The Eastside – The Neighborhood East of State Street

The Upper East Side

upper eastThe Upper East neighborhood of Santa Barbara has been the crown jewel of the city with the most sought after homes for decades. The houses are outstandingly large and impressive. Intricate. Beautiful. Sopping with character and intrigue. The embellished yards are groomed to perfection. And it’s quiet.

One can only dream of living in the Upper East. Driving through it is a pleasure in and of itself, gazing upon the glamorous houses, drowning in drool as you dream about what you would do with all that square footage.

The Santa Barbara Mission sits center stage amidst this audience of upscale homes, providing a performance fit for a standing ovation every time. With a rose garden and a picturesque backdrop of mountains and blue sky, the mission steals hearts daily. Established in the 1700’s, the mission has been added onto and rebuilt three times. Now she stands in all her glory, increasing the property value of all of those around her.

Many of the homes in the Upper East neighborhood are of historical or architectural significance, so significant that the Pearl Chase Society offers annual walking tours of the neighborhood. Most of the houses are set back from the street with tall hedges for privacy and to help eliminate noise pollution. But you can still manage to get a peek.

Both Alice Keck Park and Alameda Park (also known as Kid’s World) are included in the Upper East. Roosevelt Elementary sits just down the way from the mission, and there are also several churches in the area. For the most part this neighborhood is very serene, very put together, almost like the watchful grandmother of the city. Sitting in the corner, rocking lackadaisically, soaking in the admiration of those around it, and treasuring those that choose to hop into its lap.

The Lower East Side

lowereastThe lower Eastside is a mixed bag of apartments, condos, and small single-family homes. Although parts of it look weathered, remodels litter the map.

Many who don’t live here, view the long stretch of Milpas Street, by which the area is defined, as a passing point, one that only leads to the freeway. But at least one local resident saw the vacant buildings scattered around Milpas as a beckoning opportunity instead. There is way more to Milpas than meets the eye.

Chris Vigilante attended UCSB before deciding to open a restaurant with his wife, his college roommate, and a close friend. “I lived on the lower East side when I opened the shop,” he says during a short conversation. “I like my neighborhood,” he continues, “but it wasn’t the best walking neighborhood; other than Mexican restaurants, there wasn’t much to do. We saw that the neighborhood could benefit from our plans,” says Vigilante.

They named their new restaurant, which opened about 18 months ago, The Shop Café, as their building is surrounded by car mechanics and tire changing stations. “I think the Eastside is representative of Santa Barbara as a whole. We thought that whether you’re a white guy or Mexican or black, it has nothing to do with success. As long as you show that you care about the neighborhood, the response should be positive.”

Recent improvements include an expanded bike lane on Cota, and constant efforts by the Milpas Community Association to make Milpas a safer place. There’s a real sense of neighborhood pride here, there are several vacant buildings, so there are a lot of opportunities to expand business. The Milpas community, in fact, recently earned top honors in the latest USA neighborhood of the year contest.