Eclectic houses of Santa Cruz

The city of Santa Cruz, located on the northwest shore of Monterey Bay, has fascinating residential neighborhoods, homes as eclectic and diverse as California itself, each with its eccentricities. These houses may be somewhat constricted by prohibitions against multi-story structures, but they seem to be unregulated by minimum lot sizes and limits on the number of dwellings that can be erected on those residential lots.

Before you jump to an image of Rio de Janeiro’s mountainside favelas, I hasten to explain that the price tag of a residential lot and its associated house (or houses) in Santa Cruz exceeds $1 million for even a modest two-bedroom, single bath home. It is impossible to mistake any part of this city for a shantytown.

Santa Cruz has had about 250 years to arrive at its present configuration. The site has been part of the European settlement of the New World since 1769 when the Spanish explorer Don Gaspar de Portola discovered this section of the Monterey Bay where a river flows into the natural harbor.

He named the river San Lorenzo in honor of Saint Lawrence.

In 1791, Father Fermin de Lasuen established a mission at the fledgling village of Villa de Branciforte, now known as East Santa Cruz. A comparatively recent European settlement in North America, considering that Boston was founded in 1630, but then early Boston did not have a comparable series of governing institutions or such an influx of people of varied ethnicities.

California was governed in succeeding eras of its history by Spain, Mexico, and as a territory of the United States. Statehood was granted in 1850.

The region’s economy was at different times dependent on fishing, logging, agriculture, tourism, and of late technology.

Those industries depended on workers from Spain, the Philippines, Mexico, China, Southeast Asia, South Asia, and a multitude of European heritage peoples and former slaves from the post-Civil War United States who flooded into California for the Gold Rush and went broke.

This thumbnail history of Santa Cruz is a quick explanation of why (at least I deduce it is why) the city has evolved such a variety of residential housing. The photos displayed in this blog post are an example. Note these photographs were taken in a three-block area of the section known as Midtown.

Almost all are painted and trimmed in vibrant colors, unlike sections of Omaha or Minneapolis or Cincinnati, where the houses are painted a pallid gray or beige or light blue with pastel trim and equally drab doorways.

The inference is that people who live in these colorless cities lead similarly colorless lives while the people in these colorful Santa Cruz homes lead flamboyant and energetic lives.

That’s easier to do, of course, if there are a couple giant redwood trees in your yard and if there is a white sand ocean beach nearby.

This is one of the reasons I am enamored of the city of Santa Cruz on the northern California shore of the Pacific Ocean.

Other reasons include the wonderfully mild December weather, the smaller town atmosphere (people say “hello” to us on the streets), the variety of shops and business places, the hiking areas (not many beaches and redwood forests in Iowa), and local attractions such as museums and aquariums and the seaside boardwalk.

However, we could not possibly live here because these intriguing houses that are pictured each cost upwards of $1.2 million.

West Coast retirement incomes must be much greater than Midwest retirement incomes.

I suppose we could live in our camping trailer, but then the captivating lifestyle of Santa Cruz would quickly fade.  

We could not afford to live here, but it is a fascinating place to visit. Especially in November-December.


About Jerry Johnson

Curmudgeon. Bird hunter and dog trainer. Retired journalist and college public relations director. Former teacher, coach, mentor. Novelist and short story writer. Husband, father, grandfather.
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