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Bridging the two-mile span which separates Mission and Sycamore Canyons, “mission ridge” has for the past 65 years been known as “the Riviera” due to its resemblance to slopes along the Mediterranean coasts of France and Italy.   Santa Barbarans lucky enough to live on this ridge attach premium value to their homes due to unsurpassed views of city, mountains, sea and islands. 

The Riviera is famous for its semi-tropical appearance, with lush plantings of acacias, eucalypti, pittosporum, eugenias, palms, hibiscus shrubs and other exotics. The man chiefly responsible for this metamorphosis was a Florentine horticulturist, Dr. Emanuel Orazio Fenzi, who came to Santa Barbara in 1894 and established a nursery.   In 1904 he bought 40 acres of Riviera hilltop land, which he developed into one of California’s premier nurseries and arboretums. 

The Riviera is also home to the Santa Barbara County Bowl, built in 1935 in Quail Canyon, a natural amphitheater which was donated for the purpose of providing a place for Old Spanish Days fiesta pageants.  The County Bowl with it’s ocean and city views now hosts top names in the music concert  tour circut and is a must for locals to experience.

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In the early 1900’s at the west end of the Riviera, the Normal School was prospering and changing names.  In 1919 it became the Santa Barbara Normal School; in 1921 the Santa Barbara State Teachers College; in 1935 the Santa Barbara State College; and finally in 1944 the University of California Santa Barbara College. After ten years under that name it outgrew the Riviera campus and moved to Goleta where it is now UCSB, the University of California at Santa Barbara.

“We know how lucky we are not to have to go to Europe to enjoy the Riviera lifestyle,” one cosmopolite commented. “We’ve got a better Riviera right here in Santa Barbara!”

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