Santa Barbara County, California

Santa Barbara County is a county located on the Pacific coast of the southern portion of the U.S. state of California, just west of Ventura County. As of 2000 the county had a population of 399,347. The estimated total population of Santa Barbara County as of January 2006 is 421,625, according to The California Department of Finance. The county seat is Santa Barbara.


The Santa Barbara County area, including the Northern Channel Islands, was first settled by Native Americans at least 13,000 years ago. Evidence for a Paleoindian presence has been found in the form of a fluted Clovis-like point found in the 1980s along the western Santa Barbara Coast, as well as the remains of Arlington Springs Man found on Santa Rosa Island in the 1960s. For thousands of years, the area was home to the Chumash tribe of Native Americans, complex hunter-gatherers who lived along the coast as well as in interior valleys.

Europeans first contacted the Chumash in AD 1542, when three Spanish ships under the command of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo explored the area. The Santa Barbara Channel received its name from Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino when he sailed over the channel waters in 1602; he entered the channel on December 4, the day of the feast of Santa Barbara. Although Spanish ships associated with the Manila Galleon trade probably contacted the Chumash intermittently during this "protohistoric" period, the Spanish first colonized Santa Barbara County in AD 1769, when the DeAnza expedition explored the area and laid plans to establish a series of missions and presidios (forts). Mission Santa Barbara was founded on December 4, 1786 in what is now Santa Barbara. The county derives its name from the mission.

European contacts had devastating effects on the Chumash Indians, including a series of disease epidemics that drastically reduced Chumash population. The Chumash survived, however, and thousands of Chumash descendants still live in the Santa Barbara area or surrounding counties.

Santa Barbara County was one of the 26 original counties of California, formed in 1850 at the time of statehood. Parts of the county's territory were given to Ventura County in 1872.


Presidential election results
Year DEM GOP Others
2004 53.2% 90,314 45.2% 76,806 1.6% 2,741
2000 47.4% 73,411 46.1% 71,493 6.5% 10,070
1996 46.9% 70,650 42.4% 63,915 10.7% 16,180
1992 42.5% 69,215 35.3% 57,375 22.2% 36,166
1988 44.5% 63,586 54.2% 77,524 1.3% 1,830
1984 36.0% 51,243 62.8% 89,314 1.2% 1,763
1980 31.5% 40,650 54.0% 69,629 14.5% 18,716
1976 45.9% 55,018 50.8% 60,922 3.3% 3,904
1972 41.6% 50,609 55.2% 67,075 3.2% 3,857
1968 40.2% 37,565 53.6% 50,068 6.2% 5787
1964 55.9% 48,381 44.0% 38,020 0.1% 85
1960 43.0% 29,409 56.7% 38,805 0.3% 188

Due to the dramatic differences in economic activity between the northern and southern areas of the county, Santa Barbara county has long been divided between competing political interests. North of the Santa Ynez Mountains, agricultural activities and oil development have long been predominant. In recent years, oil leases have been decommissioned, and more white-collar workers have been moving in as people choose to live in the northern areas and commute to the southern areas because of the more affordable housing prices in the north. On the other hand, the southern portion of Santa Barbara county has had an economy based on tourism, with a significant percentage of people with white-collar jobs, formerly in aerospace but more recently in software and other high-tech pursuits. Additionally, the northern portion contains a large military base, Vandenberg Air Force Base, and the southern portion has the University of California, Santa Barbara. Voting patterns in Santa Barbara county indeed reflect a strong split between a "conservative" north and "liberal" south.

Coastal Santa Barbara is part of California's California's 23rd congressional district, which is held by Democrat Lois Capps; the inland is part of the 24th district, which is held by Republican Elton Gallegly. In the State Assembly, Santa Barbara is in the 33rd and 35th districts, which are held by Republican Sam Blakeslee and Democrat Pedro Nava, respectively. In the State Senate, Santa Barbara is part of the 15th and 19th districts, which are held by Republicans Abel Maldonado and Tom McClintock, respectively.

Overall, Santa Barbara is a Democratic-leaning county in Presidential and congressional elections. The last Republican to win a majority in the county was George H. W. Bush in 1988.

The County is governed by a five member Board of Supervisors that reflects this ideological split. The Board's three vote majority has shifted over the years between the north and south. The Board majority now includes three members from the northern portion of the County.

The Board of Supervisors appoints a County Executive Officer, who serves at the pleasure of the Board, to operate the County governmental organization. The County government includes 4296 employees and a budget of $757 million. The County provides various services ranging from health services to law enforcement.

Proposed county splits

In 1978, some residents of the northern area initiated an effort to create a "Los Padres County" out of the northern area of the county; that effort did not succeed. In 2006, northern county organizations initiated a similar secession proposal, to create a proposed Mission County. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed a formation commission to research the viability of the proposed northern county, which reached the conclusion, stated in its final report (March 28, 2005) that "the proposed County, upon formation in 2006, would not be economically viable at current levels of service." In June 2006, voters rejected the formation of the new county.

The proposed new Mission County would have included the cities of Santa Maria, Lompoc, Guadalupe, Buellton, and Solvang, as well as the Cuyama Valley and Santa Ynez Valley, including Lake Cachuma. Most of the south coast of Santa Barbara County, along with the Channel Islands, would have remained with that county, with the exception of the stretch from Hollister Ranch to Point Conception. Most of the Los Padres National Forest also would have remained with Santa Barbara County.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 3,789 square miles (9,814 km²), of which, 2,737 square miles (7,089 km²) of it is land and 1,052 square miles (2,725 km²) of it (27.77%) is water. Four of the Channel Islands--San Miguel Island, Anacapa Island, Santa Cruz Island and Santa Rosa Island-- are in Santa Barbara County. They form the largest part of the Channel Islands National Park (which also includes Anacapa Island in Ventura County).

Santa Barbara County has a mountainous interior abutting a coastal plains area (often and inaccurately referred to as a valley). The largest concentration of people is on this coastal plain, referred to as the south coast—the part of the county south of the Santa Ynez Mountains--which includes the cities of Santa Barbara, Goleta, and Carpinteria, as well as the unincorporated areas of Hope Ranch, Mission Canyon, Montecito and Isla Vista. North of the mountains are the towns of Santa Ynez, Solvang, Buellton, Lompoc; the unincorporated towns of Los Olivos and Ballard; the unincorporated areas of Mission Hills and Vandenberg Village; and Vandenberg Air Force Base, where the Santa Ynez River flows out to the sea. North of the Santa Ynez Valley are the cities of Santa Maria and Guadalupe, and the unincorporated towns of Orcutt, Los Alamos, Casmalia, Garey, and Sisquoc. To the northeast the Santa Maria Valley are the cities of New Cuyama, Cuyama, and Ventucopa. As of January 1, 2006, Santa Maria has become the largest city in Santa Barbara County ().

The principal mountain ranges of the county are the Santa Ynez Mountains in the south, and the San Rafael Mountains and Sierra Madre Mountains in the interior and northeast. Most of the mountainous area is within the Los Padres National Forest, and includes two wilderness areas: the San Rafael Wilderness and the Dick Smith Wilderness. The highest elevation in the county is 6820 feet (2079 m) at Big Pine Mountain in the San Rafaels.

North of the mountains is the arid and sparsely populated Cuyama Valley, portions of which are in San Luis Obispo and Ventura Counties. Oil production, ranching, and agriculture dominate the land use in the privately owned parts of the Cuyama Valley; the Los Padres National Forest is adjacent to the south, and regions to the north and northeast are owned by the Bureau of Land Management and the Nature Conservancy.

Air quality in the county, unlike much of southern California, is generally good because of the prevailing winds off of the Pacific Ocean. The county is in attainment of federal standards for ozone and particulate matter, but exceeds state standards for these pollutants. Sometimes in late summer and early autumn there are days with higher ozone levels; usually this occurs when there is a low inversion layer under a stagnant air mass, which traps pollutants underneath. In these cases a traveler into the mountains encounters a curious paradox: the temperature rises as altitude increases. On these days the visibility from the higher summits may be more than a hundred miles, while the population on the coastal plain experiences haze and smog.

Cities and towns

Adjacent counties

National protected areas

Transportation Infrastructure

Major highways

Public transportation

Santa Barbara County is served by Amtrak trains and Greyhound Lines buses. The southern portion of the county is served by the Santa Barbara Metropolitan Transit District. In the North County, the cities of Lompoc, Santa Maria, and Buellton/Solvang have their own bus services.


Commercial flights are available at Santa Barbara Airport and Santa Maria Public Airport.


Santa Barbara County grew by only 0.2% from 2000-2005, while California on the whole grew over 7%. The percentage of Latinos grew to 37.3%, indicating that other racial groups experienced a decline in actual numbers. 54.1% of the population is Non-Hispanic White. The African American percentage remained steady and the percentage of Native Americans rose to 1.6%. 4.6% of the population was Asian. Only 2.2% of the population reported two or more races, but since this category also often encompassed many Latinos its decline is hard to understand.

As of the census of 2000, there were 399,347 people, 136,622 households, and 89,487 families residing in the county. The population density was 146 people per square mile (56/km²). There were 142,901 housing units at an average density of 52 per square mile (20/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 72.72% White, 2.30% Black or African American, 1.20% Native American, 4.09% Asian, 0.18% Pacific Islander, 15.20% from other races, and 4.31% from two or more races. 34.22% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 9.1% were of German, 8.5% English and 6.5% Irish ancestry according to Census 2000. 26.58% of the population reported speaking Spanish at home.

There were 136,622 households out of which 32.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.4% were married couples living together, 10.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.5% were non-families. 24.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.8 and the average family size was 3.33.

In the county the population was spread out with 24.9% under the age of 18, 13.3% from 18 to 24, 29.0% from 25 to 44, 20.1% from 45 to 64, and 12.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 100.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.1 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $46,677, and the median income for a family was $54,042. Males had a median income of $37,997 versus $29,593 for females. The per capita income for the county was $23,059. About 8.5% of families and 14.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.3% of those under age 18 and 6.2% of those age 65 or over.

The population of the area south of the Santa Ynez Mountain crest—the portion known as "South County"—was 201,161 according to the 2000 census; thus the population is almost exactly split between north and south. Recent years have shown slow or even negative growth for regions in the south county, while areas in the north county have continued to grow at a faster rate.


There are 23 independent school districts in Santa Barbara County, and the Santa Barbara County Education Office serves as an intermediate agency between those districts and the California Department of Education During the 2006-2007 school year, 67,523 students were enrolled in Santa Barbara County schools, kindergarten through grade 12.

Santa Barbara County Wine Country

Viticulture in Santa Barbara County is traceable to missionary plantings in the Milpas Valley late in the 18th century. Since commercial viticulture rebounded in the 1960s, Santa Barbara County has been on the fast track to viticultural stardom. The 2004 Alexander Payne film, Sideways was the darling of movie critics leading up to the Oscars and has brought worldwide attention to the wine region north of Santa Barbara featured in the film.

Famous for ripe, yet elegant, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, the County is also gaining a reputation for Rhone varietals including Syrah and Viognier. Santa Barbara wine grapes now command among the highest prices anywhere in the state.

Located on California's South Central Coast, Santa Barbara County is an oasis of rolling hills, ancient oak trees and cattle ranches. The County now claims more than 60 wineries and 21,000 acres (85 km²) of vine, with the vast majority of the vineyards in the county’s three American Viticultural Areas: Santa Maria Valley AVA, Santa Ynez Valley AVA and Sta. Rita Hills AVA, each with its own distinct terroir. Santa Barbara's fame hasn’t come without hurdles, as environmental issues and the social impact of big business are major issues for a region striving to maintain its identity.

See also


External links

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