Rallying around the 'Snoopy House'

COSTA MESA — For some 44 years, the Jordan family has crafted an elaborate Charlie Brown-themed Christmas display outside of their Costa Mesa home.

The doctor was in, with a Lucy cutout offering counseling. Charlie Brown and Sally clutched a wrapped gift. Linus (with blanket) stood beneath the Christmas tree.

And much of the "Peanuts" gang ice-skated around a faux pond.

"I grew up around the corner from there; it's been there every year," said Lisa Dugan, who helps with the setup every year. "It's the magic, it's the spirit of Christmas. With everything going on in this world, it's almost like the last hope."

But like Lucy pulling the football from a galloping Charlie Brown, a bank foreclosed on the one-story pool home at 2269 Santa Ana Ave. — near Albert Place and the border with Newport Beach — leaving in doubt whether the display would survive an unexpectedly cool and dry Orange County winter.

Jim Jordan, who uses the home as a rental property and is challenging the Nov. 24 foreclosure, worried about not only his home, but continuing one of Costa Mesa's most treasured holiday traditions.

"My wife says I'm a frustrated Walt Disney," said Jordan, 59, the family member who now takes care of the house. "It's my life's work. There's a core group of us that fusses with this all year long."

Though the house is bank-owned now, there will be a Charlie Brown Christmas after all. City Hall agreed to take over the display and a group of community volunteers is going to set up the Peanuts gang, Santa and other cutouts at City Hall.

"We talked about bringing the 'Snoopy House' to City Hall to continue the rich tradition that's been here for many decades," city CEO Tom Hatch said. "Hopefully this kind of display can bring the community together."

That's good news to residents, who grew up seeing the comic strip characters every holiday season. There's a "Save the Snoopy House" Facebook page and Twitter account. One person temporarily set up a tent on the home's front lawn — a mini Occupy the Snoopy House movement. A nearby Chick-fil-A in Santa Ana offered to set up the Peanuts gang outside.

Others are giving money to Jordan to see if he can reverse the foreclosure. Two of those loyal supporters — Jackson Dougan, 10, and Dayle Dougan, 8 — set up shop Saturday at the home and sold lemonade at 50 cents a cup. On Monday the entrepreneurial duo, who are Lisa Dougan's kids, handed Jordan $230.

"People were giving donations," Dugan explained. "They just wanted to help him. They love the Snoopy House."

How Jordan lost the house is a story Charlie Brown could appreciate.

Jordan stopped paying the mortgage in 2010. He said his lawyer suggested he stop so he could renegotiate his loan, which Wachovia initially declined to modify because he hadn't missed any payments. Jordan hired someone to work with the family, but he said that person just took his money and he never heard from them again.

"I am just devastated and heartsick at how this spiraled out of control," Jordan said.

That August, Jordan received a notice his home was in foreclosure. Wells Fargo, which inherited the loan, said he was in arrears.

In a prepared email statement, Wells Fargo spokeswoman Edna Silva said the bank appreciated the display but that the foreclosure will continue.

"We understand that Mr. Jordan and the community has made a considerable time and financial investment in the annual holiday display outside the home," she wrote. "At this point, we are exploring multiple options on how to get his property back to him. Foreclosure is an option of last resort, and it's regrettable that we had to foreclose on Mr. Jordan's rental property. While we work hard to prevent foreclosures, it is not always avoidable."

Jordan said he was glad the bank is willing to work with him, but it's the community rallying like the World War I flying ace that worn his heart.

"It really went a long way to healing my heart," he said. "It meant that all was not for naught."


Twitter: @JosephSerna

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