Westside: Key characters and famous folks

Papiba Godinho performs with SambaDa
Papiba Godinho performs with SambaDa.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Papiba Godinho

Frontman, SambaDa
Capoeira mestre, Raizes do Brasil
Far Westside

One of the Westside’s most beloved multi-hyphenates, Alexandre Godinho, aka “Papiba,” is the owner of Raizes do Brasil, Santa Cruz’s oldest, longest-running and now only capoeira academy and Brazilian cultural institute on McPherson Street.

There, Godinho teaches the Afro-Brazilian martial art three nights a week, with classes six days thanks to a supportive staff of teachers. In the community at large, though, Papiba is best known as the frontman of the popular band SambaDa, which regularly headlines at venues like Abbott Square, Woodhouse Brewery and Moe’s Alley.

He has lived on the far Westside — up above Swift Street and Mission Avenue — for over a decade and has seen the area change dramatically. “The breweries, Wrigley building, wine bars, the bike path that goes downtown …” he says, listing a few of his favorite parts of Westside life. “It sounds silly but I love driving around the Westside, I drive by the ocean. I even wrote a song about it.”

Karen Joy Fowler

Santa Cruz author Karen Joy Fowler
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

Bestselling author, “Booth,” Pen/Faulkner Award-winner for “We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves”
Lighthouse neighborhood

The bestselling author of “The Jane Austen Book Club” and many other books has called the lower Westside home for 16 years. Her new novel, “Booth,” was published this year to acclaim. She moved here because she was “torn between wanting to travel widely and wanting to stay in one place.” Her home near Lighthouse Field is “the closest I’ve come to the second of those dreams. When my grandchildren were little, we played hobbit in that park. I still know where the dragon is.”

Fowler also mourns what she loved about the Westside that’s been lost: “O’mei and Kelly’s, my two favorite restaurants, are both gone and the parking lot at Kelly’s is now metered, a first, I think, on the Westside. The monarchs are so diminished from when we first arrived. I don’t know if it’s good news or bad that I don’t see whales. It’s possible that food shortages drove them closer to shore and those shortages have been corrected. It’s equally possible that there are just fewer whales. I used to hear frogs when I walked at dusk in Lighthouse Field. I don’t hear those anymore. I worry. I worry about the frogs.”

Jon Bailiff

Husband, father, artist, former lifeguard, ocean lover
Lower Westside

Bailiff, who is the partner of famous feminist author, teacher and performer Susie Bright, was a longtime lifeguard and is often found paddleboarding or mat surfing around the Lane. He’s also a writer and visual artist who lives on the edge of where the Westside and downtown meet, near Santa Cruz High School. “I think in a certain way the patterns of life in a beach and tourist community have a churn that is good for me,” he says. “It feels like a small town but there’s a certain amount of cultural churn here that’s exciting, though it’s also provincial.”

Shea Maloney

Director & head teacher
Shea’s Playgroup
The Circles

If there ever was a person with a front-row seat to Westside comings and goings, it’s Maloney, who has a special vantage point on her neighborhood as a teacher running a nearly entirely outdoor Waldorf-style preschool in the front yard of her home. She has lived on the Westside for over 40 years.

“When you work at home and are in it,” she says, “the whole world is from inside looking out.”

She calls the area a “peaceful loving neighborhood” and says that the spirit of the Circles area is captured by the fact that in decades of running her home-based school, no neighbor has ever complained about traffic during drop-offs or the noise that comes along with running a day care for the littlest Westsiders.

Maloney loves the Circles area because you “can go get groceries at New Leaf without a car” and walk to downtown. She has walked her kids to Junior Guards.

“We are so blessed to be so close to the ocean,” she says. “Having the ocean right here is the greatest highlight.”

During the pandemic, she started a ritual with a friend who lives on Walk Circle, taking long coastal walks. On her neighborhood’s local controversy, the coming demolition of the Circle Church to build condos, she says that if she were in charge of the subject of the “Save the Heart of the Circles” signs dotting the neighborhood, she says she’d want to turn it into a healing center for the community.

Jessica Wallace

Westside Realtor

Wallace, who grew up in Santa Cruz and spent 16 years in her home near Laurel Street, has also had a front-row seat to lots of changes.

“I lived here through the great recession and I was a realtor during that time, which was the polar opposite of what we are at now,” she says.

At the time, $500,000 homes seemed like a lot. Now the average is $1.3 million. Wallace says real estate prices on the Westside spiked because of the commutability to Silicon Valley and the fact that the area “has more going on than the rest of the county with mountain biking, UCSC, proximity to downtown … it attracts young people and is vibrant.”

Casey Coonerty Protti

Bookshop Santa Cruz owner
Upper Westside

“My brother and I used to wait to hear the first bell ring at Mission Hill Middle School before sprinting out the door to get to class,” Coonerty Protti recalls.

Coonerty Protti is a member of a family of Westside boldfaced names including Santa Cruz County 3rd District Supervisor Ryan Coonerty, a position their father, Neal, once held also. Bookshop Santa Cruz is their family business.

“From King Street, where the top of my dad’s house is adorned with a wind mobile in the shape of a book, it was a perfect location to walk downtown, bike to the cliffs or walk up to play on one of the most beautiful soccer fields on earth at UC Santa Cruz,” she said.

Sixteen years ago, Coonerty Protti and her family settled near the Pogonip, on the Upper Westside. She loves the trails and running into “everyone you’ve ever known walking their dogs or running. I call it the neighborhood trail.”

Like Fowler, she mourns the loss of Kelly’s, a favorite spot for brunch before a West Cliff walk. Fortunately, though, that ritual will never change:

“West Cliff is the place I feel most at home. I remember the first week I moved back to Santa Cruz and I walked along the cliffs and someone passing in the opposite direction said, ‘Have a good sunset.’ To me, that is the Westside of Santa Cruz.”