We searched the West for towns, cities, and neighborhoods that are easy to love. All our winners boast a strong sense of community—the gift of making you feel like you belong
With its beaches and mountains backdrop, Santa Barbara is so lovely that it feels almost absolved of environmental ills. Ironic, given a 1969 oil spill here galvanized the national environmental movement, gave birth to Earth Day, and jump-started a citizens’ movement that now shows what a green-minded community can do.
In the midst of a historic drought, California required communities to reduce water usage by 12 percent. Santa Barbara residents responded by, on average, reducing their water use by 36 percent, making Santa Barbara one of the top five water conservers in the state. Water isn’t the only front on which Santa Barbara’s sustainability shines. Virtually no stone is left unturned. These efforts are local, but the aim is global.
Santa Barbara may be home to 90,000, but it is still very much a small town. Moneyed families know more about one another than they’d like; old hippies know one another back to times they can’t remember. Together, they link arms to preserve their town’s beauty.
Population: 89, 681. Median home price: $1,065,300.