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FOCUS : Mesa Verde--A Green Place for Growing Families

Clipboard researched by Kathie Bozanich and Elena Brunet / Los Angeles Times; Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

The oldest standing structure in Costa Mesa’s neighborhood of Mesa Verde is the Diego Sepulveda Adobe in Estancia Park. Built between 1823 and 1825, this modest building originally sheltered missionaries visiting Mission San Juan Capistrano and vaqueros tending the cattle herds on the mission’s lands.

Today, the adobe is a museum furnished in the styles of four periods in California history: Indian, Mission, Spanish and Victorian. In the southwest corner, the so-called Mission Room, a kitchen features a packed-dirt floor, a beehive oven, and a table set with patterned plates representing both the Gabrielino Indians (given their name by the Spanish Franciscan missionaries) and early Mexican settlers.

The room facing east, devoted to the Spanish-California heritage, holds antique furniture and a fireplace decorated with tile. Enclosed glass display boxes contain arrowheads, a bowl of chia seeds, well-preserved lace mantillas, beadwork and stitchery done by early California women, and two Mexican cookbooks dated 1834, among other artifacts. The room in the northwest corner is furnished as it might have been during the mid-19th Century, when the adobe was owned by Gabriel Allen.

The 10 acres of Estancia Park, which include a soccer field as well as picnic tables, is only one of the four or five green open spaces that grace Mesa Verde. Others include the park at the corner of Samar Street and Timor Drive; Corsica Park, at the corner of Caraway and Coral drives; the grounds of the Mesa Verde Country Club and Golf Course; and the Harbor Lawn-Mount Olive Cemetery.

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Residents of the western part of Mesa Verde often describe the area as “the tree streets,” with names such as White Oak, Myrtlewood, Palm, Redwood, Chestnut or Pepper Tree Lane. Wild coyotes and opossums frequent a corridor by the Santa Ana River.

What began as peat bogs is today a residential haven. Most of the homes in Mesa Verde were built in the late 1950s, and many are being expanded or rebuilt. Lawns are well-manicured, and gardens laden with a variety of colorful blooms show the effects of careful grooming.

Mesa Verde’s commercial district runs along Harbor Boulevard and Adams Avenue, within easy walking distance.

“There’s no place in Mesa Verde that isn’t a great place to raise kids,” said Sandra L. Genis, a Costa Mesa council member and neighborhood resident.

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It’s a strong recommendation for the neighborhood that people who grew up in Mesa Verde come back as adults to buy their own homes and raise families. Genis grew up in Mesa Verde, and when she decided to buy a home she looked for months in Irvine and Huntington Beach. “But amenities brought me back to live about a mile from where I grew up.” She hopes the prices don’t get out of reach for young people just starting their own families. The median price today is about $250,000.

Also indicative of Mesa Verde’s renewed attraction as a place to rear children is the number of schools in the neighborhood. Although some were forced to close as baby-boomers came of age, California Elementary School and the Charles TeWinkle Middle School both held on. And a new surge in the number of school-age children is on the horizon. The Adams Kindergarten Center is expected to reopen this fall after being closed for five years, and the private Principes Lutheran School, now kindergarten through sixth grade, will add a preschool this fall. A Montessori school and Orange Coast College round out the neighborhood’s educational facilities. For adults as well as children, Mesa Verde offers the Mesa Verde Country Club and Golf Course, situated on the banks of the Santa Ana River. Douglas Lober, the club’s manager, said the club has been in existence for 30 years and has been member-owned for 12 years, with 433 golf members and 200 tennis members.

Members are not only residents of Mesa Verde but come from as far away as Anaheim and Newport Beach. Once accepted, prospective members must purchase equity membership at a cost of $60,000, or tennis memberships for the more modest sum of $1,500.

Mesa Verde’s fields today are paved streets and parks, its lonesome cowboys are children walking home from school or riding their bicycles, and the good life here is family life.

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Population Total: (1988 est.) 7,304 1980-88 change: +3.4% Median Age: 39.3 Racial/ethnic mix: White (non-Latino), 92%; Latino, 4%; Black, Less than 1%; Other, 4%

By sex and age: MALES Median age: 38.1 years FEMALES Median age: 40.3 years

Income Per capita: $19,267 Median household: $50,895 Average household: $54,723

Income Distribution: Less than $25,000: 18% $25,000- 49,999: 31% $50,000- 74,999: 26% More than $75,000: 25%

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