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-1.3% since 2010
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Santa Cruz, a colorful mix of college town, beach town, and cultural center, is an attraction for hippies, yuppies and families alike. The city is famous for its boardwalk, wide sandy beaches and beach amusements. Watsonville is an agricultural center inland, and Soquel and Capitola to the south are more sedate but very attractive beach towns. The University of California at Santa Cruz brings some college life, and the population in general is highly educated. Excellent outdoor recreation is available just to the north in the coastal forests and state parks of the Santa Cruz Mountains.
The town of Santa Cruz itself has a nice downtown and offers plenty to do, and is a favorite weekend tourist destination (for northern Californians and Bay Area residents in particular). Outside of tourism, the area has never really had a prosperous economy, and it continues to lag other California places. Some make the commute over the mountains to the Bay Area, but this is difficult. Not surprisingly, as a coastal area, cost of living and housing are major downsides. Healthcare resources are sparse and expensive, but missing services are available to the north in San Jose and San Francisco.
The city lies on a narrow coastal plain at the foot of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The climate is coastal Mediterranean. Summers are cool and sunny when the area isn’t blanketed by ocean-borne, low, stratus clouds, known locally as “fog.” The area is breezy at all times, and the fog may create a chill on summer days. Spring and fall are mild and experience less fog. Winters bring a mix of fog and Pacific storms, which can be heavy.
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