Montecito is a census-designated place (CDP) in Santa Barbara County, California. As of the 2000 census, the CDP population was 10,000, although the boundaries are ill-defined. Montecito is among the wealthiest communities in the United States. It is east of, and directly adjacent to the city of Santa Barbara, occupying the eastern portion of the coastal plain south of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Portions of the town are built on the lower foothills of the range. Notable roads spanning the length of Montecito include Mountain Drive, Sycamore Canyon Road, and East Valley Road.
The site of present-day Montecito, along with the entire south coast of Santa Barbara County, was inhabited for over 10,000 years by the Chumash Indians. The Spanish arrived in the 18th century, but left the region largely unsettled while they built the Presidio and Mission Santa Barbara farther west.
In the middle of the 19th century the area was known as a haven for bandits and highway robbers, who hid in the oak groves and verdant canyons, preying on traffic on the coastal route between the towns that developed around the missions. By the end of the 1860s the bandit gangs were gone, and Italian settlers arrived. Finding an area reminiscent of their homes in Italy, they built farms and gardens similar to those they had left behind in Italy. Around the end of the 19th century, rich tourists from the eastern United States began to buy land in the area: it was near enough to Santa Barbara for essential services, was beautiful, secluded, with desireable weather and several nearby hot springs for health ailments, affordable land.
The Montecito Hot Springs Hotel was built at the largest of the springs, in a canyon north of the town center and directly south of Montecito Peak, in Hot Springs Canyon. The exclusive hotel burned down in 1920; it was replaced a few years later by the smaller Hot Springs Club.
The architect George Washington Smith is noted particularly for his residences around Montecito, and for popularizing the Spanish Colonial Revival style in early 20th Century America. Montecito has its early 20th character retained of an area of exclusive estates.
In November 2008, 80 Montecito homes were destroyed in the Tea Fire, which also destroyed 130 homes in the adjacent City of Santa Barbara.
As of the census of 2000, there were 10,000 people, 3,686 households, and 2,454 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 1,072.3 people per square mile (413.8/km²). There were 4,193 housing units at an average density of 449.6/sq mi (173.5/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 94.03% White, 0.48% African American, 0.31% Native American, 1.29% Asian, 0.21% Pacific Islander, 2.14% from other races, and 1.54% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.19% of the population.
There were 3,686 households out of which 25.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.1% were married couples living together, 7.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.4% were non-families. 27.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41 and the average family size was 2.85.
In the CDP the population was spread out with 18.4% under the age of 18, 13.5% from 18 to 24, 16.6% from 25 to 44, 30.0% from 45 to 64, and 21.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46 years. For every 100 females there were 84.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.1 males.
The median income for a household in the CDP was $110,669, and the median income for a family was $130,123. Males had a median income of $81,719 versus $42,182 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $70,077. About 2.3% of families and 3.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.6% of those under age 18 and 2.2% of those age 65 or over.