San Luis Obispo is a charming and historic college town and home to the 18,000-student California Polytechnic University. It has resisted the development seen in other parts of the state and preserves a pleasant, off-the-beaten-path character. The interesting downtown is accessible by foot and is centered on the old Spanish mission dating from 1772. The university brings numerous arts and entertainment amenities, and the central California coastal climate is ideal.
Predictably, cost of living is high, although not as high as other places in the state. The absence of a strong commercial economy makes jobs difficult to find and future job-growth projections are low but improving. While San Luis Obispo is more oriented towards students and some wealthier residents, Paso Robles and Atascadero, along U.S. 101 towards the north, are more family oriented and not as closely tied to the university. Paso Robles is a nice old resort town and wine-growing area. Location influences the rating positively and negatively- the town is isolated from big-city services but also big-city problems, and the area scores well in all categories except living costs and healthcare.
San Luis Obispo is located in the center of the narrow Los Osos Valley, which opens to the northwest onto scenic Morro Bay. The town is far enough inland to be warmer and drier than many coastal locations. The climate is Mediterranean marine. The hills to the southwest tend to block some of the ocean-borne low stratus clouds, resulting in mostly sunny and pleasant summer days. Very cold weather is unusual. Almost all precipitation falls in winter as rain.