SBCC alum and real estate agent Miguel Avila brings a focused high energy to everything he does, and with 40-plus years of active involvement in the Santa Barbara community, he’s done a lot. Born and raised in Los Altos de Jalisco, Mexico, Miguel came to Santa Barbara at age 16. While supporting his mother and five sisters, he learned English and studied at the School of Culinary Arts and Hotel Management at Santa Barbara City College.
“Attending SBCC was a wonderful experience,” Miguel said. “I always recommend it highly to all of the young people I meet who are getting started. Students at SBCC receive not only academic knowledge, but hands-on training. In the culinary arts program, that includes experience working in the cafeteria and the beautiful dining room on campus, which is truly a restaurant.” After SBCC, Miguel worked for nearly twenty years in the restaurant business, starting at El Paseo restaurant in 1973.
“El Paseo in the ‘70s and ‘80s was the largest restaurant in our area that was not a banquet room. It was very busy, and we could seat up to 500 people!” When earthquake retrofits became necessary and the restaurant closed for a while, Miguel brought his management expertise to the local hotspot Rocky Galenti’s, a restaurant and bar that was located where the Hotel Californian is now. In the midst of his busy days in the restaurant business, Miguel bought his first home in Santa Barbara, at the age of 24.
After moving on from restaurants, and founding and running an import/export business focused on farming technology, Miguel began his career in real estate in 2005. He closed hundreds of deals over the next decade, winning awards as a top producer. In 2015, he started at Pacific Crest Realty, where he continues to serve his clients. Diana Bull, his previous broker, notes that “Miguel receives numerous real estate referrals and testimonial letters from his many grateful clients. Miguel is high-energy and always gives 110%!”
Miguel is just as driven when it comes to giving back to the community that he loves. “I’m very grateful to live here and feel it’s important to do what I can to help others and make the community stronger,” Miguel said. To this end, he co-founded the Santa Barbara Hispanic Chamber of Commerce in 1994 with a vision of helping the Hispanic business community succeed with community support. In January 2020, the organization was elevated to become the Greater Santa Barbara Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, serving all of Santa Barbara County. Miguel continues to serve as co-president. He’s very active participating in the Santa Barbara COVID-19 Business Recovery Task Force and the County’s Business Recovery Task Force.
Miguel was also instrumental in founding the annual Santa Barbara Mariachi Festival where he served as its president is currently on the board of directors. He has supported at least ten additional nonprofit organizations in the community, and was named a “Local Hero” by the Santa Barbara Independent in 1996.
Miguel was a founding member of the Board for Leadership of Santa Barbara County and later named as a Santa Barbara County Distinguished Leader of the County of Santa Barbara. He also served as the director of Old Spanish Days for fifteen years, and on the board of directors for the Westside Boys and Girls Club. For over 35 years, he was a member of Santa Barbara Puerto Vallarta Sisters’ board of directors, and currently he serves as president of Friends of Woni Kenya International, Inc.
In March 2014, Miguel received a letter from President Obama’s White House Office inviting him and other Hispanic leaders throughout the country to attend a preview of the film “Cesar Chavez,” along with the film’s producer, director, and cast. Miguel recalls, “It was a great experience to be there with members of the Chavez family, including his son Paul Chavez, who is carrying on Cesar Chavez’s legacy. We had the opportunity to meet them face-to-face, take photos, and talk. It was definitely an unforgettable experience.”