Ventura pleasures span downtown to the pier

By Joanne Cunha
Special to The Times

April 6, 2003

Ventura is an unpretentious coastal community with a quiet, unhurried atmosphere, small-town appeal and a well-used Main Street. The Two Trees hilltop landmark, visible above the city from the 101 Freeway, stands guard over the protected green hillsides, emblematic of Ventura's no-growth movement.

The basics

Ventura takes its name from Mission San Buenaventura, founded there in 1782 by Father Junipero Serra. The town grew up in the 1920s around the oil business and today is home to about 104,000 people. It is about 70 miles north of Los Angeles and 30 miles south of Santa Barbara.

Drawing card

The city has a lively downtown. During the last 10 years, art galleries, restaurants, small shops and a movie complex have replaced the shabby storefronts.

Wow factor

Ventura Harbor is an active fishing area that launches daily sightseeing boat trips to the Channel Islands. It has restaurants, shops and a promenade for walking. There is also a bike path from the harbor that travels north along the coast and connects to a trail leading inland, all the way to Ojai.

The Ventura Pier is a popular place to walk or fish while taking in the coastal views.

Stock report

Exclusive and isolated properties valued at $1 million to $3 million line the beach in the gated communities of Solimar, Faria Beach and Seacliff. Closer to town, Pierpont Beach and Ventura Keys homes, some with boat docks, range from $450,000 to $1.5 million. Downtown is dotted with historic, small Spanish stucco and 1900s California Craftsman bungalows, with prices from $350,000 to $650,000.

The Midtown area, walking distance to the Pacific View Mall, has houses from the 1950s and 1960s starting at $350,000. Prices in an established area of '50s tract homes on tree-lined streets, referred to as "above the college," range from $350,000 to $500,000. On the east end of town, near the Ventura County Government Center, larger tract homes sell for $400,000 and up. Townhouses near the beach range from $350,000 to $750,000.

Hot spots

At Surfers Point, experts go kite-boarding; at Jim Hall Kart Racing School, drivers take high-performance go-cart lessons; and at Camino Real Park, migrating monarch butterflies roost in the eucalyptus trees.

Good news, bad news

The Ventura Visitors and Convention Bureau has been working to make the city more than just a stop on the way to Santa Barbara. Its promotional efforts, however, sometimes seem in conflict with a community that likes things just the way they are.

Report card

The Ventura Unified School District includes 25 schools with 2002 Academic Performance Index scores ranging from 509 to 879 on a scale of 1,000. Ventura College is part of the Ventura County Community College District.

Insider information

Erle Stanley Gardner, who wrote the Perry Mason novels, was a well-known Ventura lawyer.

Historical values

Single-family detached resales:

Year...Median Price






Sources: Florence Gadbois, RE/MAX Gold Coast Realtors, Oxnard; Ventura Chamber of Commerce,;;;

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