San Roque rises from its rogue past

The colorful history of this Santa Barbara neighborhood runs from bandits to the postwar housing boom.

May 25, 2008|Frank Nelson | Special to The Times

San ROQUE, in northwestern Santa Barbara, is a leafy, well-established part of town where development began in the 1920s and '30s and was largely completed during the building boom of the '50s and '60s.

The neighborhood is named for St. Roque, from 14th century France, who is variously described as the patron of surgeons and bachelors, dogs and diseased cattle.

The area has three parks -- Stevens, Willowglen and the half-acre San Roque -- good schools are nearby and it's within a short drive of a post office, banks and several shopping malls, many developed in response to San Roque's rapid growth.

The commercial and cultural facilities of Santa Barbara also are within easy reach, making San Roque a convenient and idyllic spot in which to live. But it wasn't always so.


San Roque 150 years ago was the headquarters of gang leader Jack Powers, one of California's most notorious bandits and gamblers. Powers established a base here, squatting illegally on private land, and for years resisted all efforts to evict him.

Powers and his henchmen controlled Santa Barbara with "a virtual reign of terror" in the early 1850s, on one occasion scaring off a 200-strong posse of local citizens, according to historian Walter A. Tompkins.

A century later, much more law-abiding folk were setting up homes in San Roque as part of the postwar housing boom, and today the neighborhood has an eclectic mix of architectural styles -- Spanish and American Colonial, English Tudor, French and Italian.

Market report

San Roque offers mainly small, ranch-style, single-family homes, said agent Scott Williams, a 30-year Santa Barbara real estate veteran. Others were custom built 70 or 80 years ago with design flourishes including oak floors, barrel ceilings and bay windows.

The area also has some larger and more gracious homes, many lining Canon Drive, Calle Fresno and Carrizo Drive, plus pockets of older condominiums and clusters of apartments, most notably on San Remo Drive.

The median price in San Roque is $1,195,000, just a fraction higher than the median for the whole of Santa Barbara, and there are currently about 30 homes on the market, said Williams, who works at Prudential California Realty.

Two-bedroom homes are typically priced in the high $700,000s, although one requiring a lot of work is available at $699,000. Three-bedroom, two-bathroom houses fetch between $1 million and $1.2 million, while larger homes range from $1.5 million to $3 million. Eighteen condos are for sale, mostly between $540,000 and $969,000.

Good news, bad news

San Roque is largely flat, which means it's easy to walk or cycle around. Those who like a little more exercise will find trail heads for mountain hiking within easy reach.

Williams said he finds the climate near-perfect, warmer than down at the beach but cooler than in the nearby hills. However, the location does mean there's a three-mile drive to reach some sand.

Another potential downside, at least for some people, is the size of the lots, which tend to average 7,000 square feet, creating what Williams describes as a "sense that people are around you."

Local viewpoint

Easy access to businesses and other facilities is a huge plus for Sally Smith, who has lived on Chuparosa Drive for about 20 years.

"I like being close to all the shopping," she said, adding that she's three blocks from State Street and within walking distance of La Cumbre Plaza, one of the city's major malls.

Smith also enjoys the sense of community in the neighborhood, as exemplified by picnics at San Roque Park, a village green-like area near her house, where families and neighbors gather several times a year.

Report card

San Roque has three schools at its doorstep. Monte Vista Elementary has an Academic Performance Index of 884 out of a possible 1,000 on the 2007 Growth Report. Peabody Charter School, with students in kindergarten through sixth grade, has an API of 818.

Many students from these schools go on to neighboring La Colina Junior High School, which has an API of 849, or to Santa Barbara Junior High, 760. From there the public high schools are San Marcos, 755, and Santa Barbara, 724.


Sources: "Santa Barbara Neighborhoods" by Walter A. Tompkins;;;;

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