Stefan Von Imhof What is it like to live in Santa Barbara, CA?

[ My intention with my blog is to simply collect articles of interest to me for purposes of future reference. I do my best to indicate who has actually composed the articles. NONE of the articles have been written by me. – Louis Sheehan ]

Posted but not written by: Lou Sheehan

What is it like to live in Santa Barbara, CA?
Stefan Von Imhof
180 upvotes by Colin Specter, Rico Fung, Edwin Khoo, (more)
I could write about how beautiful it is here, but you can find pictures online.
I could write about how nice the weather is, but you can find that too.
I could write about how expensive the homes are, things to do, etc., but all this stuff is easy to find out.

The question was, what is it like to live here. I’ve lived here 10 years and I can’t sleep tonight, so I’ll do my best to give a nice long answer.

First let me just say: I’ve been to 27 countries and lived on 3 continents, and believe me: it doesn’t get a whole lot better than Santa Barbara & the surrounding areas of Goleta, Summerland, & Montecito.

The fact is, it really is just as wonderful as it seems. Life is easy. Life is relaxing. People are carefree, healthy & full of enthusiasm. The place is absolutely stunningly beautiful, and everyone seems to realize this fact all of the time. There is an undercurrent of positive energy that permeates every inch of the central coast. I’ve lived here 10 years, yet there are times when I’ll take a walk down State Street and think to myself, “Wow, I feel so lucky to call this place home.”

That much is obvious to visitors & tourists. But what surprised me about Santa Barbara is how deep & layered the beauty runs: it’s not just skin deep. I’ve seen every inch of this town, yet always feel like there is one more beach to discover…one more street I haven’t been more phenomenal view I haven’t seen.

I’ve always felt Santa Barbara has the perfect population density for it’s size. This is no accident; the housing market is tightly controlled & protected from over-development. You want high-rise hotels and suburban sprawl? Move to Orange County. Santa Barbara is special in large part because of the value people here place on their land.

Which brings me to politics. Santa Barbara is an accepting, environmentally conscious, left-leaning city, no question about it. I’m 31, and couldn’t name more than 5-6 people here who would call themselves conservative. I’m not making judgments, and I certainly don’t want to turn this into a political thread. Don’t get me wrong; it’s no Berkeley. But west-coast liberalism is without a doubt a core part the city’s soul.

If it seems like all people do here is eat and drink, that’s because it’s not far from the truth. And we do it extremely well. SB has a farmer’s market 6 days a week, and what can seem like an endless supply of some of the best cafes and restaurants in the country. Wine country is a 30 minute drive away. State Street is alive at night throughout the year, but there is no shortage of awesome places off the beaten path. And of course the scene out at UCSB is a whole other animal. One thing that struck me when I first moved here is how dark the city is at night. This is a city that thrives in sunshine. It feels like an old Spanish neighborhood during summer nights, but in the winter it can definitely feel a bit dead at times.

Because it’s such a tight-knit community, SB is an easy place to make friends. The problem is that many of those friends will leave; much more than they do in other places. I’ve had maybe 10 good friends leave in the past 5 years. And it’s no secret why; as wonderful as our city is, it has an extremely high cost of living, and good paying jobs aren’t easy to find. People end up leaving not because they want to, but because they have no other choice.

Nightlife here is great when you’re in college or in your early 20’s, although by your late 20’s it can start to feel slightly stale. If you’re married or in a relationship, you’ll have no complaints here. There is always something going on, and you don’t have to look very hard. I got married pretty young so I never really experienced the city as a single guy, but a lot of my single male friends don’t really dig the dating scene here.

I glazed over the issue of jobs, but it deserves a second mention. This is primarily a tourist town. As such, many of the jobs are in the tourism sector, and many of those don’t pay particularly well. It has been said that fewer than 1% of SB residents could afford to buy a home here on their own. So how do people afford it? Aside from the usual doctors, lawyers, financiers, and professors, there is also a robust and growing tech sector. But overall the demand for the high-paying jobs they provide far exceeds the supply.

One thing I love about this town is that unlike Beverly Hills or Malibu where every house is gigantic, and every other car is a Rolls Royce, a lot of the wealth here is “hand-me-down.” When you drive through the Riviera here you often see fairly modest houses with older model cars parked outside. Teachers, retail managers, etc. Same old story – the parents bought in the 70s for 200k, the house is now worth 1.2m, etc. Of course other Riviera homes are very large with very nice cars, so this is all changing as we speak.

For it’s size the city has a truly staggering amount of culture. Over 10 theaters, a solid art scene, museums, and the Santa Barbara Film Festival each January. The music & comedy scene is a bit lacking, but remember that Ventura is 30 minutes away, and LA is only 90. And every drive is beautiful.

It’s incredibly easy to get around; traffic getting in and out of the city can be a bit sticky, but they are widening the 101 to make this easier. In-town commutes are a joke. There are plenty of fantastic bike routes through the city, hills and country, and walkability is extremely high – especially for Southern California. The 101 runs right through the city, and getting to LA, San Francisco, Vegas, San Diego, is a cinch. When you hit the traffic in those cities, you begin to wonder how anyone can live there, and treasure the central coast even more. Driving from LA to Santa Barbara is like getting over a migrane headache. Once you get past Ventura it’s one of the most gorgeous & satisfying places to drive around in the entire country. Billboards are banned, the roads are extremely well-maintained, and there are no high-rises to block the view.

Despite the wealth, this isn’t a town that cares about money as much as you might think. It doesn’t have the excessive flashiness you find in LA. but there is also plenty of quirkiness, individuality, a solid middle class, students, kids, and everything in between. Demographically it leans older and wealthier, but it does not define the city’s character.

There are plenty of people in Santa Barbara with more money than they know what to do with. The city of Santa Barbara, on the other hand, knows exactly what to do with its money: Protect itself. For over a hundred years Santa Barbarians have understood how special this place is, and what it takes to keep it special. It’s not that people here are against development or change – they just want to make sure that it’s done right, for the sake of the city & future generations.

Santa Barbara is not without its problems, but they pale in comparison to what other cities face. Our biggest issues center around gangs & violence, of which there is more than you would expect, but not much. Graffiti is another recurring problem, and SB is famous for having a high homeless population…

But the fact is even the homeless people here seem relatively happy. That’s not a joke. And really, how can you not be? The place is perfect. It’s paradise in every sense of the word. It’s almost unfair.

If you’re lucky enough to go to school, find work, own a home, or retire here, then kudos to you! If not, then at least come vacation here and see what it’s all about. Like I said, I’ve been all over, and it doesn’t get much better than this neck of the woods here. If I didn’t live here I probably wouldn’t even live in the United States – I’d move back to Australia.

Hope this helps!

[ My intention with my blog is to simply collect articles of interest to me for purposes of future reference. I do my best to indicate who has actually composed the articles. NONE of the articles have been written by me. – Louis Sheehan ]

Posted but not written by: Lou Sheehan


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