No, it's not a joke. The unassuming beach-adjacent town just south of Santa Barbara is being called the new Montecito, which means it's the latest haven for veeeery rich people. It sure doesn’t seem like snooty Montecito, as the WSJ discovers: modest tract homes, train tracks, a working-class downtown - even an offshore oil rig. But as longtime Santa Barbara real estate agent Kathleen Winter sniffs: "There's Carpinteria, and there's the Carpinteria beachfront." Oh. The waterfront is where you'll find NY billionaire hedge-fund manager Bruce Kovner, who spent $83.3 million earlier this year for 15 bluff-top acres. Just down the road, a beachfront house is going for $24 million.
On a recent evening, business was booming at Giannfranco's Trattoria, a new upscale Italian restaurant on Linden Avenue. Owner Franco Contreras says he hopes the recent stratospheric home sales won't spoil Carpinteria, which he still considers an "undiscovered gem." But his success depends on getting noticed, and he says that is increasingly happening, as more Montecito residents come in to eat and pay with their exclusive black American Express Centurion cards. "They are finding out," Mr. Contreras says, "that Carpinteria isn't as low as they thought."
For years, Padaro Lane consisted mainly of relatively modest second homes, many of them owned by residents of the Los Angeles suburb of Pasadena and the central valley city of Bakersfield. Today, the more than 100 homes range from shingle-covered Cape Cods to modern manors with floor-to-ceiling windows. Along the two-mile stretch of road, the lots generally become larger as one travels west toward Santa Barbara. The terrain rises from beach level to bluffs and the homes recede behind walls and colorfully landscaped driveways. Near a house that rents for $60,000 a month and would blend in easily on Nantucket sits an estate that makes real-estate agent Suzanne Perkins wistful. Back in the 1980s, she considered buying the four-acre parcel for a then-pricey $450,000 but passed. It just sold for $16.5 million, she says, "and nothing had been done to it for years!"