I ran into a fellow Masters swimmer at a party recently, and after the obligatory never-seen-you-with-clothes-on exchange (surprising everyone within earshot, no doubt), he asked why I haven’t written about a walk on the Mesa. As much as I like the neighborhood, I’ve worried that the houses are a bit too similar to make for an interesting post.
“Not West Mesa,” he said. “There’s still plenty of funk.”
West Mesa is bordered by Meigs Road, Cliff Drive, and the Douglas Family Preserve. My husband, Adam, and I parked in the northeast of the neighborhood, on Oliver Road, and headed east on Elise Way. Immediately we struck
gold peach with a house and car painted to match, followed by a property where someone, at some point, went all in on palms.
J’adore the boldness of calling an apartment complex Chateaux Elise: because a chateau is a large country house, and also because chateaux is the plural—as if each individual unit warrants the appellation. The carports are pretty sweet, too.
The next apartment complex has a sign saying there’s no access to La Mesa Park, which we’ll come back to in a minute. The one after that has no such sign, so we wandered down the driveway and—because there was no park access—through to Meigs Road. As a fan of the letter Q, I was chagrined by its omission. But I perked up when we came across an Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme. Look at those lines and tell me you’d rather have a Tesla.
This was our first time in La Mesa Park, where there’s open space, a playground, some picnic areas, and, as you can see below, a gate from a certain apartment complex. I liked how trees have been dedicated to late members of the Men’s Garden Club, even if I’d prefer anything to a sycamore. They shed brown leaves for months.
An intentionally zoomorphic design? Or a fluke?
The other reason I was hot to walk West Mesa was because I had only recently learned of the pedestrian bridge linking the park and the eastern edge of the neighborhood. While the “uneven surface” qualifies as a potential hazard, it’s nothing compared to falling over the railing. The houses on either side of the ravine have terrific views, and the ravine itself is surprisingly lush.
The bridge leads to a street called El Camino de la Luz, where the first two houses we came upon have refreshingly polite signs.
The 1956 house at 1919 El Camino de la Luz is currently on the market (and in escrow) for $3.695 million, and it certainly has a retro charm—no one is building anything that modest close to the ocean anymore. Directly below it, on the slope of the bluff, is 1921 El Camino de la Luz ($2.9 million, and also in escrow), a vacant lot on the market for ten months. It seems like a tough proposition to get by the Coastal Commission, but the payoff would be huge.
Next door is a dramatic driveway with the ocean in the background, which would be clearer if the day hadn’t been intermittently hazy.
Houses on El Camino de la Luz run the gamut. I was especially fond of the one painted mint-chip green, and the contemporary one at 1930 has real curb appeal.
We were nearly past this next one when I noticed the herringbone brick near the sidewalk. And then the marvelous stone wall. And then the brick or adobe facade. Someone had a vision—check out the before photo from Google Maps. (The house sold for $2 million in April.) I’m putting a tickler on my calendar to swing back for a follow-up look when it’s done.
Last fall, while walking in Hidden Valley, I remarked on what I thought were unironic lawn flamingoes. Ever since, I’ve seen them all over town, and I consistently wonder: Is it possible they’re not kitsch? Is it possible for any lawn flamingo not to be kitsch? Perhaps I’ve been unduly influenced by the John Waters film; I’ll spare you the link.
At the corner of El Camino de la Luz and Oliver Road is one of the prettiest gardens in recent memory.
Next door is a house that reminded us of Fire Island architecture, with landscaping wildly different from its neighbor, but no less appealing.
Edgewater Way makes a strange journey, as the map illustrates. These next two photos are from the cul-de-sac at the eastern end. I love how you can see the ocean from the street—and even through some windows. (Doors in a contrasting color are popular in this part of town.)
Oliver Road ends in dramatic fashion. The sign warns of an “unstable cliff edge,” which was enough to keep me on this side of the barrier.
On the main stretch of Edgewater Way, the houses continue to delight, no matter the style. The last two could break your heart—and yes, that’s the ocean visible through the windows.
But this is the best one of all. I’m manifesting a visit as I type….
Despite the proximity to the ocean, the housing stock isn’t entirely fancy.
Another world-class driveway….
Is that a chimney or are you just happy to see me?
Suddenly I get the feeling I’m being surrounded by horses, horses, horses, horses….
I always think of these as “slow children,” even when they’ve been dressed up as jockeys. I was relieved that there wasn’t an expletive on the other side.
This house has a hippie vibe well before you encounter the “free your body” sign—a message that has taken on much more urgency of late.
Adam had never walked down the Mesa Lane Steps, although we probably would’ve taken them even if he had. How can anyone resist a long set of stairs leading to the beach?
On the way back to the street, we noticed these strange little doors. Any guesses?
I know these plants—the flowers are little pompoms at the end of the branch—from the southbound 101 offramp at Hot Springs, but I hadn’t ever seen them up close.
Midway through the walk, we ran into my friend from swimming. He said I should feel free to follow up with any questions, so I later texted about the woodsy compound at the corner of Mesa Lane and Medcliff Road. He asked around: originally part of Mike Love’s compound at 1 Mesa Lane, they were sold off in the early 1980s. Oceanfront 1 Mesa Lane, meanwhile, is a fascinating property; the listing photos from late 2019 are absolutely worth a detour. Five-sevenths of it sold in June 2021 for $10.375 million.
Across the street is a blue version of the same style of architecture—with windows in the fence for the chickens.
We explored a shared driveway, covetous of the large lot with the petite house, impressed by the fancy oceanfront house, and delighted by the throwback that feels like it belongs in Santa Ynez.
I think it’s my mom’s dream to have a bench overlooking the sidewalk so she can chat with passersby.
Gotta pay respect to the trees.
There may be nothing so quintessentially West Mesa as this surfboard fence—except perhaps a vintage sky blue Bronco.
By this point, we had wandered away from the oceanfront streets of Edgewater Way and Medcliff Road and were looping back toward the car. The architecture remained varied—check out this sprightly little midcentury and a classic adobe.
Dirt driveways: forever funky!
You’re guaranteed to run into a street library in any Santa Barbara neighborhood, and I’m guaranteed to stop and browse the shelves. I’m not sure which language this is, but I suspect there isn’t a large enough reader pool to justify five copies of the same book.
At the end of the walk, we were amused by what might be the laziest guard dog ever…
…until we realized he was probably just jealous.
Walk With Me in…
Downtown Santa Barbara
• 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
Oak Park / Samarkand
• The Side Streets and Alleyways of Upper Oak Park
• The Small-Town Charms of Samarkand
• On the Golden Slope of Eucalyptus Hill
• Climbing the Back of Eucalyptus Hill
• Voyage to the Heart of the San Roque Spider Web
TV Hill / The Mesa
• A Close-Up Look at TV Hill
Hidden Valley / Yankee Farm
• An Aimless Wander Through Hidden Valley
↓↓↓ The Unvarnished Appeal of Yankee Farm
• 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 (Coast Village Circle)
• 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
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I love these little ambles that you take us along on. Thanks for sharing.
Delightful as always — I have loved this neighborhood for years and now realize why because of something you described, the hints of Fire Island architecture. I never made the connection, but now totally see it. Best of all, there are even more weird nooks and corners you didn’t cover — I encourage readers to go on a walk of their own and discover this great Santa Barbara neighborhood for themselves.
Bonus: Wander across cliff and discover a completely different world in the neighborhoods that wander up the hills in between Miegs and Elling’s Park. :-)
One of my favorite walks yet! I cant wait to check it out. Lots of funk and charm. Do those chickens have a view out their window? Love it!
Excellent virtual walk for those of us in NYC.