Santa Maria Now Largest City In Santa Barbara County

The Santa Maria Times is reporting that Santa Maria City is now the largest City in Santa Barbara County. Our neighbor to the south continues to grow by leaps and bounds. If it were not for the Santa Maria River (and the San Luis Obispo County line), it is quite likely that Nipomo would soon become a suburb of Santa Maria. According to the Times:

It’s official – Santa Maria is the most populous city in Santa Barbara County.

City officials were notified by the State Department of Finance that as of Jan. 1 Santa Maria has an estimated 90,204 residents an increase of 1.9 percent over last year.

The next largest city – Santa Barbara – weighs in at 89,548, a decrease of .76 percent over last year.

“We are not only the biggest, we are the best,” said Santa Maria Mayor Larry Lavagnino.

“I think this is indicative of the vitality of Santa Maria,” he added. “We are growing very rapidly, our sales tax is growing, you can look anywhere in Santa Maria and something is happening.”

Even though Santa Maria is now the largest city in Santa Barbara County its growth rate has slowed by at least half:

Though Santa Maria is officially the largest city, the percentage of growth this year over last, dropped by almost half – from 4 percent last year to 1.9 percent this year . . .

According to the UCSB Economic Forecast Santa Maria had 317 residential building permits in 2005 compared to 765 in 2004.

Becoming the county’s largest city is a distinction that has been predicted for Santa Maria for a number of years.

“We have been waiting for this for quite a while to be officially the largest city, it’s almost anti-climatic,” Lavagnino joked.

As the city continues to grow, more and more businesses are taking note, the mayor added.

“We are starting to get to the critical mass, where business sees that you have a large labor pool and pro-business government,” he said. “Yes, you are going to see more and more business come to Santa Maria, its a big by-product of our size.”

Officials were hesitant to predict if the population numbers would have any further affect on county politics, since it has been known for a while that Santa Maria and the North County would carry most of the population in the future.

But Mariscal noted, “The consistent number should give credibility to statements we have been making.”

This is the biggest potential impact in my view: The impact on the potential county split. With Santa Maria now the largest city in the county, more and more pressure will come to split away from Santa Barbara County, 70 plus miles to the south, and as different from Santa Barbara as night is from day.

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