If Los Angeles is a laid back city (relaxed dress codes, casual attitudes), then Santa Monica is super chill. This is the city where a Tesla pulls up to a restaurant's valet kiosk, and when the driver steps out, flip flops hit the pavement. The vibe here is casual affluence.
No doubt, the attitude here comes from the fact that Santa Monica is a beachside city, known for occasionally-foggy mornings, cool ocean breezes and spectacular sunsets.
Some days here start off relatively chilly compared to the rest of the region, caused by the formation of an overnight marine layer (fog). Like clockwork, by midday, the sun has done its job burning off the thin overhead clouds.
The prevailing onshore winds also make Santa Monica less smoggy than much of Southern California, further contributing to a very high quality of life here.
Average home prices in Santa Monica are higher than Culver City, lower than nearby Brentwood (by a lot) and just a tad less than Venice (which has some of the highest prices in Los Angeles on a square footage basis since many homes there are smaller). However, all these areas far exceed L.A. County averages.
If you love great architecture and design, you’ll be craning your head every few blocks while driving through Santa Monica. Residential architectural styles include Craftsman, Spanish Colonial Revival, Classical Revival, Tudor, Contemporary, Minimal Traditional, Bungalow, Mediterranean and the occasional (very cute) Cottage. In fact, Santa Monica is home to the Gehry Residence, a deconstructivist addition to a Dutch Colonial style home.
Several commercial and public buildings are designed in styles of Art Deco, Beaux Arts, Googie, and Churrigueresque. Did you know the Sears Roebuck store (1947) is a Streamline Moderne design and designated as a historic landmark? No joke!
In and among the Santa Monica neighborhoods of Ocean Park, Wilshire Montana, Mid-City and parts of Sawtelle, you’ll find plenty of luxury homes and condos. All neighborhoods are highly walkable (flat terrain), each with its commercial areas that provide convenient dining and shopping.
Santa Monica is part of the Westside, the term Angelinos use to indicate all areas west of the 405 Freeway, though the exact border is hotly contested. In part, living on the Westside means you don't have ever to leave it to get all your retail therapy and culinary needs met. Presumably, whatever you want, you’ll find it nearby and won’t have to sit in freeway traffic to get it. If you have friends that live on the Eastside, visiting them will feel like traveling to another state.
There's a good chance you'll fall in love and become a "regular" at least one restaurant here, whatever your preferences. All over town, you'll find great steaks, seafood, international cuisine, vegan delights, and sushi. There are three main commercial areas in Santa Monica:
Architecture in Santa Monica is celebrated. In fact, Santa Monica Conservancy offers 2-hour Downtown Walking Tours every Saturday at 10 am. Self-guided tour booklets are also available for a few bucks.
If you live in Santa Monica, you may find yourself making one (or all) of the four popular farmers markets part of your weekly shopping routine. Leave your car at home and park your beach cruiser with one of the bike valets. (Biking to run errands is the norm here, further contributing to the laid-back vibe of the city.) Stock up on fruits, vegetables, and other farm goods alongside acclaimed area chefs. The markets are also a good place to find fresh, local seafood.
While Santa Monica Pier is considered “touristy” to locals, it does have an important historical timeline worth noting. The Pier started as a public utility (sewage) in 1909 and has been fishing spot, early amusement park, a place for shore leave for U.S. Navy War ships, home to a 20s-era ballroom, birthplace of cartoon character “Popeye”, yacht harbor, commercial fishing port in the 40s, and entertainment venue. Today, the summer season brings the Twilight Concert Series at the Pier, billed as “Southern California’s largest free concert series.”
From miles away, you can see the Pacific Park Ferris wheel on the Pier. The Looff Hippodrome Carousel (1922) sits below the wheel and is a national historic landmark.
Right below the Pier is the Original Muscle Beach, the ever-popular fitness area where locals swing on public bars, rings & ropes over the sand. People have been exercising here since the 1930s, part of a fitness revolution that still echoes today.
The City of Santa Monica is a world leader in environmental sustainability. The City has a green building code. Nearly every government vehicle runs on alternative fuels, and the bus fleet runs on 100% natural gas. The Bike Action Plan put in motion includes a build-out of additional bike lanes. The City set aggressive goals (exceeding the State-level goals) for complete energy independence. Lastly, the zero-waste operations and rainwater collection plans have already made a big impact.
As mentioned, biking is popular here. You can even pack your bike on the Big Blue Bus – the City’s bus service that runs across town with service that reaches West L.A. and UCLA.
If you need to go farther, Metro's Expo Line will take you on light rail to Downtown Los Angeles where you can connect with Metrolink trains and Amtrak.
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) is not far, about 8 miles south. Take Lincoln Boulevard through Marina Del Rey to avoid freeway traffic and delays. Maybe you have your own a plane? Check out the Santa Monica Municipal Airport (SMO), a general aviation field.
While there are many parks in Santa Monica, here are a few highly-rated standouts:
Planning to buy or sell a home here? Our Santa Monica real estate agents would love to help! We’re the neighborhood experts who can provide the most recent data for average Santa Monica home prices, sales history for any property, and information about the broader Los Angeles County real estate market. We’re here to provide all the information you need to ensure that you make the best decision possible. Our forte is negotiating the quickest home sale possible.
Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) serves 11,000 students. SMMUSD has earned national recognition. Three of its schools have been honored as National Blue Ribbon Schools, and the district is ranked by U.S. News and World Report. The District has a useful map finder to search individual schools by street address to find any one of the following:
Furthermore, there are 11 private schools in Santa Monica and a Community College, Santa Monica College.