COSTA MESA — It might not be a Charlie Brown Christmas for Eastside residents this year.
After defaulting on the mortgage for the famed "Snoopy House," homeowner Jim Jordan was forced to clear out of the property Tuesday, leaving Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the whole Peanuts gang behind to possibly be repossessed by Wells Fargo.
Describing the annual Christmas display at 2269 Santa Ana Ave., near Albert Place, as elaborate would be an understatement. For the last 44 years, Jordan or his parents have set up and added to the set, with a 20-by-20-foot stage for Santa Claus and an animated manger scene measuring 17 by 14 feet, along with snippets from famous Charlie Brown scenes, among other sights.
This year would have been its 45th season.
"I am just devastated and heartsick at how this spiraled out of control," Jordan said from the large corner property. "We had a tenant in here for four years. We were actually cash flowing. My business isn't that great, but we could struggle and make it."
Jordan lives in Mesa del Mar with his wife, and the couple rent out the Snoopy House for additional income.
Jordan's problems began with a gamble — imagine Charlie Brown trusting Lucy to hold the ball for him.
In 2010, Jordan's construction business was slow, as was business for Jordan's tenant, an event planner. With financial storm clouds on the horizon, Jordan turned to Wachovia to modify his loan and ease the pressure.
"They told me at the time that I wasn't in default and they wouldn't talk to me," he recalled.
He stopped making payments "on advice, bad advice," and hired a company that he worked with on another loan modification to help him with the one for the Snoopy House.
That loan resolution company just took his money and ran, Jordan claims in court documents.
The company never contacted Wachovia and Jordan's home went into default in August 2010. Jordan said he was $35,000 behind in the mortgage at the time. He alleges Wachovia said it had stopped foreclosing on the home when he explained the situation, but the bank denies that, according to court filings.
Three months after it was in default, Wells Fargo — which owns Wachovia — bought the home for $531,244.
The bank denied Jordan's loan modification because there was too much equity in the home, which appraised at more than $900,000, Jordan said.
For Jordan and his "elves," as he likes to call folks who help him with the display, it's what's inside that home that's priceless.
"It's more than one house. It's everything else," said Lisa Dugan, a Costa Mesa resident, choking up with emotion over the phone. "I've been here for 44 years. It's a community thing going back three or four generations."
"My wife says I'm a frustrated Walt Disney," Jordan said. "It's my life's work. There's a core group of us that fusses with this all year long."
As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, Jordan was ordered to have everything out of the house. The Christmas sets were too big to move in time and had to be left behind.
Jordan said he doesn't know what will become of all the decorations — worth well more than $100,000 that people put in with labor, paint, metal and lights — but he might seek a court order to keep the bank from taking and destroying them.
"I hope not, I'm praying not," Jordan said. "Nothing would please me more than to move back in. What a celebration it would be. If we get it back and we have the bare bones of the property, we're going to go. If all the sets are destroyed, I don't know."
Jordan said he hopes the set pieces remain intact through at least December, when his lawsuit against Wells Fargo over ownership of the home will be heard in court.