Only an hour north from the scorching bustle of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara could not be any more different. Huddled between the dramatic Santa Ynez Mountains and the vast Pacific Ocean, with one of the few south-facing beaches in the world, this Californian city of a little over 90,000 inhabitants boasts a Mediterranean microclimate, which only magnifies the area’s Spanish heritage. No wonder that Santa Barbara’s natural wonders and enchanting history have earned it the designation “American Riviera.”
Although the region was frequented by Spanish explorers in the 16th and 17th centuries, it was not until 1782, when Felipe de Neve arrived to erect the Presidio, that the town sprouted. The Spaniards established a military installation to ward off the quests of the English and Russians, and set up a mission that formed the core of what is today Santa Barbara.
The city might have Spanish roots but it is often compared to what is perhaps the most famed Riviera – the French. “I have not been to the French Riviera,” said Santa Barbara-based real estate agent Chris Palme, “but I have heard the similarities are that the hillside homes are so close to the ocean.” That comes in addition to the mild weather and relaxed lifestyle.
Much like everything else about Santa Barbara, its luxury real estate is nothing but ordinary. With an average listing price tag of $1.5 million, many of the homes here have meticulously white-washed facades and fairytale-worthy red-tile roofs – features that dominate the Spanish Colonial and Mediterranean architectural styles. One majestic abode that exemplifies the charm of the Old World is 2434 Stanwood Drive, a sprawling 4,200sq. ft. villa, whose arched entrance and weathervane-topped tower appear at the end of a leafy gated drive.
While European sensitivities abound, “a popular architectural style currently is modern,” said Palme. No matter the style, however, Santa Barbara’s residences easily attract with the vistas they afford – a blend of the lush green of the nearby mountains and the serene blue of the ocean. 15 Rudio Road offers sweeping ocean views, that stretch beyond the city and its harbor. The home’s 1920s’ appeal and contemporary appointments make for an ideal retreat. Another benefit the residence has is its proximity to Santa Barbara’s downtown cluster of entertainment.
“Other than the ideal year-round climate, Santa Barbara has an amazing array of world-class music, theatre, and lectures among other things,” said Palme. “That is unusual for a small city.”
Quoting a Santa Barbara local, Palme gushed, “We know how lucky we are not to have to go to Europe to enjoy the Riviera lifestyle. We’ve got a better Riviera right here in Santa Barbara.”
Chris Palme is the exclusive agent representing the Santa Barbara, California real estate market as a member of the Haute Residence Real Estate Network. View all of his listings here.