Montecito is one of those places that is well intended but misunderstood. It has more amenities than most cities, but it isn’t a city. It has a shopping strip that is not within its official boundaries. And, while it is famous as the home of billionaires, the true majority of its citizens are middle-class folk who bought real estate wisely and rode the Montecito market into their enviable net worth. To help sort out this enigma, here are some Montecito facts:
How big? Montecito covers 14,280 acres or 22.8 square miles; it has a population count of 10,000 (2000 Census); it contains 3,020 single-family residences; and it has 4,348 parcels.
What is it worth? The assessed value of Montecito property in 2006 topped $6.5 billion.
Who’s in charge? While the village may look and act like a city, Montecito is actually an unincorporated portion of Santa Barbara County and is governed by the Board of Supervisors. For planning purposes, there are 1992’s Montecito Community Plan and the Montecito Planning Commission, which started in 2003 with the directive to maintain the semi-rural feel. Montecito also has its own zoning document, Article IV, from 1927, which was the first zoning ordinance in an unincorporated area in California. As for special districts, the Montecito Fire Protection District was founded in 1917, the Montecito Water District was established in 1921, and the Montecito Sanitary District was created in 1947.
Where is it? This depends on whom you ask. While the county’s Montecito Community Plan and the Montecito Association agree on village limits, Montecito Fire District, Montecito Water District, Montecito Sanitary District, Montecito Union School, Cold Spring School, and the U.S. Postal Service each have their own distinct boundaries. The zip code 93108 is technically Santa Barbara; however, a postal service spokesperson said mail addressed to “Montecito, 93108” is always delivered. “We think of it as sort of a nickname,” he said.
Who does business? There is one commercial center in Montecito, located in the upper village, as well as three major hotels: Miramar Hotel and Resort, San Ysidro Ranch, and Biltmore Four Seasons. Coast Village Road’s plethora of shops and services is within feet of Montecito, but was annexed by the City of Santa Barbara in the 1960s.
Where can we play? There is Manning Park, a 12-acre county park, as well as many beaches, such as Hammond’s and Butterfly. Clubs include Birnam Wood Golf Club, Coral Casino, Valley Club, Knollwood Tennis Club, Miramar Beach and Tennis Club, and Montecito YMCA. In a flagrant misnomer, the Montecito Country Club is actually located within the City of Santa Barbara.
How about a nice walk? The Montecito Trails Foundation maintains a vast network of hiking trails in the foothills, some accessing Los Padres National Forest. It also maintains historic footpath easements throughout the flats of Montecito, many with histories going back to Spanish settlement times.
Those street signs? The Montecito Community Foundation provides the carved wooden street signs.
Why do I see stars? There are no streetlights in Montecito, except for in the upper village commercial area. There are only two traffic signals in Montecito, both on San Ysidro Road.
Who’s protecting us? The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department protects Montecito. A community sheriff, the first of this kind in the county, is assigned to weekly office hours at Montecito’s Community Hall. The Montecito Emergency Response and Recovery Action Group (MERRAG) is a Montecito volunteer civil defense group that meets monthly to train for disaster preparedness.
Where do we meet? The Montecito Community Hall is located at 1469 East Valley Road. The building belongs to the County of Santa Barbara and houses the Montecito Association offices, a City of Santa Barbara public library, a for-rent community hall, a sheriff’s desk, and a Highway Patrol Desk.
Where do we go next? The Santa Barbara Cemetery, so after you have lived well in Montecito and liked it, you can stay for an eternity!