Ellen Has the Price for Montecito

Ellen’s Buying in Montecito: Talk show host
, who’ll host the 2007
, 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
, 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
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

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
, 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
, 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
, travel editor Al
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 al_9000@hotmail.com,” 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


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