Santa Barbara is the county seat of Santa Barbara County, California. Situated on a south-facing section of coastline, the longest such section on the West Coast of the United States, the city lies between the steeply rising Santa Ynez Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Santa Barbara's climate is often described as Mediterranean, and the city has been promoted as the "American Riviera".As of the census of 2010, the city had a population of 88,410, a loss of 1,190 from the previous census, making it the second most populous city in the county after Santa Maria while the contiguous urban area, which includes the cities of Goleta and Carpinteria, along with the unincorporated regions of Isla Vista, Montecito, Mission Canyon, Hope Ranch, Summerland, and others, has an approximate population of 220,000. The population of the entire county in 2010 was 423,895.
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 five institutions of higher learning on the south coast (the University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara City College, Westmont College, Antioch University, and the Brooks Institute of Photography). The Santa Barbara Airport serves the city, as does Amtrak. 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.
Portuguese explorer João Cabrilho (Spanish: Cabrillo), sailing for the Kingdom of Spain, sailed through what is now called the Santa Barbara Channel in 1542, anchoring briefly in the area. In 1602, Spanish maritime explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno gave the name "Santa Barbara" to the channel and also to one of the Channel Islands.
A land expedition led by Gaspar de Portolà visited in 1769, and Franciscan missionary Juan Crespi, who accompanied the expedition, named a large native town "Laguna de la Concepcion". Cabrillo's earlier name, however, is the one that has survived.
The first permanent European residents were Spanish missionaries and soldiers under Felipe de Neve, who came in 1782 to build the Presidio. They were sent both to fortify the region against expansion by other powers such as England and Russia, and to convert the natives to Christianity. Many of the Spaniards brought their families with them, and those formed the nucleus of the small town – at first just a cluster of adobes – that surrounded the Presidio. Mission Santa Barbara was dedicated December 4, 1786, the feast day of Saint Barbara.It was dedicated by Padre Fermín Lasuén, who succeeded Padre Junipero Serra as the second president and founder of the California Franciscan Mission Chain. The Mission fathers began the slow work of converting the native Chumash to Christianity, building a village for them on the Mission grounds. During the following decades, many of the natives died of diseases such as smallpox, against which they had no natural immunity.
The most dramatic event of the Spanish period was the powerful 1812 earthquake, and tsunami, with an estimated magnitude of 7.1, which destroyed the Mission as well as the rest of the town; water reached as high as present-day Anapamu street, and carried a ship half a mile up Refugio Canyon.Following the earthquake, the Mission fathers chose to rebuild in a grander manner, and it is this construction that survives to the present day, the best-preserved of the California Missions.
The Spanish period ended in 1822 with the end of the Mexican War of Independence, which terminated 300 years of colonial rule. The flag of Mexico went up the flagpole at the Presidio, but only for 24 years.