According to a recent Los Angeles Times article, the population of Santa Maria now surpasses that of Santa Barbara for the first time, well, ever. I thought to myself, “What? Santa Maria? The land of wine and Wal-Mart? Where your tri-tip is served with a side of Pinquito beans and crystal meth? Where they don’t even have their own jail?” The very same. The farmers and junkies in the land formerly known as Mission County won and now we’re outnumbered.
But isn’t Santa Barbara a much more desirable place to live? Sure, and Santa Monica is a helluva lot nicer than Lancaster, but that doesn’t mean we’re all buying property in Santa Monica. It was inevitable that Santa Barbara would cease to become the hub of its own county. It all ties into the fear that I’ve long held deep inside me because I refused to believe it to be true: Santa Barbara is dying.
First, the average price of a single family residence in Santa Barbara is $1.2 million. Let that sink in for a moment: 1.2 million dollars for a three bedroom, two bathroom house, built in 1949, that probably has dry rot and needs a new roof. I’m not an econ major, but what I think happened is that property values rose above the economic capacity of the community. Santa Barbara and Goleta priced out anyone hoping to start a small business in the area, so tourism and the university generates most of the city’s income. Meanwhile, Santa Maria produces some very hip wines and some killer barbecue, among other things. What have we contributed, other than suntans and the occasional college degree? Goleta wants to think that they’re the hot new technological hub, but the truth of the matter is that Goleta is a former lemon orchard inhabited by men and women with enough money to buy Delaware along with a couple of students duped into selling shit at Bargain Network. But that’s not even the ridiculous part.
Santa Barbara’s new low-income housing project has an income cap of $160,000. That’s doctor money. What kind of city are we living in when a pediatrician can qualify for the same low-income housing that’s normally offered to welfare moms and substitute teachers? Also, anyone who’s moved to Santa Barbara since 1985 has suffered from property tax hikes every time their property values increase. Unless your spouse discovered a device that lets men suck their own dicks, if you’re working the same job you were working twenty years ago, you’re fucked.
We’re trapped. Those gorgeous Santa Ynez Mountains in the background prevent the city from expanding northward. Santa Maria’s located in a wide-ass valley, so they can expand in all directions.
Additionally, our local government is too liberal and too pro-environment. The efforts to prevent further destruction of upstate California’s old-growth redwood forests crippled the local economy, which was naturally based entirely on logging since the climate is too cold and wet for even an Antarctic Vivid starlet to play tourist. The fact is, we’re so bent on “slow growth” and leaving the Gaviota Coast alone that it’s prevented the prices of property within the traditional city limits (and even outside the city limits) from ever decreasing.
Next, we’ve been scamming the real estate market for years. The realtors know we’re splitting houses in order to afford them. They know we’re willing to spend over a million dollars on a house that shouldn’t be worth more than half that.
However, we’re not dying in a Eureka, “We went from a booming lumber town to a complete shithole with no jobs and no money” sort of way… necessarily. It’s more like what happened to Monterey. Monterey was able to compensate for the loss of its canning industry by making Cannery Row into a theme park. We’ll become a “novelty city,” getting by on legendary reputation alone, while the majority of commerce goes on in the uglier, more conservative – but far more practical – Santa Maria Valley.
Daily Nexus columnist Chris Hickey can’t wait to hop on the new Pirates of Isla Vista theme ride when Santa Barbara finally becomes a giant Six Flags.