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January 14, 2014 / Linda Hartong


The longer we are in Carmel, the more I compare its “livability” with that of my Kansas City suburb a product of urban sprawl. 

It is a beautiful neighborhood – treed lots, large homes, and a “gated community”.  There are planned neighborhood functions, but often I can go a whole day and only see the movement of mail, Fed-Ex, and UPS trucks from my office window. What a sad commentary. 

I am close to shopping, dining, movie theaters, and a bike path, so my suburb is more “livable” than many. But it is a car culture. 

Although Carmel is our second home and we are not there for long periods of time, I have far more face to face interactions in this village and find daily life more pleasurable. 

Curious as to what makes a town “livable”, I read an article published by The American Institute of Architects called “Livability 101”. Livability 101 – American Institute of Architects. I was fascinated.

This is not an article on “Standard of Living”. Livability is “directly correlated with happiness or with a sense that life is meaningful …..and that there is much to celebrate in the human and physical world around us.”

What makes Carmel-by-the Sea so special? 

The Institute found that a 

Sense of Place

Mixed use development

Pedestrian Scale

and Public Gathering places

all had an important role. Over the next month I will see how Carmel stacks up on these criteria. 

 A Sense of Place

We all have mental pictures of towns. When I say San Francisco and Los Angeles, I suspect we see entirely different mental pictures.

Try Denver, or New York City. Each has its own sense of place.

Carmel is keenly aware of its distinct character defined in part by its rich topography and in part by its architecture.

“Every city is an extension of the natural landscape upon which it is sited.” AIA

The Santa Lucia Mountains, 


Carmel Valley, Carmel river, the Pacific Ocean, 


Carmel March 2010 099

the temperate climate 


and unique flora 




and fauna


Slate colored Fox Sparrow



have attracted a variety of peoples.. 

There are white sand beaches 

Image 21

and the incredible coastline of Big Sur. 


The hills forested with pine, cypress, redwood and live oak.  

crmel 799Cypress Trail Allan Memorial Grove

Carmel March 2010 060



Carmel was once isolated and quiet. It was a retreat from city life with its hustle and bustle. It sits on a hillside that slopes to the Pacific Ocean. When the first tents,then cabins and homes were built,they clambered down the hill and tucked into the trees. 




There are few other spots that combine these topographical features and temperate climate It has a distinct sense of place.

Historic preservation has proven to be one of the best tool to preserve a village’s sense of place. 

Carmel is blessed with unique architecture and people who are willing to preserve it.


Enid Sales

Prodis_Livingston0705Barbara Livingston

 Early architects such as Lee Gottfried,



Hugh Comstock 



Carmel 2009 041Hansel

 Greene and Greene,




and Michael J. Murphy left a rich legacy.




Next week I will take a look at mixed use development.


Leave a Comment
  1. Carol / Jan 14 2014 1:40 am

    Linda, you always manage to capture in your beautiful photographs and words what I love most about Carmel. It is, indeed, a very livable place!

  2. jeanette sclar / Jan 14 2014 2:13 am

    You should be given a key to the city and named Carmel Resident Booster of the decade!

  3. Susan / Jan 14 2014 2:32 am

    I am a new follower and thoroughly enjoyed this post. Your photography is wonderful!

  4. dennis strauss / Jan 14 2014 4:28 am

    When I am feeling down about life in general, it always seems like that evening your blog on Carmel arrives at my footstep, and because I  know Carmel so well, I realize how fortunate I am to enjoy this very special place if only once a year. Please don’t ever give up your passion for this wonderful  adventure you take us on-it means so very much. Hope all is well.

      Denny Strauss

  5. Lucinda "Cindy" Lloyd / Jan 14 2014 5:35 am

    The brothers were Greene and Greene. Need an “e” at the end of their names. The first two photos were of the Big Sur Coast, not of Carmel. Some photos were of Pt Lobos. Your photography is very good, topics interesting, and you obviously like Carmel.

    • Linda Hartong / Jan 14 2014 1:25 pm

      Thanks for the correction to the spelling. One can never have too many “editors”. Your other observations are correct but I would encourage you to broaden your notions of where Carmel begins and ends. Many of the first residents came to enjoy all of this as their playground, backyard, what have you.

  6. Betty / Jan 14 2014 6:29 am

    I have learned so much about this wonderful town and the surrounding country and seaside from your blog. It really seems like a paradise! If ever I am able to visit the U.S.A. Carmel will be the first place I visit. I imagine it would be accessible from San Fransisco.
    Thank you for your posts. I love visiting, for your engaging commentary, the lovely gardens and homes, as well as beautiful scenery.
    Good wishes for a happy and fulfilling year.
    Betty – Melbourne

  7. Michael Smith / Jan 14 2014 7:12 am

    Stunning shots Linda! Thank you so much for sharing. Michael

  8. Annie Westlake / Jan 14 2014 7:42 am

    My quaint little Gold Rush town of Nevada City meets the criteria of Sense of Place, and is eminently livable, yet… soul calls Carmel “home.” Thanks for always taking me home with your posts.

  9. josey2 / Jan 14 2014 12:23 pm

    hi linda,

    i look at your photo of carmel whenever you mail them. this livability one interests me. often i think how i would love to live in such a beautiful city by the sea, but i ask myself, is there a sense of community there? do you know a lot of people? when you go to town do you run into them and visit, even in line at the grocery store? we can’t afford carmel, but i am happy to live in the small town of tahlequah, where i know a lot of people and can’t go anywhere without running into someone. people talk in lines at the post office, no one cares is they are even visiting with the clerk and taking up their own time. people go out of their way to help you. we once drove by the dump but saw that the gate was in the process of being closed. we slowly began driving away when we heard someone yelling at us, running towards our car. “do you need to dump something,” he asked. if you are looking at a map in your car in the country, someone will stop and ask if you are lost. these things never happened to me in berkeley, ca where i once lived. it never happened in paso robles, ca where i grew up. while it is beautiful here with the hills, lakes, rivers, and lush vegetation, i still think of how it would be nice to live in a perfect looking town by the sea at least part of the year. but i also dreamed of a town where i knew a lot of people and could visit with them. now i have that.

    i will be interested in seeing what you come up with next on livability. i sometimes share your photos on my facebook.

    thanks, jessica


    • Linda Hartong / Jan 14 2014 1:32 pm

      Jessica, I will address those very observations in the next article. And yes, I talk to others in the grocery line, the post office, and walking down the street. In fact, I probably talk too much!
      Full time and part time residents are so proud of this small town and love to show it off and share information and history. As you know, I have knocked on the doors of strangers and been invited in to chat and then to photograph. I find it amazing.
      Your small town sounds wonderful. I think “small” encourages interaction in both our towns.
      Thanks for reading and commenting and for sharing on facebook

    • Michelle Coelho / Jun 5 2021 10:19 pm

      I live there part time. I know all of my neighbors. For blocks. And all of their pets! Lol! When I go into GBG,Paloosh, the antique shop, Mole Hole, Secret Garden, Swiss Cafe, Kathy’s, Carmel Bakery, everyone knows our family. I have neighbors that are elderly and asked if my kids could come over and play w their dogs! The kids were about 9 and 10. So very friendly community. I meet new people every time we are there.

  10. Barb / Jan 14 2014 3:56 pm

    My husband and I visited Carmel last summer for the first time with our nephew. It is the most beautiful place I have seen. When I am feeling stressed I open your blog and it always makes me smile and wish I were back in Carmel. Thank you!

  11. lynn momboisse / Jan 14 2014 8:29 pm

    Wonderful sense of place – oh how I love it here – Looking forward to next weeks post – Lynn

  12. Linda Hartong / Jan 14 2014 11:03 pm

    I am delighted to find this post opening a dialogue. While Greene and Greene did not practice architecture here it was the Arts and Crafts movement, of which they were a part, that did influence the architecture.
    I will address some of the other issues you bring up in the next two articles. It is indeed the most unusual approach that Devendorf took to forming this village that shaped it. Carmel would be so different without all his foresight.
    Thanks for taking time to comment.

  13. / Jan 15 2014 5:28 pm

    Gorgeous work, Linda!   best, Mary

  14. / Jan 15 2014 7:49 pm

    Hi Again Linda,   Am forwarding this wonderful piece to a few friends.   By the way, the gentleman in the photo with Barbara is a good friend of ours………Pierre Prodis.  He is a San Jose architect and he, with his lovely wife, Carol are part-timers here.  They, too are active in the Carmel Residents Assoc.   best, Mary

  15. Michael Smith / Jan 16 2014 6:54 pm

    When I see a Jean Arthur movie it makes my day! Crazy about Jean! She made cactus milk famous! Michael

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