I’ve heard many names for my neighborhood but nothing really sticks. There needs to be some balance between horribly ghetto and not “too” ghetto. I think this is the problem of labeling. Its not the best neighborhood but its not the worst ever. I live on the corner of Barson and Campbell in Santa Cruz. (click here to see a google map) Here are some names I’ve heard for my neighborhood and why they don’t work:

1. The Flats: This is an obvious choice that many people unfamiliar with the neighborhood tend towards. The thing is that we are clearly divided from the flats geographically by the San Lorenzo River. The housing type in our neighborhood is also clearly different. The Beach-Flats (narrowly defined by beach hill to the west, San Lorenzo River to the North and East and the Boardwalk/main beach to the South) are so called because the neighborhood is comprised of small one bedroom and studio apartments and a smattering of older small hotels that are one room with no kitchen. The streets are narrow and there are a number of one way streets that direct a driver straight into the large parking lots in front of the boardwalk. Zoning is also more sporadic in the flats with housing and retail mixed in. There is a wide variety of taquerias, bakeries and convenience markets which serve the summer tourist crowd headed to Boardwalk. Most parking is regulated and becomes very tight in the summer.

2. Downtown: Clearly the Barson, Campbell area is separated from downtown again by the San Lorenzo River. Downtown’s definitions are a little unclear but I tend to define it by San Lorenzo River to the east, Beach hill to the South, Santa Cruz high-school to the west and Highway 1 to the north. The way I like to divide Santa Cruz is to say that downtown is in the middle to the west is the “West-side” and east of downtown is the “East-side”. The heart of downtown is obviously Pacific Ave but Front, Cedar and Center also host a wealth of restaurants and shops that fit squarely in the central business district. Go much further West and you end up on Mission, which is clearly its own definable area. Suffice to say Barson and Campbell is culturally and geographically different than both of these Areas.

3. Lower Seabright: We’re getting closer to figuring out a definable name but still the Barson, Campbell area is definitely not Seabright. Seabright is generally defined by Oceanview park to the Southwest, Broadway to the North, The Harbor to the East and Seabright/Twin Lakes to the South. Seabright is definitely its own little neighborhood with shops and restaurants along Seabright Ave at Murray. The Barson/Campbell area is more residential with only a few stores and restaurants. Seabright also hosts small shack-like dwellings similar in size but not worth to the Beach-Flats. There are some larger houses but these are usually built upon land formerly occupied by smaller dwellings and as such have small or no yards. To compensate there are a number of roof-top decks for barbecues and a number of summer rentals. Along OceanView there is also a beautiful collection of stately Victorians which recall an elegance from Santa Cruz Past. These huge, plantation-like properties host some of the best views in Santa Cruz.

4. Lower Ocean: Again this is getting closer. Ocean Ave is an older, more automobile based neighborhood with shops catering to tourists on their way into town for the summer. Much like Mission it is an old highway but has less recent development with more of the shops having been built in the 1940s and 50s. By the time ocean winds its way past Broadway, however, the types of shops and feel of the neighborhood shifts drastically. There is La Esperanza, a mexican market and deli which cater to the neighborhood’s spanish-speaking residents. There is the Little Ceasars which in some ways caters to tourists but has not nearly enough parking for the automobile crowd. Also along Ocean at barson there are a few convenience stores (711 and the Ocean market) which recall more of a Beach-Flats feel than the collection of gas stations and hotels that line Ocean from 17 to Broadway.

5. The River Flats: This seems most appropriate but is marred a bit by its definition of the neighborhood being composed of “Flats”. Again, the Barson/Campbell area hosts a number of owner-lived-in houses that have sizable yards (compared with Seabright to the East) and has a diversity of student and family residents. These are not “Flats” per-se and have a distinct economic difference from the Beach-Flats.

6. Branciforte: This is the old name for the secular settlement set up east of the Santa Cruz mission (whose primary residents were good catholics). Its squarely in the middle of the East-side but is generally too far north to be considered part of the Barson/Campbell neighborhood. It is centered around Branciforte Ave and Soquel and radiates out to Water to the North, Ocean to the West, Broadway to the South (leads to Seabright), and Seabright Ave. to the East.

So the question begs to be answered what do we call our neighborhood? I would say it is generally defined as the houses and restaurants that are bordered by the San Lorenzo to the west and south, by Soquel Ave or San Lorenzo Park to the north and by the hill leading to Seabright Avenue to the East. Its basic center is Broadway and Ocean or Barson and Ocean and encompasses the Radioshack, Little Caesars and both Clay and Campbell Streets. It is close to downtown but has unregulated parking (for the time being. The Santa Cruz Beach Inn is located in its boundaries and it is nearly completely surrounded by the San Lorenzo river (being that its in its flood plain).

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