Santa Barbara, California
February 28, 2021
Santa Barbara (Spanish: Santa Bárbara; "Saint Barbara") is a coastal city in Santa Barbara County, California, of which it is also the county seat. Situated on a south-facing section of coastline, the longest such section on the West Coast of the United States, the city lies between the steeply rising Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Santa Barbara's climate is often described as Mediterranean, and the city has been promoted as the "American Riviera". As of 2019, the city had an estimated population of 91,364, making it the second most populous city in the county after Santa Maria. The contiguous urban area, which includes the cities of Goleta and Carpinteria, along with the unincorporated regions of Isla Vista, Montecito, Mission Canyon, Hope Ranch, Summerland, and others, has an approximate population of 220,000. The population of the entire county in 2010 was 423,895.
In addition to being a popular tourist and resort destination, the city has a diverse economy that includes a large service sector, education, technology, health care, finance, agriculture, manufacturing, and local government. In 2004, the service sector accounted for 35% of local employment. Education in particular is well represented, with four institutions of higher learning on the south coast: the University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara City College, Westmont College, and Antioch University. The city is served by Santa Barbara Airport and train service is provided by Amtrak, which operates the Pacific Surfliner, which runs from San Diego to San Luis Obispo. The Santa Barbara area is connected via U.S. Highway 101 to Los Angeles 100 miles to the southeast and San Francisco 325 miles to the northwest. Behind the city, in and beyond the Santa Ynez Mountains, is the Los Padres National Forest, which contains several remote wilderness areas. Channel Islands National Park and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary are located approximately 20 miles offshore.
Evidence of human habitation of the area begins at least 13,000 years ago. Evidence for a Paleoindian presence includes a fluted Clovis-like point found in the 1980s along the western Santa Barbara County coast, as well as the remains of Arlington Springs Man, found on Santa Rosa Island in the 1960s. At least 25,000 Chumash natives lived in the region prior to Spanish contact. Five Chumash villages flourished in the area. The present-day area of Santa Barbara City College was the village of Mispu; the site of the Los Baños pool (along west beach) was the village of Syukhtun, chief Yanonalit's large village located between Bath and Chapala streets; Amolomol was at the mouth of Mission Creek; and Swetete, above the bird refuge.
Spanish explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, sailing for the Kingdom of Spain, sailed through what is now called the Santa Barbara Channel in 1542, anchoring briefly in the area. In 1602, Spanish maritime explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno gave the name "Santa Barbara" to the channel and also to one of the Channel Islands.
A land expedition led by Gaspar de Portolà visited around 1769, and Franciscan missionary Juan Crespi, who accompanied the expedition, named a large native town "Laguna de la Concepcion". Cabrillo's earlier name, however, is the one that has survived.
The first permanent European residents were Spanish missionaries and soldiers under Felipe de Neve, who arrived in 1782 and constructed the Presidio. They were sent to both secure the Spanish claim to the region and to convert the indigenous peoples to Catholicism. Many of the Spaniards brought their families with them, and those formed the nucleus of the small town – at first just a cluster of adobes – that surrounded the Presidio of Santa Barbara. The Santa Barbara Mission was established on the Feast of Saint Barbara, December 4, 1786. It was the tenth of the California Missions to be founded by the Spanish Franciscans. It was dedicated by Padre Fermín Lasuén, who succeeded Padre Junipero Serra as the second president and founder of the California Franciscan Mission Chain. The Chumash laborers built a connection between the canyon creek and the Santa Barbara Mission water system through the use of a dam and an aqueduct. During the following decades, many of the natives died of diseases such as smallpox, against which they had no natural immunity.
The most dramatic event of the Spanish period was the powerful 1812 earthquake, and tsunami, with an estimated magnitude of 7.1, which destroyed the Mission as well as the rest of the town; water reached as high as present-day Anapamu street, and carried a ship half a mile up Refugio Canyon. The Mission was rebuilt by 1820 after the earthquake. Following the earthquake, the Mission fathers chose to rebuild in a grander manner, and it is this construction that survives to the present day, the best-preserved of the California Missions, and still functioning as an active church by the Franciscans. After the Mexican government secularized the missions in the 1830s, the baptismal, marriage, and burial records of other missions were transferred to Santa Barbara, and now found in the Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library.
The Spanish period ended in 1822 with the conclusion of the Mexican War of Independence, which terminated 300 years of Spanish colonial rule and transferred control to the newly independent Mexican government.
Santa Barbara street names reflect the influence of the Spanish period. The names de le Guerra and Carrillo come from the Guerra family of California and Carrillo family of California. They were instrumental in building up the town, so they were honored by having streets named after them.
Mexican and Rancho period
After the forced secularization of the Missions in 1833, successive Mexican Governors distributed the large land tracts formerly held by the Franciscan Order to various families in order to reward service or build alliances. These land grants to local notable families mark the beginning of the "Rancho Period" in California and Santa Barbara history. Fernando Tico was one of the first settlers who received land grants for the local area. Fernando led the Native Americans against the Argentinian pirates in the 1800s. The population remained sparse, with enormous cattle operations run by wealthy families. It was during this period that Richard Henry Dana, Jr. first visited Santa Barbara and wrote about the culture and people of Santa Barbara in his book Two Years Before the Mast.
Santa Barbara fell bloodlessly to a battalion of American soldiers under John C. Frémont on December 27, 1846, during the Mexican–American War, and after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 it became part of the expanding United States.
Middle and late 19th century
Change came quickly after Santa Barbara's acquisition by the United States. The population doubled between 1850 and 1860. In 1851, land surveyor Salisbury Haley designed the street grid, famously botching the block measurements, misaligning the streets, thereby creating doglegs at certain intersections. Wood construction replaced adobe as American settlers moved in; during the Gold Rush years and following, the town became a haven for bandits and gamblers, and a dangerous and lawless place. Charismatic gambler and highwayman Jack Powers had virtual control of the town in the early 1850s, until driven out by a posse organized in San Luis Obispo. English gradually supplanted Spanish as the language of daily life, becoming the language of official record in 1870. The first newspaper, the Santa Barbara Gazette, was founded in 1855.
While the Civil War had little effect on Santa Barbara, the disastrous drought of 1863 ended the Rancho Period, as most of the cattle died and ranchos were broken up and sold. Mortimer Cook, a wealthy entrepreneur, arrived in 1871 and opened the city's first bank. Cook later served two terms as mayor. Cook founded the first National Gold Bank of Santa Barbara in 1873. The building of Stearns Wharf in 1872 enhanced Santa Barbara's commercial and tourist accessibility; previously goods and visitors had to transfer from steamboats to smaller craft to row ashore. During the 1870s, writer Charles Nordhoff promoted the town as a health resort and destination for well-to-do travelers from other parts of the U.S.; many of them came, and many stayed. The luxurious Arlington Hotel dated from this period. In 1887 the railroad finally went through to Los Angeles, and in 1901 to San Francisco: Santa Barbara was now easily accessible by land and by sea, and subsequent development was brisk. Santa Barbara had a system of street railways that operated from 1875 through 1929. Begun as a single mule-drawn line from the waterfront pier to the Arlington Hotel, over the decades it was incrementally expanded, later electrified, and operated until its closure in June 1929.
Peter J. Barber, an architect, designed many Late Victorian style residences, and served twice as mayor, in 1880 and again in 1890. A year after Barber's term as mayor, President Benjamin Harrison became the first of five presidents to visit Santa Barbara.
Early 20th century to World War II
Just before the turn of the 20th century, oil was discovered at the Summerland Oil Field, and the region along the beach east of Santa Barbara sprouted numerous oil derricks and piers for drilling offshore. This was the first offshore oil development in the world; oil drilling offshore would become a contentious practice in the Santa Barbara area, which continues to the present day.
Santa Barbara housed the world's largest movie studio during the era of silent film. Flying A Studios, a division of the American Film Manufacturing Company, operated on two city blocks centered at State and Mission between 1910 and 1922, with the industry shutting down locally and moving to Hollywood once it outgrew the area, needing the resources of a larger city. Flying A and the other smaller local studios produced approximately 1,200 films during their tenure in Santa Barbara, of which approximately 100 survive.
The magnitude 6.3 earthquake of June 29, 1925, the first destructive earthquake in California since the 1906 San Francisco quake, destroyed much of downtown Santa Barbara and killed 13 people. The earthquake caused infrastructure to collapse including the Sheffield Dam. The low death toll is attributed to the early hour (6:44 a.m., before most people were out on the streets, vulnerable to falling masonry). While this quake, like the one in 1812, was centered in the Santa Barbara Channel, it caused no tsunami. It came at an opportune time for rebuilding, since a movement for architectural reform and unification around a Spanish Colonial style was already underway. Under the leadership of Pearl Chase, many of the city's famous buildings rose as part of the rebuilding process, including the Santa Barbara County Courthouse, sometimes praised as the "most beautiful public building in the United States." There is also the unfortunate incident that happened in 1907, which included a horrific train accident that took the lives of 32 people.
During World War II, Santa Barbara was home to Marine Corps Air Station Santa Barbara, and Naval Reserve Center Santa Barbara at the harbor. Up the coast, west of the city, was the Army's Camp Cooke (the present-day Vandenberg Air Force Base). In the city, Hoff General Hospital treated servicemen wounded in the Pacific Theatre. On February 23, 1942, not long after the outbreak of war in the Pacific, the Japanese submarine I-17 surfaced offshore and lobbed 16 shells at the Ellwood Oil Field, about 10 miles west of Santa Barbara, in the first shelling attack by an enemy power on the continental U.S. since the bombardment of Orleans in World War I. Although the shelling was inaccurate and only caused about $500 damage to a catwalk, panic was immediate. Many Santa Barbara residents fled, and land values plummeted to historic lows.
After World War II
After the war many of the servicemen who had seen Santa Barbara returned to stay. The population surged by 10,000 people between the end of the war and 1950. This burst of growth had dramatic consequences for the local economy and infrastructure. Highway 101 was built through town during this period, and newly built Lake Cachuma began supplying water via a tunnel dug through the mountains between 1950 and 1956.
Local relations with the oil industry gradually soured through the period. Production at Summerland had ended, Elwood was winding down, and to find new fields oil companies carried out seismic exploration of the Channel using explosives, a controversial practice that local fishermen claimed harmed their catch. The culminating disaster, and one of the formative events in the modern environmental movement, was the blowout at Union Oil's Platform A on the Dos Cuadras Field, about eight miles southeast of Santa Barbara in the Santa Barbara Channel, on January 28, 1969. Approximately 100,000 barrels of oil surged out of a huge undersea break, fouling hundreds of square miles of ocean and all the coastline from Ventura to Goleta, as well north facing beaches on the Channel Islands. Two legislative consequences of the spill in the next year were the passages of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA); locally, outraged citizens formed GOO (Get Oil Out). Santa Barbara's business community strove to attract development until the surge in the anti-growth movement in the 1970s. Many "clean" industries, especially aerospace firms such as Raytheon and Delco Electronics, moved to town in the 1950s and 1960s, bringing employees from other parts of the U.S. UCSB itself became a major employer. In 1975, the city passed an ordinance restricting growth to a maximum of 85,000 residents, through zoning. Growth in the adjacent Goleta Valley could be shut down by denying water meters to developers seeking permits. As a result of these changes, growth slowed down, but prices rose sharply.
When voters approved connection to State water supplies in 1991, parts of the city, especially outlying areas, resumed growth, but more slowly than during the boom period of the 1950s and 1960s. While the slower growth preserved the quality of life for most residents and prevented the urban sprawl notorious in the Los Angeles basin, housing in the Santa Barbara area was in short supply, and prices soared: in 2006, only six percent of residents could afford a median-value house. As a result, many people who work in Santa Barbara commute from adjacent, more affordable areas, such as Santa Maria, Lompoc, and Ventura. The resultant traffic on incoming arteries, in particular the stretch of Highway 101 between Ventura and Santa Barbara, is another problem being addressed by long-range planners.
Since the middle of the twentieth century, several destructive fires have affected Santa Barbara: the 1964 Coyote Fire, which burned 67,000 acres of backcountry along with 106 homes; the smaller, but quickly moving, Sycamore Fire in 1977, which burned 200 homes; the disastrous 1990 Painted Cave Fire, which incinerated over 500 homes in only several hours, during an intense Sundowner wind event; the November 2008 Tea Fire, which destroyed 210 homes in the foothills of Santa Barbara and Montecito; and the 2009 Jesusita Fire that burned 8,733 acres and destroyed 160 homes above the San Roque region of Santa Barbara.
The Thomas Fire burned from its origins in Santa Paula 60 miles to the east of Santa Barbara and consumed 281,893 acres in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, most of which consisted of rural land and wilderness areas. The fire started December 4, 2017, and was 100% contained by January 12, 2018. 1,050 structures were lost in the Thomas Fire, mostly east of Santa Barbara in Ventura County. The Thomas Fire has been the largest Santa Barbara County fire ever recorded to date.
Santa Barbara is located about 90 miles west-northwest of Los Angeles, along the Pacific coast. This stretch of coast along southern Santa Barbara County is sometimes referred to as "The American Riviera", presumably because its geography and climate are similar to that of areas along the northern Mediterranean Sea coast (especially in southern France) known as the Riviera. The Santa Ynez Mountains, an east–west trending range, rise dramatically behind the city, with several peaks exceeding 4,000 feet. Covered with chaparral, oaks and sandstone outcrops, they make a scenic backdrop to the town. Sometimes, perhaps once every three years, snow falls on the mountains, but it rarely stays for more than a few days. Nearer to town, directly east and adjacent to Mission Santa Barbara, is an east-west ridge known locally as "the Riviera," traversed by a road called "Alameda Padre Serra" (shortened APS, which translates to "Father Serra's pathway").
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 42.0 square miles, of which 19.5 square miles of it is land and 22.5 square miles of it (53.61%) is water. The high official figures for water is due to the extension of the city limit into the ocean, including a strip of city reaching out into the sea and inland again to keep the Santa Barbara Airport (SBA) within the city boundary.
Santa Barbara experiences a warm-summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen: Csb) characteristic of coastal California. Santa Barbara's weather was ranked number 1 in the United States in 2018 by U.S. News & World Report. Because the city lies along the ocean and parallel to the predominant westerly winds, sideshore and light onshore breezes moderate temperatures resulting in warmer winters and cooler summers compared with places farther inland.
In the winter, storms reach California, some of which bring heavy rainfall but the rainshadow effect of the coastal mountains can at times moderate or enhance the rainfall depending on local storm wind flows. Local rainfall totals can be enhanced by orographic lift when storms are accompanied by southerly flow pushing moist air over the Santa Ynez mountains, producing greater rainfall than in other coastal areas. Diurnal temperature variation reaches a maximum in winter due to lower humidity and the absence of summer fog. On average, only 1.7 nights have freezing lows.
Summers in Santa Barbara are mostly rainless due to the presence of a high-pressure area over the eastern Pacific, but summer showers can happen due to tropical hurricane/Monsoonal flows that rarely reach the region, thunderstorms could also occur during the North American Monsoon. In the fall, afternoon or evening downslope winds, locally called "Sundowners", can raise temperatures into the high 90s and drop humidities into the single digits, increasing the chance due to downed power lines, etc., and severity of wildfires in the foothills north of the city.
Annual rainfall totals are highly variable and in exceptional years like 1940–1941 and 1997–1998 over 40 inches of rain have fallen in a year, but in dry seasons less than 6 inches is not unheard of. Snow sometimes covers higher elevations of the Santa Ynez Mountains but is extremely rare in the city itself. The most recent accumulating snow to fall near sea level was in January 1949, when approximately two inches fell in the city.
Geology and soils
The city of Santa Barbara is situated on a coastal plain between the Santa Ynez Mountains and the sea. This coastal plain consists of a complex array of Holocene and Pleistocene alluvial and colluvial deposits, marine terraces, debris flows, and estuarine deposits. Soils are mostly well drained brown fine sandy loam of the Milpitas series. Rapid geologic uplift is characteristic of the entire region, as evidenced by the coastal bluffs and narrow beaches that are present along most of the coastline.
Downtown Santa Barbara occupies a floodplain between two major geologic faults, the Mission Ridge Fault Zone to the north and the Mesa Fault to the south. The Mission Ridge Fault Zone runs along the range of hills known locally as the "Riviera", and the Mesa Fault defines the northern boundary of the band of hills called the "Mesa". These two faults converge near the Five Points Shopping Center at Los Positas and State Streets. Neither is well-exposed, with their locations being inferred from topography, springs, seeps, and well logs. The Mesa Fault continues southeast offshore into the Santa Barbara Channel; the portion of the fault offshore is believed to have been responsible for the destructive earthquake of 1925. The Mission Ridge Fault trends east-west, being named the More Ranch Fault west of Santa Barbara, and forms the northern boundary of the uplands which include Isla Vista, More Mesa, and the Hope Ranch Hills.
Three major sedimentary bedrock units underlie the coastal plain: the Monterey Formation, the Sisquoc Formation, and the Santa Barbara Formation. The Santa Barbara Formation is one of the main units in the aquifer underlying the city. Its coarse-grained freshwater-bearing portion, much of which is below sea level, is protected from seawater intrusion by the More Ranch Fault, which has shielded it by uplifting less-permeable rocks between it and the sea. The majority of water wells in the Santa Barbara-Goleta area pull from this geologic unit.
The Santa Ynez Mountains to the north of the city consist of multiple layers of sandstone and conglomerate units dating from the Jurassic Age to the present, uplifted rapidly since the Pliocene, upended, and in some areas completely overturned. Rapid uplift has given these mountains their craggy, scenic character, and numerous landslides and debris flows, which form some of the urban and suburban lowland area, are testament to their geologically active nature.
The first Monterey-style adobe in California was built on State Street of Santa Barbara by the wealthy merchant Alpheus Thompson. The dominant architectural themes of Santa Barbara are the Spanish Colonial Revival and the related Mission Revival style, encouraged through design guidelines adopted by city leaders after the 1925 earthquake destroyed much of the downtown commercial district. Residential architectural styles in Santa Barbara reflect the era of their construction. Many late-1800s Victorian homes remain downtown and in the "Upper East" neighborhood. California bungalows are common, built in the early decades of the 20th century. Spanish Colonial Revival-style homes built after 1925 are common all over the city, especially in newer upscale residential areas like Montecito and Hope Ranch. Notable modernist and contemporary homes can be found as well.
Santa Barbara has a range of neighborhoods with distinctive histories, architecture, and culture. While considerable consensus exists as to the identification of neighborhood names and boundaries, variations exist between observers. For example, real estate agents may use different names than those used by public utilities or municipal service providers, such as police, fire, or water services. The following is a list of neighborhoods with descriptions and comments on each.
The Mesa stretches 2.5 miles from Santa Barbara City College on the east to Arroyo Burro County Beach (or "Hendry's/The Pit" to locals) on the west. "The Mesa" embodies a beach vibe. The neighborhood has beach access to Mesa Lane Beach, as well as Thousand Steps Beach. This is considered to be a desirable neighborhood due to its proximity to the ocean as well as the college. Residential development began here in the 1920s but was interrupted by the discovery of the Mesa Oil Field. The field was quickly exhausted, and after the Second World War building of houses resumed, although the last oil tanks and sumps did not disappear until the early 1970s.
Bel Air and Alta Mesa comprise most of the coastal highlands of Santa Barbara, north (landward) of the Mesa. The area is almost entirely residential except for the Honda Valley natural area and also Elings Park, the largest privately funded park in the United States. Several homes on the northeast slopes and crests have views of downtown Santa Barbara, the Riviera, the Santa Ynez Mountains, and the coast to Ventura and beyond, while many on the southern side have views of the Santa Barbara Channel and Channel Islands National Park. Due to its position along Santa Barbara County's east-west-trending southern coastline, fall and winter sunrises occur above the ocean here, a rarity on the Pacific coast of the United States.
Mission Canyon contains the wooded hilly area beginning at the Old Mission and extending along Foothill Road, north and east into Mission Canyon Road and Las Canoas Road. A popular spot as an entry-point for weekend foothill hiking, it is one of the most rustically beautiful, yet fire-prone areas of Santa Barbara due to heavy natural vegetation.
The Riviera encompasses an ocean-facing hillside and back hillside extending for approximately two miles, with the north side extending from Foothill Road to Sycamore Canyon Road, and the south side from the Santa Barbara Mission to North Salinas Street. The ribbon-like Alameda Padre Serra serves as the principal entry point from the Mission and the City of Santa Barbara. Since the past century, it has been known as "the Riviera" due to its resemblance to the Mediterranean coastal towns of France and Italy. The neighborhood has winding streets with intricate stonework terracing built by early 20th-century Italian immigrants. Most of the topography of the Riviera is relatively steep, making it particularly noteworthy for homes with outstanding views of the City of Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean.
The Westside ("west of State Street") lies predominantly in the lowlands between State Street and the Mesa, including Highway 101, and also reaches down to Cliff Drive, incorporating Santa Barbara City College.
The Eastside ("east of State Street") is generally the area east of State to the base of the Riviera, and includes Santa Barbara Junior High School, Santa Barbara High School, and the Santa Barbara Bowl.
The Waterfront comprises roughly commercial and tourist-oriented business structures along Cabrillo Boulevard including Stearns Wharf, the Santa Barbara Harbor and the breakwater, and extending east toward the Bird Refuge and west along Shoreline Drive above the SBCC campus West.
Upper State Street is a residential and commercial district that includes numerous professional offices, and much of the medical infrastructure of the city. Upper State is generally defined by the location of the Granada Theatre and points Northwest. Upper State includes the Santa Barbara Mission and the late Pearl Chase's influence on home design is ever-present in this area.
San Roque is located northwest of the downtown area and north of Samarkand. This area is said to be a constant 5 degrees warmer than the coastal areas, due to its greater distance from the ocean than other Santa Barbara neighborhoods, and being separated from the sea by a low range of hills to the south of the 101 freeway, occupied by the Mesa and Hope Ranch. San Roque area weather is considered by locals as the most temperate of all Santa Barbara Cities areas.
Samarkand currently has approximately 630 homes on 184 acres (0.74 km2) with a population of about 2,000 people. The name Samarkand comes from an Old Persian word meaning "the land of heart's desire." It was first applied to a deluxe Persian-style hotel that was converted from a boys' school in 1920. Samarkand later became identified as its own neighborhood located between Las Positas, State Street, De La Vina, Oak Park, and the Freeway. Earle Ovington built the first home here in 1920 at 3030 Samarkand Drive. As a pilot, Ovington established the Casa Loma Air Field with a 1,500-foot runway that was used by legendary pilots Lindbergh and Earhart.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Santa Barbara had a population of 88,410. The population density was 2,106.6 people per square mile. The racial makeup of Santa Barbara was 66,411 (75.1%) White; 1,420 (1.6%) African American; 892 (1.0%) Native American; 3,062 (3.5%); Asian (1.0% Chinese, 0.6% Filipino, 0.5% Japanese, 0.4% Korean, 0.4% Indian, 0.2% Vietnamese, 0.4% other); 116 (0.1%) Pacific Islander; 13,032 (14.7%) from other races; 3,477 (3.9%) from two or more races. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 33,591 persons (38.0%). Non-Hispanic Whites were 45,852 persons (52.2%)
The Census reported that 86,783 people (98.2% of the population) lived in households, 1,172 (1.3%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 455 (0.5%) were institutionalized.
Of the 35,449 households, 8,768 (24.7%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 13,240 (37.3%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 3,454 (9.7%) had a female householder with no husband present, and 1,539 (4.3%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 2,420 (6.8%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 339 (1.0%) same-sex married couples or partnerships; 11,937 households (33.7%) were made up of individuals, and 4,340 (12.2%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45. There were 18,233 families (51.4% of all households); the average family size was 3.13.
The population was spread out, with 16,468 people (18.6%) under the age of 18, 10,823 people (12.2%) aged 18 to 24, 26,241 people (29.7%) aged 25 to 44, 22,305 people (25.2%) aged 45 to 64, and 12,573 people (14.2%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36.8 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.7 males.
There were 37,820 housing units at an average density of 901.2 per square mile (347.9/km2), of which 13,784 (38.9%) were owner-occupied, and 21,665 (61.1%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.3%; the rental vacancy rate was 4.1%; 34,056 people (38.5% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 52,727 people (59.6%) lived in rental housing units.
Aerospace and defense companies such as Alliant Techsystems, Channel Technologies Group, LogMeIn, FLIR Systems, and Raytheon have major operations in the area. As a tourist destination, the hospitality industry has a significant presence in the regional economy. Among notable business ventures and innovations, Motel 6 was started in Santa Barbara in 1962. The Egg McMuffin was invented by Herb Peterson at the upper State Street McDonald's. The Habit hamburger restaurant began in Old Town Goleta near Santa Barbara. Kinko's (now part of FedEx) started in Isla Vista, near UC Santa Barbara.
As of June 2018, southern Santa Barbara County had over half the county's total employment, with the largest employers being:
Arts and culture
Santa Barbara contains numerous performing art venues, including the 2,000 seat Arlington Theatre, which is the largest indoor performance venue in Santa Barbara and site of the annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Other major venues include the Lobero Theatre, a historic building and favorite venue for small concerts; the Granada Theater, the tallest building downtown, originally built by contractor C.B. Urton in 1924, but with the theatre remodeled and reopened in March 2008; and the Santa Barbara Bowl, a 4,562 seat outdoor amphitheatre in a canyon at the base of the Riviera.
The city is considered a haven for classical music lovers with a symphony orchestra, a professional opera company, and many non-profit classical music groups (such as CAMA). The Music Academy of the West, located in Montecito, hosts an annual music festival in the summer, drawing renowned students and professionals.
Santa Barbara is a year-round tourist destination renowned for its fair weather, downtown beaches, and Spanish architecture. Tourism brings more than one billion dollars per year into the local economy, including $80 million in tax revenue. Mission Santa Barbara, "The Queen of the Missions," is located on a rise about two miles inland from the harbor, and is an active Franciscan mission and place of worship, sightseeing stop, and national historic landmark. Annually over the Memorial Day weekend, there is a chalk-art festival known as I Madonnari, with ephemeral works of art created on the asphalt in front of the mission, and food stalls set up and music.
The Santa Barbara County Courthouse, a red tiled Spanish-Moorish structure, provides a view of the downtown area from its open air tower. The Presidio of Santa Barbara, a Spanish military installation and chapel built in 1782, was central to the town's early development and colonial roots. In 1855, the Presidio Chapel, being in decay, grew into the Apostolic College of Our Lady of Sorrows, now Our Lady of Sorrows Church.
The annual Fiesta (originally called "Old Spanish Days") is celebrated every year in August. The Fiesta is hosted by the Native Daughters of the Golden West and the Native Sons of the Golden West in a joint committee called the Fiesta Board. Fiesta was originally started as a tourist attraction, like the Rose Bowl, to draw business into the town in the 1920s.
Flower Girls and Las Señoritas march and participate in both Fiesta Pequeña (the kickoff of Fiesta) and the various parades. Flower Girls is for girls under 13. They throw roses and other flowers into the crowds. Las Señoritas are their older escorts. Many Señoritas join the Native Daughters at the age of 16.
The annual Santa Barbara French Festival takes place Bastille Day weekend in July and is the largest French Festival in the western United States.
New Noise Music Conference and Festival, established in 2009, is a 4-day event with the main party in the Funk Zone, a small art and wine tasting section of the city near the beach, and other small bands to local venues around the city. New Noise brings in over 75 bands and 50 speakers to the festival each year.
For over 40 years, the Santa Barbara Arts and Crafts Show has been held on Cabrillo Boulevard, east of Stearns Wharf and along the beach, attracting thousands of people to see artwork made by artists and crafts people that live in Santa Barbara county. By the rules of the show, all the works displayed must have been made by the artists and craftspeople themselves, who sell their own goods. The show started in the early 1960s, and now has over 200 booths on Sundays. The show is also held on some Saturdays that are national holidays, but not during inclement weather.
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival, another local non-profit, draws over 50,000 attendees during what is usually Santa Barbara's slow season in late January. SBIFF hosts a wide variety of celebrities, premieres, panels and movies from around the world and runs for 10 days.
The annual Summer Solstice Parade draws up to 100,000 people. It is a colorful themed parade put on by local residents, and follows a route along State Street for approximately one mile, ending at Alameda Park. Its main rule is that no written messages or banners with words are allowed. Floats and costumes vary from the whimsical to the outrageous; parties and street events take place throughout the weekend of the parade, the first weekend after the solstice.
Surfing is a part of Santa Barbara culture. The late Bruce Brown's cult classic, The Endless Summer, put surfing on the map, and he was often seen around town prior to his passing in December 2017. Surfing legend Pat Curren and his son, three-time world champion Tom Curren, as well as ten-time world champion Kelly Slater, and other popular surfers such as Shaun Tompson, Jack Johnson and Chris Brown call Santa Barbara home. The Channel Islands block summer surf swells that come from the tropics or further south, the southern hemisphere. For these reasons Santa Barbara is viewed as a winter surf location.
Other tourist-centered attractions include:
Ronald Reagan's ranch is located in the mountain range above Santa Barbara.
Stearns Wharf – Adjacent to Santa Barbara Harbor, features shops, several restaurants, and the newly rebuilt Ty Warner Sea Center and Lower State Street.
Rafael Gonzalez House – Adobe residence of the alcalde of Santa Barbara in the 1820s, and a National Historic Landmark.
Santa Barbara's Moreton Bay Fig Tree – a giant Moreton Bay Fig, 80 feet tall, which has one of the largest total shaded areas of any tree in North America
Burton Mound – on Mason Street at Burton Circle, this mound is thought to be the Chumash village of Syujton, recorded by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo in 1542, and again by Fr. Crespí and Portolá in 1769. (California Historical Landmark No. 306)
De La Guerra Plaza (Casa de la Guerra) – Site of the first City Hall, and still the center of the city's administration. (California Historical Landmark No. 307) Also the location of the Santa Barbara News Press.
Covarrubias Adobe – Built in 1817; adjacent to the Santa Barbara Historical Museum on Santa Barbara Street. (California Historical Landmark No. 308)
Hastings Adobe – Built in 1854, partially from material recovered from the wreck of the S.S. Winfield Scott. (California Historical Landmark No. 559)
Hill-Carrillo Adobe – Built in 1825 by Daniel A. Hill for his wife Rafaela L. Ortega y Olivera; currently at 11 E. Carrillo Street.
Cold Spring Tavern
Santa Barbara Zoo
Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
Channel Islands National Park
Rancho del Cielo
The Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA), located on State Street, features nationally recognized collections and special exhibitions of international importance. Highlights of the Museum's permanent collection include antiquities; 19th-century French, British, and American art; 20th-century and contemporary European, North American, and Latin American art; Asian art; photography; and works on paper. It has an education program that serves local and surrounding communities through extensive on-site programming and curriculum resources.
Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara (MCASB), located on the top floor of Paseo Nuevo shopping mall, is a non-profit, non-collecting museum dedicated to the exhibition, education, and cultivation of the arts of our time. It offers free admission to its exhibitions and public programming.
Other art venues include the University Art Museum on the University of California at Santa Barbara Campus, various private galleries, and a wide variety of art and photography shows. The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History is located immediately behind the Santa Barbara Mission in a complex of Mission-style buildings set in a park-like campus. The Museum offers indoor and outdoor exhibits and a state-of-the-art planetarium.
The Santa Barbara Historical Museum is located on De La Guerra Street. The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum is located at 113 Harbor Way (the former Naval Reserve Center Santa Barbara) on the waterfront. The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum (free admission) houses a collection of historical documents and manuscripts. Two open air museums here are Lotusland and Casa del Herrero, exemplifying the American Country Place era in Santa Barbara. Casa Dolores, center for the popular arts of Mexico, is devoted to the collection, preservation, study, and exhibition of an extensive variety of objects of the popular arts of Mexico.
The Reagan Ranch Center is a three-story museum and gallery operated by Young America's Foundation, next to the Amtrak Station on Lower State Street. Its focus is the history of the Rancho del Cielo and the role it played in Ronald Reagan's life.
Prominent sports in Santa Barbara include the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos. The Gauchos field 20 varsity teams in NCAA Division I, most of which play in the Big West Conference. The most popular teams include the men's soccer team, which averages over 3,800 fans per game, and the men's basketball team, which averages over 2,300 fans per game.
Santa Barbara annually hosts the Semana Nautica Summer Sports Festival. One of the main events of the festival is the Semana Nautica 15K, the oldest continuously running race on California's central coast.
Santa Barbara is bisected by U.S. Route 101, an automotive transportation corridor that links the city to the rest of the Central Coast region, San Francisco to the north, and Los Angeles to the southeast. Santa Barbara Municipal Airport offers commercial air service. Santa Barbara Aviation provides locally based private jet charter aircraft. Amtrak offers rail service through the Coast Starlight and Pacific Surfliner trains at the train station on State Street. The Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District (MTD) provides local bus service across the city, and Greyhound bus stations are located downtown. Electric shuttles operated by MTD ferry tourists and shoppers up and down lower State Street and to the wharf. Santa Barbara has an extensive network of bike trails and other resources for cyclists, and the League of American Bicyclists recognizes Santa Barbara as a Silver Level city. Ventura Intercity Service Transit Authority (VISTA) bus service offers connections south to Ventura and west to Goleta. The Clean Air Express bus offers connections to Lompoc and Santa Maria. Santa Barbara Airbus offers service to LAX from Santa Barbara and Goleta. In addition, Santa Barbara Car Free promotes visiting and exploring the area without use of a car.
Often chosen as a winter training location for professional cycling teams and snowbirds alike, Santa Barbara has many cycling routes and several notable climbs, including Gibraltar Road and Old San Marcos/Painted Cave. A bike path and route also connects the University of California, Santa Barbara to the downtown area, passing through Goleta and Hope Ranch. Bike rentals are a way for tourists to view Santa Barbara and the surrounding area. In 2009, the Santa Barbara-Santa Maria-Goleta metropolitan statistical area (MSA) ranked as the sixth highest in the United States for percentage of commuters who biked to work (4 percent).
From 1875 until 1929, a tramway existed in Santa Barbara.
In popular culture
Santa Barbara aired on NBC from 1984 to 1993 was set in Santa Barbara.
The TV series Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law was set in Santa Barbara.
A portion of the 2020 video game The Last of Us II takes place in Santa Barbara.