Santa Cruz, CA Economic Overview
The City of Santa Cruz is the largest city in Santa Cruz County and one of California’s most picturesque beach towns, located on the northern part of the Monterey Bay. The City covers 15.8 square miles and is situated approximately 74 miles south of San Francisco and 30 miles west of San Jose. Commonly referred to as “Surf City,” Santa Cruz is home to over 63,000 residents and known for its moderate climate, natural environment, coastline, redwood forests, and alternative community lifestyles. First founded in 1769 by Spanish explorers, the community engaged in agriculture, as well as producing and exporting lumber and gunpowder. Santa Cruz has since grown into a thriving business center and beach resort community, accommodating a variety of lifestyles and interests. The City is home to the University of California, Santa Cruz, a premier research institution and educational hub with an enrollment of nearly 17,900 students. Santa Cruz commercial real estate accommodates over 29,000 companies and continues to draw in startups and tech companies from Silicon Valley, due to its lower price tag and great value.
Principal industries in Santa Cruz include agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, education, and high-technology. The City is also central to the organic culture movement and specialty craft products, as well as home to the headquarters of the California Certified Organic Farmers. Winemaking is another important part of the economic and cultural life of Santa Cruz County. Santa Cruz is home to a young and vibrant workforce, with a median age of 28.7 years and median household income of $62,164.
Santa Cruz, CA Commercial Real Estate Market
Santa Cruz is a popular destination, not only for tourists, but also growing startups and seasoned companies. Defined by its dynamic oceanside development, charming office spaces, seaside resorts, boutique shopping and restaurants, and various entertainment districts, Santa Cruz has continued to draw slow but steady office occupancy throughout the city, most notably attracting the attention of start-ups looking for alternative office space as rents rise along the Peninsula. The vacancy rate in the County has remained below 10.0% for the eighth straight quarter at the end of 2016, with the lowest vacancy rate below 5% in the City of Santa Cruz. Popular “hot spots” for those looking to enjoy all that Surf City has to offer include Santa Cruz Downtown, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Santa Cruz Wharf, and the campus of the University of California.
The Santa Cruz office market encompasses over 3.3 million square feet of space, accounting for 43% of the market in all of Santa Cruz County.
Downtown Santa Cruz houses a variety of storefronts and businesses, as well as stage to many street performers, musicians, and artistic. Pacific Avenue, once the main streets of downtown Santa Cruz, serves as both a central office hub in downtown and an outlet for the artistic and unique culture that Santa Cruz possesses. The Downtown Santa Cruz office market contains most of the City’s office space, with healthcare as the dominant industry in the area.
Santa Cruz, CA Commercial Inventory Breakdown
Total: 519,005 SF
By square footage range:
- 50k to 100k SF: 417,338 SF / 80.41% of total office
- 100k to 500k SF: 101,667 SF / 19.59% of total office
- Class A: 116,937 SF / 22.53% of total office
- Class B: 402,068 SF / 77.47% of total office
Employment in Santa Cruz, CA
As the City draws talent from Silicon Valley and surrounding areas, Santa Cruz’s labor force has continued to expand. The County is now home to a labor force of over 146,200, at a county- wide unemployment rate of 6.9%. The city itself boasts a slightly lower unemployment rate of 6.1%, and employment growth of 1.41% per year. The industries with the highest employment in the City include Educational Services, Healthcare & Social Assistance, and Accommodation & Food Service. The occupations projected to experience the fastest job growth in the County include Education and Training, Management, and Personal Care and Service.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the industries in the Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA area with the highest employment numbers include:
- Government—currently employs 20,800, growing at 4.0% per year
- Trade, Transportation, and Utilities—currently employs 17,700, growing at 0.6% per year
- Education and Health Services—currently employs 17,300, growing at 0.6% per year
The City of Santa Cruz serves as an economic focal point for the County, hosting a major employer, University of California, Santa Cruz, with over 7,600 employees. Other major employers include the County, the City, Plantronics, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and Costco.
Education in Santa Cruz, CA
The City is home to several notable educational institutions at all levels. At the lower levels, these include Soquel High School, Aptos High School, Harbor High School, Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory School (a grade 6–12 private school), Pacific Collegiate School (a grade 7–12 charter school), Cypress Charter High School, Santa Cruz Montessori (an 18 month to 15 years private school) Monterey Coast Preparatory (also a 6–12 private school), and Santa Cruz High School. These and the remaining public schools are administered by Santa Cruz City Schools and include four elementary schools, two middle schools, three high schools, and six other smaller or charter schools.
The University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC), is a public research university and on of 10 campuses in the University of California system. UCSC is located at the edge of the coastal community of Santa Cruz, spreading over 2,000 acres of rolling, forested hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean and Monterey Bay. Since its founding in 1965, the university has evolved into a modern research university with a wide variety of both undergraduate and graduate programs, while retaining its reputation for strong undergraduate support and student political activism. Other nearby colleges include Cabrillo College, with an enrollment over nearly 13,000, just six miles from Santa Cruz center.
Commuting Time in Santa Cruz, CA
A major hot spot for tourists and residents alike, but geographically constrained between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Monterey Bay, the narrow transportation corridor served by State Route 1, California's Pacific Coast Highway, suffers excessive congestion. The City has expressed interest in supporting a variety of transportation options within the City, actively supporting bike lanes and use of zero/low emission vehicles. The transportation options to and within the city include:
- State Routes 1 and 17 are the main roads in and out of Santa Cruz, with the latter being the primary route north to San Jose and the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area.
- The Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District provides bus service throughout Santa Cruz County.
- Amtrak serves Santa Cruz via Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach from rail connections at Amtrak San Jose Diridon Train Station operated by the Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit District by way of a partnership with the Amtrak, Capitol Corridor, and Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. Greyhound Lines bus service is another, albeit less commonly used, option for visiting Santa Cruz.
- The nearest airports served by major commercial airlines are San Jose International Airport, Monterey Regional Airport, San Francisco International Airport, and Oakland International Airport. The nearest public airport of any kind is Watsonville Municipal Airport, about eight miles to the southeast, which serves general aviation users.
- Santa Cruz has an extensive network of bike lanes and bike paths. Most major roads have bike lanes, and wide bike lanes were recently installed on Beach Street, near the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
- The City has installed 13 spaces with electric vehicle charging stations for public use at no charge. Three of these stations are at the Soquel/Front garage; three at River/Front garage, Lot 10; two at Pearl Alley, Lot 8; two at South Pacific, Lot 12, and one each at Beach Hill, Lot 18, Wharf/Marini’s and the 1111 Soquel east side lot.
Employees in Santa Cruz have an average commute time of 20.7 minutes, which is shorter than the national average of 24.8 minutes. The largest share of workers drives alone, followed by those who bicycle and walk.
Santa Cruz Demographics
- Total Population63,993
- Male Population(48.9 %) 31,298
- Female Population(51.1 %) 32,695
- Median Age29.30
- Average Household Income$93,256
- Median Household Income$65,421
- Median Income Under 25$14,393
- Median Income 25-44$75,753
- Median Income 45-64$91,812
- Median Income Over 65$53,462
Residential Rents in Santa Cruz, CA
The average rent for an apartment in Santa Cruz is $2,335 a month, a 6% increase from the previous year’s average of $2,204 per month.
Studio apartments rent for $1,202 per month on average, while one-bedroom units average $2,131 per month, two-bedrooms rent for $2,858 a month, and three-bedrooms average at $2,619 per month.
Santa Cruz, CA Average Rental Price, September 2019
- $ 2,339/mo
- Studio: $ 1,242
- 1 Bedroom: $ 2,175
- 2 Bedrooms: $ 2,726
Santa Cruz, CA Rent Trends
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