Welcome to the Mesa
One of Santa Barbara’s oldest districts historically, yet—paradoxically—the youngest by demographic.
The draw of this desirable neighborhood boomed post-World War II, with an explosion of families living in 1950s tract-style housing—a style still predominant today. Well-regarded schools, great swathes of parks, and public spaces followed, keeping the neighborhood consistently attractive to young couples. Santa Barbara City College relocated permanently to Mesa in 1959, provides regular youthful infusions, too. The neighborhood’s spine is Cliff Drive; its nerve center is concentrated along the expansive shoreline.
Named for the Spanish word meaning “flat-topped table,” this elevated two-and-a-half-mile slab of land hovers directly above the sea. Divvied into East, West, and Alta Mesa, it’s home to some of Santa Barbara’s most magnificent public green spaces, top-ranked schools, and popular shopping centers. Excellent amenities for families and the presence of youthful Santa Barbara City College students make the Mesa one of the youngest residential neighborhoods in the city—and one of the most sought-after areas to settle.
A lively cross-section of young families, Santa Barbara City College students, professionals, and long-term residents.
Rarely does a neighborhood attract and fulfill such a mixed bag of denizens? Families love the area’s reasonably-priced homes, excellent schools, and a plethora of parks; the pockets of students enjoy easy access to the SBCC campus and a myriad of outdoor hangouts, and there are many aspirational homes—with panoramic views second only to those of the Riviera—to satisfy affluent professionals. A scattering of homeowners seeking second houses also scores finds in the Mesa.
What to Expect
Easily accessible beaches, a multitude of parks, and ribbons of bike trails and jogging paths.
This is a neighborhood where you’ll see young professionals trading in their button-downs for wetsuits each afternoon, families trooping to the beach alongside their dogs, college students sprawled on park benches to study, and older couples walking hand-in-hand at sunset. The atmosphere is active, yet casual, peaceful, and relaxed.
Wander from the beach to park, eateries to shops—everything you need is right at hand.
You can have it all in Mesa. Beach-goers hightail it down the Mesa Lane steps or the popular Thousand Steps; park-lovers spread picnics in 15-acre Shoreline Park or La Mesa Park; and coffee shops, restaurants, and stores cluster at the Mesa Shopping Center where Cliff Drive meets Meigs Road. Plus, health-conscious Santa Barbarans from every neighborhood—including posh Montecito—go out of their way to shop at the Mesa’s Lazy Acres, an upscale specialty grocery store selling organic foods, locally-grown produce, and other freshly prepared fares.
The Mesa enjoys a mild micro-climate all of its own, with temperatures typically warmer in winter and cooler in summer.
Though fog tends to hang over the neighborhood during certain seasons, the trade-off for a little haze comes in the form of a 10 to 12-degree difference from other areas of the city. Bottom line, this lucky ‘hood enjoys an extra pleasant temperature range within a city already known for its mild Mediterranean climate.
A neighborhood of primarily single-family homes within walking distance of the beach or set high on the Alta Mesa hills.
Built-in the 1950s, tract homes are the area’s true signature, but ranch houses, shingled cottages, Mediterranean-style abodes, and modern condos are newly present too. Lots are well-spaced, and most homes boast both a front and back yard. Area housing restrictions cap residences at two stories.
You'll Fall in Love With
The youthful energy infusing the area is amplified by the surfers, bikers, joggers, dog-walkers, and sunbathers that flock to the Mesa’s shoreline and parks.
Nowhere else in the city exists such an active community, bolstered by the magnetism of popular Mesa Lane Beach, Shoreline Beach, and Hendry’s Beach, plus the numerous parks and recreational areas that flank the borders. Outdoor activities in this bustling neighborhood continue year-round.