Barney’s On the Beat

Ellen Has the Price for Montecito

Ellen’s Buying in Montecito: Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, who’ll host the 2007 Oscars, is in escrow to buy a 1926 Spanish Colonial Revival Montecito home designed by George Washington Smith, according to my local sources. Price for the four-acre mansion is said to $16.5 million, just below the asking price. The home, near the private Lotusland estate, was “butchered” by earlier owners, say neighbors who are hoping that Ellen will return it to its former glory. Ellen will be able to rattle around in a mansion with four bedrooms and eight bathrooms, plus a guesthouse, and be able to enjoy a tennis court and pool. The 5,000-square-foot house has a 1,300-square-foot master bedroom suite that includes a nursery, which Ellen probably won’t be needing, at least for now. It is guarded by walls and a high gate. If you think Oprah Winfrey shelled out a lot in paying $42 mil for her 50 prime Montecito acres, or less than a million an acre, Ellen’s reported price comes out to about $4 mil per acre. Is this setting a new Montecito per-acre record? She also owns a home in the L.A. area, so the Montecito shack is apparently just a second home to repair to from Smogville. She previously purchased a home in the Santa Ynez Valley. Apparently talk-show work pays off. Ellen seems to like Santa Barbara County, having been spotted dining at the Brothers Restaurant in Los Olivos—where she is said to be a regular—and other valley restaurants.

Price of Paradise: We think Santa Barbara’s a paradise, but there’s another paradise 2,500 miles to the southwest where home prices are half ours.

I’m talking about Hawaii, where I checked out real estate recently while on vacation. (No, I’m not thinking of moving, but I do get tempted now and then.) In Honolulu, for example, for the median price of $635,000 you can move into a beautiful three-bedroom, 2.5-bath home, with 1,390 square feet, a pool, and mountain views. In Santa Barbara, where the median is close to $1.2 million, a search of real estate listings found exactly zero homes on the South Coast for $635,000. As in none. (Condos, yes.)

Ironically, perhaps, people are moving out of Hawaii because of the high prices. More are heading to the mainland than those moving in from the mainland. But the state’s population is growing because of births and immigration from other countries, according to the Honolulu Advertiser.

Now that we know what $635,000 will fetch in Honolulu, what will it buy elsewhere in the States? Well, not surprisingly, a lot more real estate than in Santa Barbara, according to Money magazine, if not the precious quality of life.

In Mesa, Arizona, Money found a five-bedroom, three-bath charmer, 2,700 square feet, with a swimming pool and Jacuzzi, putting green and three-car garage, in a gated community. (Did I mention the blistering summer heat?)

You’ve always had a hankering to live in the Big Apple, mid-town Manhattan? Well, $635,000 will put you in a one-bedroom, one bath (what do you expect? Welcome to New York.) apartment in a 47-story co-op on East 57th Street. There’s a doorman, natch, and you’re one block from Bloomingdale’s.

But if you’re looking for room, lotsa room, there’s a huge five-bedroom, 4.5-bath, 5,000-square-foot home in Wichita’s Shadybrook Farms neighborhood, with a swimming pool and three-car garage.

I could go on, ad nauseam, with details of big homes (except New York) that made Money mag’s list of 10 cities Money claims are the best places to live in the States. Santa Barbara didn’t make the cut, as usual.

Did I mention that it snows in some of these places and people get heart attacks shoveling it? Back to Hawaii. According to the Advertiser, despite the high home prices, most people stay there despite the allure of cheaper, bigger, or more luxurious dwellings elsewhere for less.

“They stay to be near family members or to avoid cold winters. They stay to enjoy the Aloha State’s unique culture and society. Clean air and water and some of the most scenic landscape in the U.S. are big draws.

“Hawaii’s life expectancy is the highest of any state and Honolulu’s crime wave is among the lowest for a city its size.”

(Just be sure to dodge the hookers on Chinatown’s notorious Hotel Street.)

Al BonowitzAl’s Odyssey: After resigning from the Santa Barbara News-Press, travel editor Al Bonowitz took up Ronnie Mellen’s offer to drive her RV down to New Orleans and turn it over to needy folks via a nonprofit or church. His odyssey, written about in The Santa Barbara Independent has attracted media attention and both Al and Ronnie have been interviewed on radio. “Anyone who wishes to contribute canned goods, good used clothing (not throwaways), or other items of use to New Orleans residents may contact me at 969-6364 or,” Bonowitz said. “Additionally, while I am prepared to cover the cost of my food, lodging, and return trip, I welcome contributions to offset the cost of gasoline for the drive. Any leftover funds would be donated. Finally, I am in the process of arranging a new home in New Orleans for my spare drum set. It could use a new set of heads and a selection of cymbals but it is otherwise complete and playable. Other musicians with instruments and/or money to donate should also contact me.”

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