Entering into Pacific Grove Life for 3 Days

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I was driving home from the grocery store and I spied this garden as I drove by. I parked nearby and walked back to take some photos. The homeowner was at the mailbox so I asked permission to take photos. Cindy invited me to get a closer look.

I used to live in Pacific Grove in the mid-80s. A lot has changed since then, and at the same time it is still a delightfully “normal” place to visit. The neighborhoods and downtown on Lighthouse Avenue are charming. It is bounded by Ocean View Avenue with a rugged and beautiful coastline. I prefer to stay here over any other part of the Monterey Peninsula.

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Cindy and her family moved here in 1987 and incrementally created this garden over the years. They don’t have a backyard, but we agreed that we typically only use one or the other. This is better allocation. 

In the past I have stayed at motels and hotels. This visit I am with my daughter and her family so we rented a home. We looked on VRBO and Airbnb and we found the 2 bedroom 2 bath home we are renting on Airbnb. It has been more comfortable than 2 hotel rooms and about the same price.

  • We can cook meals.
  • There is a living room where Calvin can make play with his toys (and make a mess).
  • We can play dominoes at the dining table and laugh without worrying about waking up a sleeping toddler.
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Cindy even invited me to come in to the house to see her paintings. I shared some of my favorite artists on Instagram. We had a great conversation.

There is a debate raging about the phenomenon of vacation rentals and how it is changing the neighborhoods and city finances of Pacific Grove (PG). My daughter saw a sign for Measure M. I did some research and learned that Monterey and Carmel have tight restrictions on the vacation rental market and PG does not. Also residents have been complaining about over-concentrations of homes for short-term rent for over 3 years and the city council had not taken any action. I had noticed that many of the motels and hotels had vacancy signs, which is uncommon in my memory. There is usually some kind of conference going on at Asilomar or tourism that keeps them near full.

We were walking on Asilomar Beach with Calvin and a dog and then another 2 year old and her dad joined us. We did the usual back and forth about the kids and then he asked where we were staying. We admitted that we were staying in a home nearby. He shared his frustration with the vacation rental situation. “They aren’t paying the taxes they owe the city.” He also alluded to the partying and recently moving from Nashville, which was a party town, he was hoping to escape that scene. Sarah and I weren’t quite sure what his point was as we haven’t witnessed anything but deer roaming the streets and senior citizens power walking in the neighborhood. I mentioned that my neighbor has dedicated his investment property (across the street from me in Midtown Sacramento) for AirBnB rental. People are coming and going during the week and weekends. They typically empty a lot of “bottles” into the recycling, but to be fair, they have yet to disturb anyone.

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Not all people in Pacific Grove are this friendly, nevertheless if you stay open, you are more likely to have a great experience and possibly meet a kindred spirit.

As a consumer of temporary housing when I travel, I appreciate the range of choice available today. At the same time I am also sympathetic to the challenges it creates, especially in housing markets where rentals are already scarce and prices are rising. I also remember the signs posted in Venice, Italy protesting Airbnb and the perceived effect that it was pricing “real Venetians” out of Venice.

As we walked back to the car, Sarah and I discussed our conversation with the local who is going to vote to limit vacation rentals to the coastal zone (1 mile from coastline) and the business district. He wasn’t unfriendly, just frustrated. We wondered if we shouldn’t have rented the home we are staying in, and decided that we were unaware of the controversy, we are in the coastal zone, and it isn’t illegal. We’d like to come every year, so we’ll have to think through our options next year. Also, does Airbnb pay the local transient occupancy tax or expect hosts to do so?

IMG_5238When I lived here in the 80s, the prices were climbing well beyond the ability of people mostly working service jobs to afford to buy. Then the problem was that some of the supply was taken off the market by people who could afford to buy a second or third home on the Peninsula. They only spent a few weeks a year in Carmel or Pebble Beach and this had a ripple effect in the entire housing market. The Airbnb phenomenon makes it possible for upper middle class people to buy a vacation home and afford it thanks to additional rents.

It is complicated. When Airbnb started I thought it was restricted to host-occupied residences. It was both the attraction and the turn-off. I prefer a hotel to a Bed & Breakfast because I prefer to be left alone. Now it has become a platform for entrepreneurs with enough cash to invest in a dedicated vacation property. I use ride sharing services and appreciate the greater availability of cars where I am, the app’s easy way to pay, but it has not been so great for taxis. A lot of these apps disrupt the existing order of things and create new opportunities for consumers and the industrious. Hopefully Pacific Grove will find the right balance.

Fun Day Out at Filoli

Filoli Garden HouseMy friend Sandy accompanied her young son to a summer school program at Stanford University and it gave us an opportunity to catch up. We met up in Palo Alto and drove 30 minutes north to the home and gardens at Filoli in Woodbridge.

One of two full size knot gardens at Filoli.
One of two full size knot gardens at Filoli.
These two volunteers are members of the local Bonsai club and maintain the bonsai knot garden.
These two volunteers are members of the local Bonsai club and maintain the bonsai knot garden.

Floli is a gracious estate. It was built by the Bourn family in the years after the great San Francisco earthquake and fire in 1906. The Bourn’s wealth came in part from the Empire Gold Mine in Grass Valley, California. The name of the estate is derived from the first two letters of the key words of the family credo: Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.

The Filoli grounds are full of organic inspired sculptures.
The Filoli grounds are full of organic inspired sculptures.

The gardens are among my favorite and this is the first time I have visited during the summer. Everything was lush and blooming. We enjoyed speaking with two volunteers shaping the miniature knot gardens.

Filoli home entranceThe home is decorated in a traditional (and stuffy) style. We did love the kitchen–especially the aqua cupboards. We also loved the sculpture scattered throughout the grounds and buildings.

Love the retro kitchen!
Love the retro kitchen!

‘There is a gift shop with nursery plants for sale and some interesting garden furniture.  We ate lunch at the Filoli Cafe. The sandwiches were fresh and delicious; however, there was entirely too much reliance on plastic containers. There are indoor and outdoor dining options.

Filoli gift shop and nursery
Filoli gift shop and nursery

Admission is $18 for an adult. Filoli is open Tuesday through Sunday, mid-February to late October. The hours may change and generally 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Filoli is located 86 Canada Road, Woodbridge, California.

Larnach Castle is Worth the Effort

The mansion known as Larnach Castle and its extensive gardens are open to the public. There is an admission charge unless you are staying overnight in the lodging. It is about 20-30 minutes on a narrow, windy road from the Dunedin City Centre, South Island, New Zealand. It is worth the effort.

Larnach Castle, Dunedin, New Zealand
Larnach Castle, Dunedin, New Zealand

It was built by William Larnach,who was a bit of a scoundrel, in 1871. It took over 15 years to build, finish the interiors and furnish. Larnach was a merchant and politician who ended a bankrupt suicide. The house fell into dereliction for years and then in 1967 the Barker family bought and restored it. Margaret Barker searched high and low for the original furnishings or photos to return the home and its gardens to its former glory.

The home is impressive. I am always more interested in the gardens and they are lovely. Larnach Catstle Garden, Dunedin, New ZealandLarnach Catstle Garden, Dunedin, New Zealand

Larnach Catstle Garden, Dunedin, New Zealand

Larnach Catstle Garden, Dunedin, New Zealand
Incomparable views of Dunedin.

Larnach Catstle Garden, Dunedin, New Zealand

Castle annex with cafe, toilets and plants for sale.
Castle annex with cafe, toilets and plants for sale.

Postcard: New Gateway to UC Davis Arboretum

Today the new archway to the Gateway Garden in the UC Davis Arboretum was dedicated. The artist, Christopher Fennell, used shovels donated from the community to create this unique entrance. The arboretum is under construction and will extend the gardens from Gateway Housing to the Davis Commons Shopping Center. If you want to walk there, you can park in the shopping center (Whole Foods and Gap) at 1st and D Street and find it at the back of the parking lot.  This new archway makes a fitting entrance. 

Christopher Fennell just completed the Shovel Gateway for UC Davis Arboretum

The Arboretum is just off Highway 80 (main campus exit) and provides a peaceful and beautiful place to walk or bike and enjoy diverse gardens. The University and Davis community have collaborated to create a multi-dimensional educational experience–from a teaching nursery (with great plant sales) to a native plant garden with informative interpretive signs. I especially like the oak grove with beautiful ceramic benches and a public restroom covered in amazing ceramic murals. 

Ceramic mural on public toilets next to Peter J Shields oak grove.