In addition to being a popular tourist and resort destination, the city economy includes a large service sector, education, technology, health care, finance, agriculture, manufacturing, and local government. In 2004, the service sector accounted for fully 35% of local employment. Education in particular is well-represented, with four institutions of higher learning on the south coast (the University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara City College, Westmont College, and Antioch University). The Santa Barbara Airport serves the city, Santa Barbara Aviation provides jet charter aircraft, and train service is provided by Amtrak, which operates the Pacific Surfliner (which runs from San Diego to San Luis Obispo). U.S. Highway 101 connects the Santa Barbara area with Los Angeles to the southeast and San Francisco to the northwest. Behind the city, in and beyond the Santa Ynez Mountains, is the Los Padres National Forest, which contains several remote wilderness areas. Channel Islands National Park and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary are located approximately 20 miles (32 km) offshore.
Santa Barbara has a range of neighborhoods with distinctive histories, architectures, and cultures. While considerable consensus exists as to the identification of neighborhood names and boundaries, variations exist between observers. For example, real estate agents may use different names than those used by public utilities or municipal service providers, such as police, fire, or water services. The following is a list of neighborhoods with descriptions and comments on each.
The Mesa stretches 2.5 miles (4.0 km) from Santa Barbara City College on the east to Arroyo Burro County Beach (or "Hendry's/The Pit" to locals) on the west. "The Mesa" embodies a beach vibe. The neighborhood has beach access to Mesa Lane Beach, as well as Thousand Steps Beach. This is considered to be a desirable neighborhood due to its proximity to the ocean as well as the college. Residential development began here in the 1920s, but was interrupted by the discovery of the Mesa Oil Field. The field was quickly exhausted, and after the Second World War building of houses resumed, although the last oil tanks and sumps did not disappear until the early 1970s.
Mission Canyon contains the wooded hilly area beginning at the Old Mission and extending along Foothill Road, north and east into Mission Canyon Road and Las Canoas Road. A popular spot as an entry-point for weekend foothill hiking, it is one of the most rustically beautiful, yet fire-prone areas of Santa Barbara due to heavy natural vegetation.
The Riviera encompasses an ocean-facing hillside and back hillside extending for approximately two miles, with the north side extending from Foothill Road to Sycamore Canyon Road, and the south side from the Santa Barbara Mission to North Salinas Street. The ribbon-like Alameda Padre Serra serves as the principal entry point from the Mission and the City of Santa Barbara. Since the past century, it has been known as "the Riviera" due to its resemblance to the Mediterranean coastal towns of France and Italy. The neighborhood has winding streets with intricate stone work terracing built by early 20th-century Italian immigrants. Most of the topography of the Riviera is relatively steep, making it particularly noteworthy for homes with outstanding views of the City of Santa Barbara and the Pacific Ocean.
The Westside ("west of State Street") lies predominantly in the lowlands between State Street and the Mesa, including Highway 101, and also reaches down to Cliff Drive, incorporating Santa Barbara City College.
The Eastside ("east of State Street") is generally the area east of State to the base of the Riviera, and includes Santa Barbara Junior High School, Santa Barbara High School, and the Santa Barbara Bowl.
The Waterfront comprises roughly commercial and tourist-oriented business structures along Cabrillo Boulevard including Stearns Wharf, the Santa Barbara Harbor and the breakwater, and extending east toward the Bird Refuge and west along Shoreline Drive above the SBCC campus West. Upper State Street is a residential and commercial district that includes numerous professional offices, and much of the medical infrastructure of the city. Upper State is generally defined by the location of the Granada theatre and points Northwest. Upper State includes the Santa Barbara Mission and the late Pearl Chases influence on home design is ever present in this area.
San Roque is located northwest of the downtown area and north of Samarkand. This area is said to be a constant 5 degrees warmer than the coastal areas, due to its greater distance from the ocean than other Santa Barbara neighborhoods, and being separated from the sea by a low range of hills to the south of the 101 freeway, occupied by the Mesa and Hope Ranch. San Roque area weather is considered by locals as the most temperate of all Santa Barbara Cities areas. Samarkand currently has approximately 630 homes on 184 acres (0.74 km2) with a population of about 2,000 people. The name Samarkand comes from an Old Persian word meaning "the land of heart's desire." It was first applied to a deluxe Persian-style hotel that was converted from a boys' school in 1920. Samarkand later became identified as its own neighborhood located between Las Positas, State Street, De La Vina, Oak Park and the Freeway. Earle Ovington built the first home here in 1920 at 3030 Samarkand Drive. As a pilot, Ovington established the Casa Loma Air Field with a 1,500-foot (460 m) runway that was used by legendary pilots Lindbergh and Earhart.