Here are seven secrets why people want to live in the Santa Ynez Valley:
1. Value. It is less expensive than Santa Barbara and only 30 miles away. Nearly everyone lives in the Santa Ynez Valley by choice when many could live anywhere in the world.
As a historical rule of thumb, prices tend to be about 20% less than Santa Barbara. This means it could be a more affordable option for those priced out of the Santa Barbara market yet still wanting to be close enough to commute to work, schools, arts and county activities.
Single-family homes start around $800,000. Homes on an acre or more start around $1.3 million.
2. Lifestyle. It is the ranch and wine region of Santa Barbara. It’s the “Napa Valley” of Southern California. This means you can live in a sophisticated country setting near Santa Barbara. You’ll find vineyards, wineries, horse ranches, farming, grazing land, views and access to the National Forest on two nearby mountain ranges.
You get all this along with access to top-rated restaurants, shopping, health and financial services, safety, libraries, churches and less traffic.
3. Friends. Even though it is a relatively small area, locals find they have more friends in a small town. With a population of about 25,000 spread among five valley towns, you will find most people are generally happy, have a good sense of humor, are intelligent, supportive and respectful of others.
There is a sense of community. Friends come together for nonprofits such as Santa Ynez Youth Recreation, raising money for school sports fields and facilities, four Rotary Clubs building parks in the community and even worldwide, Viking Charities paying for just about anyone with unmet medical needs. There are clubs and groups for nearly every age and hobby from hiking to playing bridge and 4-H.
The abundant social life and friendships you make in the Santa Ynez Valley are some of the best anywhere, which keeps you rooted here or returning at any opportunity to do so.
4. Schools. The public and private schools are a major underlying attraction for families raising children. The public schools are similar to private schools in larger cities in terms of quality, teaching, parental involvement, safety, sports, and agricultural and vocational classes. Elementary schools are found in Santa Ynez, Solvang, Ballard, Los Olivos and Buellton.
Santa Ynez Valley Union High School is the sole public high school with grades from 9-12. Excellent private schools such as Dunn and Midland are in the same league as Cate and Thatcher, with other quality choices such as the Christian Academy. Charter schools round out the choices.
5. Zoning. The real unnoticed secret is the layout of the land use of the Santa Ynez Valley dating back to the 1950s when wise locals such as Andrew Petersen, Boyd Bettencourt, Daryl Nielsen, and Earnie Wullbrandt set up the general plan for the layout of a European style valley where you travel from village through farmland to village. This has kept the valley from urban sprawl that you may have seen in the Los Angeles region.
Each town has a commercial core, surrounded by denser residential zoning then expanding to 1-, 5-, 10-, and 20-acre minimum sized parcels. This keeps the valley from growing too much with very few vacant parcels left, creating a premium for vacant lot values and existing houses. This provides some assurance that future growth will be limited. The country style valley plan is attractive to many in today´s market.
6. Weather. The climate is one of the most unique in the world. A local vintner said he chose his winery location to be in the Santa Ynez Valley because after researching locations worldwide he discovered that in the valley, one could grow nearly every variety of grape in the world within about a 15-mile radius of your winery.
The climate pivots from the Mediterranean to a north coastal zone at this point in California as one of the few east-west mountain ranges opening to the ocean in the U.S. This results in a cooler climate toward the ocean and warmer inland, creating dry warm days with cool nights nearly all year long.
7. Anonymity. Status and titles become unimportant here. Multi-generational locals live and work along-side celebrities and billionaires all raising their children.
Longtime locals either know you as friends, don´t recognize you, or really don´t care about your status. Old trucks are OK to drive, jeans and boots are OK to wear, and smiling and waving to others is common practice.