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Home | California | Above Average Costs | July 15, 2017

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Finding the Best Places to Retire Since 2006!

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Reader Requested Short Review of Ventura, California

Located between Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, the seductive seaside city of Ventura (officially San Buenaventura) is known for its clean beaches, nearly perfect climate and wide array of things to do. It also happens to have some of the state's best surfing waters. Throw in a little Beach Boys music and a bonfire it is the early-1960s all over again.

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Originally started as a Catholic mission in 1782, Ventura (population 110,000) was hemmed in by two rivers, thick forests, deep canyons and the sea, and it remained fairly isolated for years. More outsiders began to arrive after the Maricopa Highway was built in the 1930s, but growth really kicked in after 1959 when U.S. Highway 101 (the Ventura Freeway) connected Ventura to Los Angeles.

The city is still growing, up by 18% in the last decade or two, attracting a diverse group of people. The cost of living is 58% above the national average, and the median home price is $525,000. Residents lean to the left politically, and 42% of them are age 45 or better. Thirty-three percent have at least a college degree. The crime rate meets the national average.

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Ventura has a rich cultural scene and is home to hundreds of musicians and artists. Musical venues are varied, from concert halls to cafes and churches. Theater and dance events are mounted by the Rubicon Theater Company, among many others. Art exhibits and galleries are found all across the city. There are spas, wineries, beach festivals, gardens, museums and outstanding restaurants. Five colleges have a campus here.

Historic sites include the 1847 Olivas Adobes, one of the original California rancheros, and the 1782 Mission San Buenaventura, still an active parish. The Ventura County Library has three Ventura branches with public computers and Internet access. Residents enjoy horseracing, car racing and plenty of golf as well. Boats bob in the marina, and the sprawling Los Padres National Forest, north of the city, is ripe with outdoor adventure possibilities. Los Angeles is an hour to the south.

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The funky downtown is full of energy, cafes, pubs, galleries and shops. Modern utilitarian architectural styles blend with classic styles, including Victorian, Italian Renaissance Revival, Mayan Revival, Mission Revival and adobe. Many buildings are painted in colorful pastel colors. Across the bridge from downtown is the Pier and Promenade, a lively spot for beach strolling and people watching. The Boardwalk stretches to Surfer's Point, where young and old catch waves, rollerblade or just sit and soak up the California sun. Seaward Avenue is a beachy street with palm trees, retailers and eateries.

All around the city the soil is rich and fertile, launching a tapestry of color and vegetation, while eucalyptus trees blanket the surrounding hills. And life carries on in that mellow California way.

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The County of Ventura Area Agency on Aging sponsors services that include support groups and legal assistance and is a good resource for volunteer opportunities.

VISTA provides public transportation in town, including to the city's senior nutrition site and its several senior centers, as well as to surrounding cities, including Los Angeles. People age 65 or better ride for $.60. There is also a dial-a-ride service.

Two primary hospitals, Community Memorial and Ventura County Medical Center, are both are accredited by the Joint Commission and accept Medicare patients. For military retirees, Oxnard, seven miles away, has a VA outpatient clinic, but the nearest VA hospital is in Los Angeles, 45 miles away.

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They say it never rains in Southern California, but it actually does, up to 14 inches annually, primarily during the winter months when temperatures range from the low-40s to the mid-60s. In the summer, the temperatures top out in the mid-80s. The city comes in well above the national average on the comfort index, a combination of temperature and humidity. The sun shines 275 days of the year. Spring and summer are often foggy.

There are some drawbacks to a Ventura retirement. The roadways are congested, and not all long time locals see the gentrification of their once ramshackle beach town as a good thing. The chance of an earthquake is 1,800% higher than the national average. Some people say that the city is noisy. And, of course, California has high taxes.

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Recommended as a Retirement Spot? Yes  |   Is California Tax-Friendly for Retirement? No

High prices, high taxes and congestion are drawbacks, but Ventura still boasts some of that old California magic. Its diverse and vibrant cultural scene, classic beaches, good health facilities, top notch restaurants, fun downtown, coastal mystique and outstanding climate make it a spot to consider for retirement.

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