Moving to Santa Cruz, California

Moving to Santa Cruz, California

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    If you are looking for a city in California with scenic natural attractions, rich historical and cultural heritage, the world’s top-class off-shore breaks, and expansive surfing beaches, then moving to Santa Cruz, California, will be an excellent choice for you as an outdoor enthusiast and a vacation destination.

    Santa Cruz, also known as “Surf City,” is one of the most famous beach towns, with the iconic Santa Cruz beach boardwalk for the fishing pier, boardwalk, and surfing.  The Rolling Hills Santa Cruz, meant for civil settlements, was founded in 1769 By the Spanish explorer Don Gasper Del Portal, which means Holy Cross in Spanish. 

    That’s not all; Santa Cruz is known for its plentiful agricultural output, vacation destinations, historical museums, charming downtown, and coastal hiking trails. To learn more about the endless offering by the city, read the blog post below:

    Quick facts before moving to Santa Cruz, California

    Where is Santa Cruz, CA located?

    Santa Cruz, California, is the largest city and county seat of Santa Cruz County in Northern California. Located on the northern edge of Monterey Bay, the town is around 70 miles south of San Francisco and 35 miles north of Monterey.

    Population in Santa Cruz, CA

    The estimated population of Santa Cruz, California, as of 2023, is 61,352, showing an annual decline of -0.48%. 

    The median age in Santa Cruz, CA, is 29 years.

    Santa Cruz, CA’s population density is 4,000 residents per square mile of 12.9 square miles. 

    Diversity in Santa Cruz, CA

    With a diversity score of 92 out of 100, the most significant ethnic groups of Santa Cruz, CA, are stated below.

    • White: 63.3%
    • Hispanic: 22.9%
    • Asian: 7.1% 

    Cost of living in Santa Cruz, CA

    Before Moving to Santa Cruz, California, you must know that the city has a significantly higher cost of living than the national average, with a cost of living index of 186, making it 86% higher than the U.S. average.

    • Housing is the main contributor to the high cost of living in Santa Cruz, with expenses being 275.9% higher than the national average.
    • Utility prices are 97.2% of the national average, and transportation expenses are 116.1% of the national average.
    • The median household income in Santa Cruz is reported differently in various sources, with estimates ranging from $96,217 to $129,733.
    • The average cost of living in Santa Cruz, CA, is $3985 for a single person and $5971 for a family of four. 
    • A recommended minimum annual income for comfortable living in Santa Cruz is $243,360 for a family and $112,000 for a single person.
    • A single person would need to earn approximately $48.08 per hour, equivalent to around $100,000 annually, to afford the average rent in Santa Cruz.

    Here is a table summarizing the cost of living in Santa Cruz, CA:

    Cost of Living CategoriesSanta Cruz, CANational Average
    Overall Cost of Living Index186100
    Housing275.9% higher than the national average100
    Utilities97.2% of the national average100
    Transportation116.1% of the national average100

    Housing market in Santa Cruz, CA

    The housing market in Santa Cruz, CA, is highly competitive, with homes frequently receiving multiple offers and selling within approximately 29 days. Here are the critical stats on housing and rental prices in Santa Cruz, CA.

    • The average cost of purchasing a home in Santa Cruz is around $1.19 million or $831 per square foot. 
    • The median sale price of a home in Santa Cruz was reported to be $1.3 million as of 2023, showing a 4.2% increase compared to the previous year.
    • The median home value in Santa Cruz is $826,500.
    • The homeownership rate In Santa Cruz is 60.5%, and renters comprise 39.5%.
    • The average home rental price is $3,400 per month.

    The latest rental prices in Santa Cruz, CA, as of 2023:

    • Studio apartment rent in Santa Cruz is $1,850 to $3,020.
    • The average rent for a 1-bedroom apartment in Santa Cruz, CA, is $3,319.
    • The average rent for a 2-bedroom in Santa Cruz is $3,500
    • 3-bedroom house rent in Santa Cruz ranges from $4,457 to $6,800.
    • 4-bedroom house rent in Santa Cruz ranges from $4,879 to $7,475.

     Job market in Santa Cruz, CA

    The projected job growth in Santa Cruz County between 2022 and 2027 is estimated to average 1.5% per year, with varying expectations across sectors. While the construction sector is anticipated to add jobs, the retail industry may face challenges due to stagnant population growth and increased automation.

    In 2023, the job market in Santa Cruz, California, is recovering well from the COVID-19 pandemic. Santa Cruz County experienced a 9% increase in jobs from 2017 to 2022, surpassing state and national rates.

    • The unemployment rate in Santa Cruz County was 4.8% as of 2023.
    • The average annual salary in Santa Cruz is $61,567.
    • The average hourly wage in Santa Cruz is $31.23.
    • The reported average salary for female engineers in Santa Cruz is $71,610 annually.
    • Some of the fastest-growing occupations in Santa Cruz County by 2026 include Marketing Managers, with a projected demand increase of +15.5% and a median salary of $99,714.

    Top employers in Santa Cruz, CA

    • University of California, Santa Cruz
    • County of Santa Cruz
    • City of Santa Cruz
    • Plantronics
    • Dominican Hospital
    • Creekside Farms Inc
    • Granite Construction Co
    • Poly
    • Blackburn-Design
    • Ircon, Inc

     The most typical job titles in Santa Cruz, CA

    • Internship
    • Research Assistant
    • Volunteer
    • Sales Associate
    • Cashier
    • Teaching Assistant
    • Administrative Assistant
    • Office Assistant
    • Tutor

     The highest-paying jobs in Santa Cruz, CA

    Job TitleSalary
    Vice President$188,365
    Clinical Physician Assistant$186,102
    Vice Chancellor$183,176
    Software Engineering Manager$158,410
    Clinic Physician Director$157,548
    Software Development Manager$155,585
    Advisory System Engineer$154,845

    Is living in Santa Cruz, CA, safe?

    Santa Cruz, California, exhibits a high crime rate of about  48 incidents per one thousand residents, one of the highest in the United States across all community sizes. Here are some key statistics of crime and safety scenes you must learn before moving to Santa Cruz, CA.

    • The higher crime rates in Santa Cruz, CA, states that there’s about one in 21 chance of falling victim in the city.
    • Regarding violent crime, the likelihood of experiencing offenses such as armed robbery, aggravated assault, rape, or murder in Santa Cruz is 1 in 198, with a corresponding rate of 5 per one thousand inhabitants.
    • The theft rate in Santa Cruz is 8.750 per 1,000 residents during a standard year. The probability of being a victim of theft varies across neighborhoods, reaching as high as 1 in 39 in northwest neighborhoods and as low as 1 in 477 in the west part of the city.
    • The chance of being a crime victim can be as high as 1 in 15 in northwest neighborhoods and as low as 1 in 41 in the east of Santa Cruz.

    Safest neighborhoods in Santa Cruz, CA

    • Ucsc / University of California Santa Cruz
    • Branciforte Creek
    • Nobel / Roundtree
    • Woodland Heights
    • Pleasure Point
    • Twin Lakes

    How fast can you commute in Santa Cruz, CA?

    The average one-way commute time in Santa Cruz, California, is approximately 23.5 minutes, shorter than the national average.

    While most people in Santa Cruz drive alone to work, the city actively promotes alternative means of transportation. It has the second-highest rate of bike commuting in the United States.

    Public transportation options in Santa Cruz, CA include:

    • Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District (Santa Cruz Metro), offers 34 service routes throughout the county, with four transit centers serving as hubs.
    • The Santa Cruz Trolley runs between the beach and downtown daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekend.
    • The Amtrak Highway 17 Express is provided by Santa Cruz Metro.
    • The GO Santa Cruz County program incentivizes alternative commuting options with free transit passes, bike locker credits, carpool incentives, commute information, carpool ride matching, and bike safety training.
    • For those traveling outside the county, the Highway 17 Express bus, operated jointly by Santa Cruz METRO and Amtrak, takes riders to the San Jose Diridon transit center.

    How is the weather in Santa Cruz, CA?

    Santa Cruz has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate with distinct warm and cool seasons, with temperatures ranging from 45°F to 70°F. The temperature rarely falls below 38°F or exceeds 80°F.

    The city enjoys 300 sunny days yearly, with September being the hottest month and December the coldest. Rainfall is more common in winter, and snowfall is a rare occurrence.

    • Santa Cruz experiences two main seasons: a warm season from August 13 to October 24, with average daily highs above 68°F, and winter season from November 30 to February 16, with average daily highs below 61°F.
    • Significant seasonal variation in monthly rainfall lasts 7.2 months from October 5 to May 11. February sees the most rain, with an average of 3.7 inches. The average annual precipitation is 31.35 inches.
    • Snowfall in Santa Cruz is rare and occurs mainly in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Approximately once every 15 years, snowfall may reach lower elevations, like 2,000 and 1,000 feet.
    • The brighter period of the year lasts for 3.6 months, from May 7 to August 26, with June being the brightest month.
    • The hottest month is September, with an average high of 70°F and a low of 56°F.
    • December is the coldest month, with an average low of 45°F and a high of 59°F.

    How much are the taxes in Santa Cruz, CA?

    After moving to Santa Cruz, CA you have to pay the following taxes taxes listed below:

    • Sales Tax: 9.25% (Comprises California’s state sales tax of 6%, Santa Cruz County sales tax of 0.25%, Santa Cruz city tax of 0.75%, and the special district tax of 2.25%)
    • Income Tax: 1%-12.3%
    • Property tax:  1% of the government-assessed value of the property.

    The Education system in Santa Cruz, CA

    Santa Cruz, California, has a robust education system with diverse schools for all ages. The county has ten public school districts, serving about 40,000 students in grades TK-12.

    • Santa Cruz City Schools district has six elementary schools, two middle schools, three comprehensive high schools, and more, serving almost 7,000 students.
    • Pacific Collegiate Charter ranks ninth in California and 82nd nationally, boasting a 99% graduation rate and a perfect college readiness score.
    • Santa Cruz High School holds the 209th spot in California, with a 94% graduation rate and a college readiness score of 48.5.
    • At Santa Cruz High School, the student-teacher ratio is 21:1, a bit higher than the national average of 16:1.
    • For education costs, in-state tuition at the University of California, Santa Cruz, is $15,288, and for out-of-state students, it’s $47,862.
    • The total budget for California residents is $40,635, and for non-residents, it’s $71,661, covering various expenses.

     Best middle schools in Santa Cruz, CA

     Best elementary schools in Santa Cruz, CA

    • Happy Valley Elementary
    • Westlake Elementary
    • Brook Knoll Elementary
    • Tierra Pacifica Charter
    • Live Oak Elementary

     Best High Schools in Santa Cruz, CA

    • Pacific Collegiate Charter
    • Santa Cruz High School
    • San Lorenzo Valley High School
    • Scotts Valley High School
    • Soquel High School

     Best universities and colleges in Santa Cruz, CA

     What are the best things to do in Santa Cruz, CA?

    Here are the famous things to explore and things to see in San Cruz, CA:

    • Experience the scenic beauty of West Cliff Drive, which offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.
    • Enjoy classic seaside fun at the iconic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, featuring rides and attractions.
    • Explore the gravitational anomaly at the Mystery Spot in the redwood forests near Santa Cruz.
    • Visit Natural Bridges State Beach for picnics, bird-watching, and tide pool exploration.
    • Engage in outdoor activities like hiking and biking at Wilder Ranch State Park.
    • Relax at Ocean View Park, offering ocean views, a basketball court, picnic tables, and slides.
    • Discover sea lions, restaurants, and shops at the Santa Cruz Wharf.
    • Explore marine science at the Seymour Marine Discovery Center, an interactive museum and aquarium.
    • Take a scenic train ride through redwood forests at Roaring Camp Railroads.
    • Learn about the region’s natural history at the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History.
    • Experience berry picking and farm life at Swanton Berry Farm.
    • Catch a film at the historic Del Mar Theatre in downtown Santa Cruz.
    • Enjoy sunbathing and beach activities at the famous Santa Cruz Main Beach.

    Best neighborhoods in Santa Cruz, CA

    The best places to live in Santa Cruz, CA, based on livability, affordability, and safety are as follows:

    • Westside Santa Cruz
    • Downtown Santa Cruz
    • Seabright
    • Capitola Village
    • Scotts Valley
    • Live Oak

    Pros and cons of living in Santa Cruz, CA

    Lastly, before moving to Santa Cruz, CA, look at the list of pros and cons of living in Santa Cruz, CA, to learn about the benefits of living in the city and better understand the drawbacks the city offers. This will help you make a more informed decision about whether or not Santa Cruz is the right place for you.

    Pros of living in Santa CruzCons of living in Santa Cruz
    Beautiful beaches, redwoods, and outdoor activitiesHigh cost of living, expensive housing, and limited job opportunities
    Reliably sunny weather and a considerable surfing communityTraffic congestion and limited childcare options
    Artistic and creative communityHomelessness and transient population
    Humane and accepting communityLimited public services and underfunded schools

    Final Verdict

    No matter what your budget or lifestyle, whether for a vacation or to settle down, California’s Beach Town is the perfect destination to call home, if you’re considering moving to California. It offers a laid-back lifestyle and a more relaxed atmosphere and is ideal for those who want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. If Santa Cruz is your kind of town, don’t hesitate to give the city a call.

    Photo Credit: David Yu