Is There a Better Neighborhood for a Stroll Than West Beach?

This is the sixth in a series of occasional walks, on streets chosen more or less at random. Because you see so much more when you slow down.

I’m sure there’s an efficient way to explore the West Beach neighborhood, but as you can see from the map above, I didn’t do it. I started at the star and headed north on Bath Street. The first thing you notice is how quiet the area is, what with virtually no one staying at the various hotels. One of my favorites—from the outside, since I’ve never been inside—is the Eagle Inn. Imagine what André Balazs of the Chateau Marmont, etc., could do with the old building.

That’s sharp tailoring on the trees below, and nice shadows as a result. I couldn’t tell what was going on in the second photo—whether it was moss or something the tree itself was generating—but it was rather dramatic. And then there’s the building with a real commitment to ivy.

With its many small houses and apartment complexes, West Beach reminds me of L.A., in particular the South Bay. The lush, varied landscaping can make an otherwise undistinguished building look appealing. Wait, was that a bear?

Los Aguajes Avenue has a few commercial buildings mixed in, including a Lions Club outpost that looks like a repurposed state park restroom.

More excellent shadows on the back of a Montecito Street building.

Things turn more upscale on W. Yanonali. I love how these two bunya-bunya trees—there’s one directly behind this one—are way out of scale with the buildings.

That’s the ocean glimmering at the end of Chapala. The street has a few buildings that seem like they date from another age. Indeed, the website for Chapala Gardens at 118 Chapala says that “our 100 year old house was originally a dress shop for the 390 room Potter Hotel.” Now Chapala Gardens sells upright cylindrical planters and offers vacation rentals.

The apartment complex below calls to mind West Hollywood. The myriad arch shapes give the building a lot of character. The second photo shows a sweet house on Natoma Avenue.

Burton Circle is a neat, circular break in the grid—look at the map at to see what I mean—but I wish the city would do something with the vast asphalt expanses that exist as a result. If ever there wanted to be a median garden….

Continuing west on palm-lined Natoma…. I don’t think I’ll ever not be delighted by a palm shadow.

Back on Bath now, heading south. I think those cottages are part of the Eagle Inn. And more motor courts could use a palm in the middle.

This isn’t quite as clear as it might be.

Heading east on Mason, note the cool signage for 226/232—and the garage doors that look like Frank Stella in a monochrome phase. Nearby is one of the bungalow courts (that’s what I call them, anyway) that strike me as such a defining characteristic of Santa Barbara architecture.

Now we’re at the south end of Burton Circle, where an apartment complex dominates. It’s probably that shape to maximize ocean views, but how much cooler would it have been if the facade had followed the curve, like the Fontainebleau in Miami Beach? Instead, the building sits awkwardly; you don’t even know where to look. The entrance (second photo) has a certain retro appeal, but that’s mainly thanks to the yucca trees.

Across the way is the Burton Mound. I suspect there are readers who have wondered why the open space exists, so I’ve included a photo of the plaque.

This house, at another Natoma/Burton intersection, feels more graceful. The panel in front of the stairs could go, but whatever.

These contractor credits in the sidewalk probably exist elsewhere, but I don’t remember seeing them anywhere but Santa Barbara.

A pretty entrance at 109 W. Mason, and a terrific house at the corner of W. Mason and Chapala.

Catacorner from that terrific house is a motel that has been getting redone for a long time now.

I’m sure the experts know best, but if I were concerned about a tsunami, I’d get farther away from the beach than one block.

After you cross Chapala, you come to a bridge over Mission Creek. I love the red wooden house visible from little Kimberly Avenue.

The back of the State Street’s Hotel Indigo has an Old West feel—an appealing contrast to the MOXI children’s museum next door. I’ve never been inside the MOXI because I don’t have a child, and I fear that going alone might get me tailed by a security guard. (And you know I’d be entering through the small kids’ door.) Anyway, you have to admire how the architect gave the museum’s garbage enclosure a bit of matching flair.

I’ve never seen jade grown flat like this, as if it had been espaliered.

Zillow says the old Santa Barbara Youth Hostel at 130 W. Yanonali, across from the train station, has a pending offer; the listing price is $4.2 million. Maybe someone will do something more interesting that the seller’s conceptual drawings, which came off rather institutional.

Love the clock on 118 W. Yanonali, even if most people are packing phones these days.

Three splendid houses on W. Yanonali. The second one, a Spanish/deco duplex, is my very favorite.

And we’re back where we started. Thanks for tagging along.

Up, Down, and All Around Montecito’s Pepper Hill
E. Canon Perdido, one of downtown’s best strolling streets
Montecito’s Prestigious Picacho Lane
Whitney Avenue in Summerland
School House Road and Camphor Place


One Comment


I used to live in the house in the last pic, on Yanonali. West Beach was one of my favorite neighborhoods to live in.