Los Gatos-Santa Cruz Local History Tidbit: Old Hotels

I think my current fascination with old hotels probably had its roots in my childhood.

Growing up in Los Gatos, I distinctly remember the Lyndon Hotel on the corner of

Santa Cruz & Main Streets. When I began high school, the hotel was mysteriously demolished. I had no idea why this occurred & still don’t know. In researching history in the Los Gatos, Santa Cruz, and Santa Cruz Mountains, I am amazed how many truly grand hotels & resorts there once were.

Strangely, many old hotels were reported to have burned down. I am curious why that would be the case. Most old houses did not burn down (evidenced by the fact they are still standing!), but most hotels did. Why?

Another unanswered question I have has to do with the reporting of these events. The literature I have read usually states that a particular hotel burned down in 1910 or whatever, & never gives a cause of the fire, nor mentions how the parcel of land subsequently became city owned (in the case of the Capitola Hotel, once privately owned, now apparently City of Capitola turf). I would much prefer a beautiful, elegant hotel to what is on the parcel now (a lawn, some stairs, & some miscellaneous privately owned businesses), although I did read recently that something more interesting is being considered for the site, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what. debryman.com

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Los Gatos-Santa Cruz Local History Tidbit: Highway 17

Just by coincidence, I recently met Richard Beal, the author of Highway 17 (1991, The Pacific Group, Aptos, CA). When I got back to my office, I pulled the book off the shelf and began thumbing through it. What a gold mine of local history! I saw that the year I graduated high school (no hints) there were 36 fatalities on “17!” (I don’t think my parents knew that, otherwise, why would they allow a crazy teenager to regularly drive over the hill?). According to Beal, Harvey West was responsible for installing “gory billboards” up on 17 – complete with red day-glo images of skeletons & coffins, as a way to discourage unsafe drivers. It seems to have worked!

I get nostalgic every time I read about the towns of Alma and Lexington being flooded to create Lexington Reservoir (discussed in Beal’s book). I seriously wish history had unfolded differently. I miss those towns I never knew!

It’s also interesting to look at the old maps & pictures of the Santa Cruz Mountains & the various routes from Los Gatos to Santa Cruz & imagine how it once was from the days of Mountain Charlie to crazy Riker’s Holy City . . . debryman.com

The Buying Cycle – What Does That Really Mean?

I recall reading statistics somewhere that there is a “buying cycle” that suggests how long it takes the “average” person to purchase a property once they have the inkling that they might want to move. My perspective is that I do not believe there is such a thing as an average person, I tend to think of people in terms of clusters of personality traits.

I have studied several personality systems – the one that is most easy to identify people with is the Enneagram. The system is not “supposed” to be used in such a way, but once you understand it, it is difficult not to group people into various slots. But, as usual, I digress. My main point is that from my experience and knowledge of various personality types or styles, I do not believe there could possibly be an average person who buys in “x” amount of days, from start to finish.

My personality style is such that I get an idea and pursue it, wholeheartedly, even doggedly, until resolution. What that meant for my last home search (the one that brought me to Santa Cruz, almost ten years ago), was a period of more than a year when I hung out in another beach town (Half Moon Bay) because at the time I was working in San Mateo, and thought I might like to relocate in that area.

I never seriously considered Santa Cruz, until one day, when out-of-the-blue, I called a real estate office and tried to find a Realtor who might show me property. Subsequently being in the business, I find it fascinating that the first company I called showed absolutely no interest in my pursuit (because, I am assuming, they labeled me as a “looky-loo,” and did not want to put energy into spending time with someone who might not buy). When I called the second office, I told the person on the other end of the phone that I wanted an “aggresive agent.” She smartly identified herself as such, and we were off on the great adventure that resulted in my home purchase.

We looked at several homes, but I knew the one I would end up buying, instantly, not through logic, but through a body-knowing. It is interesting to witness the process that happens to people when they find the right property. It is similar to falling in love – the face becomes flushed, there is actual physical excitement. It is literally thrilling to experience and to witness!

The house I became enamored of had “issues.” As I was running towards the house, my agent was pulling me away, but I could not be deterred in the end. I just felt a bond with the land and the house. I loved the brick walkway and the Craftsman-like built-ins, in particular, but the entire property captivated me.

My particular buying cycle, from the time I thought I might like to live in Half Moon Bay until I purchased my home in Santa Cruz was almost three years!

Once I found my home, I made an offer, contingent upon the home I was residing in selling. I didn’t even have it on the market before I found my new home. It sold in three months (which at the time seemed like an eternity) and my new house closed almost simultaneously. It really was “meant to be.”

So the process was driven partly by circumstances in my life (being ready for a move), and finding just the right house. Once those two factors converged, it felt like momentum just carried the entire process to fruition. It was a very exciting experience!

I am working with several people at the moment who are in various stages of their own, highly personal processes. Because the processes are so personal, I am not privvy to where they are in their own cycles, hence I have no idea when they are going to be ready to buy. The only thing I can do to assist them is to show them properties when they are ready, and look for the signs of “falling in love,” and then do everything in my power to help them move towards their end goal.

I was lucky that the seller of the home I purchased was willing to accept an offer with a contingency for me to sell my home before completing the purchase of theirs. In a “hot” seller’s market, that strategy would not be possible. In my case, an alternative would have been to put my home on the market and pray that the home I wanted would be avaiblable when I was ready to buy (in a hot market, it probably would not have been available by that point). I also could have taken out a home equity loan, and used the money to purchase the new home, but the risk is that the 1st home would not sell as quickly as desired (and as I have learned, the ONLY reason homes don’t sell, is price. Appropriate price, can remedy any home ailment, but that’s a blog for another day . . . )

When I meet people who are looking for a home, I wish they had descriptive stamps on their heads indicating where they are in the buying cycle. I know from experience the process can’t be rushed. If I get an inkling where people are, then I can appropriately assist with relevant resources. debryman.com

Nostalgia Rides Again

I just became aware of the fact that a “significant” high school reunion will be occurring for me later this year. I graduated during the “Summer of Love,” so do the math if you are so inclined (and are up-to-date on your Baby Boomer trivia).

It seems like just yesterday that my friends and I were wreaking harmless havoc in the stomping ground of our youth. Drive-in movies, beach parties, house parties, weekly dances at “Brasada” (the summer teen venue the school hosted – long a relic of the past, no doubt due to paranoia related to modern day insurance liability concerns, but I digress . . . )

There were also dance clubs that we frequented that featured local bands or “records,” but DJ’s were not as evolved as they are today. The Continental Ballroom, The Elk’s Club, The Moose Lodge, The Town and Country Lodge in Ben Lomond and The Chateau Liberte in the Santa Cruz Mountains . . . Lots of innocent fun, laughter (and not all that much drama considering the maturity level of the participants).

Yes, the prospect of this reunion has triggered loads of good memories. High school was a carefree, fun time for me. It’s after high school when my particular life challenges set in. In reviewing the reunion web site, I was surprised to see that to the question, “Would you do it all over again?” most people answered some version of “yes.” In contrast, I would do almost everything differently, starting with simple awareness.

One of my deepest life regrets is that I was so busy living and responding to life that I took little time to actually notice and appreciate my life as it was unfolding. I imagine being on autopilot is more typical than not, but in retrospect, I wish I would have savored every moment. I also would like to have paid more attention to friendships and to cultivating reciprocity.

These realizations seem to have come through reflection and perhaps a dose of maturity (debatable). As a result of being so oblivious to what was happening and the context in which it was taking place, I simply don’t have as many memories as I would have if I were paying attention! Who knew this would be important?

All of this musing got me to thinking about the many people who moved away from home base . . . I am curious as to what causes people to stay or to go. I “went,” but then I came right back. I really didn’t like being land-locked. I love being close to the beach.

Some people seem to use logic in making relocation decisions. Some people are more emotional responders (I put myself in this category). I can’t imagine moving somewhere solely for a job – it would have to be some job to compensate for an area that might be less than desirable to me. By the same token, rumor has it that people move to less desirable areas where you can get much more house for your money than you can in Santa Cruz.

For me, the trade-off of an extra-great house, for a less-than-great (from my perspective) area, would never work. I would much rather have a modest cottage in a great place, than a great house in a not-so-wonderful place. It’s a total quality of life experience that matters to me. I settled on Santa Cruz because it had natural beauty combined with spunk and personality, along with the intellectual rub-off from the University. I have not been disappointed with my choice. Can you tell I feel very lucky to live in Santa Cruz? debryman.com

In School I Hated History, But Now I am Reformed

I hated the subject of history as a kid because it was all about memorizing dates and learning about the mechanations of various wars.

Much later I realized I learned nothing about women in any of the war stories, and even later I realized the curriculum through high school did not include complete world history, only history from the Western World, European perspective (and I attended top rated schools in the country). Not a word about ancient history.

What does this have to do with real estate, you say? Well, my ignorance continued through much of my young adulthood because I lived in Suburbia, where there was not a trace of history to be found, anywhere. Everything was white-washed, sidewalks, paved parking lots, cookie-cutter, ticky-tacky houses.

In graduate school I began to get a real education of the world, and the timing dove-tailed with my move to Santa Cruz.

As a Realtor, I  was fascinated by all of the amazing local architecture in Santa Cruz. I began exploring, interviewing people, and eventually writing about local history. In Santa Cruz, compared to Suburbia, you can actually see the history because a lot of it has been preserved. There are tons of old buildings, historical houses, and stories about key local history makers and characters.

I love it when I have a client whose taste runs in the “interesting architecture” category. I do special property searches for such properties and it is so much fun to tour these special homes.

Now I gobble up every historical morsel I see, hear, or read about. I have made some wonderful older friends in Santa Cruz, people who have lived the history and have told me amazing stories. I cherish these connections and feel so grateful to have been the recipient of these first-hand accounts. It makes it all come alive for me. I have the idea that I can actually see through their eyes, while hearing the details of the stories. It makes me notice neighborhood nuances and makes life so much richer for me. I hope by sharing some of these stories, that others can also be enriched or are able to relate on some level. debryman.com

You Can’t Live in a Mutual Fund . . .

I don’t know if it is obvious, but you can’t live in a mutual fund, or a regular stock, for that matter. But you can, and likely do, live in your real estate investment.

When reading the Sunday paper, I always get a chuckle from the “expert” investment advise articles that warn against the dangers of investing in real estate. I always fast-forward to the byline usually at the bottom of the article, and find contact information for an investment counselor. Big surprise!

I have heard, but haven’t been able to substantiate, that in the United States there have only been two times in history when real estate values in aggregate, dipped, and that the graph shows a steady increase over time.

Of course there are particular markets that fare better than others, but overall, real estate has always been a good to great investment, depending upon where you live.

Where I live, in Santa Cruz County, the cliche is that they are not making beach front real estate like this anymore . . . well, at least not until something like the earthquake that was predicted  in the late sixties that the book The Last Days of the Late, Great State of California, (Curt Gentry) said would split California off from the rest of the U.S., and would give the Central Valley some nice, new beaches.

Real estate is the only investment that can provide shelter and comfort, as well as phenomenal returns on investment!

What could be better than that? debryman.com

What is Your Ideal Community?

Before I moved to Santa Cruz County in 1997, I dabbled with the idea of moving to Half Moon Bay. At that time, I was working in Foster City and was just beginning to think about what would be a perfect community for me. Every chance I got, I would truck on over to Half Moon Bay, exploring beaches, neighborhoods, and the charming downtown area. What I liked about the area was it was historical – the downtown was charming, and the community had been preserved, not overdeveloped. The beaches were spectacular (Moss Beach, Mavericks, etc.) I spent a memorable birthday lying on Moss Beach – sun beating down, not a soul in site, waves rhytimically crashing – such peace!

I would say that I spent a year or so exploring the area before I decided it was too windy for my taste and it didn’t have the mental stimulation that I thought a university town might provide. So it was on to Santa Cruz.

I had spent much of my childhood and teen years in the Santa Cruz area, so I was already familiar with it, but as I began to explore it again, it was like discovering it anew.

It’s hard to say exactly what drew me to Santa Cruz, but it would have to be the combination of fun (via the Boardwalk, specifically the roller coaster), intellectual stimulation (bookstores, events, the influence of the university), the amazing natural beauty of beaches, hills, mountains and redwoods all converging in one geographic area, the vitality of the downtown (actually bustling with people, street artists, restaurants, funky shops and the basics: movies, bookstores, cafes). I was sold.

Now all that was left was finding a house. I called a few agents, and looking back, I wonder what their problem was – not many followed up. I finally found one fantastic agent who made it all happen for me and the rest is history.

I understand from my own experience that the buying curve can be quite long. It takes as long as it takes to know in your bones what is right for you and the timing has to be right, as well. I trusted my instincts and couldn’t be happier with where I ended up.

I love to play a part in other people’s journey to this magical place. debryman.com