Montecito’s Prestigious Picacho Lane

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

Often cited by brokers as one of the most desirable streets in Montecito, straight-as-an-arrow Picacho Lane has large lots, ocean and mountain views, and proximity to the Upper Village. (And no damage from the debris flow.) The asking prices for the five properties currently on the market bear the high opinion out:

848 Picacho ($15 million)
857 Picacho ($7 million)
691 Picacho ($16.5 million)
700 Picacho ($42.5 million)
650 Picacho ($22.45 million)

I started at the top, where Picacho dead-ends at E. Mountain Drive. The first thing you notice about the street is not just how many gates there are, but how fantastic those gates are. The top photo below shows a John Saladino estate named Las Tejas (The Tiles) that’s worth a closer look.

Where there are gates, there are walls and fences—refreshingly, they’re not all grand. The patina on this concrete wall is sublime, and it makes me wish more homeowners deviated from stucco and sandstone.

Bonus points for building the wall around the tree.

Where there are gates and walls, of course, there tend to be security signs. My favorite was the first one below—because it looks like it’s been there for at least 50 years, because the typography (with two different-shaped Os) is very cool, and because it was joined by signs for two other security services. A sign for one firm would seem to be optimal; more than that, and you risk appearing to have picked them on eBay or something.

On the upper half of Picacho, glimpses of houses are rare. The new one directly below, by Sorrell Designs, is an exception, and it makes an excellent impression (although I’m not sold on the blue awnings). The second photo is notable because the house is huge—what you see is only part of it. The glimpses of houses get more frequent, and less fancy, as you near the East Valley Road.

This has to be the best carport in Montecito.

Heading back up Picacho is harder work than you might think. Unlike the woman wearing a parka to walk her dog in the 66-degree weather, I wished I had worn less clothing.

The landscaping is established throughout Montecito, of course, but Picacho might have some of the very best. The hedge in the last photo has to be at least 20 feet tall, with not a single bare spot.

I don’t know why, but the pigeons in this tree were really agitated, rustling and flapping—and occasionally taking flight—for the five minutes I stood there.

Like the fences mentioned above, address markers run the gamut from fancy to extremely simple. The hand-drawn metal one at 901 Picacho (with the entrance is on E. Mountain) is a standout.

I admire the goodwill behind this construction sign, but I wonder why they chose to write it in Spanish.

Green Meadow Road and Stone Meadow Lane form a dead-end T off the west side of Picacho. The vibe is more suburban, although there are still intriguing details, such as the pair of (vestigial?) lampposts flanking the start of Green Meadow. And that’s a handsome contemporary gate and a very healthy hedge.

One of the houses at the corner of Green Meadow and Stone Meadow has a cycad collection rival that of Lotusland—they form one of the more interesting borders I can remember seeing around here. Also on Stone Meadow: a midcentury house that’s getting a makeover. That’s a wall of windows on the north side.

On the way back up, I was accosted by a crusty resident demanding to know who I work for and why I was taking photos of his home. I explained that it’s a habit of mine to take a photo of anything I think is interesting, and his house—a compound of many structures and sheds with a lot of beaten-up cars in front—certainly qualified. “This is the old-school part of Montecito,” he said, in the understatement of the year. I offered to delete the photo, which pleased him, so if you want to know I’m talking about, you’ll have to go walk Picacho yourself.

Know of a street that warrants a close-up? Email [email protected].

Whitney Avenue in Summerland
School House Road and Camphor Place


One Comment

Maryanne Brillhart

I wanted to respond to your question on the Picacho Lane ‘Walk’ regarding the names on the stone plaque. When I moved here about 50 years ago and later met a family at the top of Picacho Lane; I was told that their beautiful rock wall was constructed by a family and friends from Mexico. It was so admired that over the years many more of the Picacho residents hired them to build their walls as well…thus the Spanish references.