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coffee with joan

Coffee With Joan

Joan Sullivan is a Artist, Historian & Author. She is a classically trained artist who discovered a love of history through painting who produced “Picture the Past,” a monthly show featuring local ranches and other areas of historical interest which aired locally for over 10 years. Find out more at

April 23, 2020

Richard Stuart Otto, a widely known engineer, who developed and named Baywood Park, passed away at the age of 68 in his home in Santa Barbara, March 11, 1966.

Otto was the son of a wealthy Eastern family. He was born in East Orange, New Jersey, March 24, 1897. He was educated in private schools in this country and in France, Germany and Switzerland.

During WWI, he worked with noted military inventor Carl Nordon and later did the engineering for the Nordon Bombsight. It was considered one of the most significant Allied secrets and technical masterpieces of WWI.

About 1920, Otto was sent by his father, a New York banker, on a month-long mission to the court of Chinese warlord, Wu Pei Fu, to discuss a large loan. Otto decided against it.

Otto bought his first 10 lots locally from Walter Redfield for $165. Redfield was a longtime resident and real estate sub divider in the area. With financial backing from his father, soon after, he purchased all the remaining lots, consisting of about 1,000 acres, in the townsite Town of El Moro (between 1921-22). Otto felt that the names Town of El Moro and Morro Bay sounded too much alike, so he changed the name of the area to Baywood Park and began developing it in 1924.

Otto met socialist Upton Sinclair, noted novelist, at a meeting of the Bellamy Society, in the 1930s. He managed Upton Sinclair’s campaign for governor, devoting all his energies to the famous but unsuccessful EPIC (End Poverty in California) movement. This campaign has been studied by political science students around the world as an example of modern campaign structure.

Sinclair was defeated in 1934 in one of the most famous gubernatorial campaigns in California history and when the campaign was over, Otto bought an 85-foot yacht, Coquet, and lived on it for four years making several trip to the South Seas.

Otto maintained his home on the corner of Seventh Street and El Moro Avenue in Baywood Park for 15 years until he and his wife, Shirley, decided to move to Montecito in Santa Barbara in 1964. He had developed the Baywood Park community years before and had grown many of its Monterey Pines from seedlings he planted in a Los Angeles apartment window box. He personally planted hundreds of evergreen trees, pines and cypress, that line the streets of Baywood Park today. Plans for the development of the Baywood Park Estates into a large and prosperous community were envisioned by the colorful and controversial Otto and over a long period his vision slowly evolved.

Reference” Baywood Park Estates by Richard Otto c 1940

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