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URBAN HIKE

County Islands in the Stream
updated: Feb 25, 2012, 9:30 AM

By the Urban Hikers, Peter Hartmann & Stacey Wright

As many of you may know, we've walked each and every street in the City of Santa Barbara. As we journeyed, we purposefully avoided walking streets that although seemed to be city streets, are actually not within the city limits. Our reasons for skipping those streets (and parts of some streets) were twofold - first, we wanted to stay true to the task of walking only the city streets, and second, we were relieved that we had no "official" responsibility to walk them. But we always knew in our heart of hearts that one day we would need to return and investigate what lie down those country roads.

There are 3 general areas in which these "islands" occur - they are 1) a couple of pockets in the Hope Ave./La Colina areas; 2) The area off Calle Real near Earl Warren Showgrounds (including the showgrounds itself); and 3) The Las Positas/Veronica Springs area, including one and only "city landlocked" shopping center. Really exciting stuff here, but stick with us; it gets better.

We'll start by telling you about three quaint little country roads smack dab in the city. This map shows their locations -- they are La Barbara Drive, Sunset Drive and Fairfax Rd.

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In an effort to maintain the privacy of the people living on these streets, we'll show you a sampling of some of the wonderful sights we encountered, lumping them together in one little batch of sweetness. If you want to know more, or see them in greater detail you'll have to do some hoofing of your own.

Here are two of the three streets signs and one of the streets.

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These are a few of the lovely homes, charming neighborhood details and Peter "hanging 10" at the county line, something he did again and again in these unusual hikes.

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The next riveting area of country lanes located in the city are those little streets that intersect Calle Real and generally head toward the mountains. They are Apple Grove, Northview, Stevens and Vista Vallejo. We think parts of Peach Grove may actually be in the county, but we covered them in our city walk, just to be sure.

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On the morning of this hike we were surprised to find that while temps were in the upper 60's in our neighborhood, they were close to 30 in this part of town. We know this because, not only was it remarkably chilly, but there was also visible frost on many of the roofs we walked past. It was about 8:00 am, and we hadn't planned for the arctic blast we encountered. These images show some of the interesting things we passed along our rather quickened hike.

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Earl Warren Showgrounds is an entirely owned State property located within the county. We were frustrated by our inability to learn more about this interesting location. Specifically, we wanted to know who designed and built this "mid-century marvel". All right... settle down. We know not everyone shares our sentiments about this place. We just happen to think it's pretty damn special. Part ugly, part enigmatic, and part elegant, the futuristic modern architecture is bold and unique. The showgrounds have been home to not only horse and flower shows (the purpose of its creation), but also a whole slew of other "cultural" events including, a bunch of far out rock and roll concerts, at least one religious movements, bimmerfests, swap meets, off-track betting, county fairs, rodeos, shows and exibitions of all types, a venue for charity events, an emergency animal shelter, a staging area for emergency personnel, and much much more. Today it consists of 34 acres, and is reportedly entirely self supporting. The showgrounds opened in 1958 and have continued to add facilities and halls to accomodate the increasing number of activities it hosts.

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And of course, no story includig Earl Warren Showgrounds would be complete without mention of the massive broze statue that graces the entrance to the exhibition halls. While many assume the rider is Earl Warren himelf (past Govenor of the State of California and reired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States of America), such does not appear to be the case. The statute was placed in Chief Justice Warren's honor, but local legend has it that the man atop the horse is actually a self portrait of the sculptor, Francis Sedgwick. Either way we like it and think it should be better maintained for a variety of reasons.

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Across the freeway from the showgrounds, is a peculiar bit of urban planning. It consists of a little shopping center, complete with a restaurant, a gas station, a tanning salon, a dance studio, a liquor store an agricultural supply business and oh, so much more. We're fascinated by the fact that this little shopping center is not within the city but rather is within the county's sole jurisdiction. We guess this means all tax revenue goes straight to the County coffers, and bypasses the City's altogether.

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The last little area of county islands are those streets located off Las Positas Road near Elings Park (Rebecca and Stonecreek), as well as a part of Veronica Springs Road and the few of the little lanes that intersect that part of the street.

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These images show the housing development across from Las Positas Park, called Stonecreek.

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As with our previous county streets, in an effort to maintain the privacy of the people living on the streets in this area, we'll show you just a sampling of some of the interesting features we encountered, lumping them together. The first shots show the city/county boundary (you can see the sidewalk end...) and once again, here's Peter as he tries to "surf the line."

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The next two photos show the bucolic beauty of the area and accentuate the "country" feeling practically in the midst of the "city."

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Originally, as we walked the city streets, we wondered why the people in the county enclaves didn't just seek to join the city and benefit from the things that being a part of the city offered - like sidewalks, view ordinances and the efficiency and continuity of public services. But as we walked and talked, we came to the realization that these areas being separate from the city had developed into unique and wonderful neighborhoods, exuding "country charm" that might not have been permissible within the city limits. These photos show some of the unique and lesser-seem features in the neighborhoods we walked in this part of the "city."

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Lastly, we were lucky enough to see spot this Blue Heron perched on the roof of a neighborhood home. We watched as it sat motionless for several minutes and then took flight. It was a spectacular thing to see. We were so transfixed by the bird's beauty and grace that we didn't even think to try and capture its departure. It was quite a sight to behold.

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As always we encourage you to go out and explore the city, meet your neighbors, keep your eyes, ears and minds open to all that you encounter, and above all, expect the unexpected.

 

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