Where to live in Santa Barbara?
April 26, 2009 9:36 PM   Subscribe

Where are the best neighborhoods in the Santa Barbara area for two 20-something professionals? My boyfriend will be working in Goleta starting in June and we're looking for a 1BR apartment preferably near stuff like grocery shopping, cafes/restaurants, a public library, and running/walking paths.

We're hoping to not spend more than $1300 on a 1BR. We live in LA and San Diego now, so will make a trip or two to the area before we move to scope things out.

I know we don't want Isla Vista. Downtown near State St. sounds like it would be nice, but we don't really know what specific areas are good.

Goleta also would be good in terms of a short commute, but are there any good sort of mixed-use areas or is it all suburban?

Any other neighborhoods (preferably with specific boundaries) to look at or avoid?

Do all apartments look like 50s-era motels?

Any other apartment hunting advice for Santa Barbara? This previous question is really helpful, but a couple years old now.
posted by wsquared to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

$1300 is a good price range. Keep your eyes on Craig's List. Places go quickly, especially in your range. You should be able to get a decent place for that price though. ~$1000 per room is normal. We live in a 2 bedroom condo and pay a little over $1000 per room.

IV sucks and Goleta is pretty suburban and there isn't too much to do in Goleta proper outside of dive bars. There are downtown neighborhoods that you may want to avoid - a little gang-y, both on the Westside and the Eastside. Please MeMail me if you're considering a place to live and you're wondering about the surroundings. We can privately give you the lowdown.

We live on the Mesa and LOVE it. I go to UCSB and my SO works in Ventura (so hops on the highway) and it is close to both. It is a 5 minute drive to downtown, 8-12 minute bus ride or 10 minute bike ride. It is 12-15 minutes for me to get to Goleta from here too.

It is cheaper than downtown but we have a snobby grocery store, a produce stand, a normal grocery store (Albertson's), 2 drug stores and a number of very decent and affordable places to eat including a family joint, good Mexican, decent Thai, okay bagels, COOKIES, smoothies, Starbucks, non-chain coffee, tapas and tons of pizza... all within walking distance.

We also have a ton of nice parks - La Mesa Park and Shoreline are the two major Mesa parks that we hang out at.

On the Mesa there are two main areas - down by the City College is yucky apartment and up by Cliff and Meigs there are tons of nice condos and small houses to rent. Again, if you need a local POV on a street, MeMail me.

The city library is downtown. It is sorta gross, unfortunately.

We lived a few blocks off of State Street for about a year and did NOT like it. Not being able to walk for groceries drove me crazy. There is a Ralph's downtown but it is a bit far from much of the downtown apartment/house scene. Plus you end up paying so much to live there.

Other neighborhoods to consider - Mission area, although it can be a little sketchy in some streets, but it is closer to a Vons and a Trader Joes. The one thing that the Mesa is missing is a TJs. There are 3 in town though - one in Goleta, one on Milpas and the one near the Mission.

Hope this helps! :)
posted by k8t at 10:47 PM on April 26, 2009

Here's an okay guide to neighborhoods.
posted by k8t at 10:56 PM on April 26, 2009

The Mesa and State Street are nice. Near the Mission is also very nice. La Cumbre is a little less cute but near tons of practical stuff. Honestly Santa Barbara isn't so big that there are clear boundaries. And unless you live right off state street (which is nice if you can get it) you pretty much need to drive everywhere so I wouldn't limit yourself too much. I would just go and look at a bunch of places in your price range. SB really isn't that big. In SB itself, there really aren't many areas, unless you start going up into the hills (which is pretty), that is all that far from supermarkets, coffee, etc... The Rivera is really beautiful but slightly farther away from things, and by slightly, I mean like 5 more minutes.

Santa Barbara has a lot more going on and is less suburban than Goleta, but it's all kind of relative. Isla Vista is a hell hole as you've already surmised. But excellent cheap food, so worth a visit now and then. The Milpas area is the "bad" part of town, but it really isn't dangerous by any reasonable standard and my cousin lives in a gorgeous brand new house right off Milpas, so really I wouldn't worry too much in that respect...

I would probably stick to looking in Santa Barbara, however Goleta is just down the road and is generally cheaper (but because of its proximity to UCSB it isn't always as cheap as you'd expect). $1300 for a 1 bedroom is probably doable, but I haven't looked for a place in SB in nearly 5 years, but I find it pretty on par with comparable (as in as nice/close to the beach) as in the westside of LA. I remember that in 2004 it was pretty hard for me to find a decent studio/1 bedroom for under $1000, but even given inflation $1300 is probably ok.

For what it's worth, I also used to live on the Mesa and loved it. And it's generally cheaper than State Street.
posted by whoaali at 10:57 PM on April 26, 2009

Ellwood beach flats! It's a fantastic little community in an otherwise drab city. The beach flats are especially nice because you feel like you're actually immersed in a society with other humans, instead of comfortably isolated (but with plenty of personal space in case you need to be isolated). The beach is but a 10 minute walk away and is never crowded, there's plenty of convenient stores (big-box and otherwise) nearby and a weekly farmer's market that's a short bike ride or drive away.

Other than that, what others have said above -- State St. is sweet but only if you're willing to pay the price and deal with the hassle of shuffling cars around on the street. I've liked some of the Mesa spots, but I'd feel isolated out there -- a bit too detached from the rest of the city, and it's more for car-going folk. There's a small, dense community off of 101 at Carillo exit that feels like home to me. Others may disagree.

Oh, and $1300 for a 1br is totally reasonable (for Goleta, at least -- haven't checked other places).
posted by spiderskull at 12:27 AM on April 27, 2009

I lived in an apartment in the Cottage Hospital area for about three years, right on Pueblo St. There was great food(mexican, pizza, bbq, ice cream, breakfast, etc) within walking distance, in addition to a Trader Joes and a Ralphs that I could walk to. (The downtown Ralphs was much better than the closer Ralphs on De La Vina- the short drive to downtown was worth it for the much better selection and cleaner store). There was a great cafe nearby on of the corner of Mission/De La Vina- I can't recall the name, but they had great coffee, soups, sandwiches, pastries, everything!

There was plenty of street parking in the area- important if you're going to have more than one car. Parking was more crowded during business hours, but after 4pm, it was easy to find nearby street parking. Street parking can be difficult in the evenings in many neighborhoods, including the Ellwood area(beautiful there, easy access to natural areas, but I had bad parking experiences in the 4 months that I lived there before moving). Even though it was near the hospital, I never heard many sirens when I lived there.

Cottage Hospital wasn't the nicest area in town, but in Santa Barbara that doesn't mean much. My neighbors were friendly and I always felt safe, even walking around at night. Oak Park was a very nice park which was a short walk away. It was quiet at night- I didn't have any problems with street noise or wild parties tearing through the area.

The area around Cottage Hospital is very centrally located to different shopping/entertainment areas. It's a short drive to the happening part of State Street. But no matter where you are in SB, compared to LA and SD, nothing will seem very far away. Goleta is 10 minutes away up the 101.

I paid around $1000 for my 1 bedroom, so $1300 is totally doable in the area and it'll get you a nice 1 bedroom.

There are many great places to live in SB, I was really happy living near the hospital- I'm sure you'll enjoy where ever you find a place. I had friends that lived all over town, and other than parking, my friends never complained about their rented houses/apartments.

And while we're on the topic of SB, I highly recommend the "Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch" for awesomely delicious Santa Maria/Santa Barbara style grilled tri-tip and chicken. It's sooooo good. It's the one thing I miss most about SB. Chicken Ranch is near the hospital, and there is also one in Goleta. Eat there often (or occasionally) and you'll be happy.

Also, watch your speed on the local side streets, I saw a lot of people get pulled over for speeding in the 25, 30, 35 mph areas- it's not Los Angeles.
posted by mintymike at 3:06 AM on April 27, 2009

I agree that the Cottage Hospital area is a good choice too (that area is sometimes called San Roque...) - BUT bus line access around there sucks. Another perk - it is drunk walkable to downtown.
posted by k8t at 5:27 AM on April 27, 2009

nthing what everyone else is saying. Especially mintymike. I used to live in an apartment directly above Santa Barbara Chicken Ranch. The BBQ smoke would drift into my window every night. I miss that place with a passion.
posted by Eddie Mars at 6:39 AM on April 27, 2009

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