There are many ways to describe Santa Monica. It’s a laid-back oceanfront city that’s a respite from the bustle of downtown L.A. It’s an upscale real estate market where million-dollar homes abound. It’s also a progressive city, where public transportation runs on green energy. But no matter how you choose to define Santa Monica, one thing is for sure: it’s one of the best places to live in California.
Santa Monica is located in western Los Angeles County and stretches about 8.3 square miles. Long a popular resort destination for tourists, the city is home to some 90,000 permanent residents.
Of course, one can’t talk about the city without mentioning the world-famous Santa Monica Pier. Built in 1909, the famed attraction features a solar-paneled Ferris wheel, a small amusement park, an aquarium, and live performances.
The city is divided into eight neighborhoods that each have a distinct vibe. They are:
The downtown district has the highest concentration of restaurants, shops, and hotels in the city. It’s anchored by two major shopping malls: Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Place. Locals and tourists alike also drop by for the twice-weekly farmers market.
Main Street has an undeniably laid-back vibe, which is exemplified by the countless coffee shops found here. It’s also home to Ten Women and Edgemar Center for the Arts, two galleries that feature some of the area’s top contemporary artists.
If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration, head over to Mid-City, Santa Monica’s arts and entertainment center. Be sure to visit Bergamot Station, which has one of L.A.’s largest contemporary art collections. Various entertainment companies are also headquartered in the area.
Montana Avenue is undoubtedly the ritziest neighborhood in Santa Monica. This community—and the area just north of it—boasts some of the most impressive luxury houses in the city. It’s also the best place to do some high-end shopping, thanks to a 10-block stretch that’s lined with boutique shops and high-fashion stores.
Ocean Park Boulevard exudes a folksy charm that’s evident in its independent coffee shops, local stores, and boutique art galleries. The area also has close ties to aviation, as both the Santa Monica Municipal Airport and the Museum of Flying are located here.
As the most ethnically diverse district, Pico Boulevard is the cultural melting pot of Santa Monica. It’s known for its beautiful street art, the historic Casa del Mar Hotel, and its local farmers market.
The home of the famed Santa Monica Pier, this area is the city’s premier entertainment district. The palm tree-lined avenue and oceanfront views are amazing in themselves, but it’s the amusement park that really put Santa Monica on the map. There’s a plethora of open-air bars and restaurants here, as well as a selection of luxurious hotels.
Those looking for a family-friendly neighborhood would do well to check out Wilshire Boulevard. This district is close to Douglas Park and its playing fields and lawn bowling alleys. It’s also close to Third Street Promenade and its bustling shopping malls.
Santa Monica’s strategic location means that many of Southern California’s most popular destinations are but a short drive away, including Rodeo Drive, Universal Studios Hollywood, Venice Beach, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and even Disneyland. This is made possible by a matrix of highways that include Interstate 10 and California State Highways 1 and 2. Flying in and out of Santa Monica is also a cinch, as Los Angeles Airport (LAX) is only 20 minutes away by car.
Santa Monica is the product of serendipity and sheer determination.
The construction of the Southern Pacific Railroad presented Santa Monica with the opportunity to become a bustling railway town. When the city was passed over, however, local leaders decided to pivot and develop the area into a leisure destination instead.
Fortunately, amusement piers were immensely popular during the early 20th century, and Santa Monica’s seaside location made it a perfect candidate for such an attraction.
The Pacific Electric Railroad made Santa Monica even more accessible, and before long thousands of tourists were visiting its beaches and boardwalks. This influx of leisure seekers prompted the construction of high-end beachfront resorts such as Miramar Hotel and Club Casa del Mar.
Santa Monica’s rise also coincided with that of Hollywood’s, and before long legendary talents like Cary Grant and Greta Garbo began commissioning mansions in the city. Actor Will Rogers even deeded his estate to the city, leading to the establishment of the Will Rogers State Historic Park.
The city’s reputation as an entertainment city was further cemented with the construction in 1958 of the Civic Auditorium, a world-class venue that has hosted everything from the Academy Awards to Frank Sinatra concerts. The Frank Gehry-designed Edgemar and Santa Monica Place provided residents with high-end shopping malls and further added to the city’s prestige.
Today, Santa Monica is a delightful mish-mash of culture and personalities. Celebrities, artists, tech gurus, and avid surfers all love calling it home. The beachside location is also conducive to a more relaxed pace of living, which is perfect for people who wish to escape the chaos of downtown L.A.
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Niche.com deems Santa Monica as California’s best suburb to live in. But as real estate agents will tell you, properties here command a premium—about $1.6 million on average, to be exact. That said, investing in a high-demand locale also yields generous returns; BestPlaces.net notes that property prices in Santa Monica have increased by 4.2% over the past decade. There’s a residential property for every kind of buyer, whether you’re an ambitious professional looking for a low-maintenance home or a family looking for a bigger house. Take a look at the properties available to you:
Santa Monica is quite small compared to neighboring Los Angeles, so real estate developers had to build vertically to maximize the limited space. As a result, there’s an abundance of excellent condominiums to choose from. A typical unit will be priced in the mid-to-high six figures, though luxury condos can fetch well over $1 million. Condos in the area typically have two bedrooms and two bathrooms and measure about 700 sq. ft. on average. Because they’re much more affordable than single-family properties, condos are ideal starter homes.
Single-family homes are often located farther from the downtown district’s bustle and are near great schools. Listings are often priced between $1.1 to $1.7 million, which coincides with the area’s median home price. While that’s about six times higher than the national average, Santa Monica houses often come with deluxe features like modern kitchens, oversized bedrooms, spacious outdoor living areas, walk-in closets, and home offices. Houses come in a variety of architectural styles, such as Victorian, Mission Revival, Beaux-Arts, and Contemporary designs, among others. The typical home has around four bedrooms and three bathrooms and has about 2,000 sq. ft. of floor space.
Those looking for a home that’s a testament to their success would do well to invest in a luxury residential property. These palatial homes cost upwards of $10 million and often have coveted oceanfront views. They’re often located in Montana Avenue, the most exclusive neighborhood in Santa Monica. The steep price tag comes with high-end perks, however, such as private tennis courts, resort-style pools, fitness studios, and in-house saunas, to name a few. Such houses are often situated in a gated acreage, ensuring the utmost privacy. A luxury home in Santa Monica often has six bedrooms and six bathrooms, with floor spaces measuring at least 4,000 sq. ft.
If there’s one phrase that best describes the Santa Monica lifestyle, it would be “chic but chill.” To get a peek into what it’s like to live here, we’ve prepared this comprehensive guide for you:
While living in Santa Monica is by no means cheap, it is nowhere near as expensive as surrounding areas like Beverly Hills. According to AreaVibes.com, Santa Monica’s cost index is 119% higher than the national average. Steep housing prices and a higher general sales tax are the primary factors that drive up living costs. That said, essentials like groceries, healthcare, and utilities are all fairly affordable.
While any of Santa Monica’s eight districts is a great place to live in, local realtors agree that Montana Avenue is the city’s most coveted community. It’s a quieter, more residential neighborhood yet it’s only a short walk from the downtown area. With over 150 boutique stores and restaurants along its tree-lined streets, everything your family could want is right here in this 10-block avenue. Is it any wonder why A-list celebrities call it home?
Santa Monica has near-perfect weather, earning a 9.2/10 rating on BestPlaces.net’s Comfort Index. Getting 281 sunny days and only 14 inches of rain per year, the city is blessed with stroll-friendly weather essentially year-round. Summers are pleasantly warm with daytime temperatures peaking at 74℉, while winter temperatures rarely drop below 49℉.
Santa Monica has a promising job market that’s projected to grow 33% over the next decade. The typical household earns an annual income of $75,000, about 28% higher than the national average. Given Santa Monica’s proximity to Hollywood, media companies such as Activision Blizzard, Universal Music Group, Lions Gate Entertainment, and Hulu are headquartered here. In recent years, the city has been dubbed as “Silicon Beach” due to the influx of startups in the area, including Headspace, PlayQ, and TaskUs. Among the top jobs in the area are management, creative services, financial operations, and sales.
As Santa Monica is a highly walkable and bikeable city, you likely won’t need a car to get around town. But if you do need to travel further out, the city has an excellent public transport network that includes the Metro Expo Line, Big Blue Bus, and Santa Monica Circuit. There are also several places where you can rent bicycles and electric scooters for the day. Well-maintained and interconnected roads, such as Interstate 10 and California State Highways 1 and 2, also make traveling to neighboring cities a breeze. The typical Santa Monica resident commutes about 25 minutes one-way, which is slightly shorter than the national average of 25.5.
The city’s 10,000 students are served by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. It operates nine elementary schools, three middle schools, three high schools, an adult high school, a K-8 alternative school, and a project-based learning high school. Niche.com ranks it as the ninth-best school district in L.A. County, giving it an overall A+ rating due to excellent academics, teachers, diversity, college preparedness, and safety. Among the top-rated schools are Franklin Elementary School, Lincoln Middle School, and Santa Monica High School. The school district spends about $18,000 per student, which is 30% more than the U.S. average.
Santa Monica Beach is the most famous (and crowded) seashore owing to its proximity to the Pier District, but if you want a more low-key destination head to Will Rogers State Beach instead. The city is also home to Palisades Park, Tongva Park, and Oceanview Park where families can enjoy picnics, playgrounds, biking, and more. If you’d like to reconnect with nature, visit the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, which offers 500 miles of breathtaking trails, as well as historical and cultural attractions.
The food scene in Santa Monica is as eclectic as its residents. Huckleberry Cafe & Bakery’s freshly made cookies, muffins, and scones are so good, people line up around the block just to sample them. If it’s elevated comfort food you’re after, look no further than HiHo and its signature double wagyu patty cheeseburger. For a taste of French haute cuisine, book a table at Pasjoli to savor delights like halibut meunière and homard vol-au-vent.
Santa Monica took malls and gave them an alfresco spin to create a refreshing shopping experience. Third Street Promenade boasts of three car-free blocks lined by boutique stores; it is also anchored by Santa Monica Place, an open-air shopping mall with over 80 retailers. A shopping spree at Montana Avenue won’t just yield high-fashion finds, but perhaps a chance encounter with a celebrity, too. Mid-City, meanwhile, caters to a more youthful crowd that is drawn to its vintage stores, art galleries, and skate shops.
The Santa Monica Pier is far from the only attraction worth visiting in the city. Book a tour of the iconic Pacific Coast Highway and spot the stunning homes of Hollywood legends like Dustin Hoffman and Danny De Vito. To learn more about California’s fascinating history, visit the California Heritage Museum, which is located in a restored Victorian-era house. And for the freshest produce, drop by the Downtown Farmers Market, the largest grower-only-certified market in Southern California.
If you’re keen on moving here let Ben Kruger, one of Southern California’s top agents, be of assistance. Counting the Getty Family and Ferrari of Beverly Hills/North America among his clients, Ben pays close attention to each client’s needs so he can help them find the best properties. With years of experience in real estate in Beverly Hills, Hollywood Hills, Pacific Palisades, and Malibu, he has access to exclusive properties no other real estate agent can offer. Whether you’re looking for a cozy condo, a spacious single-family home, a multi-family property, or a luxury abode, he can match you with the ideal residential property.
For your convenience and safety, Ben also holds virtual home showings and tours via Facebook or Zoom.