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Contra Costa County (Spanish for "opposite coast".) is a primarily suburban county in the San Francisco Bay Areamarker of the U.S. state of Californiamarker. As of the 2006, the US Census Bureau estimated it had a population of 1,024,319. The county seat is Martinezmarker.



In prehistoric times, particularly the Miocene epoch, portions of the landforms now in the area (then marshy and grassy savanna) were populated by a wide range of now extinct mammals, known in modern times by the fossil remains excavated in the southern part of the county. These included pigs the size of the modern rhinoceros and rhinoceros the size of modern pigs. In the northern part of the county, significant coal and sand deposits were formed in even earlier geologic eras. Other areas of the county have ridges exposing ancient but intact (not fossilized) seashells, embedded in sandstone layers alternating with limestone. Layers of volcanic ash ejected from geologically recent but now extinct volcanos, compacted and now tilted by compressive forces, may be seen at the site of some road excavations. This county is an agglomeration of several distinct geologic terranes, as is most of the greater San Francisco Bay Areamarker, which is one of the most geologically complex regions in the world. The great local mountain Mount Diablomarker has been formed and continues to be elevated by compressive forces resulting from the action of plate tectonics and at its upper reaches presents ancient seabed rocks scraped from distant oceanic sedimentation locations and accumulated and lifted by these great forces. Younger deposits at middle altitudes include pillow lavas, the product of undersea volcanic eruptions.

Native American period

There is an extensive but little recorded human pre-European invasion history in this area, with the present county containing portions of regions populated by a number of native American tribes. The earliest definitively established occupation by modern man (Homo sapiens) appears to have occurred six to ten thousand years ago. However, there may have been human presence far earlier, at least as far as non–settling populations are concerned. The known settled populations were hunter-gatherer societies that had no knowledge of metals and that produced utilitarian crafts for everyday use (especially woven reed baskets) of the highest quality and with graphic embellishments of great aesthetic appeal. Extensive trading from tribe to tribe transferred exotic materials such as obsidian (useful for the making of arrowheads) throughout the region from far distant Californian tribes. Unlike the nomadic native American of the Great Plainsmarker it appears that these tribes did not incorporate warfare into their culture but were instead generally cooperative. Within these cultures the concept of individual or collective land ownership was nonexistent. Early European settlers in the region, however, did not record much about the culture of the natives. Most of what is known culturally comes from preserved contemporaneous and excavated artifacts and from inter-generational knowledge passed down through northerly outlying tribes of the larger region.

Spanish colonial

Early interaction of these Native Americans with Europeans came with the Spanish colonization via the establishment of missions in this area, with the missions in San Jose, Sonoma, and San Francisco and particularly the establishment of the Presidio of San Franciscomarker (a military establishment) in 1776. Although there were no missions established within this county, Spanish influence here was direct and extensive, through the establishment of land grants from the King of Spain to favored settlers.

Mexican land grants

During the era when California was a province of independent Mexico, the following 12 ranchos were granted between 1836 and 1846 in Contra Costa County

In 1821 Mexicomarker gained independence from Spain. While little changed in ranchero life, the Mexican War of Independence resulted in the secularization of the missions with the re-distribution of their lands, and a new system of land grants under the Mexican Federal Law of 1824. Mission lands extended throughout the Bay Area, including portions of Contra Costa County.

Eighteen land grants were made in what became Contra Costa County. The smallest unit was one square league, or about seven square miles, or , maximum to one individual was eleven leagues, or , including no more than of irrigable land. Rough surveying was based on a map, or diseno, measured by streams, shorelines, and/or horseman who marked it with rope and stakes. Lands outside Rancho grants were designated ‘el sobrante,' as in surplus or excess, and considered common lands. The law required the construction of a house within a year. Fences were not required and were forbidden where they might interfere with roads or trails. Locally a large family required roughly 2000 head of cattle and two square leagues of land (fourteen square miles) to live comfortably. Foreign entrepreneurs came to the area in order to provide goods that Mexico couldn’t, and trading ships were taxed.
  • The same year, 1824, Rancho Canada de los Vaquerosmarker was granted to Francisco Alviso, Antonio Higuera, and Manuel Miranda ( confirmed in 1889 to heirs of Robert Livermore).
  • Two Ranchos, both called Rancho San Ramon, were granted by the Mexican government in the San Ramon Valley. In 1833, Bartolome Pacheco (southern San Ramon Valley) and Mariano Castro (northern San Ramon Valley) shared the two square league Rancho San Ramonmarker. Jose Maria Amador was granted a four square league Rancho San Ramonmarker in 1834.
  • In 1834 Rancho Monte del Diablomarker (present day Concord, Californiamarker) was confirmed with to Salvio Pacheco (born July 15, 1793, died 1876). The Pacheco family settled at the Rancho in 1846 (between the Pachecomarker shipping port townsite and Claytonmarker area, and including much of Lime Ridge). The boundary lines were designated with stone markers. Clayton was later located on sobrante lands just east of Rancho Monte del Diablo (Mount Diablomarker).
  • On July 31, 1834, Rancho Arroyo de Las Nueces y Bolbonesmarker aka Rancho San Miguelmarker (present day Walnut Creekmarker), was granted to Juana Sanchez de Pacheco, in recognition of the service of Corporal Miguel Pacheco 37 years earlier (confirmed 1853, patented to heirs 1866); the grant was for two leagues, but drawn free hand on the diseno/map, and reading "two leagues, more or less" as indicated in the diseno, but actually including and confirmed for nearly four leagues or nearly , but only were ever shown as having once belonged to Juana Sanchez.
  • 'Meganos' means 'sand dunes.' A "paraje que llaman los Méganos" 'place called the sand dunes' (with a variant spelling) is mentioned in Durán’s diary on May 24, 1817. Two Los Meganos Ranchos were granted, later differentiated as Rancho Los Meganosmarker (1835, three leagues or at least ) in what is now the Brentwoodmarker area, to Jose Noriega then acquired by John Marsh; and Rancho Los Medanosmarker (to Jose Antonio Mesa and Jose Miguel Garcia, Pittsburg area, dated November 26, 1839).

Bear Flag Republic and the statehood of California

The exclusive land ownership by Hispanics would soon end. This change began with the Bear Flag Revoltmarker in 1846 when a few settlers from the United States declared a republic in June 1846 and were fighting under the U. S. flag by July 1846. Following the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, California was controlled by U.S. settlers organized under the California Battalion and the U.S. Navy by 1846 and annexed and paid for by the U.S. in 1848. The large and rapid population gain due to the California gold rush gave California enough population to be admitted to the Union in 1850.

Contra Costa's creation and division

Contra Costa County was one of the original counties of California, created in 1850 at the time of statehood. The county was originally to be called Mt. Diablo County, but the name was changed prior to incorporation as a county. The county's Spanish language name means opposite coast, because of its location opposite San Franciscomarker, in an easterly direction, on San Francisco Baymarker. Southern portions of the county's territory, including all of the bayside portions opposite San Francisco and northern portions of Santa Clara Countymarker, were given up to form Alameda Countymarker effective March 25, 1853.

The land titles in Contra Costa County may be traced to multiple subdivisions of a few original land grants. The grantee's family names live on in a few city and town names such as Martinezmarker, Pachecomarker and Moragamarker and in the names of streets, residential subdivisions, and business parks. A few mansions from the more prosperous farms have been preserved as museums and cultural centers and one of the more rustic examples has been preserved as a working demonstration ranch, Borges Ranch.


During World War II, Richmondmarker hosted one of the two Bay Area sites of Kaiser Shipyards and wartime pilots were trained at what is now Concord/Buchanan Field Airportmarker. Additionally, a large Naval Weapons Depot and munitions ship loading facilities at Port Chicagomarker remain active to this day, but with the inland storage facilities recently declared surplus, extensive redevelopment is being planned for this last large central-county tract. The loading docks were the site of a devastating explosionmarker in 1944. Port Chicago was bought out and demolished by the Federal Government to form a safety zone near the Naval Weapons Station loading docks. At one time the Atlas Powder Company (subsequently closed) at the town of Herculesmarker produced gunpowder and dynamite. The site of the former Atlas Powder Company is located at Point Pinole Regional Shorelinemarker, part of the East Bay Regional Parks District.

Early postwar period

With the postwar baby boom and the desire for suburban living, large tract housing developers would purchase large central county farmsteads and develop them with roads, utilities and housing. Once mostly rural walnut orchards and cattle ranches, the area was first developed as low cost, large lot suburbs, with a typical low cost home being placed on a "quarter acre" (1,000 m²) lot — actually a little less at 10,000 square feet (930 m²). Some of the expansion of these suburban areas was clearly attributable to white flight from decaying areas of Alameda Countymarker and the consolidated city-county of San Franciscomarker, but much was due to the postwar baby boom of the era creating demand for three and four bedroom houses with large yards which were unaffordable or unavailable in the established bayside cities.

Later postwar period

A number of large companies have followed their employees to the suburbs, filling large business parks. The establishment of a large, prosperous population in turn fostered the development of large shopping centers.

Modern period

The establishment of BART, the modernization of Highway 24, and the addition of a third Caldecott Tunnel all served to reenforce the demographic and economic trends in Diablo area, with cities such as Walnut Creek becoming edge cities.

The central county cities have in turn spawned their own suburbs within the county, extending east along the the county's estuarine north shore; with the older development areas of Bay Pointmarker and Pittsburgmarker being augmented by extensive devlopment in Antiochmarker, Oakleymarker, and Brentwoodmarker.

Some of the inner suburbs accessible from highway 24 (such as Rockridgemarker in north Oakland, Alameda Countymarker), in turn have become gentrified, offering easier access and shorter commutes to businesses that remained or established in San Francisco, particularly financial organizations.

Political geography

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 802 square miles (2,078 km²), of which, 720 square miles (1,865 km²) of it is land and 82 square miles (213 km²) of it (10.25%) is water.

It is bounded on the south and west by Alameda Countymarker; on the northwest San Francisco Baymarker (San Franciscomarker and Marinmarker Counties); on the North by San Pablo Baymarker, the Carquinez Straitmarker, and Suisun Bay (Solanomarker and Sacramentomarker Counties); and on the east by the San Joaquin River (San Joaquin County).

Physical geography

Contra Costa County's physical geography is dominated by the bayside alluvial plain, the Oakland-Berkeley Hillsmarker, and Mount Diablomarker, an isolated 3,849-foot (1,173 m) upthrust peak at the north end of the Diablo Range of hills. The summit of Mount Diablo is the origin of the Mount Diablo Meridian and Base Line, on which the surveys of much of California and western Nevada are based.

The Hayward Fault Zone runs through the western portion of the county, from Kensington to Richmond. The Calaveras Fault runs in the south-central portion of the county, from Alamo to San Ramon. The Concord Fault runs through part of Concord and Pacheco, and the Clayton-Marsh Creek-Greenville Fault runs from Clayton at its north end to near Livermore. These slip-strike earthquake faults and the Diablo thrust fault near Danvillemarker are all considered capable of significantly destructive earthquakes and many lesser related faults are present in the area that cross critical infrastructure such as water, natural gas, and petroleum product pipelines, roads, highways, railroads, and BART rail transit.

Cities and towns

Martinez Court House, California

West County

Incorporated places

Unincorporated places

Central County

Incorporated places

Unincorporated places

East County

Incorporated places

Unincorporated places

Other named regions and developments

  • Saranapmarker - an unincorporated residential area between Walnut Creek and Lafayette, centered around the site of a (now-gone) inter-urban train station, comprising much of ZIP Code 94595.
  • Rossmoor - a senior development incorporated into Walnut Creek (not to be confused with the Southern California Rossmoormarker).

Adjacent counties

National protected areas

Landmark of Mount Diablo

The most notable natural landmark in the county is 3,849' Mount Diablo, at the northerly end of the Diablo Range. Mount Diablo and its neighboring North Peak are the centerpiece of Mt.marker Diablo State Parkmarker (MDSP), created legislatively in 1921 and rededicated in 1931 after land acquisitions had been completed. At the time this comprised a very small portion of the mountain.

In the 1960s the open space of the mountain was threatened with suburban development expanding from the surrounding valleys. In 1971, when MDSP included , the non-profit organization Save Mount Diablo, was formed and open space preservation accelerated. MDSP was the first of twenty-nine Diablo area parks and preserves created around the peaks, today totaling more than . These Diablo public lands stretch southeast and include the Concord Naval Weapons Station, Shell Ridge Open Space and Lime Ridge Open Spaces near Walnut Creek, to the State Park, and east to the Los Vaqueros Reservoir watershed and four surrounding East Bay Regional Park District preserves, including Morgan Territory Regional Preserve, Brushy Peak Regional Preserve, Vasco Caves Regional Preserve, and Round Valley Regional Preserves. The new Cowell Ranch State Park, and Black Diamond Mines Regional Preservemarker, are among the open spaces stretching back to the north. In this way the open spaces controlled by cities, the East Bay Regional Park District, Mount Diablo State Park, and various regional preserves now adjoin and protect most of the elevated regions of the mountain.

The name Mount Diablo is said to originate from an incident involving Spanish soldiers who christened a thicket ‘Monte del Diablo’ when natives they were pursuing apparently disappeared in the thicket. Anglo settlers later misunderstood the use of the word ‘monte’ (which can mean ‘mountain’, or ‘thicket’), and fastened the name on the most obvious local landmark.

Transportation infrastructure

Prior to 1903 most travel to central Contra Costa County was by boat or rail to Martinezmarker on the northern waterfront and from there to the industrial areas east along the waterfront as well as farming regions to the south.

In 1903 the first tunnel through the Oakland hills (now Old Tunnel Road) was built, principally as a means of bringing hay by horse, mule, or ox-drawn wagons from central and eastern agricultural areas to feed the draft animals that provided the power to public and private transportation in the East Bay at the time. The tunnel exited in the hills high above the crossroads of Orindamarker with the road continuing on to Lafayettemarker, Walnut Creekmarker, and Danvillemarker. The road was just wide enough for one car in each direction, and had no shoulders.

In 1937 the two-bore Caldecott Tunnelmarker for road vehicles was completed, making interior Contra Costa much more accessible. After World War II the tunnels allowed waves of development to proceed, oriented toward Oakland rather than the northern shoreline, and the northern shoreline cities began to decline. The tunnel has since been augmented with an additional bore, with the central bore reversed in direction to accommodate commute traffic. Owing to extensive reverse commuting and general increases in traffic, a fourth bore is being planned.

Major highways

Mass transit


The county also has two airports that are not currently providing passenger service:


The western termini of several original transcontinental railroad routes have been located in Oaklandmarker, in Alameda County, Including Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, and Santa Fe railroads. From Oakland, there are two primary routes east:

Formed in 1909, the Oakland Antioch Railway was renamed the Oakland Antioch & Eastern Railway in 1911. It extended through a tunnel in the Oakland Hills, from Oakland to Walnut Creek, Concord and on to Bay Point.

The current owner of the Santa Fe Rairoad's assets, BNSF Railway has the terminus of its transcontinental route in Richmondmarker. Originally built by the San Francisco and San Joaquin Valley Railroad in 1896, the line was purchased by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway shortly thereafter. The line leaves Richmond through industrial and residential parts of West County before striking due east through Franklin Canyon and Martinezmarker on its way to Stocktonmarker, Bakersfieldmarker and Barstowmarker.

These railroads spurred the development of industry in the county throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly driving development of the Standard Oil (now Chevron) refinerymarker and port complex in Richmond.

There were a large number of short lines in the county between the late 19th century and the early 20th century. The rights of way of a number of these railroads also served as utility rights of way, particularly for water service, and so were preserved, and in the late 20th century enhanced as walking, jogging, and bicycle riding trails in the central portion of the county.



The great rancheros of the Spanish period were divided and sold for agricultural uses, with intensively irrigated farming made possible in some areas by the development of canals that brought water from the eastern riverside portions of the county to the central portion. Other areas could used the more limited water available from local creeks and from wells. Orchards dominated where such water was available, while other, seasonally dry areas were used for cattle ranching. In central parts of the county walnuts were an especially attractive orchard crop, using the thin-shelled English Walnut branches grafted to the hardy and disease-resistant American Walnut root stock. In the Moragamarker region, pears dominated, and many old (but untended) roadside trees are still picked seasonally by passers by. In eastern county, stone fruit, especially cherries, is still grown commercially, with seasonal opportunities for people to pick their own fruit for a modest fee.

Commuter railroads

The development of commuter railroads proceeded together with the subdivision of farms into parcels. In some cases, such as the development of Saranapmarker, the same developer controlled both the railroad (Sacramento Northern) and the development. These early suburbanization developments were an extension of the earlier development of trolley car suburbs in what are now considered the highly urban environments of the near East Bay.

Irrigation canals

The Contra Costa Canalmarker, a concrete-lined and fenced irrigation canal still makes a loop through central county and provided industrial and agricultural grade water to farms and industry. While no longer used for extensive irrigation, it is still possible for adjoining landowners (now large suburban lot owners) to obtain pumping permits. Most of this water is destined for the heavy industry near Martinez. As with the railroad rights of way there is now an extensive public trail system along these canals.

Heavy industry

View of the Shell Martinez oil refinery
Owing to its extensive waterfront on San Franciscomarker, San Pablomarker, and Suisun bays the northwestern and northern segments have long been sites for heavy industry, including a number of still active oil refineries (particularly Chevron in Richmond and Tosco - formerly Shell Oil - in Martinez), chemical plants (Dow Chemical) and a once substantial integrated steel plant, Posco Steel (formerly United States Steel), now reduced to secondary production of strip sheet and wire. The San Joaquin River forms a continuation of the northern boundary turns southward to form the eastern boundary of the county. Some substantial Sacramento-San Joaquin Deltamarker "islands" (actually leveed former marshes) are included in this corner of the county.


West County

The West County is the area near or on San Francisco and San Pablo bays. The housing stock in the region was extensively developed after the great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Much of the housing stock in these areas is becoming quite expensive. As an alternative to moving to either the expensive central county, or the too-distant East County, this area is becoming gentrified, with a mix of races and income levels — a character actively sought by some housing purchasers. The downside of this is a corresponding lack of affordable housing for those in lower paying service jobs — a problem endemic throughout the region. There has recently been a housing boom or tract housing in Richmondmarker and also in the Herculesmarker areas. These gentrifying areas are the most diverse in Contra Costa County.

Central county

The central part of the county is a valley traversed by Interstate 680 and Highway 24. The towns east of the hills, on or near Highway 24 and their surrounding areas (Lafayettemarker, Moragamarker and Orindamarker) are collectively known as Lamorinda. The major central county cities along Interstate 680 are Martinez, Concord, Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon, and unincorporated Alamo. Owing to the high quality of its public schools (due largely to both demographics and added support from prosperous parents), this area has become a magnet for well–off families with children. During the real estate boom, housing prices were driven to astounding levels. From 2007, home prices in the region have seen substantial decreases and the affordability rate has risen. During the real estate boom, the high price of homes and scarcity of land resulted in many speculators purchasing older, smaller homes and partially or completely tearing them down in order to construct larger homes.

In this way the central county region has become a mix of older suburbs, newer developments, small lot "infill" developments, and extensive shopping areas.

East County

Lower cost modern tract developments continue along Suisun Bay and into rural "East County" - new "bedroom" communities" to serve the now "edge cities". This results in some incredibly long and slow commutes for some county residents, as roadbuilding is unable to keep pace with the development patterns. Some political control has been established to restrict the development somewhat, with "urban limit lines" now established, but yet to prove their long term effectiveness. The building of new housing in the hot inland areas of California is straining the ability of power providers during hot weather, with peak power requirements statewide reaching levels not expected until 2010 in a 2006 late July heat wave.

Urban decay at the fringes

Other cities in the once heavily industrialized northwestern and western waterfront areas such as Richmondmarker have fallen on harder times, with Richmond having difficulty balancing its school budget. This may be arguably attributed to a side effect of Proposition 13: it applies also to large industrial and merchandising companies, which have seen their share of property taxes (the bulk of which is used to support local schools) decline severely. As housing prices have not kept pace with the more central and outlying regions and housing turnover is also low (which establishes a new tax base for the parcel), the school districts are having difficulty obtaining proper funding. A lack of the availability of the kind of community support available in the more prosperous regions also contributes to the problem, with higher income residents of some of these declining or gentrifying areas sending their children to private schooling, creating a self reinforcing decline in the public schools.

County budget problems

Two forces have combined to create county budget problems peaking in 2008. First, (over a thirty year period) rather than compensate police, medical, and firefighting personnel directly, very favorable health and retirement benefits were granted without proper actuarial examination, leading to unexpected (yet predictable) high costs as personnel age and ultimately retire with continued "first class" health and retirement benefits. Second, the collapse of the "housing bubble" has enabled purchasers of distressed properties (many of which are owned by banks and other mortgage holders) to petition for lower property assessments, in many cases reducing by half the revenue to the county for specific parcels. Continuing downturns in employment prospects (particularly in new housing construction) have further increased the needs for various social services. These deficits and demands, combined with a lack of support from a similarly stressed California state government and the United States Federal government have combined to require unpleasant choices to be made by county supervisors and county service providers in the allocation of limited resources in a time of increasing demand.

Technical innovators

In the 1970s and 80s many small and innovative technical firms were started in this county, most of which are no longer present, having either failed, been absorbed into larger corporations, or having outgrown their original location are now elsewhere in the Bay Area.

Corporate headquarters

During the 1980s and early 1990s, many corporations that were formerly housed in the more central metropolitan area followed their employees by moving to large suburban and edge city office areas and office parks.

A number of large corporations now have headquarters in large developments along what is called the 680 corridor, that segment of Interstate Highway 680 that extends from Concord in the north to San Ramonmarker in the south, continuing into inland Alameda Countymarker from Dublinmarker to Pleasantonmarker.

By the early 1990s, more square footage of office space had been built in the 680 corridor than in San Francisco's Financial District.


There are currently political fights over the potential redevelopment of the county seat (Martinezmarker), with long term residents and many elsewhere in the county concerned that it will lose its remaining small-town charm and utility in an effort to become more like the county's major recreational shopping center of Walnut Creekmarker.

The inland portions of the Concord Naval Weapons Station have been declared surplus by the Federal government and this area is expected to provide what is likely the last opportunity to plan and build city-sized development within the central county. This area will become a portion of the city of Concord and it is expected that development will be confined to the lower and flatter portions of the depot, with the remainder becoming a substantial addition to the county's open space. As much of the land to be developed is largely relatively flat grassland space, with the most prominent structures ammunition bunkers that will be removed, the planning of future uses of the property will be largely unconstrained by previous uses.


The city of Concord is served by the daily newspaper, the Contra Costa Times published by the Bay Area News Group-East Bay (part of the Media News Group, Denver, Colorado), with offices in Walnut Creekmarker. The paper was originally a paper run and owned by the Lesher family. Since the death of Dean Lesher in 1993, the paper has had several owners. The publisher also issues weekly local papers, such as the Concord Transcript which is the local paper for Concord and nearby Claytonmarker.


As of the census of 2000, there were 948,816 people, 344,129 households, and 242,266 families residing in the county. The population density was 1,318 people per square mile (509/km²). There were 354,577 housing units at an average density of 492 per square mile (190/km²). The racial makeup of the county was:

17.68% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 9.0% were of German, 7.7% Irish, 7.3% English and 6.5% Italian ancestry according to Census 2000. 74.1% spoke English, 13.1% Spanish, 2.6% Tagalog and 1.8% Chinese or Mandarin as their first language.

By 2005 53.2% of Contra Costa County's population were non-Hispanic whites. African-Americans made up 9.6% of the population, while Asians constituted 13.1% of it. Latinos were now 21.1% of the county population.

In 2000 there were 344,129 households out of which 35.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.5% were married couples living together, 11.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.6% were non-families. 22.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.72 and the average family size was 3.23.

In the county the population was spread out with:

  • 26.5% under the age of 18
  • 7.7% from 18 to 24
  • 30.6% from 25 to 44
  • 23.9% from 45 to 64
  • 11.3% who were 65 years of age or older.

The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 95.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.2 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $63,675, and the median income for a family was $73,039 (these figures had risen to $75,483 and $87,435 respectively as of a 2007


Males had a median income of $52,670 versus $38,630 for females. The per capita income for the county was $30,615. About 5.4% of families and 7.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.8% of those under age 18 and 6.0% of those age 65 or over.


Contra Costa County has become a Democratic stronghold, with even wealthy cities like Orinda and Walnut Creek voting Democratic in recent elections. The last Republican to win a majority in the county was Ronald Reagan in 1984. With the exceptions of Danvillemarker and Claytonmarker, every city, town, and the unincorporated areas of Contra Costa County have more registered Democrats than Republicans. In 2008, however, Obama handily defeated McCain even in Danville and Clayton.

Presidential election results
2008 67.9% 297,353 30.5% 133,272
2004 62.3% 257,254 36.5% 150,608
2000 58.8% 224,338 37.1% 141,373
1996 55.7% 196,512 35.2% 123,954
1992 50.9% 194,960 29.5% 112,965
1988 51.1% 169,411 47.9% 158,652
1984 44.6% 140,994 54.5% 172,331
1980 37.3% 107,398 50.1% 144,112
1976 48.2% 123,742 49.4% 126,598
1972 43.5% 111,718 54.1% 139,044
1968 46.4% 101,668 44.5% 97,486
1964 63.4% 113,071 36.5% 65,011
1960 52.9% 93,622 46.8% 82,922

Contra Costa is part of California's 7th, 10th, and 11th congressional districts. All three are held by Democrats: George Miller, John Garamendi, and Jerry McNerney, respectively. In the State Assembly, parts of the 11th, 14th, and 15th districts are in the county. The 11th, 14th, and 15th districts are represented by Democrats Mark DeSaulnier, Loni Hancock, and Joan Buchanan, respectively. In the State Senate, all of the 7th district and part of the 9th district are in the county. Both districts are represented by Democrats, the 7th by Tom Torlakson and the 9th by Don Perata.

On November 4, 2008 Contra Costa County voted 55.4 % against Proposition 8 which amended the California Constitution to ban same-sex marriages.

Museums and historic sites

Parks and related places



California casino proposals

Since 2003, four Indian gaming casinos have been proposed in Richmondmarker and the surrounding area of West Contra Costa County.



  1. For a collection of insightful observations of the Mexican provincial culture and trading practice (most notably in the acquisition of cattle hides for eastern U.S. shoe manufacturies) see portions of Two Years Before the Mast, a first person narative of a seaman's voyage to California starting in 1834.


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