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California ( ) is the most populous state in the United Statesmarker, and the third largest by area. California is the second most populous sub-national entity in the Americas, behind only São Paulo, Brazilmarker. It is located on the West Coast of the United Statesmarker, and is bordered by Oregonmarker to the north, Nevadamarker to the northeast, Arizonamarker to the southeast, the Mexicanmarker state of Baja Californiamarker to the south, and the Pacific Oceanmarker to the west. Its four largest cities are Los Angelesmarker, San Diegomarker, San Josemarker, and San Franciscomarker. The state is home to the nation's second and sixthmarker largest metropolitan areas as well as eight of the nation's fifty largest cities. California has varied climate and geography and a diverse population.

California is the third-largest U.S. state by land area, after Alaskamarker and Texasmarker. Its geography ranges from the Pacific coast to the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the east, to Mojave desert areas in the southeast and the RedwoodDouglas fir forests of the northwest. The center of the state is dominated by the Central Valleymarker, one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world. California is the most geographically diverse state in the nation, and contains the highest (Mount Whitney) and lowest (Death Valley) points in the contiguous United States.

Beginning in the late 18th century, the area known as Alta Californiamarker was colonized by the Spanish Empire. In 1821, Mexicomarker, including Alta California, became an independent monarchy, then a republic. In 1846 a group of American settlers in Sonomamarker declared the independence of a California Republic. As a result of the Mexican-American War, Mexico ceded California to the United States. It became the 31st state admitted to the union on September 9, 1850.

In the 19th century, the California Gold Rush brought about dramatic social, economic, and demographic change in California, with a large influx of people and an economic boom that caused San Francisco to grow from a hamlet of tents to a world-renowned boomtown. Key developments in the early 20th century included the emergence of Los Angeles as center of the American entertainment industry, and the growth of a large, state-wide tourism sector. In addition to California's prosperous agricultural industry, other important contributors to the economy include aerospace, petroleum, and information technology. If California were a country, it would rank among the ten largest economies in the world, with a GDP similar to that of Italymarker. It would be the 35th most populous country.


The word California originally referred to the entire region composed of what is today the state of California, plus all or parts of Nevadamarker, Utahmarker, Arizonamarker, and Wyomingmarker, and the Mexican peninsula of Baja California.

The name California is most commonly believed to have derived from a fictional paradise peopled by Black Amazons and ruled by a Queen Califia. The myth of Califia is recorded in a 1510 work The Exploits of Esplandian, written as a sequel to Amadís de Gaula by Spanish adventure writer Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo. The kingdom of Queen Califia or Calafia, according to Montalvo, was said to be a remote land inhabited by griffins and other strange beasts and rich in gold.

Know ye that at the right hand of the Indies there is an island named California, very close to that part of the terrestrial Paradise, which was inhabited by black women, without a single man among them, and that they lived in the manner of Amazons.
They were robust of body, with strong and passionate hearts and great virtues.
The island itself is one of the wildest in the world on account of the bold and craggy rocks.
Their weapons were all made of gold.
The island everywhere abounds with gold and precious stones, and upon it no other metal was found.

The name California is the fifth-oldest surviving European place-name in the U.S. and was applied to what is now the southern tip of Baja Californiamarker as the island of California by a Spanish expedition led by Diego de Becerra and Fortun Ximenez, who landed there in 1533 at the behest of Hernando Cortes.

Geography and environment

California adjoins the Pacific Oceanmarker, Oregonmarker, Nevadamarker, Arizonamarker, and the Mexicanmarker state of Baja Californiamarker. With an area of , it is the third-largest state in the United States in size, after Alaskamarker and Texasmarker. If it were a country, California would be the 59th-largest in the world in area.

In the middle of the state lies the California Central Valleymarker, bounded by the coastal mountain ranges in the west, the Sierra Nevada to the east, the Cascade Range in the north and the Tehachapi Mountains in the south. The Central Valley is California's agricultural heartland and grows approximately one-third of the nation's food. Divided in two by the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Deltamarker, the northern portion, the Sacramento Valley serves as the watershed of the Sacramento River, while the southern portion, the San Joaquin Valleymarker is the watershed for the San Joaquin River; both areas derive their names from the rivers that transit them. With dredging, the Sacramento and the San Joaquin Rivers have remained sufficiently deep that several inland cities are seaports. The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta serves as a critical water supply hub for the state. Water is routed through an extensive network of canals and pumps out of the delta, that traverse nearly the length of the state, including the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project. Water from the Delta provides drinking water for nearly 23 million people, almost two-thirds of the state's population, and provides water to farmers on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. The Channel Islandsmarker are located off the southern coast.
The Sierra Nevada (Spanish for "snowy range") includes the highest peak in the contiguous forty-eight states, Mount Whitneymarker, at 14,505 ft (4,421 m). The range embraces Yosemite Valleymarker, famous for its glacially carved domes, and Sequoia National Parkmarker, home to the giant sequoia trees, the largest living organisms on Earth, and the deep freshwater lake, Lake Tahoemarker, the largest lake in the state by volume.

To the east of the Sierra Nevada are Owens Valleymarker and Mono Lakemarker, an essential migratory bird habitat. In the western part of the state is Clear Lake, the largest freshwater lake by area entirely in California. Though Lake Tahoe is larger, it is divided by the California/Nevada border. The Sierra Nevada falls to Arctic temperatures in winter and has several dozen small glaciers, including Palisade Glaciermarker, the southernmost glacier in the United States.

About 45 percent of the state's total surface area is covered by forests, and California's diversity of pine species is unmatched by any other state. California contains more forestland than any other state except Alaska. Many of the trees in the California White Mountainsmarker are the oldest in the world; one Bristlecone pine has an age of 4,700 years.

In the south is a large inland salt lake, the Salton Seamarker. Deserts in California make up about 25 percent of the total surface area. The south-central desert is called the Mojave; to the northeast of the Mojave lies Death Valleymarker, which contains the lowest, hottest point in North America, Badwater Flat. The distance from the lowest point of Death Valley to the peak of Mount Whitney is less than 200 miles (322 km). Indeed, almost all of southeastern California is arid, hot desert, with routine extreme high temperatures during the summer.

Along the California coast are several major metropolitan areas, including Greater Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Areamarker, and San Diegomarker.

California is famous for earthquake due to a number of faults, in particular the San Andreas Faultmarker. It is vulnerable to tsunamis, floods, droughts, Santa Ana winds, wildfire, landslides on steep terrain, and has several volcanoes.


California climate varies from Mediterranean to subarctic. Much of the state has a Mediterranean climate, with cool, rainy winters and dry summers. The cool California Current offshore often creates summer fog near the coast. Further inland, one encounters colder winters and hotter summers.

Northern parts of the state average higher annual rainfall than the south. California's mountain ranges influence the climate as well: some of the rainiest parts of the state are west-facing mountain slopes. Northwestern California has a temperate climate, and the Central Valley has a Mediterranean climate but with greater temperature extremes than the coast. The high mountains, including the Sierra Nevada, have a mountain climate with snow in winter and mild to moderate heat in summer.

The east side of California's mountains produce a rain shadow, creating expansive deserts. The higher elevation deserts of eastern California see hot summers and cold winters, while the low deserts east of the southern California mountains experience hot summers and nearly frostless mild winters. Death Valleymarker, a desert with large expanses below sea level, is considered the hottest location in North America; the highest temperature in the Western Hemispheremarker, , was recorded there on July 10, 1913.


California is one of the richest and most diverse parts of the world, and includes some of the most endangered ecological communities. California is part of the Nearctic ecozone and spans a number of terrestrial ecoregions.

California's large number of endemic species includes relict species, which have died out elsewhere, such as the Catalina Ironwood (Lyonothamnus floribundus). Many other endemics originated through differentiation or adaptive radiation, whereby multiple species develop from a common ancestor to take advantage of diverse ecological conditions such as the California lilac (Ceanothus). Many California endemics have become endangered, as urbanization, logging, overgrazing, and the introduction of exotic species have encroached on their habitat.

California boasts several superlatives in its collection of flora: the largest trees, the tallest trees, and the oldest trees. California's native grasses are perennial plants. After European contact, these were generally replaced by invasive species of European annual grasses; and, in modern times, California's hills turn a characteristic golden-brown in summer.


The two most prominent rivers within California are the Sacramento River and the San Joaquin River, which drain the Central Valley and flow to the Pacific Oceanmarker through San Francisco Baymarker. Two other important rivers are the Klamath River, in the north, and the Colorado Rivermarker, on the southeast border.


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Settled by successive waves of arrivals during the last 10,000 years, California was one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse areas in pre-Columbian North America; the area was inhabited by more than 70 distinct groups of Native American. Large, settled populations lived on the coast and hunted sea mammals, fished for salmon, and gathered shellfish, while groups in the interior hunted terrestrial game and gathered nuts, acorns, and berries. California groups also were diverse in their political organization with bands, tribes, villages, and on the resource-rich coasts, large chiefdoms, such as the Chumash, Pomo and Salinan. Trade, intermarriage, and military alliances fostered many social and economic relationships among the diverse groups.

The first European to explore the coast as far north as the Russian River was the Portuguese João Rodrigues Cabrilho, in 1542, sailing for the Spanish Empire. Some 37 years later, the Englishmarker explorer Francis Drake also explored and claimed an undefined portion of the California coast in 1579. Spanish traders made unintended visits with the Manila Galleons on their return trips from the Philippinesmarker beginning in 1565. Sebastián Vizcaíno explored and mapped the coast of California in 1602 for New Spain.

Spanish missionaries began setting up twenty-one California Missions along the coast of what became known as Alta Californiamarker (Upper California), together with small towns and presidios. The first missionmarker in Alta California was established at San Diegomarker in 1769. In 1821, the Mexican War of Independence gave Mexicomarker (including California) independence from Spain; for the next twenty-five years, Alta Californiamarker remained a remote northern province of the nation of Mexico. Cattle ranches, or ranchos, emerged as the dominant institutions of Mexican California. After Mexican independence from Spain, the chain of missions became the property of the Mexican government and were secularized by 1832. The ranchos developed under ownership by Californios (Spanish-speaking Californians) who had received land grants and traded cowhides and tallow with Bostonmarker merchants.

Beginning in the 1820s, trappers and settlers from the United States and Canada began to arrive in Northern California, harbingers of the great changes that would later sweep the Mexican territory. These new arrivals used the Siskiyou Trail, California Trail, Oregon Trail, and Old Spanish Trail to cross the rugged mountains and harsh deserts surrounding California. In this period, Imperial Russiamarker explored the California coast and established a trading post at Fort Rossmarker.

In 1846, settlers rebelled against Mexican rule during the Bear Flag Revoltmarker. Afterwards, rebels raised the Bear Flag (featuring a bear, a star, a red stripe, and the words "California Republic") at Sonoma.

The Republic's first and only president was William B. Ide, who played a pivotal role during the Bear Flag Revoltmarker. His term lasted twenty-five days and concluded when California was occupied by U.S. forces during the Mexican-American War.

The California Republic was short lived. The same year marked the outbreak of the Mexican-American War (1846–1848). When Commodore John D. Sloat of the United States Navy sailed into Monterey Baymarker and began the military occupation of California by the United Statesmarker. Northern California capitulated in less than a month to the U.S. forces. After a series of defensive battles in Southern California, including The Siege of Los Angeles, the Battle of Dominguez Rancho, the Battle of San Pasqual, the Battle of Rio San Gabriel, and the Battle of La Mesa, the Treaty of Cahuenga was signed by the Californios on January 13, 1847, securing American control in California. Following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that ended the war, the region was divided between Mexico and the United States; the western territory of Alta Californiamarker, was to become the U.S. state of California, and Arizonamarker, Nevadamarker, Coloradomarker and Utahmarker became U.S. Territories, while the lower region of California, Baja Californiamarker, remained in the possession of Mexicomarker.

In 1848, the non-native population of California has been estimated to be no more than 15,000. But after gold was discovered, the population burgeoned with U.S. citizens, Europeans, and other immigrants during the great California Gold Rush. On September 9, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850, California was admitted to the United Statesmarker as a free state (one in which slavery was prohibited).

The seat of government for California under Mexican rule was located at Montereymarker from 1777 until 1835, when Mexican authorities abandoned California, leaving their missions and military forts behind. In 1849, the Constitutional Convention was first held there. Among the duties was the task of determining the location for the new State capital. The first legislative sessions were held in San Josemarker (1850–1851). Subsequent locations included Vallejomarker (1852–1853), and nearby Beniciamarker (1853–1854), although these locations eventually proved to be inadequate as well. The capital has been located in Sacramentomarker since 1854 with only a short break in 1861 when legislative sessions were held in San Franciscomarker due to flooding in Sacramento.

Travel between California and the central and eastern parts of the United States was time-consuming and dangerous. A more direct connection came in 1869 with the completion of the First Transcontinental Railroad through Donner Passmarker in the Sierra Nevada mountains. After this rail link was established, hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens came west, where new Californians were discovering that land in the state, if irrigated during the dry summer months, was extremely well-suited to fruit cultivation and agriculture in general. Vast expanses of wheat and other cereal crops, vegetable crops, cotton, and nut and fruit trees were grown (including oranges in Southern California), and the foundation was laid for the state's prodigious agricultural production in the Central Valley and elsewhere.

During the early 20th century, migration to California accelerated with the completion of major transcontinental highways like the Lincoln Highway and Route 66. In the period from 1900 to 1965, the population grew from fewer than one million to become the most populous state in the Union. The state is regarded as a world center of technology and engineering businesses, of the entertainment and music industries, and as the U.S. center of agricultural production.



California Population Density Map

California's population is estimated by the US Census Bureau at 36,756,666 for the year 2008, making it the most populous state. This includes a natural increase of 2,549,081 since the last census (4,498,700 births minus 1,949,619 deaths). During this time period, international migration produced a net increase of 1,825,697 people while domestic migration produced a net decrease of 1,378,706, resulting in a net in-migration of 446,991 people. The state of California's own statistics show a population of 38,292,687 for January 1, 2009.

California is the second-most-populous sub-national entity of the Western Hemispheremarker, exceeded only by São Paulomarker, Brazilmarker. California's population is greater than that of all but 34 countries of the world. Also, Los Angeles County has held the title of most populous U.S. county for decades, and it alone is more populous than 42 U.S. states. The center of population of California is at the town of Buttonwillowmarker in Kern Countymarker.


California has eight of the top 50 U.S. cities in terms of population. Los Angelesmarker is the nation's second-largest city with a population of 3,849,378 people, followed by San Diegomarker (8th), San Josemarker (10th), San Francisco, Californiamarker (12th), Fresnomarker (35th), Sacramentomarker (36th), Long Beachmarker (37th), and Oaklandmarker (44th). Additionally, the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, San Franciscomarker, San Diegomarker, and Sacramento are the 2nd, 6th, 17th, and 23rd largest in the United States, respectively.

Racial and ancestral makeup

According to the 2005–2007 American Community Survey, California's population is:

With regard to demographics, California has the largest population of White Americans in the U.S., an estimated 21,892,718 residents, although most demographic surveys do not measure actual genetic ancestry. The state has the fifth-largest population of African Americans in the U.S., an estimated 2,273,292 residents. California's Asian American population is estimated at 4.6 million, approximately one-third of the nation's 15.2 million Asian Americans. California's Native American population of 375,093 is the most of any state.

According to estimates from 2005, California has the largest minority population in the United States, making up 57 percent of the state population. Non-Hispanic whites decreased from 80% of the state's population in 1970 to 43% in 2006. While the population of minorities accounts for 100.7 million of 300 million U.S. residents, 21% of the national total live in California.

Armed forces

  • 2,569,340 veterans of US military service – 504,010 served in World War II; 301,034 in the Korean conflict; 754,682 during the Vietnam era; and 278,003 during 1990–2000 (including the Persian Gulf War).

California's military forces consist of the Army and Air National Guard, the naval and state military reserve (militia), and the California Cadet Corps.


As of 2005, 57.59% of California residents age five and older spoke English as a first language at home, while 28.21% spoke Spanish. In addition to English and Spanish, 2.04% spoke Filipino, 1.59% spoke Chinese (which included Cantonese [0.63%] and Mandarin [0.43%]), 1.4% spoke Vietnamese, and 1.05% spoke Korean as their mother tongue. In total, 42.4% of the population spoke languages other than English. Over 200 languages are known to be spoken and read in California.Including indigenous languages, California is viewed as one of the most linguistically diverse areas in the world (the indigenous languages were derived from 64 root languages in 6 language families). About half of the indigenous languages are no longer spoken, and all of California's living indigenous languages are endangered and there are some efforts toward language revitalization.

The official language of California has been English since the passage of Proposition 63 in 1986. However, many state, city, and local government agencies still continue to print official public documents in numerous languages.


The culture of California is a Western culture and most clearly has its modern roots in the culture of the United States, but also, historically, many Hispanic influences. As a border and coastal state, Californian culture has been greatly influenced by several large immigrant populations, especially those from Latin America and East Asia. California is a true melting pot as well as an international crossroad to the U.Smarker.

California has long been a subject of interest in the public mind and has often been promoted by its boosters as a kind of paradise. In the early 20th Century, fueled by the efforts of state and local boosters, many Americans saw the Golden State as an ideal resort destination, sunny and dry all year round with easy access to the ocean and mountains. In the 1960s, popular music groups such as the Beach Boys promoted the image of Californians as laid-back, tanned beach-goers.

In terms of socio-cultural mores and national politics, Californians are perceived as more liberal than other Americans, especially those who live in the inland states. In some ways, California is the quintessential Blue State-- accepting of alternative lifestyles, not uniformly religious, and preoccupied with environmental issues. California is also home to many prestigious universities including UC Berkeleymarker, UCLAmarker and Stanfordmarker.

The gold rush of the 1850s is still seen as a symbol of California's economic style, which tends to generate technology, social, entertainment, and economic fads and booms and related busts.


The largest Christian denominations by number of adherents in 2000 were the Roman Catholic Church with 10,079,310; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 529,575; and the Southern Baptist Convention with 471,119. Jewish congregations had 994,000 adherents.

The state has the most Roman Catholics of any state and a large Protestant population, a large American Jewish community, and an American Muslim population.

With a Jewish population estimated at more than 550,000, Los Angeles has the second-largest Jewish community in North America.

There are about 1 million Muslims, which has the largest population than any other state, mainly of African American descent and immigrant populations. According to figures, approximately 100,000 Muslims reside in San Diegomarker.

As the twentieth century came to a close, forty percent of all Buddhists in America resided in Southern California. The Los Angeles Metropolitan Area has become unique in the Buddhist world as the only place where representative organizations of every major school of Buddhism can be found in a single urban center. The City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Northern California and Hsi Lai Templemarker in Southern California are two of the largest Buddhist temples in the Western Hemisphere.

California also has a growing Hindu population.

California has more members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Temples than any state except Utahmarker. Latter-day Saints (Mormons) have played important roles in the settlement of California throughout the state's history. For example, a group of a few hundred Mormon converts from the Northeastern United Statesmarker and Europe arrived at what would become San Franciscomarker in the 1840s aboard the ship Brooklyn, more than doubling the population of the small town. Before being called back to Utahmarker by Brigham Young these settlers helped build up the city of Yerba Buenamarker. A group of Mormons also established the city of San Bernardinomarker in Southern California in 1851. According to the LDS Church 2007 statistics, just over 750,000 Mormons reside in the state of California, attending almost 1400 congregations statewide.

However, a Pew Research Center survey revealed that California is somewhat less religious than the rest of the US: 62 percent of Californians say they are "absolutely certain" of the belief in God, while in the nation 71 percent say so. The survey also revealed 48 percent of Californians say religion is "very important," while the figure for the United States is 56 percent.


As of 2007, the gross state product (GSP) is about $1.812 trillion, the largest in the United Statesmarker. California is responsible for 13 percent of the United States gross domestic product (GDP).As of 2006, California's GDP is larger than all but eight countries in the world (all but eleven countries by Purchasing Power Parity). However, California is facing a $26.3 billion budget deficit for the 2009–2010 budget year. While the legislative bodies had appeared to address the problem in 2008 with the three-month delayed passage of a budget they in fact only postponed the deficit to 2009 and due to the late 2008 decline in the economy and the credit crisis the problem became urgent in November 2008. One problem is that a substantial portion of the state income comes from income taxes on a small proportion of wealthy citizens. For example, in 2004, the richest 3% of state taxpayers paid approximately 60% of all state taxes. The taxable income of this population is highly dependent upon capital gains, which has been severely impacted by the stock market declines of this period. The governor has proposed a combination of extensive program cuts and tax increases to address this problem, but owing to longstanding problems in the legislature these proposals are likely to be difficult to pass as legislation.

State spending increased from $56 billion in 1998 to $131 billion in 2008, and the state was facing a budget deficit of $40 billion in 2008.

California is also the home of several significant economic regions, such as Hollywoodmarker (entertainment), Southern California (aerospace), the Central Valleymarker (agriculture), Silicon Valleymarker (computers and high tech), and wine producing regions, such as the Napa Valley, Sonoma Valleymarker and Southern California's Santa Barbaramarker, Temecula Valley and Paso Robles areas.

In terms of jobs, the five largest sectors in California are trade, transportation, and utilities; government; professional and business services; education and health services; and leisure and hospitality. In terms of output, the five largest sectors are financial services, followed by trade, transportation, and utilities; education and health services; government; and manufacturing. California currently has the 4th highest unemployment rate in the nation at 9.3% in December 2008, up significantly from 5.9% a year earlier.

California's economy is very dependent on trade and international related commerce accounts for approximately one-quarter of the state’s economy. In 2007, California exported $134 billion worth of goods, up from $127 billion in 2006 and $117 billion in 2005, surpassing the 2000 peak of $125 billion for two consecutive years.Computers and electronic products are California's top export, accounting for 36 percent of all the state's exports in 2007.

Agriculture remains a very important sector in California's economy. Farming-related sales have more than quadrupled over the past three decades, from $7.3 billion in 1974 to nearly $31 billion in 2004. This increase has occurred despite a 15 percent decline in acreage devoted to farming during the period, and water supply suffering from chronic instability. Factors contributing to the growth in sales-per-acre include more intensive use of active farmlands and technological improvements in crop production.

Per capita GDP in 2007 was $41,805, ranking 7th in the nation. Per capita income varies widely by geographic region and profession. The Central Valley is the most impoverished, with migrant farm workers making less than minimum wage. Recently, the San Joaquin Valleymarker was characterized as one of the most economically depressed regions in the U.S., on par with the region of Appalachia. Many coastal cities include some of the wealthiest per-capita areas in the U.S. The high-technology sectors in Northern California, specifically Silicon Valleymarker, in Santa Claramarker and San Mateo countiesmarker, have emerged from the economic downturn caused by the bust. In spring 2005, economic growth had resumed in California at 4.3 percent.

California levies a 9.3 percent maximum variable rate income tax, with six tax brackets. It collects about $40 billion per year in income taxes. California's combined state, county and local sales tax rate is from 7.25 to 9.75 percent. The rate varies throughout the state at the local level. In all, it collects about $28 billion in sales taxes per year. All real property is taxable annually, the tax based on the property's fair market value at the time of purchase. This tax does not increase based on a rise in real property values (see Proposition 13). California collects $33 billion in property taxes per year.

In 2009 the California economic crisis became severe as the state faces insolvency. In June 2009 Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said "Our wallet is empty, our bank is closed and our credit is dried up." He called for massive budget cuts of $24 billion, about 1/4 of the state's budget.California's time is running outChronicle Editorials Wednesday, June 3, 2009


California, as the most populous U.S. state and home of Silicon Valleymarker, is one of the country's largest users of energy. However, due to its mild weather and strong environmental movement, its per capita energy use is one of the smallest of any U.S. state.


California's vast terrain is connected by an extensive system of freeways, expressways, and highways. California is known for its car culture, giving California's cities a reputation for severe traffic congestion. Construction and maintenance of state roads and statewide transportation planning are primarily the responsibility of the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). The rapidly growing population of the state is straining all of its transportation networks, and a recurring issue in California politics is whether the state should continue to aggressively expand its freeway network or concentrate on improving mass transit networks in urban areas.

One of the state's more visible landmarks, the Golden Gate Bridgemarker was completed in 1937. With its orange paint and panoramic views of the bay, this highway bridge is a popular tourist attraction and also accommodates pedestrians and bicyclists. It is simultaneously designated as U.S. Route 101 which is part of the El Camino Real (Spanish for Royal Road or King's Highway), and State Route 1 which is also known as the Pacific Coast Highway. Another of the seven bridges in the San Francisco Bay Areamarker is the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridgemarker, completed in 1936. This bridge transports approximately 280,000 vehicles per day on two-decks, with its two sections meeting at Yerba Buena Islandmarker.

Los Angeles International Airportmarker and San Francisco International Airportmarker are major hubs for trans-Pacific and transcontinental traffic. There are about a dozen important commercial airports and many more general aviation airports throughout the state.

California also has several important seaports. The giant seaport complex formed by the Port of Los Angelesmarker and the Port of Long Beach in Southern California is the largest in the country and responsible for handling about a fourth of all container cargo traffic in the United States. The Port of Oaklandmarker, fourth largest in the nation, handles trade from the Pacific Rim and delivers most of the ocean containers passing through Northern California to the entire USA.

Intercity rail travel is provided by Amtrak California, which manages the three busiest intercity rail lines in the US outside the Northeast Corridor. Integrated subway and light rail networks are found in Los Angeles (Metro Rail) and San Francisco (MUNI Metro). Light rail systems are also found in San Jose (VTA), San Diego (San Diego Trolley), Sacramento (RT Light Rail), and Northern San Diego County (Sprinter). Furthermore, commuter rail networks serve the San Francisco Bay Area (ACE, BART, Caltrain), Greater Los Angeles (Metrolink), and San Diego County (Coaster). The California High Speed Rail Authority was created in 1996 by the state to implement an extensive 700 mile (1127 km) rail system. Construction was approved by the voters during the November 2008 general election, a $9.95 billion state bond will go toward its construction. Nearly all counties operate bus lines, and many cities operate their own bus lines as well. Intercity bus travel is provided by Greyhound and Amtrak Thruway Coach.

Government and politics

State government

California is governed as a republic, with three branches of government: the executive branch consisting of the Governor of California and the other independently elected constitutional officers; the legislative branch consisting of the Assembly and Senate; and the judicial branch consisting of the Supreme Court of Californiamarker and lower courts. The state also allows direct participation of the electorate by initiative, referendum, recall, and ratification. California allows each political party to choose whether to have a closed primary or a primary where only party members and independents vote. The state's capital is Sacramentomarker.

The Governor of California and the other state constitutional officers serve four-year terms and may be re-elected only once. The California State Legislature consists of a 40-member Senate and 80-member Assembly. Senators serve four-year terms and Assembly members two. Members of the Assembly are subject to term limits of three terms, and members of the Senate are subject to term limits of two terms.

In the 2007–2008 session, there were 48 Democrats and 32 Republicans in the Assembly. In the Senate, there are 25 Democrats and 15 Republicans. The governor is Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

California's legal system is explicitly based on English common law (as is the case with all other states except Louisiana) but carries a few features from Spanish civil law, such as community property. Capital punishment is a legal form of punishment and the state has the largest "Death Row" population in the country (though Texasmarker is far more active in carrying out executions). California's "Death Row" is in San Quentin State Prisonmarker situated north of San Francisco in Marin Countymarker. Executions in California are currently on hold indefinitely as human rights issues are addressed. The number of inmates in California prisons has soared from nearly 25,000 in 1980 to over 170,000 in 2007.

California's judiciary is the largest in the United States (with a total of 1,600 judges, while the federal system has only about 840). It is supervised by the seven Justices of the Supreme Court of Californiamarker. Justices of the Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal are appointed by the Governor, but are subject to retention by the electorate every 12 years.

Federal politics

Presidential elections results
Year Republican Democratic
2008 36.91% 5,011,781 60.94% 8,274,473
2004 44.36% 5,509,826 54.40% 6,745,485
2000 41.65% 4,567,429 53.45% 5,861,203
1996 38.21% 3,828,380 51.10% 5,119,835
1992 32.61% 3,630,574 46.01% 5,121,325
1988 51.13% 5,054,917 47.56% 4,702,233
1984 57.51% 5,467,009 41.27% 3,922,519
1980 52.69% 4,524,858 35.91% 3,083,661
1976 49.35% 3,882,244 47.57% 3,742,284
1972 55.01% 4,602,096 41.54% 3,475,847
1968 47.82% 3,467,664 44.74% 3,244,318
1964 40.79% 2,879,108 59.11% 4,171,877
1960 50.10% 3,259,722 49.55% 3,224,099

California has an idiosyncratic political culture. It was the second state to legalize abortion and the second state to legalize marriage for gay couples (by judicial review, which was later revoked by the ballot initiative, Proposition 8).

Since 1990, California has generally elected Democratic candidates; however, the state has elected Republican Governors, though many of its Republican Governors, such as Governor Schwarzenegger, tend to be considered "Moderate Republicans" and more liberal than the national party.

Democratic strength is centered in coastal regions of Los Angeles County and the San Francisco Bay Areamarker. The Democrats also hold a majority in Sacramento.Republican strength is greatest in eastern parts of the state. Orange Countymarker also remains mostly Republican.

California politics has trended towards the Democratic Party and away from the Republican Party. The trend is most obvious in presidential elections. Additionally, the Democrats have easily won every U.S. Senate race since 1992 and have maintained consistent majorities in both houses of the state legislature. In the U.S. House, the Democrats hold a 34–19 edge for the 110th United States Congress. The U.S senators are Dianne Feinstein (D), a native of San Francisco, and Barbara Boxer (D). The districts in California are usually dominated by one or the other party with very few districts that could be considered competitive. Once very conservative having elected Republicans, California is now a reliable Democratic state. According to political analysts, California should soon gain three more seats, for a total of 58 electoral votes – the most electoral votes in the nation.

Cities, towns and counties

For lists of cities, towns, and counties in California, see List of counties in California, List of cities in California , List of cities in California, List of urbanized areas in California , and California locations by per capita income.

The state's local government is divided into 58 counties and 480 incorporated cities and towns; of which 458 are cities and 22 are towns. Under California law, the terms "city" and "town" are explicitly interchangeable; the name of an incorporated municipality in the state can either be "City of (Name)" or "Town of (Name)".

Sacramentomarker became California's first incorporated city on February 27, 1850. San Josemarker, San Diegomarker and Beniciamarker tied for California's second incorporated city, each receiving incorporation on March 27, 1850. Menifeemarker became the state's most recent and 480th incorporated municipality on October 1, 2008.

The majority of these cities and towns are within one of five metropolitan areas. Sixty-eight percent of California's population lives in its three largest metropolitan areas, Greater Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Areamarker and the Riverside-San Bernardino Area, known as the Inland Empiremarker. Although smaller, the other two large population centers are the San Diego and the Sacramento metro areas. California is home to the largest county in the contiguous United States by area San Bernardino Countymarker.

The state recognizes two kinds of cities: charter and general law. General law cities owe their existence to state law and are consequentially governed by it; charter cities are governed by their own city charters. Cities incorporated in the 19th century tend to be charter cities. All of the state's ten most populous cities are charter cities.


Public secondary education consists of high schools that teach elective courses in trades, languages, and liberal arts with tracks for gifted, college-bound and industrial arts students. California's public educational system is supported by a unique constitutional amendment that requires a minimum annual funding level for grades K-14 (kindergarten through community college) which grows with the economy and student enrollment figures.

California had over 6.2 million school students in the 2005–06 school year. Funding and staffing levels in California schools lag behind other states. In expenditure per pupil, California ranked 29th of the 51 states (including the District of Columbiamarker) in 2005–06. In teaching staff expenditure per pupil, California ranked 49th of 51. In overall teacher-pupil ratio, California was also 49th, with 21 students per teacher. Only Arizona and Utah were poorer.

California's public postsecondary education offers a unique three tiered system:
  • The preeminent research university system in the state is the University of California (UC) which employs more Nobel Prize laureates than any other institution in the world , and is considered one of the world's finest public university systems. There are ten general UC campuses, and a number of specialized campuses in the UC system.
  • The California State University (CSU) system has almost 450,000 students, making it the largest university system in the United States. It is intended to accept the top one-third (1/3) of high school students. The 23 CSU schools are primarily intended for undergraduate education.
  • The California Community Colleges system provides lower division coursework as well as basic skills and workforce training. It is the largest network of higher education in the US, composed of 110 colleges serving a student population of over 2.6 million.

California is also home to such notable private universities as Stanford Universitymarker, the University of Southern Californiamarker (USC), the California Institute of Technologymarker (Caltech), and the Claremont Colleges (including Harvey Mudd Collegemarker and Pomona Collegemarker). California has hundreds of other private colleges and universities, including many religious and special-purpose institutions.


California hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley Ski Resortmarker, the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angelesmarker, as well as the 1994 FIFA World Cup.

California has nineteen major professional sports league franchises, far more than any other state. The San Francisco Bay Areamarker has seven major league teams spread in three cities, San Franciscomarker, Oaklandmarker and San Josemarker. While the Greater Los Angeles Area is home to ten major league franchises, it is also the largest metropolitan area not to have a team from the National Football League. San Diegomarker has two major league teams, and Sacramentomarker also has two.

Home to some of the most prominent universities in the United States, California has long had many respected collegiate sports programs. In particular, the athletic programs of UC Berkeley, USC, UCLA, Stanfordmarker and Fresno Statemarker are often nationally ranked in the various collegiate sports. California is also home to the oldest college bowl game, the annual Rose Bowlmarker, and the Holiday Bowl, among others.

Below is a list of major sports teams in California:

Club Sport League
Oakland Raiders American football National Football League
San Diego Chargers American football National Football League
San Francisco 49ers American football National Football League
Los Angeles Dodgers Baseball Major League Baseball
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Baseball Major League Baseball
Oakland Athletics Baseball Major League Baseball
San Diego Padres Baseball Major League Baseball
San Francisco Giants Baseball Major League Baseball
Golden State Warriors Basketball National Basketball Association
Los Angeles Clippers Basketball National Basketball Association
Los Angeles Lakers Basketball National Basketball Association
Sacramento Kings Basketball National Basketball Association
Modesto Bearcats Basketball American Basketball Association
Anaheim Ducks Ice hockey National Hockey League
Los Angeles Kings Ice hockey National Hockey League
San Jose Sharks Ice hockey National Hockey League
Chivas USA Soccer Major League Soccer
Los Angeles Galaxy Soccer Major League Soccer
San Jose Earthquakes Soccer Major League Soccer
Los Angeles Avengers American football Arena Football League
San Jose SaberCats American football Arena Football League
Los Angeles Sparks Basketball Women's National Basketball Association
Sacramento Monarchs Basketball Women's National Basketball Association
San Jose Stealth Lacrosse National Lacrosse League
California Cougars Soccer Professional Arena Soccer League


See also


Further reading

External links

Related information

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