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Costa Mesa's Snoopy House display will go on despite foreclosure

A bank recently foreclosed on the home where a Christmas display featuring the 'Peanuts' gang has been set up for 44 years, but Costa Mesa City Hall has agreed to take over the display.

December 07, 2011|By Joseph Serna, Los Angeles Times
  • Jim Jordan leans on his truck full of the reindeer cutouts and other props used in his Costa Mesa home's popular annual Christmas display. The home is nicknamed the Snoopy House. He was forced to remove the set pieces because a bank had foreclosed on the home.
Jim Jordan leans on his truck full of the reindeer cutouts and other props… (Don Leach, Daily Pilot )

For 44 years, the Jordan family crafted an elaborate Charlie Brown-themed Christmas display outside their Costa Mesa home.

The doctor was in, with a Lucy cutout offering counseling.

Charlie Brown and Sally clutched a wrapped gift.

Linus (with blanket) stood beneath the Christmas tree.

And much of the "Peanuts" gang ice-skated around a faux pond.

"I grew up around the corner from there. It's been there every year," said Lisa Dugan, who helps with the setup. "It's the magic, it's the spirit of Christmas. With everything going on in this world, it's almost like the last hope."

But like Lucy pulling the football from a galloping Charlie Brown, a bank recently foreclosed on the one-story home near the city's eastern border with Newport Beach, leaving in doubt whether the display would survive.

Jordan, who uses the home as a rental property and is challenging the Nov. 24 foreclosure, worried not only about keeping his home but also about continuing one of Costa Mesa's most treasured holiday traditions.

"My wife says I'm a frustrated Walt Disney," said Jim Jordan, 59, the family member who takes care of the house. "It's my life's work. There's a core group of us that fusses with this all year long."

Though the house is now bank-owned, there will be a Charlie Brown Christmas after all: Costa Mesa City Hall agreed to take over the display and a group of community volunteers is going to set up the "Peanuts" gang, Santa and other cutouts at the civic center across from the Orange County Fairgrounds.

"We talked about bringing the Snoopy House to City Hall to continue the rich tradition that's been here for many decades," City Manager Tom Hatch said. "Hopefully this kind of display can bring the community together."

That's good news to those who grew up seeing the comic strip characters every holiday season. There's a "Save the Snoopy House" Facebook page and Twitter account. One person even set up a tent on the home's front lawn, a mini Occupy the Snoopy House movement. Even a nearby Chick-fil-A restaurant in Santa Ana offered to set up the "Peanuts" gang outside.

Others are giving money to Jordan to see if he can reverse the foreclosure. Two of those loyal supporters, Dugan's children Jackson, 10, and Dayle, 8, set up shop Saturday at the old Snoopy House home and sold lemonade at 50 cents a cup. On Monday, the entrepreneurial duo handed Jordan $230.

"People were giving donations," Lisa Dugan said. "They just wanted to help him. They love the Snoopy House."

How Jordan lost the house is a story that Charlie Brown could appreciate. Jordan stopped paying the mortgage in 2010. He said his lawyer suggested that he stop paying so he could renegotiate his loan, which Wachovia initially had declined to modify because Jordan hadn't missed any payments. He said he hired someone to work with the bank on a loan modification, but that person just took his money without doing anything.

"I am just devastated and heartsick at how this spiraled out of control," Jordan said.

In August 2010, Jordan received a notice of default from Wells Fargo, which inherited the loan when it acquired Wachovia. Because of technicalities, there was no foreclosure notice until Nov. 24.

In an emailed statement, Wells Fargo spokeswoman Edna Silva said that the bank appreciated the Snoopy House display but that the foreclosure will continue.

"We understand that Mr. Jordan and the community have made a considerable time and financial investment in the annual holiday display outside the home," she wrote. "At this point, we are exploring multiple options on how to get his property back to him. Foreclosure is an option of last resort, and it's regrettable that we had to foreclose on Mr. Jordan's rental property. While we work hard to prevent foreclosures, it is not always avoidable."

Jordan said he was glad that the bank is willing to work with him, but it's the community rallying like Snoopy as the World War I flying ace that won his heart.

"It really went a long way to healing my heart," he said. "It meant that all was not for naught."

Twitter: @JosephSerna

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