Goleta, California

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City of Goleta, California
Skyline of City of Goleta, California
Official seal of City of Goleta, California
Location of Goleta within California.
Location of Goleta within California.
Country United States
State California
County Santa Barbara
Mayor Jonny Wallis
 - City 68.3 km²
 - Land 68.0 km²
 - Water 0.3 km²
 - City (2000) 55,240
 - Density ~812.35/km²
Time zone PST ( UTC-8)
 - Summer ( DST) PDT ( UTC-7)
Website: http://www.cityofgoleta.org/

Goleta is a city located in southern Santa Barbara County, California, USA. It was incorporated as a new city in 2002, after a long time as being the largest unincorporated, populated area in the county. As of the 2000 census, the CDP had a total population of 55,204, however, a significant portion of the Census territory of 2000 did not incorporate into the new city.


Early history

The area of present-day Goleta was populated for thousands of years by the native Chumash people; locally they were known by the first European settlers as Canaliños (for the canoes they built to travel to the Channel Islands). One of the largest villages, S'axpilil, was north the Goleta Slough, not far from the present-day Santa Barbara Airport.

The first European visitor was Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, who sailed past in 1542. During the 1980s, discovery of some 16th-century cannon on the beach led to the advancement of a theory that Sir Francis Drake sailed into the Goleta Slough in 1579 ( ), where he may have spent several weeks repairing his ship.

In the 18th century, two Spanish expeditions came to the area; the second founded the Presidio of Santa Barbara and Mission to the east, and began the work of converting the Chumash to Roman Catholicism. During the 19th century most of the area, formerly covered with oak trees, was deforested; ranching was the principal land use during this time. The two main local ranchers, Nicolas A. Den and Daniel Hill, became wealthy in the late 1840s by selling locally-grown beef to the thousands of miners who came to the California Gold Rush.

19th and 20th centuries

The Goleta Valley was a prominent lemon-growing region during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and was largely agricultural. In addition, several areas, especially the Ellwood Mesa, were developed for oil and natural gas extraction. Starting in 1940, boosters from the City of Santa Barbara lobbied and obtained federal funding and passed a bond meausure to develop an airport on the Goleta Slough; the airport development was accelerated by U.S. response to an attack on Ellwood by a Japanese submarine, see Attacks on United States territory in North America during World War II. The Marine Corps undertook completion of the airport and established living quarters on the site of the current University of California, Santa Barbara campus.

After the war, Goleta Valley residents supported the construction of Cachuma Lake, which provided water enabling a housing boom and the establishment of research and aerospace firms in the area. In 1954 the University of California, Santa Barbara moved to part of the former Marine base. Along with the boom in aerospace, the character changed from rural-agricultural to high-tech. Goleta remains a centre for high-tech firms, and a bedroom community for neighboring Santa Barbara.


Goleta was incorporated as a city in 2002 after several unsuccessful attempts. A significant urbanized area remains unincorporated between the town of Goleta and the city of Santa Barbara, largely consisting of the area which polled against incorporation prior to the 2002 election (it was excluded from the proposed incorporated boundaries, in order to make passage of incorporation more likely). There has been some discussion of annexation of this area, sometimes dubbed informally " Noleta", by the City of Santa Barbara. The current boundaries of Goleta are shown in the city's map.

The 2000 census figures reflect the census-designated place of Goleta, which was somewhat larger than the incorporated city. The city's population was estimated in 2002 at around 30,904 according to the CA Governor's Office of Planning and Research.

Goleta postal massacre

On January 30, 2006, Jennifer San Marco shot and killed seven people, including six postal workers, before committing suicide at the postal-processing facility where she had previously been employed. She is also suspected of shooting a neighbour just prior to the rampage. Police say the suspect, a former postal employee, killed six postal employees, including one critically wounded who later died, before committing suicide with a handgun. Police later also identified a seventh victim: Beverly Graham, 54, was found dead in a condominium complex in Goleta where Sanmarco once lived. Police have matched the 9 mm shell casings found in Ms. Graham's condo with the shell casings used in the postal facility shooting spree. In addition to Charlotte Colton, 44, the dead included Ze Fairchild, 37, and Maleka Higgins, 28, both of Santa Barbara; Nicola Grant, 42, and Guadalupe Swartz, 52, both of Lompoc; and Dexter Shannon, 57, of Oxnard. The choice of these victims may have been also racially motivated. The suspect had previous history of racial prejudice, and tried to obtain business license for a newspaper of her own ideas, called Racial Times, in New Mexico. This incident is believed to be the deadliest workplace shooting ever carried out in the United States by a woman. (See: going postal.)

Urban environment

Cabrillo Business Park, a new business park in Goleta
Cabrillo Business Park, a new business park in Goleta

Goleta contains a mix of land uses, lacking only heavy industrial zones. North of the U.S. Route 101 freeway is a region of predominantly tract housing built between the late 1950s and the 1970s, intermingled with newer condominium developments, a few gated communities, and adjacent to a lower-density residential zone in the lower foothills of the Santa Ynez Mountains which contains larger homes. A commercial strip along Calle Real is one of the town's several business districts. South of the freeway is Old Town Goleta, centered on the stretch of Hollister Avenue between Fairview Avenue and the Highway 217 overpass; adjacent to this commercial area is a region of older, and occasionally substandard housing; some of the south county's least affluent people live in this zone. Between Old Town Goleta and the airport, and running along south Fairview Avenue, are some light industrial zones, some of relatively few in southern Santa Barbara County. Farther west, near the intersection of Storke Road and Hollister Avenue, is a large shopping mall, including "big box" stores, which draws business from outside the local area. This area is called the "Camino Real Marketplace". There is also a new business park called Cabrillo Business Park next to it. Adjacent to the mall and extending more than a mile farther west is a residential area, most of the housing in which dates back to the 1960s; it includes some high-density apartment blocks which accept some of the overflow student population from nearby UCSB.

Goleta has several significant parks, including Stow Park, Lake Los Carneros, and the newly created Ellwood Open Space on the bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Goleta Beach County Park is just outside of the city limits.


Goleta is located at 34°26′26″N, 119°48′49″W (34.440493, -119.813608) GR1. Goleta is about 8 miles west of the city of Santa Barbara, along the coast (the coast runs east to west in this portion of southern California). Nearby is the Santa Barbara campus of the University of California and the student community of Isla Vista.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 68.3 km² (26.4 mi²). 68.0 km² (26.3 mi²) of it is land and 0.3 km² (0.1 mi²) of it (0.38%) is water.


As of the census GR2 of 2000, there were 55,204 people, 19,954 households, and 13,468 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 811.7/km² (2,102.1/mi²). There were 20,442 housing units at an average density of 300.6/km² (778.4/mi²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 78.61% White, 1.27% African American, 0.82% Native American, 6.43% Asian, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 9.23% from other races, and 3.53% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 22.33% of the population.

There were 19,954 households out of which 30.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.1% were married couples living together, 8.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.5% were non-families. 22.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.72 and the average family size was 3.18.

In the CDP the population was spread out with 23.1% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 24.2% from 45 to 64, and 14.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 98.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.1 males.

The median income for a household in the CDP was $60,314, and the median income for a family was $67,956. Males had a median income of $44,770 versus $32,127 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $28,890. About 2.9% of families and 6.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.8% of those under age 18 and 4.4% of those age 65 or over.


The five City Council members take turns as mayor. The City Council also serves at the Planning Agency. City Council meetings are televised, while Planning Agency meetings are not. There have also been prolonged delays in getting the first General Plan adopted, despite state mandates to do so in a reasonable period of time after incorporation, and this has led to delays in the consideration of planning and development applications.

Mayor and council

  • Jean Blois, Councilwoman ( jblois@cityofgoleta.org)
  • Jonny Wallis, Mayor ( jwallis@cityofgoleta.org)
  • Cynthia Brock, Councilmember ( cbrock@cityofgoleta.org)
  • Margaret A. Connell, Councilmember ( mconnell@cityofgoleta.org)
  • Jack Hawxhurst, Councilmember ( HawxhurstForGoleta@cox.net)
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