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Pomona's 'Best-Kept Secret' : Ganesha Hills has family living in rural setting


When Richard Alvarez, an art instructor at Mt. San Antonio College, and his wife, Laura, a school office employee, were house-hunting almost two decades ago, they combed the suburbs of San Gabriel Valley.

Their search ended when they found a three-bedroom ranch-style house in the Ganesha Hills neighborhood of Pomona.

"We looked and looked and finally decided this is where we wanted to be," Richard Alvarez said, as he looked out over his large tree-filled yard. The couple raised their four children in the home and now grandchildren play in the garden.

"There have been changes since Laura and I settled here, but we still feel this spot is the best for us."

Ganesha Hills is a neighborhood of some 500 homes described by one resident as "the San Gabriel Valley's best-kept secret." Named for the elephant-headed Hindu god of good fortune, Ganesha Hills is situated in the rolling hills north of the San Bernardino Freeway (10), just east of the Orange (57) Freeway. The community of single-family homes in a variety of architectural styles set amid chaparral and oaks is in the northwestern section of Pomona bordering La Verne and San Dimas. Many of the homes have sweeping views of the San Bernardino Mountains.

Homes in Ganesha Hills range from bungalows to mansions, from Spanish colonial to custom homes, built between the late 1920s and the present, including the 320 Mediterranean-style homes built in gated Mountain Meadows in the mid-1980s.

Sale prices in the past year ranged from a four-bedroom, two-bath 1952 ranch-style house sold for $146,000 to a 4,526-square-foot hilltop custom home at $580,000. A typical home would be a Spanish colonial-style with four bedrooms and three baths in 3,254 square feet sold for $260,000.

"The departure of local aerospace companies has left us with an inventory of quality homes . . . ," said Mary Ellen Metwalli of Century 21 Prestige Properties. "Ganesha Hills is a real buyers' market."

Residents like the area's natural beauty, the closeness to recreational facilities and the nearness of three freeways, which can take them, at non-rush hour, to Los Angeles, Pasadena and the center of Orange County in 30 minutes.

Gene Williams, an insurance adjuster, and his wife, Barbara, a fashion designer who works in South El Monte, moved to Ganesha Hills eight years ago, fleeing the sameness of a newer tract in a nearby suburb for the variety and vistas of Ganesha Hills.

From their 1,900-square-foot contemporary hillside home, which they bought in 1987 for $190,000, they overlook a canyon where wildflowers blossom each spring and wildlife roams. The couple delights in the rural atmosphere, knowing, as Williams said, "urban reality is right at hand."

Ganesha Hills is part of a city whose rich history begins with the Native American settlement along what is now Thompson Creek, which flows through Ganesha Park. The land served as a rancho operated by Mission San Gabriel, and later became Rancho San Jose de Arriba.

In the real estate frenzy brought on by the railroad boom of the 1880s, Pomona was launched, and its population soared from 300 to 3,000. (It is now 144,000.) The town named for the Roman goddess of fruit soon became the center of the noted citrus area. But as citrus production declined in the 1920s, Ganesha Hills developed as a desirable residential neighborhood.

The community's appeal is strong enough to offset the smog problem, long the bane of inland valley life. But residents say things are getting better, with days of poor air quality down by 15% since 1992.

George Shaehling, a steel-frame construction worker, and his wife, Lori, an antiques dealer, were attracted to the area by both a childhood dream and a chance to turn a profit in the housing market. Shaehling hopes to realize a handsome profit on the $150,000 purchase of a 2,000-square-foot, three-bedroom postwar ranch-style home at the base of Ganesha Hills. The Shaehlings will sell it when roofing, painting and new stone planters and landscaping are completed, and perhaps use their profit to buy a view home higher up Ganesha hill.

"All the time I was growing up in Pomona I hoped I could buy a home in this neighborhood," Shaehling said.

The same was true for Ganesha resident Jim Sanchez, an investigator in the Los Angeles city attorney's office. "When I was a kid when we'd pass Ganesha Hills, I wished that someday I could have a house in those hills," he said.

Today Sanchez and his wife, Stephanie, a homemaker, and their two children have moved into a newly built four-bedroom, 1,900-square-foot home shaded by oak trees. Sanchez has done all the finishing work on the partially completed property, which they acquired in a foreclosure.

The architectural variety in Ganesha Hills attracted Carl Robburts, an Edison Co. employee, and his wife, Jana, but they feared the homes would be too expensive for them. However, last year they bought a 1923 Craftsman-style three-bedroom bungalow set on the banks of a creek shaded by oaks and redwoods for $165,000.

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