The first decorations will go up any day now. Hundreds of thousands of lights strung from sailboat masts, draped across balconies and dripping from roofs. There will be pods of red-nosed dolphins pulling sleighs and Santas driving powerboats. Illuminated trees will float in the bay. Naples residents love to party, and Christmas offers the biggest celebration of all.
TraditionA homespun annual holiday celebration, the Naples Boat Parade, draws 40,000 to 60,000 people to the winding canals and bay surrounding this island community in Long Beach. There’s a fire-breathing dragon, people swimming in the water with lights attached to their bodies and the Wilson High School band playing holiday tunes.
Nobody would confuse Naples’ celebration with Pasadena’s big event. It’s not the Rose Parade, and it’s not commercial. “Naples’ parade is just for fun,” local Realtor Eric Bueno said. “The community does it all.”
Fun is the operative word on Naples Island, a charming east Long Beach neighborhood that can be reached only by bridge. Residents brag that they can park their cars at home on Friday and not leave again until Monday morning.
There are boats to sail, kayaks to paddle and regattas to watch or participate in.
In the evening, there are canal-side wine-and-cheese parties or dinner at Nico’s, Naples Rib Co. or Kelly’s.
For the most part, it’s a quiet bedroom community endowed with attractive housing — from two-bedroom, one-bath beach cottages to multistory bay-front homes with 80-foot docks. A few dozen businesses, many of them restaurants, are confined mainly to the access road through the island. Other than that, there are 1,200 homes and the Long Beach Yacht Club, which offers a pool, dining room and other activities for members who want a break from boating.
The dream child of land barons Arthur Parsons and Henry Huntington, Naples was visualized in 1903 as a seaside Italian-style community — a stylish colony graced by canals, gondolas and villas with red tile roofs. A century later it has become all those things.
There is about a mile of waterfront, thanks in part to two canals that divide the reclaimed marshland into three slices of land. The longest canal, Rivo Alto, runs in a circle under a series of scenic bridges. Straw-hatted gondoliers often pause under the bridges, taking advantage of the acoustics to serenade passengers during sunset or moonlight cruises.
When Naples lots originally were marketed a century ago, prospective landowners rode Red Cars south from Los Angeles and were shown property that ranged from $900 to $4,000, according to area historian Stanley Poe.
Waterfront property now runs from $1.7 million to $8 million. Off the water, property is priced from $700,000 to $2 million. Sixteen residences are currently on the market.
William Connolly, 81, has lived in Naples off and on for about half a century. He doesn’t have to think twice when asked about its charms.
“No two houses are alike and it’s a safe place to raise children,” he said. “But that’s not the main reason I love it. The main reason is the water. I’ve always felt I must be at the ocean. That’s 100% at the top of my list of things in life.”
On the California Department of Education “2004 Accountability Progress Report,” Naples Elementary School scored 893 on the Academic Performance Index. Rogers Middle School scored 791, and Wilson High School scored 699.
Historical valuesSingle-family detached resales:
2004*...$772,250*Year to date *
Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; Erik Bueno, Century 21 Beachside Realty; California Department of Education; Stanley Poe, author of “Naples: A Pictorial History.”