just six blocks from State Street, this small section of well-kept, modest-sized homes built nearly a hundred years ago; most with front porches, nice yards and distinctive features that make them enjoyable to live in: built-in cabinets and bookcases, stained-glass windows and window seats.
It is the embodiment of the sustainable, “not-so-big-house” in a walkable neighborhood—an important kind of housing in this community long before those now-green terms were coined and applied to so-called “smart growth.”
It’s where my husband and I scraped together every bit of cash we could to purchase our 1912 Craftsman-style bungalow way back in 1993. It was so tough to buy a home back in those days, we even made the real estate section of the News-Press, a profile of a happy couple with a toddler who were thrilled to have Made Good by qualifying for a mortgage for a nice, old house in a nice, old neighborhood.
The place is even nicer now—with a fine group of caring neighbors who have become great stewards of a special place to live. In the past decade, alarmed by the possibility of losing the intact historic neighborhood to development interests, we began to meet regularly; we identified—and communicated—what makes it worth saving. We educated ourselves, learned the language of bureaucracy and transformed ourselves from residents into neighborhood activists.
In the process, we’ve gotten a lot accomplished: We’ve worked with the city to develop official architectural design guidelines, we worked with the Planning Commission to save three fine bungalows on Laguna Street that were scheduled for demolition—and incorporated into the new condo development instead—and we’re working now with the venerable Pearl Chase Society as the location for its upcoming Historic Homes Tour.
The Pearl Chase Society, which has often featured huge, grand homes in its annual tours, has recognized and embraced the enduring appeal of the humble bungalow—and has created a unique opportunity for Santa Barbara to celebrate the Craftsman ideals of simplicity, natural materials and fine design. The tour, scheduled for May 20, 11-4, includes eight homes, among them several small bungalows, an English Farmhouse, a Queen Anne Victorian cottage and the unique, Asian-inspired Pagoda House.
The tour allows for a glimpse into the daily lives, hobbies, collections and good taste of a diverse group of residents—including an architect, a teacher, a nurse, a craftsman, a doctor, a couple of artists and several small business owners—reflecting much of the same demographic that has always lived in, and appreciated, this neighborhood built to last.
The purchase of a ticket for the tour supports the efforts of the Pearl Chase Society, as its primary fund-raiser of the year. The organization regularly donates to multiple local preservation efforts, including the Courthouse; the restoration of the Douglass Parshall mural at Santa Barbara Jr. High and the portrait of Pearl Chase at the Carrillo Recreation Center, and even the Land Trust of Santa Barbara County for the purchase of Hot Springs Canyon.
For more information about the Pearl Chase Society or to sign up for the upcoming Historic Homes Tour: http://www.pearlchasesociety.org/.