Known by most locals as “SLO” or “SLO Town” for short, the great city of San Luis Obispo has so much to offer. The area was established back in 1772 by Spanish settlers and stands among California’s oldest European-founded cities. Over the past few centuries since then, San Luis Obispo has built and maintained over 180 historic Spanish-style buildings which give the city a unique and engaging atmosphere.
Centered between two major California cities, the northbound trip from San Luis Obispo to San Francisco covers about 230 miles, while a drive south from San Luis Obispo to Los Angeles is about 190 miles.
Anyone who is interested in moving to San Luis Obispo will greatly benefit from the details in this comprehensive guide. Learn everything you need to know about the local population, fun local activities, what it costs to live here, and more.
1. People of San Luis Obispo
As a university city, residents transition in and out of town pretty frequently in this area. The San Luis Obispo population has seen slow, steady growth over the years, which consistently evens out as local college students come and go. Currently, the city is home to about 47,000 people with a fairly young median age of 26 years old.
Another thing that changes rapidly is San Luis Obispo demographics but at present, the local population is about 72% white, 17% Hispanic or Latino, and around 5.5% Asian. The number of men in the area (51.37%) slightly outweighs the women (48.63%).
2. California Polytechnic State University
Calling San Luis Obispo a college town would be a heavy understatement. With an enrollment of around 22,370 total at California Polytechnic State University, college students make up nearly half of the city’s population.
For the past 27 years now, Cal Poly has been ranked first among the top public universities in the west by U.S. News. Their most popular degree programs include Engineering, Business Management, and Marketing, as well as science-related fields such as Agriculture, Biomedical, and even Social Science.
3. Things to Do & Restaurants in San Luis Obispo
With so many college kids around, you’re sure to find a variety of fun things to do in San Luis Obispo. At the top of the list, the Madonna Inn has over 110 completely unique rooms with flashy, eclectic decor, making it an amazing weekend staycation spot with a pool, live music, dancing, horseback rides, wine tasting, hot air balloon rides, and so much more.
As the namesake of San Luis Obispo himself, the Catholic Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa offers visitors a look at its beautiful gardens, historic museum, and group tours of the grounds. Then, there is also Bubblegum Alley, a local attraction that perfectly fits its name, boasting a 15-foot high and 70-foot long alleyway that is covered in used chewing gum. Anyone and everyone can add a piece of their own to the space.
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And whenever you get hungry, you’ll obviously want to know where you can find the best restaurants in San Luis Obispo. For starters, the Firestone Grill features a great menu full of BBQ plates, including their famous tri-tip sandwich smothered in sauce. From there, you could also try out the Big Sky Cafe if you’re in the mood for healthy food like noodle bowls, grilled fish, lamb, and a great selection of wines, all in a modernized setting.
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4. San Luis Obispo Cost of Living
The cost of living in San Luis Obispo can be quite affordable when it comes to things like groceries, local utilities, transportation, and even healthcare. But the major exception comes with housing costs for both owners and renters. While most other living expenses are below the California state average, housing needs to be a serious consideration before moving to San Luis Obispo.
Currently, the average price of a home in San Luis Obispo is almost three-quarters of a million dollars at $728,100. While you could find much smaller San Luis Obispo, CA homes for sale at a lower price, you’ll still want to look closely at HOA fees and other costs that could potentially be hundreds of dollars per month.
Largely due to the high number of college students living in San Luis Obispo, homeowners are currently the minority in this city with only about 38.3% of locals owning their property, leaving more than 60% who lease an apartment or house instead. The average price of rent in San Luis Obispo is between $2,096 per month for a one-bedroom apartment and $3,045 per month for a four-bedroom home.
According to Numbeo, some of the average prices for things like food and groceries in San Luis Obispo are:
- Meal at a fast-food restaurant: $7.50
- Meal at an inexpensive dine-in restaurant: $15.00
- Three-course meal for two at a mid-range restaurant: $57.50
- Gallon of milk: $3.60
- Loaf of bread: $3.00
- One dozen eggs: $3.20
- One pound of chicken breasts: $3.93
5. Nice, Upscale Neighborhoods in San Luis Obispo
In your search for the perfect place to live, you’ll come across a variety of great San Luis Obispo neighborhoods to choose from. Some of the options you’ll find include Mill Street Historic District, Railroad District, Downtown Historic District, Old Town Historic District, Japantown, and Little Italy.
As the San Luis Obispo County seat, the city covers two zip codes: 93401 and 93405. New phone numbers in town will have an 805 area code.
San Luis Obispo, CA also has some great places to shop including Madonna Plaza Shopping Center, Costco, Home Depot, and the local Apple Store.
6. Small Public School System in San Luis Obispo
SLO has a fairly small amount of children living in the area, with less than 9% of the local population aged between 5 and 17 years old. Serving not quite 4,000 students, San Luis Obispo schools are part of the San Luis Coastal Unified School District. A few of the main primary schools in town are Los Ranchos Elementary, Teach Elementary, Bellevue-Santa Fe Charter School, Laguna Middle School, San Luis Obispo High, and Grizzly Challenge Charter.
7. Job Opportunities in San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo isn’t only for students attending Cal Poly. With a median household income of $49,640, there are a handful of great San Luis Obispo jobs to be found. The two largest employers are California Polytechnic State University for professors and admin staff, along with the County of San Luis Obispo, both of which employ around 3,000 local workers each.
Other local job opportunities can be found at the Department of State Hospitals – Atascadero, Pacific Gas & Electric, California Men’s Colony, Tenet Healthcare, and Compass Health Inc. The average commute time in San Luis Obispo is less than 15 minutes.
And while it’s fairly uncommon, a handful of people living in San Luis Obispo commute to Santa Maria for work.
8. Weather in San Luis Obispo
Within 10-13 miles of great ocean spots like Avila Beach and Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo weather is the epitome of a cool and comfortable California climate.
Summers are breezy and nice with temperatures between the mid-50s and rarely topping 80°F even at the warmest part of the year. Winters cool down only slightly with temps ranging from the low 40s at night to the mid-60s during the day.
Tips for Moving to San Luis Obispo
- This is a full-fledged Cal Poly college town and there’s no hiding it.
- People of all ages will have plenty of fun things to do and places to eat in the city.
- While daily living expenses are reasonable, make sure the housing market is within your budget.
- Great place for jobs in education, healthcare, and with the San Luis Obispo County.
Living in San Luis Obispo truly has a little bit of something for everyone. Students at the local Cal Poly campus will thrive here, but it still has plenty of room and opportunities for young families and seniors who are looking to retire in a nice community.
And whether you are moving to San Luis Obispo as a student, a parent, or a retiree, the team at Smooth Move USA would love to help with your relocation. Our crew of San Luis Obispo movers is professional, caring, and courteous for each and every customer we serve.
Give us a call today at (661) 325-6683 with any questions or complete the Request a Quote form above to get a free San Luis Obispo moving estimate!