The Mesa

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Area Description

Bathed in sea breezes, resplendent with ocean views, and quaint with a small-beach-town vibe, the Mesa is home to growing families, retirees, and Santa Barbara City College students. The surf and sand are only a few minutes’ walk away, but so are many restaurants, from brunch at hotspot The Mesa Café to iconic Mexican food at Rose Café to cutting-edge sushi at Ichiban. A healthy lifestyle thrives, all centered on Lazy Acres Market, where many Santa Barbarans come to shop. Most conveniently, the Mesa takes pride in the bustling Santa Barbara Harbor on one side and downtown’s thriving State Street scene on the other.

Area Highlights

The Neighbors

Families young and old, retirees, SBCC students, and surf and beach lovers.


Hilltop mansions, exquisitely updated beach cottages, condo collections, and affordable fixer-uppers.


Surf and sand prevail, with healthy living (jogging, organic foods, etc.) at the forefront.

You'll Love

Small-beach-town vibe yet close to downtown, too.

Perfect For

Families just starting out as well as retirees looking for the quintessential beach life.

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Around the Area

People have been calling the Mesa home for thousands of years, going back to the region’s Chumash tribe, who once lived in a large village called Mispu near Santa Barbara City College, but the Spanish colonists and later Yankee settlers didn’t pay too much attention to the area, save for some bean farms and a large lighthouse that guided ships into the Santa Barbara Harbor. Those who did occupy what was then the outskirts of town included famous artists like Ed Borein as well as a curious religious cult called the Fellowship Group, whose name is still reflected in some street signs.

In the 1930s, just as one entrepreneur was about to build an airport on the flat tabletop, oil was discovered, so from the 1930s until World War II, the Mesa was dotted with hundreds of derricks, the last one lingering until 1971. When GIs came home from World War II, the Mesa’s open tracts became quite a popular place to build a single-family home, and development of suburban neighborhoods as we know them today quickly grew. The founding of Santa Barbara City College in the 1950s also brought a youthful spirit to the area, and many students still tend to live in the apartment complexes adjacent to campus.

Most Mesa residents choose to live in the neighborhood because it’s so close to some of Santa Barbara’s most beautiful yet secluded beaches. There’s Thousand Steps and Mesa Lane, for those seeking a cliffside experience, and the wider, dog-friendly Arroyo Burro Beach (which everyone calls Hendry’s) is just a little bit up the road, where one can also enjoy seared ahi and blood-orange margaritas at The Boathouse restaurant. Speaking of food, there’s an eclectic array of restaurants at the heart of the Mesa, from Giovanni’s Pizza and Super Cucas to fancier fare at Alcazar, Asian offerings at Ichiban and Mesa Thai, and organic vegan cuisine at Mesa Verde.

Thanks to Lazy Acres Market, which was on the cutting edge of the organic and regional produce movement when it opened decades ago, the Mesa truly supports a healthy lifestyle, so joggers, bicycle riders, and parents walking their kids in strollers are quite common. That’s aided by the many open spaces to enjoy recreation, as well, from the coastal spread of Shoreline Park to the more shaded Mesa Park playgrounds to the hidden mountaintop jewel of Hilda Ray Park.

Whether you’re raising a young family or just trying to relax in your later years, the Mesa is a perfect place to call home, removed from the bustle of downtown and yet just minutes away when you want to tap back in.

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