Santa Barbara has a diversity of residential areas. Made up of many neighborhoods and areas you will find information provided on several below.
The Mesa is located on the bluffs just beyond the harbor and extends from the ocean up to the top of the hill. There are both tract and custom homes, many with ocean and/or city views.
The Wilcox Property, now known as the as the Douglas Family Preserve, at southwestern tip of the Mesa was a commercial nursery, currently preserved for public use. The neighborhood between Mesa Lane and Oliver Road, while originally plotted as early as 1920, did not develop until after World War II when many veterans built homes with the help of GI loans.City weather records show that the Mesa's winter temperatures are 10 to 12 degrees warmer than downtown, and 10 to 12 degrees cooler in the summer.
The "Westside Story" of Santa Barbara is laid in our city's first suburb to be initiated by Anglos rather than Hispanics; the Spanish genesis of the city was located on the Eastside. In 1850, when the United States annexed California to the Union, the Westside was open grazing range and farmland, turning marshy near the beach. Today this area is solidly overlaid with urban development extending inland to the Goleta Valley, making it the most densely populated neighborhood in Santa Barbara. The earliest historical reference to the Westside came in 1793 when Captain George Vancouver, a British explorer-scientist, who was circumnavigating the globe, anchored the Discovery off West Beach and received permission for his seacook to chop stovewood from the Mesa oak groves and refill his water tanks from a steep at the base of the Mesa bluffs near Pershing Park.
Mission Canyon, which with the Old Mission complex and the area bounded on the south by Mission Street, making up Santa Barbara's "Mission District," is unique. No residential neighborhood in the city boasts a richer historical background, or offers more relics and landmarks of Old Spanish Days.Fr. Junipero Serra, when he helped found the Royal Presidio of Santa Barbara in 1782, intended Santa Barbara's Franciscan mission to be built in El Montecito near the present site of Our Lady of Mount Carmel church on East Valley Road. But four years later, when his successor, Fr. Fermin Lasuen OFM, arrived to establish our mission, he decided that Montecito was too infested with grizzly bears and renegade Indians to risk building a mission so far removed from the protection of the presidio soldiers, so he looked elsewhere.
Few residential neighborhoods of Santa Barbara can boast the rich historical background of the San Roque and Rutherford Park areas. San Roque is a charming area with smaller, individual homes in a quiet, yet convenient in-town location. Ten thousand years ago the area, bounded by Ontare Road, Foothill Road, Alamar Avenue and State Street, was an open expanse of treeless grassland, sloping up to the knees of the foothills and bisected by the jungled course of San Roque Canyon. Now a built-up, economically stabilized suburb, it is admired for its sweeping curved streets, its luxuriant landscaping, and its harmonious blend of many architectural themes - Spanish Colonial, English Tudor, French Normandy, California Redwood, Italian and American Colonial, mostly built since 1925. San Roque features older, custom homes with charm.
Samarkand meant "the land of heart's desire" in the archaic Persian tongue. It identified the fabulous Asian city where a mythical Queen Scheherazade spent her 1001 Arabian nights. In Santa Barbara, the melodic oriental name was first applied in 1920 to a deluxe Persian style hotel, formerly a boy's school. As the dominating landmark of a hilly, elevated neighborhood, the Samarkand gave its name to an area bounded on the east by Oak Park, on the north by Hollister Avenue (now De La Vina Street), on the west by a ranch boundary fence centered on modern Las Positas Road, and on the south by the old Coast Highway and the railroad. Samarkand is a delightful area of homes full of charm.
Bridging the two mile span which separates Mission and Sycamore Canyons, the sylvan uplift which the padres knew as the "mission ridge" has for the past 65 years been known as "the Riviera" due to its resemblance to slopes along the Mediterranean coasts of France and Italy. Santa Barbarans lucky enough to live on this ridge attach premium value to their homes because of their unsurpassed views of the city, mountains, sea and islands.
The Spaniards who founded Santa Barbara in 1782 were soldiers and priests, not seafaring men. Perhaps that is why no provision was made for a seaport. The waterfront, extending 3.6 miles from Shoreline Park to the Bird Refuge, offers no natural headlands to create a safe anchorage. Early-day mariners dreaded Santa Barbara's exposed roadstead so much they used to drop anchor a mile offshore, ready to slip their cables and head for the open sea if foul weather threatened. As recently as 70 years ago the ocean used to cover what today is the City College football field, dashing its surf against cliffs now paneled by La Playa Stadium. Leadbetter Beach did not exist. But just around the corner, east of Castle Rock (a long-vanished promontory), semi-sheltered West Beach became the traditional landing place for visitors. It is thus overlaid with history covering two centuries.
The Santa Barbara Waterfront stretches from the Harbor across from Santa Barbara City College along Cabrillo Boulevard past Stearns Wharf to East Beach, which is near the Santa Barbara Zoo and Bird Refuge. There are Hotels and Motels located along the Waterfront, but behind them are charming homes, duplexes, triplexes and apartment buildings.