Review of Santa Cruz, California


Some love it, others not so much
Star Rating - 11/20/2020
I lived in the Santa Cruz area for 20 years. UCSC alum. Our kids were born there. There are wonderful things about Santa Cruz, but also many serious problems that we could no longer ignore.

First, the good.

Spectacular natural beauty with beaches, ocean cliffs, and redwoods. Great mountain biking, miles upon miles of great single track meandering through redwood, oak, and chaparral. Scenic hikes. I hear the surfing is great, though I don't surf.

And now the bad.

Crime is off the charts terrible. Property crime is even worse than the stats indicate because many have given up and no longer report it. Nothing happens, even if the perpetrator is caught, so why bother. If you park your car on the street it will eventually get broken into. Even if you don't leave anything of value in view there's a good chance your window(s) will get broken. Anything not locked or bolted down will eventually be stolen. Gets old fast. There are pockets where this is less of a problem, but these areas are the priciest.

The city itself has the potential to be gorgeous, yet it's run down and grimy. Human excrement, trash, and filth on the sidewalks. Used hypodermic needles discarded on the street and in city parks. Large numbers of people camping and injecting along the river greenbelt and otherwise polluting the river. When it rains this pollution is flushed out to the bay, and the needles wash up on the beaches. Roads are generally in very poor condition. City parks are also run down, with bathrooms in particularly bad condition as homeless bathe/wash clothes in the sinks and inject in the stalls. Some neighborhood groups have lobbied to have park restrooms permanently shuttered due to the problems they attract.

Traffic, especially during the summer tourist season when you most want do stuff, is atrocious. Bad. All. The. Time. Forget about parking at beaches/trailheads on weekends or holidays during the high season. Due to no-growth policies, HWY 1 is essentially the only option for East-West travel and is severely congested. There are "back roads" but these are just as congested, if not more. Need something in Aptos midweek afternoon? Forget about it! You'll be sitting in traffic for an hour.

Climate is very mild, which can be good or bad depending on one's preferences. Sept-Oct are *the* best months to live in and enjoy Santa Cruz. The tourists have gone home, it's warm, and the June-gloom is gone. June-gloom is when the marine layer blankets most of the city with fog/overcast. It's cold and dreary. And it's a bit of a misnomer... June-gloom often happens during much of July and August. Yes, Santa Cruz summers are often quite chilly. Winters aren't icy, yet often very rainy. Or not, which usually means drought and water rationing and fire danger.

Housing is unbelievably expensive. Unless you're wealthy/very high income, you're basically looking at cramped and/or substandard housing. We were fortunate to have purchased before housing prices got too bad, yet we could see it was extremely unlikely that our kids would ever be able to even afford rent. It's nearly impossible to make ends meet unless you're in the highest income brackets.
There's essentially zero affordable housing. A few affordable units may occasionally open up, but expect hundreds of people on the waiting list. I cannot emphasize this enough: Do not move to Santa Cruz without a solid plan for how to cover housing expenses or you will end up homeless (couch surfing, living in your vehicle, camping, etc).

In short, if you're wealthy and can easily afford the priciest parts of this extremely expensive city (e.g. beachfront or ocean views, gated property, garage), or if you just love the ocean and beach and redwoods so much that none of the other stuff matters, then you'll love it. However, if you're looking for a good, clean, safe, livable city then there are many better options.
NC | Boise City, ID
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3 Replies


I lived in Santa Cruz from 2007 to 2013. I could not agree with this poster more. My husband grew up in Los Gatos, and attended UCSC, he dreamed of moving back to Santa Cruz, I grew up in Saratoga. We bought a beautiful home in the redwoods in Santa Cruz. While we had a beautiful lot and home we paid over $17,000 a year in property taxes a year, when roads washed out, (exit one off of highway 17,) limiting it to one lane instead of 2 lanes it stayed that way for 2 years or more can’t say precisely because I moved, before it was restored. Crime is a real problem. You can not go to downtown without being harassed by people wanting money for their next fix, whatever their drug of choice might be. When parking in public parking area in Santa Cruz, Expensive cars often had their windows broken. I’ve lived in Northern California, Southern California, Colorado, Arizona, and Austin Texas, I’ve never experienced crime like this. Santa Cruz was once a paradise but no more. I couldn’t move fast enough.
Jane | Scottsdale, AZ | Report Abuse

I lived in Santa Cruz from 2007 to 2013. I could not agree with this poster more. My husband grew up in Los Gatos, and attended UCSC, he dreamed of moving back to Santa Cruz, I grew up in Saratoga. We bought a beautiful home in the redwoods in Santa Cruz. While we had a beautiful lot and home we paid over $17,000 a year in property taxes a year, when roads washed out, (exit one off of highway 17,) limiting it to one lane instead of 2 lanes it stayed that way for 2 years or more can’t say precisely because I moved, before it was restored. Crime is a real problem. You can not go to downtown without being harassed by people wanting money for their next fix, whatever their drug of choice might be. When parking in public parking area in Santa Cruz, Expensive cars often had their windows broken. I’ve lived in Northern California, Southern California, Colorado, Arizona, and Austin Texas, I’ve never experienced crime like this. Santa Cruz was once a paradise but no more. I couldn’t move fast enough.
Jane | Scottsdale, AZ | Report Abuse

I have lived in Santa Cruz since 1978, it has changed dramatically. What originally drew me was the world class surfing and later the mountain biking. Your review is spot on. The City is out of control. The crime is rampant and law enforcement doesn't respond to theft calls to the point that most people don't even waste the time to call it in anymore. If you live here, crime should be expected, If you are here on vacation, crime is close to an absolute. I never had to deal with the property problems because I bought in 1975. Very few people can afford rents as people collected real estate during the 80's and 90's. Some are making their initial investment back in one year of rental. The only reason I stay is children and grandchildren. All you need to know is available online as far as cost and performance of schools. If a person speaks out they are targeted. IMHO the quality of life on Santa Cruz is at the very bottom of every scale.
Tim | Santa Cruz, CA | Report Abuse
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