A Tough Nut to Crack in Goleta

When I was a travel editor, people often asked where they should go on vacation. Over time, I grew to believe that the destination doesn’t really matter, if you’re in the frame of mind to enjoy yourself. (Two of my most fun trips have been to western Iowa and eastern Oregon, not exactly hotspots.) The philosophy has served me well on my Santa Barbara explorations: everywhere I’ve walked, I’ve found things that surprised and delighted me. This part of Goleta, however, proved somewhat challenging.

I parked at the Hilton Garden Inn, where the architect deserves kudos for getting the developer to sign off on the Art Deco roofline details. (I wouldn’t normally park in a private lot, but there were a jillion spaces and I didn’t notice a lot of street parking on my way there. I later discovered that you can park on Castilian Drive.) I assumed the signs posted at the hotel lot were the work of an overzealous lawyer…

…until I came across a car with a steering wheel lock. I hadn’t seen one of those in decades! Is car theft a problem around here?

In terms of urban planning, the area goes against everything we’ve learned (i.e., from Jane Jacobs) about how places benefit from a mix of residential and commercial. Lean too hard in one direction or the other, and you end up in Dullsville. That was absolutely the case in the western half of this part of town: it was all offices and the like, with three exceptions—the Hilton Garden Inn, the newish Cortona Point apartment community, and the M. Special taproom.

There are also a couple of industrial moments, like the “Goleta energy storage sonar 66KV substation” in the first photo below, which I guess is new, because 2023 satellite imagery on Google Maps shows bare land in that spot.

The misguided planning extends to the intermittent sidewalks. In my experience, if you make a place walkable, people will walk. And despite the all-work-no-play atmosphere, I actually saw around a dozen pedestrians during my outing, many of whom were relegated to the street.

This building constructed a path leading to its front door but gave up on the sidewalk.

Architecture throughout values function over form. Is there a rule that offices can’t have personality?

This looks like a shipping container, and not in the fun circa-2010 way.

The most interesting building in the area is 55 Castilian Drive, where the entrance appears to be sinking into the earth.

The silver medal goes to the midcentury 111 Castilian Drive. The story poles next door are where Santa Barbara Airport’s Hangar 5, built in 1944, will be repurposed, sort of, into a two-story office building. Architect Tracy Burnell was quoted by Noozhawk as saying, “It’s an odd deal because we’re not moving or reusing the building, but we’re replicating it and bringing the pieces over with the most important parts of it coming.”

Raytheon has a few offices in the area. I winced when I saw the sign for “Electronic Warfare Systems Receiving.”

Another name I recognized was Kyocera, which according to Wikipedia, “manufactures industrial ceramics, solar power generating systems, telecommunications equipment, office document imaging equipment, electronic components, semiconductor packages, cutting tools, and components for medical and dental implant systems.” But wait, there’s more! The Goleta office, in the aforementioned midcentury building at 111 Castilian Drive, is for Kyocera SLD Laser, which “outshines the limits of LED to deliver safe, high luminance white light from an incredibly small point source.”

And I know of Apeel, which makes a coating for produce so it lasts longer, and somehow recognized the company from its logo. (If there was a sign, I didn’t see it.) Hardly any cars were in the parking lot, so employees must still be working from home. Wouldn’t it be nice if the ocean of asphalt can’t be torn up or put to better use?

Most of the company names were Greek to me. Back home, I got out the Googler….

There’s the kind of tech stuff I understand, such as Auto Vitals, which makes software for auto-repair shops, and ABC-CLIO, a publisher of reference textbooks, periodicals, and databases. And there’s the kind I don’t: Transphorm is “a global semiconductor company, leading the GaN Revolution,” while OpenLight is “the world leader in custom, PASIC design and manufacture.” PASIC stands for photonic application-specific integrated circuits, which clears things up not at all.

I have a better grasp of the medical businesses. Karl Storz and iCRco are manufacturers of endoscopes and medical-imaging machinery, respectively. Sientra develops plastic surgery technology, with breasts a prime focus. (Two prime foci?) And Zyris creates “solutions for minimally invasive, easy-to-use dental isolation—as well as control of the oral environment worldwide.” That last part sure has a Dr. Evil tone to it.

Other businesses are hard to categorize. CMC makes equipment for “rescue, rope access and other at-height scenarios,” and it offers classes all over the country, but the nearest ones are in Bakersfield. And Las Cumbres Observatory maintains “twenty-five telescopes at seven sites around the world working together as a single instrument.” And look, a human!

If the area has a through line, it’s defense; welcome to our own little corner of the military-industrial complex. For some companies, defense is one application among many: ACI Materials, for instance, “creates conductive adhesives, inks, pastes and coatings that […] can stretch, twist and deform over and over while maintaining their conductivity and being used in consumer electronics, mobile phones, touch screens, wearable electronics, medical, aerospace, and military applications.” Aeluma is a semiconductor company specializing in “automotive LiDAR (light detection and ranging),” with defense and aerospace listed as one of the uses. And Abaco is involved in “modular, high performance, open architecture, standards-based rugged embedded computing for the most demanding applications in defense and industry.” That’s what we call word salad.

Others are entirely about defense. Toyon is “evaluating methods for protecting facilities from chemical, biological, and radiological threats,” and Leonardo DRS is a “provider of advanced defense technology to U.S. national security customers and allies around the world.” Dare one ask what happens when our allies stop being allies?

Moving on! The sign below reminded me of college, when my friend Alyce and I would Rollerblade around the office parks of Research Triangle Park in North Carolina on weekends. You get the sense that the designer has skateboarding experience.

And any regrets I still have from dropping out of the traditional workforce evaporated when I saw this break area.

Eventually, I crossed a bridge and found myself in a residential zone. I didn’t explore the trail along Tecolotito Creek, but I imagine it’s a nice amenity for the residents of the 465-unit Village at Los Carneros.

You could get lost rather easily.

The pool has memorable pizzazz, though.

It was a weekday, so there was very little activity in the Village. The desolate air was enhanced by the Halloween decorations splayed about—victims of a windy night, I believe. (I did this walk a while ago, obviously. My muse must have been on vacation.)

I came upon several giant fake spider webs. The second one below was more disturbing, because there was no sign of the spider. Where did it go?

Two other communities, which I think are technically part of the Village at Los Carneros: Casas de Los Carneros and Arrive.

Back in the commercial zone, that “@” is so 2001 it hurts. Here’s an amusing diversion: a Guardian article explaining what the symbol is called in other languages—apestaart (monkey’s tail) in Dutch; chiocciolina (small snail) in Italian; kukatsz (little worm) in Hungarian; zavinac (rolled pickled herring) in Czech; and so on.

By the end, a drink didn’t sound half bad. But it wasn’t yet noon, so I skipped a tasting at the Goleta Red Distilling Company and instead stopped at Oat Bakery‘s outpost in Old Town Goleta on the way home for a fantastic turkey sandwich. ‘Tis the season, after all.


Walk With Me…

Downtown Santa Barbara
• The Upper Upper East Is Busting Out All Over
• The Presidio: In the Footsteps of Old Santa Barbara
• Brinkerhoff, Bradley, and Beyond
• Mixing Business and Pleasure in East Beach
• It’s Only Milpas Street (But I Like It)
• The Haley Corridor Is Keeping It Real
• The Small Pleasures of Bungalow Haven
• Is There a Better Neighborhood for a Stroll Than West Beach?
• E. Canon Perdido, One of Downtown’s Best Strolling Streets

• Where the Eastside Meets the Lower Riviera

Oak Park / Samarkand
• The Side Streets and Alleyways of Upper Oak Park
The Small-Town Charms of Samarkand

The Riviera
• Scaling the Heights of Las Alturas
High on the Lower Riviera

Eucalyptus Hill
• On the Golden Slope of Eucalyptus Hill
• Climbing the Back of Eucalyptus Hill

San Roque
• Voyage to the Heart of the San Roque Spider Web

TV Hill / The Mesa
↓↓↓ Walking in Circles in Alta Mesa
• West Mesa Is Still Funky After All These Years
• A Close-Up Look at TV Hill

Hidden Valley / Yankee Farm / Campanil
• Campanil is a Neighborhood in Flux
• An Aimless Wander Through Hidden Valley
• The Unvarnished Appeal of Yankee Farm

Hope Ranch / Hope Ranch Annex / Etc.
• A Country Stroll on El Sueno Road

• Out and Back on Ortega Ridge
• The Heart of Montecito Is in Coast Village
• Quintessential Montecito at Butterfly Beach
• Once Upon a Time in the Hedgerow
• Where Montecito Gets Down to Business
• In the Heart of the Golden Quadrangle
• Up, Down, and All Around Montecito’s Pepper Hill
• Montecito’s Prestigious Picacho Lane
• School House Road and Camphor Place

Summerland / Carpinteria
• A Stroll in the Summerland Countryside
• Admiring the Backsides of Beachfront Houses on Padaro Lane
• Whitney Avenue in Summerland

Goleta / Isla Vista
• Where the Streets Have Full Names
• The Past Is Still Present in Old Town Goleta
• Social Distancing Made Easy at UCSB


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Tom S.

such a trip out to that Goleta zone. 1950’s commercial bldg. boom meets 2000’s + need for beds.


Santa Barbara has so much charming architecture.. you wonder what went wrong with Goleta. Zero charm and character whatsoever. It feels like Oxnard or Lompoc. Depressing, uninviting.
Why couldn’t they extend the same amount of care to the architecture in Goleta as they did/do in SB?

Gary Lapman

Reminder: Most of that architecture was approved by the county, as Goleta wasn’t a city yet.

Scott McBurney

Not a lot of industrial production in SB. Goleta works, it doesn’t need any help from people who, seem a bit snobbish.

Nick D'Aguilar

This post is a bit SB hoity toity. The author might be surprised to learn that, there are actually a lot of world renowned accomplishments that the city of Goleta have contributed towards society both business and scientific
I’m really surprised the amount of snub in this article that disregards the town’s contributions in light of it’s “architectural charm” compared to SB.


While definitely missing external charm, the story of the area is what actually happened and happens in those buildings.

Next to M Special was where Google created its first quantum computers.
Castilian/Cortona was the tech hub where infrared sensors (see in the dark/heat) were created and commercialized (Raytheon/FLIR/seek thermal/delco, etc)
Appfolio, SaaS company now worth over 7B, boomed and allowed a whole generation of younger workers to stay in Goleta/Santa Barbara
CMC is actually THE provider of equipment to search and rescue teams.

Across the street:
Delco Park has a memorial to the creation of the moonlander (developed here!).

I assume you’ve already read it, but to help with your future walks in Goleta: https://goletahistory.com/


The Village annoys the crap out of me – authorizing a housing development the size of Los Olivos without requiring mixed-use parcels for walkable shopping/grocery stores is absolutely moronic – it’s urban planning straight out of the 1980s.

Dan S

That’s because the people on the Goleta planning commission are from down south (not locals) this is what they’re use too! So in their mind this is what everyone wants? They take that HDH ” high density housing” approach like they do in Oxnard, TO, LA, and replicate it her pretty simple. Don’t get me wrong I blame locals who don’t get involved and run for these seats then complain when the areas they grew up in end up like this. But trust me I’m going to walk the walk in a few years when I retire…I born and raised a Goleta boy and I’m not happy…Goleta is Goleta and I love my city and believe if your not born here and don’t understand the history then you shouldn’t talk smack about it!


When moving to this area, we could have afforded to buy property in Santa Barbara but chose Goleta. Our daughter went to UCSB, and we had lots of opportunity to compare the two cities. Yes, the architecture is prettier in Santa Barbara, but that’s where Santa Barbara’s appeal to live stops. The violent crime rate in Santa Barbara is 18 times that of Goleta (2 per 100,000 versus 36 per 100,00). Goleta doesn’t have any gangs. The only gang activity we have in Goleta is that which spills over from Santa Barbara. Our streets are wide and we have sufficient parking. Our schools are better. The ease of simply living in Goleta far exceeds that of Santa Barbara, as shopping is easy and convenient. There’s a reason why people from Santa Barbara routinely come to Goleta’s Market Place to eat and shop. The congestion in Santa Barbara is intense, not unlike big cities; not so in Goleta. I took a 4 mile walk on the ocean bluffs that are just outside of my home this morning. I saw about 8 people. The shops in downtown Santa Barbara frequently are shuttered and are out of business. Not so in Goleta. We’re thriving. And the people in Goleta are friendly. We’re glad to live amongst people who value goodness and heart. Those in Santa Barbara are often pretentious , as they compare who has the most expensive stuff. So, yes, Santa Barbara has prettier architecture, but I’m glad it’s a 15 minute drive away from Goleta. Santa Barbara can be a nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there, especially with the option of Goleta.


I too hate it when the intense SB congestion makes it a 15 minute commute instead of a 10 minute commute. Though I do regularly work in the middle of the State Street warzone so it’s a gamble if I come home on any given day.

Mark Gallo

Erik – thanks for the witty commentary on this seemingly bland Goleta industrial zone. Enjoyed the company insights you shared as well as those from your reader comments.

Meredith Brace

Dear Erik,
I enjoy your photos from your walking tours, and I’m sorry you weren’t able to experience a tasting at Goleta Red! I hope you’ll do the Westside sometime; there are so many interesting things to see. I’d be happy to accompany you. I’m talking the area between Victoria, San Andres, Mission, and Calle Poinente.

James Kyriaco

Appreciate the author highlighting some of the great companies in Goleta! Here are a few reactions in no particular order.

The hotel was approved with an art deco design, though I would have preferred color choices that highlight the architectural elements better.

The hotel is along Hollister Avenue which extends from State Street all the way to the Ritz Carlton Bacara hotel. The areas connected to the road were mostly agriculture once you got past the little towns of La Goleta (now Old Town Goleta) and La Patera (the areas around and past the airport and train station).

The arrival of the airport, the 101, UCSB and Lake Cachuma significantly influenced Goleta. They led to the arrival of major employers like Delco and Raytheon, major housing tracts on land formerly tied to large ranches. And the corresponding need for services and amenities being planned in a car friendly way.

Goleta was planned by the County of Santa Barbara primarily through major efforts in the late 1960’s and early 1990’s.

The area you traversed is in flux. Mostly you walked around a Research Park planned by the county, with important technology companies. The hotel was approved in the early 2010’s by the council and is at an intersection shared with a regional shopping center, The Marketplace planned by the County in the early 1990’s. A workforce housing project, Cortona Pointe Apartments was approved by the Goleta City Council around 2014 and was completed a couple years ago.

The Villages at Los Carneros is at a site that was debated for decades – office parks had once been the destiny for the Hollister/Los Carneros area but then Towbes built the Willow Springs Apartments in two phases over more than a decade.

These developments do badly need on site/near site services – a legacy of piecemeal planning because it was developed by different owners over two decades in processes led by the county (1993) and later Goleta (2006).

Lastly you finished in Old Town at Oat Bakery, and there is a lot happening in Old Town. Legacy businesses like Goleta Barber, Santa Cruz Market and Goleta Bakery have been joined by Old Town Coffee, Santa Barbara Gift Baskets and CrossFit Santa Barbara. There are plans to repair this stretch of Hollister, add buffered bike lanes, angled parking and reduce the share of the road dedicated only to cars which should create a more walkable and pleasant downtown. A business park and an RV And Boat Storage are being transformed to new housing which will bring more vibrancy and customers for businesses while addressing the need for more housing.


Thank you for the context, Councilmember. I am excited to witness the revitalization of Old Town, though the Hollister Restriping project has me concerned about traffic, specifically coming off the 217. I recognize that there are plans to create additional east-west thoroughfares, but I cannot reconcile reducing the already-busy Hollister to one lane. Please make sure that traffic is not too impacted, even in the short term.


Hello, Is the new housing in the RV storage going to be rental units or homes for sale? Thank you