Double-Decker Memories

Tour Bus-Turned-Beach House on the Market

The Beach Club's bus house
Paul Wellman

There’s a fun and funky little home curiously nestled in the tony Beach Club neighborhood off Padaro Lane. It’s a retired double-decker Hollywood tour bus parked 60 years ago on a half-acre of land just a few minutes’ walk from the ocean, flanked all around by $10 million Padaro Lane houses that are being torn down and replaced with $50 million mansions. Kevin Costner has a place in the gated Beach Club community, and Kenny Loggins used to own property there.

Inside the Beach Club's bus house
Paul Wellman

But this holdout of mid-century, middle-class South Coast life with timeworn, camper-style amenities, gardens and trees planted as seeds, and the hallmarks of a beloved surf cottage used for family vacations is on the market and — if nearby development trends are any indication — could soon be torn down and supplanted with more upscale digs. Realtor Adam McKaig said it’d be great if it wasn’t. “I hope some rich surfer who never grew up buys it,” he mused. The listing price is just under $2 million.

First driven to 3240 Beach Club Road in the 1950s, the bus served as an office for the landowner as he sold off surrounding lots to eager buyers. When all the parcels had been sold — except for the one where the bus now sits — the Thomas family made the final purchase for $55,000, vehicle and all. Rather than build, they turned the double-decker ride into a two-story home, patching up the wheel wells, adding siding and a roof, and installing plumbing and electricity. The spiral outdoor stairwell is still there, the wood flooring is original, and a toy of what the bus may have looked like in its heyday sits on a windowsill.

Inside the Beach Club's bus house
Paul Wellman

In 1963 it was permitted as a habitable structure. Another small living area was eventually built and a storage shed added, but based on black-and-white photographs taken by the Thomases over the decades as they ate, talked, read, and relaxed on the property, not much has changed. After the family’s matriarch recently passed away, the plot’s 17 owners decided to sell it. There’s been a lot of interest in the place since it was listed in late February, McKaig said, explaining curious parties have come from as far away as Malibu to take a look. The next open house is March 17.

One of the owners, Derek Thomas, wrote an email to The Santa Barbara Independent about the memories he made on the shaded patch of land next to the often-dry Garrapata Creek, which young surfers historically and currently hike through to reach the water. Here’s a slightly edited version of that note:

It was 1956 and I was six years old when we made the first of many trips to Grandpa and Grandma Thomas’ new beach house. This was a wonderful new place to fish, swim, explore, and have great times with my cousins. My fondest memories include walking on the beach with Grandpa, collecting shells, driftwood, and the many odd items that washed up. The fishing was always great. We mostly caught sand sharks, but occasionally a sea bass or a small leopard shark. Once I caught a large lobster that got tangled up in my fishing line. My amazing grandmother cooked it up for all of us to sample.

The times around the outdoor fireplace were full of stories, Grandpa playing his guitar and my Dad playing the ukulele, singing “Ain’t She Sweet” and other songs of his era. Sleeping upstairs in the bus with the windows open and laying pennies on the railroad tracks — the memories go on and on. Many of us have been blessed to create new memories for our spouses, children, and grandchildren. Sadly, the beach house will soon be sold, but a new family will enjoy the riches of this magical and wonderful place.


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