A sometimes overlooked area by people seeking spacious and well-constructed homes in a nice, quiet neighborhood near award-winning schools and fine shopping options is the not-elegantly termed “The Hole.” Perhaps that casual moniker is found to be off-putting by non-locals.

It earned the nickname because of the way the entrance to the neighborhood, Margo Avenue, just south of Seventh Street past the Cal State Long Beach campus, takes a steep dive from the upper campus down into what’s officially known as University Park Estates.

The neighborhood of a little more than 450 homes was built in 1960-61 by S&S Construction and originally called College Park Estates until its namesake institution was upgraded to a university in 1972.

The name of the tract may suggest that it’s a cousin to Park Estates, just west of the university, but University Park Estates homes are a notch—but not a huge notch—below Park Estates residences which are custom-built homes, many designed by world-class architects like Richard Neutra, Edward Killingsworth and Paul Tay, while the homes in The Hole are tract houses, though they don’t immediately give that appearance because when they were built, initial buyers could choose from among 28 different exteriors, and in the intervening years many homes have been renovated or had additions built.

The houses ranged from two-bedroom, two-bath homes with a large family room, to split-level four-bed, four-bath models, with prices starting at $23,450 and topping at $34,900—cheaper than a new car in 2022, but fairly pricey in 1961, when the median family income in the U.S. was $5,630 and only 14% of the population was making more than $10,000.

Nevertheless, the homes sold briskly starting in 1960 when, in October, the first 75 families moved into their new homes built on one of the last remaining portions of the old Bixby Ranch—and near an old city dump that was discovered by construction crews, which alarmed some of the new families and prospective buyers, all of whom were assured that any unpleasantries caused by the dump would disappear once it was paved over.

That solution is what causes Loynes Drive, the southern boundary of University Park Estates, to be transformed into a hair-raising roller-coaster ride every few months and in constant need of leveling off, as well as the ever-changing topography of the nearby Belmont Shores Mobile Estates. Turns out paving over a city dump is like painting over black mold.

To handle the traffic of people wanting to get on the list for homes still under construction, a parking lot was set aside for 1,000 cars.

The area has been popular ever since, and people don’t often move out, which keeps inventory low and prices high.

The residents pay a nominal HOA fee of $5 a month, which has resulted in many improvements in the neighborhood, the chief one being the construction in 1970 of a 5-acre greenbelt and winding walking path along the Los Cerritos Channel from Seventh Street to Loynes Drive. Today, the area, called Channel View Park, is a city park and in November 2020 a playground was added, financially supported by the nearby Alamitos Energy Center.

The Loynes Drive entry to Channel View Park adjacent to University Park Estates. Courtesy the city of Long Beach.

Because of its hard boundaries and few points of entrance, University Park Estates is fairly insular and its residents have been aggressive at fighting off intrusions, including the once-proposed Pacific Coast Freeway (more commonly referred to as the cross-town freeway) during the 1960s and into the 1970s, proposed increases in density as well as other development in nearby SEADIP properties and fallout from the Haynes steam plant and Edison’s Alamitos plant, both across the channel and the San Gabriel River from University Park Estates.

Perhaps because the residents have fought against these and other attempts to disturb their quiet suburban way of life, few houses hit the market. As of Wednesday, only two properties were on the market, both listed at well over $1 million, and both likely to sell quickly.

Just about two paragraphs ago, I learned that one is already in contingency; they’re selling faster than I can type—but you can still hop on the waiting list and hold your breath.

The home currently in contingency is a thoroughly remodeled top-of-the-line tri-level four-bed, four-bath home at 6235 Monita St.

A home on Monita Street in University Park Estates was listed at $1.65 million. Redfin photo.

Listed by Michael and Melissa Roland of Coldwell Banker Realty at $1.65 million, the 2,400-square-foot home has a striking great room with vaulted ceiling taking in the living and dining areas, fireplace and a kitchen with a large island and blue custom cabinetry. It opens to a nicely landscaped terraced backyard.

A level up leads to three of the bedrooms, including the master bedroom with en suite bathroom and walk-in closet.

A third level features a den and a potential large fourth bedroom.

To top things off, the house has forced-air HVAC, dual-paned windows and whole-home sound system.

Currently listed by Brigette Bigham of Think Boutiq Realty at $1.35 million is a three-bed, three-bath home on Peralta Avenue, close to the park. It’s a fairly stock model, though with upgrades, particularly a large salt-water pool and a gazebo with a hot tub.

The dining room, as seen from the family room in the University Park Estates home on Peralta Avenue. Redfin photo.

Inside, skylights provide natural illumination and the look and feel of the decor runs from fairly formal Colonial to a more Cape Cod nautical vibe as you go through the living and dining rooms and into the family room that opens to the pool and patio. The room includes a Franklin stove, which can be seen as either charming or oddly eccentric in the midst of a seashore motif.

You might want to do a makeover on the home’s decor, but it’s a great home in one of the city’s most pleasantly quiet neighborhoods.

Long Beach houses cost too much for locals, so who’s buying them?

Tim Grobaty is a columnist and the Opinions Editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach him at 562-714-2116, email [email protected], @grobaty on Twitter and Grobaty on Facebook.