Campanil Is a Neighborhood in Flux

To my husband’s annoyance, I don’t like to waste time searching for the perfect parking spot; close enough is good enough. (We all know I don’t mind a walk.) En route to the Campanil part of town, that meant pulling over at the western end of Cliff Drive.

While admiring the view—and other drivers’ doughnuts—I added Cliff Drive to the list of Santa Barbara streets that sound like people. You know, the Lane sisters (Diana, Ramona, Lucinda, and Willina); Alphonse and Soledad Street; Marilyn Way; Alan and Diana Road; the Avenue twins (Ricardo and Roberto); and so on.

My husband didn’t come along, so I was spared a lecture about how my parking selection forced me to walk on a pedestrian-unfriendly stretch of Cliff Drive. In any event, once you turn right onto the non–Hope Ranch part of Marina Drive, traffic calms down. There’s also plentiful parking a bit past the “no stopping” sign.

Marina Drive peters out pretty quickly, but not without a few highlights: agapanthus and jacaranda in all their purple glory; before-and-after magnolia blooms; and a gate flanked by welcome turtles. The twenty-year-old me would be embarrassed by my knowledge of plant names. Wait till he learns how much I know about the Great American Songbook….

I headed up Sea Ranch Drive—are sea ranches where seahorses live?—and up was the operative word, for the street climbs straight up the hill. I took breaks to savor some Mutt-and-Jeff palms and the freebies outside 434 Sea Ranch, a fixer/teardown on the market (and in escrow) for $3.65 million.

The bulge in the road and the funny little arch mark the start of the Campanil Hills development. The neighborhood doesn’t feel like an HOA situation, except for the signs prohibiting after-hours parking and a security warning (more on that in a minute).

Does anyone else see Gosnell license plates and think, Gym, tan, laundry?

Whenever my husband and I come across avocado trees that have been cut way back and painted white, he wonders why, so I looked it up (on Reddit, but it sounds authoritative):

The white paint protects against winter sun scalding. The very heavy pruning is done when trees get too tall to easily harvest from, and also to save water if drought is predicted. They will regrow, using less water in the next 3-5 years, and will produce more fruit, which is easier to access.

And from another Reddit user:

It also has to do with the fact that avocados do not grow true to seed. if you plan a Haas avocado seed, you will not get Hass avocado fruit, it will grow in new variety of avocado and there is about a 1 in 80,000 chance that it will be if suitable flavor and color and texture to be commercially viable.

Commercially they grow the base of the trees from seed. These are used as the trunk and root system, on top of each of these flush cut trunks they will graft the branches of the original hass avocado. Because they used grafted clippings they are genetically identical to Haas avocados and will produce Haas avocados.

Here’s the security part I promised. Flock Safety is a license-plate recognition system: “Flock Safety has built the first public safety operating system that helps neighborhoods, businesses, and law enforcement in 2000+ cities work together to eliminate crime, protect privacy, and mitigate bias. Pair devices that capture objective evidence and machine learning to create and deliver unbiased investigative leads to law enforcement.” I underlined the funny part.

With security such a concern, you’d think more properties would have gates. Not that I’m complaining.

A matched set!

The lack of gates makes for good housepeeking. There’s a higher percentage of contemporary designs than in other neighborhoods. Campanil Hills was developed in the early 1970s, and I suspect that as properties turn over, with more and more original owners moving on, new owners are choosing to start fresh rather than deal with the early 1970s architecture. And there’s a lot of construction; this is an area in flux.

I love the midcentury lines on this one, but according to the notice posted on site, it’s getting a second story.

Sea Ranch Drive ends at the lower limb of C-shaped Campanil Drive. Turning right, I soon came upon a project by Fearon Hay, which I’m going to have to check out when it’s done. A thought: can Channel Plumbing deliver on the promises made by its logo?

Campanil mailboxes are serious business.

This one looks sweet till you notice the homemade barbed wire on top (to discourage birds, I hope).

A built-in ladder for wee carriers to climb up. So thoughtful.

Like I said, lots of contemporary architecture. What you can see of it looks good.

And here’s a roofline straight out of M.C. Escher.

At the southern end of Campanil Drive are two houses with dramatic entrances. The second one below, 3201 Campanil Drive, is owned by radio personality Dr. Laura Schlessinger, and it has been on and off the market for around $20 million since 2021. The setting is spectacular—remember, one of Campanil’s big selling points is that there’s no freeway between it and the ocean.

The area has fewer quirky details than most neighborhoods I’ve blogwalked, but there’s always something to notice. This question mark, for instance: it doesn’t inspire confidence, does it?

Then there was this sign—the penetrable gate presumably predated the dog.

And while I have always enjoyed walking with other people, when I’m alone, I can let my freak flag fly. All it took was the sign below and I was singing—out loud—“Danger! High Voltage” by Electric Six. The video, while kinda NSFW, is a classic.

Onward! 820 Centinela Lane, currently under construction, dominates the lower end of Centinela Lane. (Love the gate.) The design by Neumann Mendro Andrulaitis optimizes the ocean view…

…and, understandably, turns a shoulder to the city Water Department building next door.

Imagine what Electric Six could do with this….

Ah, the old bell tower. You’d think there would be a lot about it online, but no. All I found was a 2015 post on Bob Burd’s Trip Reports, and no disrespect to Burd, but I was hoping for something more authoritative. I turned to the Gledhill Library at the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, where archivist Chris Ervin dug up newspaper reports from 1964 (about the groundbreaking) and 1965 (about the dedication). According to the latter, from the Santa Barbara News-Press, Campanil Crespi, as it was called, “is named for Father Juan Crespi, chaplain and diarist for the Portola expedition up the California coast in 1769. Father Crespi celebrated Mass for Portola and his men at their camp below the Campanil hilltop on Aug. 20. Pushing north, they discovered San Francisco Bay Nov. 2.” The architect for the 40-foot-tall bell tower (campanil is the Spanish spelling of campanile, a freestanding bell tower, by the way) was Robert Ingle Hoyt, and there used to be a bell. (Locals say it was stolen so many times that it stopped getting replaced.) Finally, according to the News-Press, buried in the center of the Campanil site is “a Spanish chest […] containing a copy of Hoyt’s rendering of the Campanil Crespi, a copy of Sunday’s newspaper, currency and coins issued this year and a scroll signed by the ceremony participants.”

Across the street, meanwhile, is a sexy, low-slung house that makes a compelling argument for a carport. I want it.

But I could also be happy with either of these houses, in two very different styles. On the second one, note the side-by-side innie and outie windows to the right of the front door.

Like many culs-de-sac, Centinela Lane ends with a whimper. Nice mountain view to the right, though. (FYI, centinela is Spanish for sentinel.)

There was room for “please.”

Back on Campanil Drive, I felt like I was interrupting something.

When I got home, I asked the city’s Streets Division why some streets have “no outlet” signs and others have “dead end” ones. The response: “The ‘no outlet’ sign is for a street that is connected to another street that is a dead end. The ‘dead end’ sign is just that, a dead end.” Which made sense! But then I realized that I had taken a photo of a “dead end” sign on Campanil Drive that occurs before Cuervo Avenue branches off—which means it should really say “no outlet,” no?

Speaking of Cuervo Avenue, it’s a Hope Ranch street that pokes a bit into Campanil, with vehicular access blocked by a gate. I’ll save Hope Ranch for another day (and I’ll need someone to invite me, and yes, that’s a hint).

As I’ve mentioned, security is of prime concern in this neck of the woods. This sign gave me the creeps—not because I was being watched, which I take for granted nowadays, but because the eye looks strung out, and the houses on the bottom are all staring at another home, not an intruder. It’s very Stasi.

Back on Campanil, an appealing entry and more contemporary architecture.

3620 Campanil Drive is a 1972 house that recently got redone and sold for $6.345 million.

Poor flamingoes.

The tree below actually extends from the left and canopies over the entrance. It’s magnificent.

A couple of interesting barriers.

At some point, you start to wonder what they’re trying so hard to protect….

Behold, the end of Campanil Drive—the public part, at least. Google Maps makes it look like the top part of the street extends quite a bit farther to the east, but most of that is the driveway at 3666 Campanil Drive, the 15,395-square-footer that you can’t help but see while driving north on Las Positas.

The way back down was all about the ocean view; I kept stopping for photos even though one was enough.

It was a good walk! And time to go home. But first, let me take a selfie.


Walk With Me…

Downtown Santa Barbara
The Upper Upper East Is Busting Out All Over
The Presidio: In the Footsteps of Old Santa Barbara
Brinkerhoff, Bradley, and Beyond
Mixing Business and Pleasure in East Beach
It’s Only Milpas Street (But I Like It)
• The Haley Corridor Is Keeping It Real
The Small Pleasures of Bungalow Haven
• Is There a Better Neighborhood for a Stroll Than West Beach?
E. Canon Perdido, One of Downtown’s Best Strolling Streets

Where the Eastside Meets the Lower Riviera

Oak Park / Samarkand
The Side Streets and Alleyways of Upper Oak Park
The Small-Town Charms of Samarkand

The Riviera
Scaling the Heights of Las Alturas

Eucalyptus Hill
On the Golden Slope of Eucalyptus Hill
↓↓↓ Climbing the Back of Eucalyptus Hill

San Roque
Voyage to the Heart of the San Roque Spider Web

TV Hill / The Mesa
Walking in Circles in Alta Mesa
West Mesa Is Still Funky After All These Years
A Close-Up Look at TV Hill

Hidden Valley / Yankee Farm
An Aimless Wander Through Hidden Valley
• The Unvarnished Appeal of Yankee Farm

Hope Ranch / Hope Ranch Annex / Etc.
A Country Stroll on El Sueno Road

Out and Back on Ortega Ridge
The Heart of Montecito Is in Coast Village
• Quintessential Montecito at Butterfly Beach
• Once Upon a Time in the Hedgerow
Where Montecito Gets Down to Business
In the Heart of the Golden Quadrangle
Up, Down, and All Around Montecito’s Pepper Hill
Montecito’s Prestigious Picacho Lane
School House Road and Camphor Place

Summerland / Carpinteria
A Stroll in the Summerland Countryside
Admiring the Backsides of Beachfront Houses on Padaro Lane
Whitney Avenue in Summerland

Goleta / Isla Vista
• Where the Streets Have Full Names
The Past Is Still Present in Old Town Goleta
Social Distancing Made Easy at UCSB




I can invite you to Hope Ranch Annex. Not the same but has some charming features!


I know a lot about a few of these residential areas having lived and worked in them. But, some people want privacy and don’t want other people walking through their neighborhoods taking photos of their driveways and giving addresses.
I love going around to our neighborhoods and learning about them. But, discretion is a valued trait. Please try to learn it.
Urban Hikers were MUCH more discreet.

The Internet

Hi DM,

I am the Internet. Nice to meet you. Check out Google Maps, Google Earth, Bing Maps, Apple Maps for a few of my millions of resources for discovery. You can also learn about the fact that is the year 2023 and the Internet (me) has usurped every aspect of what you call privacy and discretion…

Erik Torkells

Because it’s closer to Hope Ranch Annex than anywhere else. What would be better? Noleta?