Huntington Beach, California. Surf city.
It blows my mind to think that I first moved here 35 years ago. 35 years! How can that be possible?
I had just come from a childhood spent in the South Pacific. This was my introduction to a new life in the United States.
I moved to Huntington Beach and got a job at a pie shop. Worked for a year and then launched into my college years.
This week I am in Huntington Beach and today I took a drive down to Huntington Beach pier and saw the development along Pacific Coast Highway and the downtown Huntington Beach area.
The very cool thing is that Huntington Beach pier itself has not changed much. I moved away from Huntington Beach 15 years ago, and there has been a lot of commercialization and growth and development in the city but the pier itself has not changed that much.
Ruby’s Diner is still at the very end and fisherman still cast-off from the top of the pier and you can still look out and see swarms of surfers waiting for waves.
In the last 15 years since I’ve been gone there have been hotels and shopping and entertainment complexes that have been built along Pacific Coast Highway very close to downtown Huntington Beach.
They look very clean and new and modern. They are all beautiful and have their own particular character.
They do look a lot different than the old laid-back somewhat ramshackle stores and cafés that used to line Main Street going down towards Huntington Beach pier.
The Sugar Shack Café is unbelievably still on Main Street sandwiched between much newer places.
Downtown Huntington Beach reminds me of what Cocoa Beach looks like now on the Atlantic coast of Florida.
I imagine that Cocoa Beach 15 years ago or 20 years ago looked similar to what downtown Huntington Beach looked like. Cocoa Beach Is all built up with restaurants and shops that sell surfboards and longboards and bikinis and such.
But I bet if I could go back 15 or 20 years probably none of those stores were there and instead they were the same funky little ramshackle low key beach stores and cafés I remember from old Huntington Beach.
My aunt drove me around some other areas of Huntington Beach to show me some of the new construction and new developments.
There are some gigantic apartment complexes that have gone in along Beach Blvd. Those are pretty amazing because they are so very big. I don’t know what the occupancy capacity is but it looks like those complexes must hold hundreds of tenants.
My aunt told me that a 1000 square-foot apartment is going for $2000/month in one of the apartment complexes we saw. The complex is right on Huntington Beach and looks out over traffic. It’s not like you pay $2000 and get a fantastic oceanfront view.
We went up to the old Huntington Center location at the intersection of Beach Boulevard and Edinger. Now what’s there is a whole new entertainment/dining shopping complex called Bella Terra.
It’s actually gorgeous. The colors and the architecture and the building designs are really spectacular. They remind me of South Coast Plaza in Newport Beach.
I personally think that the new lock is a huge improvement over Huntington Center. When I left 15 years ago Huntington Center was starting to look tired and boring and blah. Not a place that felt like fun to go to to shop or to spend the day or to hang out at a café.
Even though probably the local residents mourn them, if I lived here I would actually be pretty excited about the new Bella Terra complex.
It really is an interesting experience to come back to a city where I used to live and see some of the really significant changes. Of course there are also things that haven’t changed at all. And that’s kind of cool to see too.
It doesn’t make me want to move back, though. If I ever move someplace away from where I live now, it wouldn’t be back to Huntington Beach.