And there’s much to love. Santa Barbara is situated on a south-facing section of coastline that lies between the steeply rising Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Our climate is often described as Mediterranean, and the city has been promoted as the “American Riviera.” The city is known for its Spanish architecture and is home to the iconic Old Mission Santa Barbara, founded in 1786 and known as “Queen of the Missions.” Our community is home to six excellent institutions of higher learning (the University of California, Santa Barbara; Santa Barbara City College; Westmont College; Antioch University; Fielding Graduate Institute; and Pacifica Graduate Institute), and boasts a vibrant arts sector, including numerous theaters, festivals, galleries, and museums. There is broad array of eateries, from the most elegant restaurants to informal taquerias and beachside bistros. There is much outdoor and indoor entertainment (lectures, classes, wine tastings, festivals, etc.) that is offered free of charge, as well as significant cultural events, such as the Santa Barbara International Film Festival and Old Spanish Days. Our excellent free news weekly, “The Independent,” and the quarterly “Santa Barbara Seasons,” are two great resources for information on all there is to see and do.
Santa Barbara Airport serves the city, as does Amtrak. U.S. Highway 101 connects the Santa Barbara area with Los Angeles to the southeast and San Francisco 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.
With regard to politics, Santa Barbara County as a whole has leaned to the left in recent years in terms of city, county, congressional and presidential elections. However, there is a dramatic difference between the “conservative” northern areas and the “liberal” southern areas of the county.
A few statistics.
- As of the census of 2010, the city had a population of 88,410, making it the second most populous city in the county after Santa Maria, while 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.
- In 2013, the racial makeup of Santa Barbara was as follows: white, 54%; Hispanic, 40%; Asian, 4%; black, 1%; with the remaining 5% comprising Native American, Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander, and people with multi-racial ancestry.
- The economy includes a large service sector, education, technology, health care, finance, agriculture, manufacturing, and local government. In 2004, the service sector accounted for fully 35% of local employment.
Additional and very detailed statistics are available on the city and county websites.
While there is much to love in Santa Barbara, the city also presents some truly significant challenges.
- Southern Santa Barbara County has the highest housing costs in the county. In mid-2015, the median home price for Santa Barbara was $976,000. With an estimated area median income of $64,434 for a family of four, home ownership is out of reach for nearly 80% of area residents. Additionally, the rental vacancy rate is less than 1%, which makes securing affordable and available housing very challenging.
- Behind a veneer of amazing natural resources and a beautiful built environment, poverty in Santa Barbara County grew by 52 percent between 2007 and 2010 and child poverty increased by 61 percent. In Santa Barbara County, more than 1 in every 5 children, 1 in every 5 adults, and 1 in every 14 seniors are in poverty. The church building is located in one of a handful of census tracts countywide defined as “high poverty areas,” according to a 2013 report commissioned by the County Board of Supervisors. High poverty areas are home to 53 percent of all individuals living in poverty. In the immediate proximity of the church address, 24 percent of people live in poverty.
It is to these and other challenges that the Trinity congregation seeks to direct its attention and, through civic engagement and justice-and-outreach activities, to make a difference.