Magazine article Sunset

The West's Best Places to Live: What Makes a Great Place to Call Home? Good Architecture, Vibrant Downtowns, Handsome Trees-And, Most of All, a Caring Community

Magazine article Sunset

The West's Best Places to Live: What Makes a Great Place to Call Home? Good Architecture, Vibrant Downtowns, Handsome Trees-And, Most of All, a Caring Community

Article excerpt

* Pasadena

* Walla Walla

* Stockton

* Denver

* Santa Fe

* Ogden

BEST NEIGHBORHOOD

Pasadena

CALIFORNIA

Real and honest: Bungalow Heaven

Perhaps the most inviting thin about the Pasadena, California neighborhood known as Bung low Heaven is its porches. Th neighborhood's houses come many styles--mostly Craftsman but also some Spanish and Tudor -- and most date back to the 1910s. But all seem to have porches supported by columns of cobblestone brick, or stucco.

The porches offer the perfect spot to savor a true neighborhood. Kids zip by on scooters, joggers give a wave as they run and beaming new parents push strollers through a community that seems both timeless an vitally of today.

"You come for the architecture and stay for the people," says Bob Kneisel, vice president of the Bungalow Heaven Neighborhood Association. "Bungalow Heaven is real, and it's honest."

Bungalow Heaven was born of battle. In 1985, residents banded together to fight for downzoning after a Craftsman bungalow was torn down to make way for an apartment building. That success led residents to work for city landmark district status--a designation earned in 1989.

The designation means that exterior improvements, not including painting and landscaping, are subject to city review. The neighborhood association provides residents with an array of resources to help them make historically appropriate changes to their homes--including a database of area homes and historical photographs to help ensure accurate renovations.

Beyond preservation, the Bungalow Heaven Neighborhood Association deals with issues common to communities throughout the West: controlling traffic, keeping crime down. Residents also show their commitment by volunteering for such events as the annual Bungalow Heaven Home Tour in April.

"In my old neighborhood," says Teresa Hartley, former association president, "I met three neighbors in nine years. Here I must know 25 really well. I told my husband, 'Just bury me here.'"

For additional information on the neighborhood of Bungalow Heaven, call (626) 585-2172 or go to www.bungalowheaven.org.

Matthew Jaffe

MORE WINNERS

Seabright, Santa Cruz, California. A 300-member community association instills neighborly feeling with its quarterly historical newsletter. Columbia City, Seattle. A terrific farmers' market and monthly Beat Walks--tours of restaurants--testify to the revitalization of this neighborhood.

BEST MAIN STREET

Walla Walla

WASHINGTON

Coming together downtown

Each Friday morning around 7, Jerry "Spud" Cundiff, a trim, white-haired gentleman who has spent his life in the family jewelry business, opens the sidewalk clock outside his store and cranks up its gearworks for another week of timekeeping--as someone has been doing here on Main Street in Walla Walla, Washington, since 1906.

The clock is an antique, but it isn't a relic reminding people that this used to be a bustling little metropolis, the place Theodore Roosevelt praised as making "the pleasantest impression upon my mind of any city I visited while in the Northwest." The clock has work to do, like the rest of downtown Walla Walla--which is thriving, thanks to a 10-year revitalization program.

Walla Walla, population 29,333, is set among the farms of southeastern Washington. In the 1970s, its downtown began a downward slide. Three of the four department stores fled, and a major landmark--the Marcus Whitman, a 12-story luxury hotel built in 1927--went condo.

But Walla Walla retained some critical assets. Whitman College, established in 1882, was parked on the east edge of downtown. A wine industry grew from a few vines in 1977 to 34 wineries today. And there was a nucleus of people who cared.

"People are becoming isolated," says Robert Parrish, owner of downtown's Backstage Bistro. …

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