LA JOLLA — El Pueblo Ribera is a La Jolla landmark as much for its characters as its architectural character.
"They're unique buildings, and they've housed unique personalities," said Jeffrey Shorn, a La Jolla architect who once lived there and remains sort of its architectural caretaker. "I don't know who attracted whom."
There have been artists, actors, architects and architecture buffs, beach bums and a full complement of local eccentrics.
"There have been some characters," said Buzzy Bent, who is one of them. Bent, who calls himself a "semi-retired surfer," was one of the founders of the Chart House restaurants before moving on to other adventures.
He has been an admirer of the cottages since the days of his youth, when he rode past on his paper route, and over the years he has lived in two different units.
"He (architect Rudolph M. Schindler) arranged the cottages so everywhere you look there are creative patterns," Bent said one afternoon, surveying the view toward the ocean from the open, rooftop patio of his cottage.
"He had some soul. I wish he were around today; he was so far beyond everyone else."
When Georgiana Chaney came to look at an El Pueblo Ribera cottage that was for sale 14 years ago, she remembers the real estate agent being extremely apologetic about showing the strange concrete structure.
"It was as if he didn't think anyone would want to live in a place like this," said Chaney, who was not deterred.
"I just knew I liked the house. Anyone who enters has to be intrigued. The whole thing is an art form in itself."
Chaney, a kindergarten teacher nearing retirement who is reluctantly moving out this summer, has been an unofficial greeter for the complex. When the students, the foreign architects and the curious timidly peak at her home, she invites them in and shows them around.
This, however, has been a tragic year for El Pueblo Ribera. One of its most colorful residents was George Mann, one of the elder statesmen of Windansea Beach. But the 83-year-old Mann, suffering from cancer, committed suicide in January.
Earlier this month, Michael Tellep, 50, who owned six of the cottages, also committed suicide. Tellep had been the target of some criticism from preservationists for not doing more to maintain his historic buildings, but his friends contend El Pueblo Ribera is doing all right for a 63-year-old.
"Let's face it," Bent said. "They were falling apart anyway. And if you look at them, everyone who has lived here over the years has added his own creative bit."