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The three major cities in Santa Barbara County, two named in the metro area, and the other one, Lompoc, no longer in the name, offer a highly contrasting set of places to live. Coastal Santa Barbara is the center of the “California Riviera”—an area of mild climate, beautiful coastline, Mediterranean architecture, laid-back ambience, and affluence. The University of California at Santa Barbara, about 10 miles north, brings a college town element without dominating town life.
Educational attainment is notably high. Santa Maria, 15 miles inland, is primarily agricultural but is growing as a residential and minor commercial center. Lompoc, on a hilly projection into the Pacific known as Point Conception, contains the Vandenberg Air Force Base, a major coastal military installation and testing facility. Lompoc has started to emerge as an attractive residential alternative to tony Santa Barbara.
The climate is exceptional, and the small-town ambience and attractiveness is well preserved compared to other California locations. The high Cost of Living and average home price statistically represent the whole county, but Santa Barbara is assuredly more expensive. Because of this, the other towns are more attractive to most migrating to the area. The location is a bit isolated, but most residents love the area if they can afford it.
Santa Barbara is on a narrow coastal plain that spreads east-west, while Santa Maria and Lompoc are located inland and to the north, respectively. Oak-studded hills surround all three. The climate is Mediterranean marine. Temperatures are mild year-round, with those in summers tempered by sea breezes and cloudy mornings. Inland areas are warmer when breezes blow from the deserts to the southeast. The southerly orientation of Santa Barbara and the inland location of the other cities provide shelter from strong Pacific storms in winter. Santa Maria is far enough inland to experience below-freezing temperatures several times in winter. Most precipitation occurs in winter.