Setting: In San Luis Obispo County, Pismo Beach enjoys a location convenient to numerous other cities, waterfronts, and inland destinations. San Luis Obispo ("SLO") and California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) lie 11 miles northeast. It's a 90-minute drive south to Santa Barbara and roughly three and a half hours to San Francisco or Los Angeles.
Attractions: Ample beach access for waterfront activities defines this place. Winter and summer temperatures average 42 and 81 degrees, respectively. An active newcomers' club and advocacy organizations attest to community spirit. Produce from the inland Central Valley is endlessly fresh and bountiful.
Drawbacks: Real estate prices continue to rise. Shopping for high-end items is limited. Those seeking fine restaurants have some, but not many, choices. Most head to SLO for theater and the arts.
Housing Options: Residents may choose among a fairly wide range of styles and landscapes, from funky beach shack or high-ceiling Mediterranean to condo or ranch style. The Shell Beach neighborhood offers pristine oceanfront properties. In the hills overlooking Pismo Beach and the Pacific, some Arroyo Grande residents enjoy panoramic views. Reasonable home prices in Grover Beach and Oceano make up for their more aesthetically mundane real estate.
What It Costs: Availability of homes here is limited. "A nearly 3,600-square-foot clifftop house recently closed at $4 million," says broker Lenny Jones. "Median home price is $500,000. That will get you a 1,600-square-foot, 30-year-old house, no water view." Expect a median price of $650,000 for a water-view condo.
Your Next-door Neighbors: A Cal Poly professor; a biplane aviator; retired farmers from the Central Valley; Pismo Bob, who owns the hardware store; a schoolteacher who walks his trick-performing, potbellied pig; an actor from the Great American Melodrama & Vaudeville; a high-tech entrepreneur.
How You'd Spend Your Free Time: Sampling lobster-stuffed ravioli at Giuseppe's; surfing the breakers; fishing from the town pier; jogging the six-mile Bob Jones City-to-the-Sea Trail; picnicking at Spyglass Park; mountain biking in Los Padres National Forest; wine tasting over in the Edna Valley.
(published May 2005)