Address: 962 Isleta Avenue

Status: On the market

Price: $1,794,900

The Mesa is one of the most distinct areas in Santa Barbara, defined by its geography, topography, and often foggier, cooler microclimate. Residents of this part of town proudly claim their stake in not just their Mesa-ism but also their affiliation to which distinct part of the Mesa they call home.

There’s the West Mesa incorporating the Mesa Lane area, Monroe Elementary School, and everything from Meigs Road to Hendry’s Beach. The East Mesa is the beachy surfers’ haven that includes Shoreline Park, SBCC, and Meigs Road down to the Harbor. The remaining hills above form the Alta Mesa, which can be even further subdivided by East and West. Alta Mesa West contains Fellowship Road, Skyline Circle, and Escondido and Hilda Ray parks. Alta Mesa East is the portion between City College and the Westside, bordered loosely by Cliff Drive on the West and Loma Alta Drive on the East.

The approach to the Alta Mesa East from downtown — which turns from Carrillo onto San Andres and then up the long winding hill of Loma Alta Drive, as the harbor appears below as you climb higher — is one of the most scenic byways in our fair city. If you aren’t yet aware that you’re entering an extra-special enclave, there’s one more specific sign. The lampposts change from nondescript to a charming design from yesteryear, signaling the crossover from one micro-neighborhood to the next. It’s as if you’ve gone “through the wardrobe” into a magic land where anything is possible.

I wasn’t sure what to expect as I followed the curving streets toward the appointed address of a recent open house, because the homes on Isleta Avenue offer a variety of architectural styles. Bungalows sit next to cottages, mixed with some examples of more modern architecture. Most of the houses are set back from the street and appear fairly modest in size. It’s a pride-of-ownership neighborhood composed of well-kept gardens in front of single-family homes.

 The home at 962 Isleta is a charming surprise. Surrounded by a hedge and up a brick walkway sits this solid, storybook home. Its many-gabled, gray-shingled roof slopes down to a thick-walled façade decorated with geometric wood detailing and a bright blue door. The house was built in 1926 and designed by Joseph Plunkett of the Edwards and Plunkett architectural firm that designed the Arlington Theatre and many other commercial and residential buildings in Santa Barbara, mostly in the Spanish Mediterranean style. They are credited with having a significant hand in giving Santa Barbara its telltale red-tiled roof look. This home, however, sports a distinctly French Norman style, much more likely to be called a gingerbread cottage than a hacienda.

Inside, the home is a delightful blend of charming vintage details and beautifully updated conveniences. The kitchen, for example, is a completely upgraded, gourmet-caliber gathering place in the center of the house. It has been remodeled to incorporate high-end modern appliances, gleaming marble countertops, and detailed custom cabinetry, with its original hardwood floors. In addition to the kitchen, this main floor holds the living room, dining room, two bedrooms, and two baths, plus a sunny family room or office with amazing views.

All of these rooms show off period features including the fireplace in the living room, the coved window seat in the dining room, and beautiful wood-beamed ceilings throughout. Modern conveniences such as all-new windows and doors blend seamlessly with the original charm. Possibly the best feature of all is a room-sized deck off the living room. Stepping through multipaned French doors, over 250 square feet of outdoor living space overlooks the expansive sloping lawn of the backyard with a view out to the harbor and ocean beyond.

The only better view is from the exquisite master suite upstairs. Up a wooden staircase is a private haven. The bedroom is almost 400 square feet, with a huge remodeled bath featuring a window seat and a traditional claw-foot bathtub. Along one wall, the closet runs the entire length of the bedroom and has two walk-in entrances. I think it was the private balcony patio on this floor that made me say out loud, “I might never go downstairs again.”

But I did walk back downstairs, and then downstairs again, to the completely separate suite on the lower level. With a bath, kitchen, and its own entrance to the backyard, these 450 square feet of self-contained living space would make perfect in-law quarters or guest accommodations. It’s like a separate little cottage within the big cottage.

After walking back through the main house, I decided that my favorite aspects of this beautiful home are the deck and sunny bonus room on the main floor, plus the entire upstairs master suite. I guess it’s no surprise that the common theme of these three spaces is that they all showcase the amazing ocean view. Maybe that’s why residents of the Mesa don’t mind the fog. Whether sitting on the deck watching the fog burn off in the morning, or eating dinner in the family room watching the fog roll in over the twinkling lights below, being up on the Alta Mesa East puts you above it all, in this storybook cottage on the hillside where anything is possible.

962 Isleta Avenue is currently for sale in Santa Barbara, listed by Steve Epstein of The Epstein Partners of Keller Williams Realty. Reach Steve at (805) 689-9339 or


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