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URBAN HIKE

Urban Hike: Lower Westside
updated: Apr 02, 2011, 9:45 AM

By the Santa Barbara Urban Hikers, Peter Hartmann and Stacey Wright

What do a chained up guard dog with her pup, boys at play, the color fuchsia, public gardens, pedestrian paths galore, gorgeous tile murals, fantastic views and a prehistoric-looking rock outcropping have in common?

We urban hikers continue our quest of walking all 256 "centerline miles" of the mean streets of Santa Barbara. So, with the thoroughness of a window washer, the inquisitiveness of a 5-year old, and the dedication of an Edhat staffer, this week we headed out to mark off the remaining streets that make up the Lower West Side.

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We started our urban hike in the 400 block of W. Anapamu, and stopped just long enough on that side of the 101 to photograph Jordi's Market. This neighborhood market is so quaint and colorful that we had to include a photo of it in our hike report, even though it's not on the lower west side, just on the west side. There we go again, breaking the rules in our middle-aged sort of way. But come on, ain't this a great looking lil' market?

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As we approached the bridge that spans the 101 to the "other" Westside, we noticed a playground that now occupies what was once Wilson Elementary School. It was pretty deserted on the day of our hike, perhaps because the weather was cold and windy. Seemed like a pretty nice place to play.

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The bridge itself is really quite remarkable. In the course of our urban hikes we have crossed it several times, and for this reason we find it incredibly convenient. It's wide enough for foot traffic and bicycles, and the view back toward the mountains is breathtaking. It also seems like an urban planning/engineering marvel to us in the way that it slopes up gradually, tapers off and then spirals down. Unlike the playground, on this day there was no lack of use; we passed several walkers and cyclists using this bridge either headed into town or into the Westside.

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As usual, we found a lot of interesting things in this charming residential neighborhood. We'll show you photos we took along the way and we given you our map - we're hoping that you might also venture into this neighborhood to see its quaint little treasures, the first of which was this pair of pooches near the corner of Gillespie and Robbins who, despite being chained up all day appear to be pretty content.

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After walking quite a ways down San Andres to San Pascual, we came to a little corner of the neighborhood that had three rather unusual sights - a fuchsia fence that is, well, very bright, a rock outcropping that is unusual and fascinating, and a hand painted BOYS PLAYING sign that is just plain funny.

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At the westerly end of Coronel Place, the name changes to Coronel Street, and then dead ends. At the end of the road are two footpaths - the one with the ROAD CLOSED sign leads up the hill to McKinley School, the other leads to Ladera Ln., which is the street just below SB City College. We decided to take the footpath leading up toward McKinley School/ Cliff Drive.

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On this Saturday mid-morning, we passed several people headed into town from the Mesa via this little footpath. We know, because we stopped each of them to ask where they were headed. One man was headed to his office downtown to do some work; one woman was on her to the Farmer's Market, and a couple of kids in their late teens were headed to a friend's house for breakfast. The folks on the pedestrian trail to McKinley school said they use this route on a regular basis, and love the 12 or so block walk that it takes to get to the Paseo Nuevo area of town. With gas selling for over $4 a gallon, we guess there may be a lot more people taking advantage of shortcuts such as this one. With nowhere special to go, we took our time this morning and enjoyed the view from the vantage point the path offered.

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McKinley School, like many of our other City Schools, boasts amazing views from its playground. As we admired the setting of the school we couldn't help but notice a lot of garbage and litter strewn about, and that made us feel pretty sad. We wondered what could be done to help children gain more appreciation for the beauty of their environment, and develop a sense of personal pride and responsibility for keeping the environment nice.

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We left the school and headed down Cliff Drive toward Montecito Street. We hung a left at Rancheria Street, deciding not to include the historical adobes/landmarks on E. Montecito Street in this article, because we'll rather cover them in depth in a later article. For now it was on to Rancheria, a street that got its name from the Spanish word for Indian village. We tried to find the location of a rancheria, but aren't certain that we found it. Peter did find signs of three middens in the area, which might be the sign of a rancheria, and Stacey can remember taking a school field trip to the cliffs by Pershing Park, where students found shell heishi beads and other fossils. What we did find though, was a marvelous community garden, which is managed by the Parks and Recreation Department. It provides a total of 45 plots, each one being 10'x 20', to any local resident who wants to grow organic vegetables, herbs and flowers. We think that for $62 a year this is a pretty sweet deal, and can't wait to come back by later in the season and look at it in full production.

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Turning onto Ladera Street, we noticed a couple of things. One is that Ladera, having been one of the seediest neighborhoods in Santa Barbara back in the 1970's and 80's, looks downright respectable now; and secondly we came across two colorful and elaborate tile murals located at the corner of Ladera and Gutierrez Streets. We noticed that the murals were signed by Jose Roldan and Enimia Dirzo in 1999, but were unable to learn anything more about them or the artists. We hope one of our readers knows more and can give a little history about these beautiful, stylized pieces of art.

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As we headed up Rancheria Street toward the footbridge at Ortega Street (that would take us back over the 101), we passed by another public garden and orchard, namely the Children's Orchard. The orchard, located at the corner of Rancheria Street as it rounds the corner onto Cornell Place, is an extension of the Parque de Los Ninos, which is further down on Wentworth Avenue. Both parks look like wonderful little places to picnic and enjoy a day outdoors.

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Next, we followed Wentworth to the Ortega Street overpass, and headed back from whence we came. As is the case with all "shortcuts", we felt compelled to photograph this footbridge to show readers how very useful it is to pedestrians and cyclists alike.

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Believing that our "work" was done and while just ticking off the blocks to home base, these urban hikers made an absolutely startling discovery; one that sheds light on years of personal confusion. We noticed that strangely, when one is traveling east/west along the streets of Santa Barbara, the addresses play a crazy little trick on you. An example might make this easiest to understand, so this is it: As you approach State Street at Ortega, you will notice that the street addresses on the south side of the street (for example, the Wild Cat) are numbered odd, and the addresses on the north side of the street are numbered even. BUT, as soon as you cross State Street, the whole scheme gets turned on its head, and the addresses on the south side of the street (for example, Dargan's) are numbered even and the ones on the north side are numbered odd. We think this is truly odd, and wonder why in the world it ever came to pass. Peter thinks the turf wars and gang problems in Santa Barbara can be explained by this phenomenon, and Stacey is pretty sure the confusion caused by this urban planning is the root cause of any dyslexia in our town. No matter what, we think Santa Barbara is pretty unique in this regard.

As usual, many surprises were ours on this Saturday morning. So as always, we encourage you to go out and meet your neighbors to see first-hand the pride they take in their homes and neighborhoods, to keep your eyes, ears and minds open to all that you encounter, and above all, to expect the unexpected.

 

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