Santa Barbara City College was established by the Santa Barbara High School District in 1909, making it one of the oldest community colleges in California. The college was discontinued shortly after World War I, and its work largely taken over by the Santa Barbara State Normal School, which became the Santa Barbara State College, and later, the University of California, Santa Barbara.
SBCC was reorganized by the high school district in the fall of 1946. Called Santa Barbara Junior College from its inception, the Santa Barbara Board of Education formally changed the name to Santa Barbara City College in July 1959.
Also in the summer of 1959, the institution moved to its present and permanent location on the Santa Barbara Mesa, former site of the University of California at Santa Barbara. Situated on a 74-acre bluff, the campus overlooks the harbor and Pacific Ocean. Passage of a 1969 construction bond issue and a 1973 land acquisition bond issue ensured that the college would have a single, consolidated Mesa campus.