By Jo Ann Allen
I have lived in Pleasure Point all my life in the same house I grew up in. I only moved down the street when I was first married in 1973 into a one-bedroom Apartment, furnished, utilities paid for $125 month rent — one block from the ocean.
Hard to believe now, but as the rents began to increase in the 70’s we moved back to my family home and have remained there, raising my children, and taking care of my mom.
I have seen many changes to my neighborhood over the past 67 years, but what remains is the close sense of community within the several blocks I call home.
I understand people wanting to make it safer to walk, bike and drive and have a family friendly community — that was the neighborhood I grew up in.
As kids we all walked or rode our bikes everywhere. During the 50’s and 60’s we had some of the largest concentrations of children in the several blocks that made up 34th, 35th, 36th, and 37th Avenues. My father built a covered bus shelter to protect us from the rain as we waited for the school bus. On any given day, between 30 to 40 children stood in front my house waiting to catch the bus. Everyone knew everyone and you didn’t dare do anything “bad” or a neighbor or other parent would call your parents. No one thought of calling the police. We all took care of each other, older kids looking out for younger ones, neighbors watching out for everyone.
It was a busy area of mom-and-pop business (my parents had one on Floral Drive), people going to and from work, with no sidewalks or bike lanes.
We were all taught the rules of the road (walking against traffic, riding bikes with traffic, stopping at stop signs, looking both ways before crossing, etc). We didn’t walk or ride down the middle of the street like we were better than people driving cars — we respected drivers and drivers respected us. We got off and walked our bikes across busy streets.
Cars stopped at crosswalks while we hurriedly crossed Portola to the El Rancho Shopping Center.
The El Rancho Shopping Center: I am not sure what year this complex was built, but I remember going to the opening as a child. It was a wonderful place for our community. There was a beautiful grocery store, a bank (that I opened my first savings account at), many little retail stores, a pet store, and a bakery.
My favorite thing was to walk to the bakery and get the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever smelled or eaten in my life. I would stand and watch the puppies in the pet store and peer in the windows at the other retail stores, as my family could not afford to purchase anything at these stores.
Pleasure Point was a community of low to middle income families and the El Rancho Center was a little more upscale than most of us could afford.
We usually shopped at Opal Cliffs Market, but my mom thought she would try the new store as it had a few more items and seemed to have some good sales, plus they gave you S&H green stamps. (I found a book of these in my mom’s things after she passed).
The center had monthly events and giveaways. Everyone in the neighborhood would gather in the parking lot for the festivities hoping they would be the lucky winner of the holiday turkey or other items from the center stores. I can still feel the excitement of the ticket holders and smell those cookies.
El Rancho Center has gone through so many variations of businesses over the past 40 years to its current configuration, but I still miss my little neighborhood bakery.
Pleasure Point Lumber was also one of my favorite places to go with my dad, the smell of cresol and fresh milled lumber brings back fond memories — it is sad to see it now.
Sometime in the 70’s Portola went sideways — businesses closed, bank closed, grocery store went away, more bars dotted Portola, “massage parlors” opened in El Rancho Center, along Portola, on the avenues, and behind storefronts on 41st Avenue.
These were not the spas of today — these were sex houses. The point was alive with the sex, drugs, rock and roll anthem of the era. Frenchy’s bookstore is the last bastion of this sexual revolution.
But the neighborhood still thrived with families and kids walking, surfing, riding bikes and having adventures.
My neighborhood remained low- to middle-income homes until the ‘90s, when wealthy people started buying up little beach houses and turning them into mini-McMansions, housing costs soared, rents soared and only a few of us low to middle income families were able to remain in the neighborhood.
A few other family-oriented folks were able to buy homes before the huge wave of housing prices increased to such ridiculous prices as $1.3 million for a 530-square-foot cottage.
I have watched the slow gentrification of Pleasure Point over the past 20 to 30 years, with the changes to East Cliff Drive, changes in type of businesses allowed, high cost of housing, and changing demographic.
Yet there is still the feel of the old Pleasure Point of my childhood with many of my cherished neighbors.
I believe the atmosphere of my childhood is what people are wanting to recreate with the proposed changes to Portola. A fun, safe, friendly environment where everyone takes care of each other, and you can meet and greet your neighbors to chat about this and that.
But sadly, with gentrification we may be creating an elitist neighborhood that I couldn’t afford to shop in growing up, where people judge you by the clothes you wear, the coffee you drink, the bike you ride, and low-income people do not feel welcome.
In my opinion that is not the “eclectic character” of Pleasure Point.
Pleasure Point is for all walks of life, all incomes, all beliefs, all genders, and all races – not just rich or entitled people.
That is the neighborhood of my childhood and the neighborhood I want to maintain – one that is safe and inviting to all.
So, forgive me if I see what is happening with Portola as a step in the direction of exclusiveness for a targeted group and not inclusive for all that currently live or would like to live and work here.
A beach community should not just be for the rich and entitled – it should be for all to live in and enjoy, with mixed housing types, diverse businesses, and respect for the environment.
A place that you can live, love, and grow old in without the fear of being pushed out because of increased housing costs.
We are not Los Gatos, Carmel, Huntington Beach, or any of the other areas people want us to be more like.
We are Pleasure Point, home to surfing, skateboarding, funky beach houses, working people, Pleasure Point bike ride, local musicians jamming on Saturdays, Pleasure Point Night Fighters, neighborhood 4th of July parade, and many more things that make us the Point — we should strive to maintain our own identify and not be like “someplace else.”