Playground amid pines

Times Staff Writer

Pine Mountain Club in Kern County is a natural second-home location for Angelenos: It's less than a two-hour drive away, offers year-round recreation and has mountain cabins in the $300,000s. What's it like? Let's just say a favorite eating joint is called the Screaming Squirrel and nobody wears Birkenstocks.

Beginnings

Populated by people who cherish being away from the hubbub, this is a planned community that defies the stereotype.

Built about 35 years ago by the Tenneco Corp. around the premise that people would want to pursue recreational pleasures in a temperate climate, it sits nestled in the Los Padres National Forest in the shadow of Mt. Pinos to the south and Mt. Abel to the west. It's less than 100 miles from Los Angeles, a straight shot up Interstate 5.


FOR THE RECORD:
Neighborly Advice map: A map accompanying the column in the Nov. 26 Real Estate section, showing the Pine Mountain Club community, contained an inaccurate scale of miles. The scale should have been labeled 20 miles instead of 5 miles. —


About two-thirds of the community's 3,270 acres is set aside as greenbelt woodlands. And if that isn't woodsy enough, there's the national forest surrounding everything. The smell of pine trees permeates the air, which, for anyone coming in from Los Angeles, is startlingly crisp and clean.

What it's about

One of the nicest features is the climate: It's a true four seasons with snow in the winter and vivid gold cottonwoods and quaking aspens in the fall — all set against the backdrop of a big blue sky and tall green Ponderosa and Jeffrey pines.

The community pool and tennis courts see a lot of action in the summer; golf is played by the faithful on the nine-hole, three-par course unless precluded by snow; and horseback riding and hiking are done year-round. "It's a playground for kids of all ages," said Pam McCain, owner-broker of Pine Mountain Realty and a 13-year resident.

Half of the 2,500 property owners use their homes as weekend and vacation getaways. Most come from within a two-hour driving radius; many are from the San Fernando Valley — to escape the heat — and Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.

At an elevation of between 4,900 and 6,800 feet, most of the snowfalls are just enough to be enjoyable without being crippling. There are seasonal streams and a year-round waterfall that people hike to. The town's catch-and-release fishing pond is stocked.

At the heart of the community is the village center, a two-block affair of shops and offices covered in cedar shakes. There's a general store, not fancy, but sufficiently well-stocked with the day-to-day necessities. And there's a three-room hotel, a few antiques shops and four restaurants. The village center is where the Christmas pageant and Halloween festivities are staged. It's also the starting point for the annual Lilac Festival — a traditional juried arts and crafts fair — which draws about 12,000 visitors.

Good news, bad news Vacationing is one thing; living here full-time is another. Most who live here commute to jobs an hour away.

The nearest major supermarket is 50 miles away, heading north or south on the 5. People who live here tend to buy in bulk or hope the village grocery stocks what they need.

The nearest gas station is about 10 miles away. Most kids are bused to school. And there isn't a movie theater.

The association assessment is $1,085 a year, which pays for maintenance of the roads, snow removal and access to the golf course, community pool, clubhouse and equestrian center. There are small fees for golf and horse boarding. Trail group rides are available on rental horses.

The association is responsible for upholding community standards. No cars up on blocks here. No long-term street parking whatsoever, and mobile homes are limited to an area in the northwest corner of town. There is a color palette for house exteriors, and homeowners can't put up seclusion fences.

The most frequently heard question of those considering a home purchase here is: What is there to do?

"Hang out," Realtor McCain said.

On the market

Homes come in a handful of styles — all evoking a woodsy, rustic feel. There are A-frames, gambrels, log cabins and traditional ranches. No architectural homes are to be found.

For $308,000, there's a newly built two-bedroom, two-bathroom home with a wraparound deck that makes it feel much larger than its 1,250 square feet. It has a river-rock fireplace and vaulted pine ceilings. The seller owns a furniture store in Bakersfield and has staged it attractively. Furniture is included in the sale. There's a one-car garage.

Log homes are also popular in Pine Mountain Club and blend in well with the surrounding trees. A 2,400-square-foot, three-bedroom log home with a two-car garage is listed at $499,000. It has flooring made of 150-year-old barn siding. An adjacent lot is also available.

There is some demand for rentals, but most homes are used by owners.

Report card Pine Mountain Club children attend schools in the El Tejon Unified School District in Kern County.

Out of a possible score of 1,000 on the 2006 Academic Performance Index Growth Report, Frazier Park Elementary scored 782; El Tejon Middle School scored 725; Frazier Mountain High scored 699; and Pine Mountain Learning Center, a charter school, scored 836.

Historical values

Residential resales:

Year...Median Price 1990...$125,000

1995...$111,250

2000...$119,500

2005...$275,000

*2006...$318,750

*Year to date


Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; api.cde.ca.gov/; pinemountainrealty.com; Pine Mountain Club Property Owners Assn., http://www.pmcpoa.com .

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