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Marin County ( ) is a county located in the North San Francisco Bay Areamarker of the U.S. state of Californiamarker, across the Golden Gate Bridgemarker from San Franciscomarker. As of 2007, the population was 248,096. The county seat is San Rafaelmarker and the largest employer is the county government. Marin County is renowned for its natural beauty, liberal politics, affluence and a strong New Age reputation. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Marin County has the fifth highest income per capita in the United States at $91,483. It is governed by local cities and the Marin County Board of Supervisors.

San Quentin Prisonmarker is located in the county, as is Skywalker Ranchmarker. Autodesk, the publisher of AutoCAD, is located there, as are numerous other high-tech companies. The headquarters of film and media company Lucasfilm Ltd., previously based in San Rafael, have moved to the Presidio of San Franciscomarker.

The Marin County Civic Centermarker was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and draws thousands of visitors a year to guided tours of its arch and atrium design.

America's oldest cross country running event, the Dipsea Race, takes place annually in Marin County, attracting thousands of athletes. Mountain biking is said to have been invented on the slopes of Mount Tamalpaismarker in Marin.

Marin County's natural sites include Muir Woods redwood forest, the Marin Headlandsmarker, Stinson Beachmarker, Point Reyes National Seashoremarker, and Mount Tamalpaismarker.


Marin County is one of the original 27 counties of Californiamarker, created February 18, 1850, following adoption of the Constitution of 1849 and just months before the state was admitted to the Union.

The origin of the county's name is not clear. One version is the county was named after Chief Marin, of the Coast Miwok, Licatiut tribe of Native American who inhabited that section and waged fierce battle against the early Spanishmarker military explorers. The other version is that the bay between San Pedro Point and San Quentin Point was named Bahía de Nuestra Señora del Rosario la Marinera in 1775, and it is quite possible that Marin is simply an abbreviation of this name.

The Coast Miwok Indians were hunters and gatherers whose ancestors had occupied the area for thousands of years. About 600 village sites have been identified in the county. The Coast Miwok numbered in the thousands. Today there are few left, and even fewer with any knowledge of their Coast Miwok lineage. Efforts are being made so that they are not forgotten.

The English explorer and privateer, Sir Francis Drake and the crew of the Golden Hind was thought to have landed on the Marin coast in 1579 claiming the land as Nova Albion. A bronze plaque inscribed with Drake's claim to the new lands, fitting the description in Drake's own account, was discovered in 1933. This so-called Drake's Plate of Brass was later declared a hoax.

In 1595 Sebastian Cermeno lost his ship, the San Agustin, while exploring the Marin Coast. The Spanish explorer Vizcaíno landed about twenty years after Drake in what is now called Drake's Baymarker. However the first Spanish settlement in Marin was not established until 1817 when Mission San Rafael Arcángelmarker was founded partly in response to the Russian-built Fort Rossmarker to the north in what is now Sonoma Countymarker.

Mission San Rafael Arcángelmarker was founded in what is now downtown San Rafaelmarker as the 20th Spanish mission in the colonial Mexicanmarker province of Alta Californiamarker by four priests, Father Narciso Duran from Mission San Josemarker, Father Abella from Mission San Francisco de Asísmarker, Father Gil y Taboada and Father Mariano Payeras, the President of the Missions, on December 14, 1817, four years before Mexico gained independence from Spainmarker.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 828 square miles (2,145 km²), of which, 520 square miles (1,346 km²) of it is land and 308 square miles (799 km²) of it (37.24%) is water. According to the records at the County Assessor-Recorder's Office, as of June 2006, Marin had of taxable land, consisting of 79,086 parcels with a total tax basis of $39.8 billion. These parcels are divided into the following classifications:

Parcel Type Tax ID Quantity Value
Vacant 10 6,900 $508.17 million
Single Family Residential 11 61,264 $30,137.02 million
Mobile Home 12 210 $7.62 million
House Boat 13 379 $61.83 million
Multi Family Residential 14 1,316 $3,973.51 million
Industrial Unimproved 40 113 $12.24 million
Industrial Improved 41 562 $482.83 million
Commercial Unimproved 50 431 $97.89 million
Commercial Improved 51 7,911 $4,519.64 million

The view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands.
, the county forms a large, southward-facing peninsula, with the Pacific Oceanmarker to the west, San Pablo Baymarker and San Francisco Baymarker to the east, and – across the Golden Gatemarker – the city of San Franciscomarker to the south. Marin County's northern border is with Sonoma Countymarker.

Most of the county's population resides on the eastern side, with a string of communities running along San Francisco Bay, from Sausalitomarker to Tiburonmarker to Corte Maderamarker to San Rafaelmarker. The interior contains large areas of agricultural and open space; West Marin, through which State Route 1 runs alongside the California coast, contains many small unincorporated communities whose economies depend on agriculture and tourism.

Notable features of the shoreline along the San Francisco Baymarker include the Sausalitomarker shoreline, Richardson Baymarker, the Tiburon Peninsulamarker including Ring Mountainmarker and Triangle Marsh at Corte Maderamarker. Further north lies San Quentin State Prisonmarker along the San Rafael shoreline.

Adjacent Counties

National protected areas

Transportation infrastructure

Major highways

Scenic roads

Public transportation

Golden Gate Transit provides service primarily along the U.S. 101 corridor, serving cities in Marin County, as well as San Franciscomarker and Sonoma Countymarker. Service is also provided to Contra Costa County via the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge. Ferries to San Francisco operate from Larkspur and Sausalito. Ferry service from Tiburon is provided by Blue and Gold Fleet and by the Angel Islandmarker Ferry.

Local bus routes within Marin County are operated by Golden Gate Transit under contract to the Marin County Transit District. MCTD also operates the West Marin Stage, serving communities in the western, rural areas of Marin County. The Marin Airporter offers scheduled bus service to and from Marin County and the San Francisco Airport. The lines run 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

Greyhound Lines buses service San Rafael.


Marin County Airportmarker or Gnoss Fieldmarker (ICAO: KDVO) is a general aviation airport operated by the County Department of Public Works. The nearest airports with commercial flights are San Francisco International Airportmarker and Oakland International Airportmarker as well as Charles M.marker Schulz - Sonoma County Airportmarker north of Marin County.


Marin County Free Library is the county library system. It is headquartered in Room 414 in the Marin County Civic Center Administration Building at 3501 Civic Center Drive in San Rafaelmarker.


Marin county is considered in the California Floristic Province, a zone of extremely high biodiversity and endemicism. There are numerous ecosystems present, including Coastal Strand, oak woodland, chaparral and riparian zones. There are also a considerable number of protected plant and animal species present: fauna include the California Red-legged Frog (Rana aurora draytonii) and California freshwater shrimp, while flora include Marin Dwarf Flax, Hesperolinon congestum; Tiburon Jewelflower, Streptanthus niger; and Tiburon Indian paintbrush, Castilleja neglecta.

A number of watersheds exist in Marin County including Walker Creek, Lagunitas Creek, Miller Creek, and Novato Creek.

The Lagunitas Creek Watershed is home to the largest-remaining wild run of coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) in Central California. These coho are part of the "Central California Coast Evolutionarily Significant Unit," or CCC ESU, and are listed as "endangered" at both the state and federal level.

Significant efforts to protect and restore these fish have been underway in the Watershed since the 1980s. Fifty-percent of historical salmon habitat is now behind dams. Strong efforts are also being made to protect and restore undammed, headwater reaches of this Watershed in the San Geronimo Valley, where upwards of 40% of the Lagunitas salmon spawn each year and where as much as 1/3 of the juvenile salmon (or fry) spend their entire freshwater lives. The Salmon Protection and Watershed Network ([12397]) leads winter tours for the public to learn about and view these spawning salmon, and also leads year-round opportunities for the public to get involved in stream restoration, monitoring spawning and smolt outmigration, juvenile fish rescue and relocation in the summer, and advocacy and policy development.

Around 490 different species of birds have been observed in Marin County. ([12398])


As of the census of 2000, there were 247,289 people, 100,650 households, and 60,691 families residing in the county. The population density was 476 people per square mile (184/km²). There were 104,990 housing units at an average density of 202 per square mile (78/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 84.03% White, 2.89% Black or African American, 0.43% Native American, 4.53% Asian, 0.16% Pacific Islander, 4.50% from other races, and 3.47% from two or more races. 11.06% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 11.5% were of Irish, 11.0% English, 10.2% German and 8.4% Italian ancestry according to Census 2000. 80.8% spoke English, 9.6% Spanish, 1.4% French and 1.1% German as their first language.

In 2005 76.9% of Marin County's population was non-Hispanic whites. 12.6% of the population was Latino. 5.3% of the population was Asian and 3.1% was African-American.

In 2000 there were 100,650 households out of which 27.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.4% were married couples living together, 8.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.7% were non-families. 29.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.90.

In the county the population was spread out with 20.3% under the age of 18, 5.5% from 18 to 24, 31.0% from 25 to 44, 29.7% from 45 to 64, and 13.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 98.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.4 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $71,306, and the median income for a family was $88,934. These figures had risen to $83,732 and $104,750 respectively as of 2007. Males had a median income of $61,282 versus $45,448 for females. The per capita income for the county was $44,962. About 4.7% of families and 9.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.9% of those under age 18 and 2.5% of those age 65 or over. Marin County has the second highest median household income in California behind Santa Clara Countymarker.

Marin County has the highest per capita income of any county in the United States. This is driven in particular by expensive enclaves in Sausalitomarker, Belvederemarker, Tiburonmarker, Mill Valleymarker, Larkspurmarker, Corte Maderamarker, Kentfield, Rossmarker, San Anselmomarker, and portions of San Rafaelmarker and Novatomarker where displays of conspicuous consumption, especially luxury cars, are common. The county has the highest density of BMW cars (locally known as 'Basic Marin Wheels') in the United States, according to the local BMW dealership.

The traditionally middle class towns of Fairfaxmarker, Novato and San Rafael (where per capita incomes typically paralleled the California state average as late as 1985) also have experienced especially sharp rises in real estate values, due in part to their proximity to the "prestige" address areas. The county's resistance to urban sprawl and its preservation of open space have also had an upward impact on housing prices by reducing the number of new subdivisions built in the area since 1970. The precedent for this was set after a huge development project that would have put a suburb atop the Marin Headlandsmarker called Marincello was defeated in court.

The trend of increased affluence has not held true for two neighborhoods in particular, populated almost exclusively by low-income disadvantaged groups: Marin Citymarker and the Canal area in San Rafaelmarker. Government policies have both forbidden property owners from raising rents and have also subsidized housing prices in these neighborhoods for tenants who do not report incomes higher than 200% of the poverty level on their IRS tax return. Marin City has a population of 3,000 and is ethnically diverse with large East Asian, Mexican, and Black populations. Many families live in public housing apartment buildings. The population in the Canal area is largely Hispanic, with many households residing in apartment units. San Rafael has asserted to the Federal Government that this population is significantly undercounted by the U.S. Census due to the high percentage of illegal immigrants. They assert that the 6.6% of the county-wide population listed as below the poverty line is both under-reported and heavily concentrated in the Canal area.

"Marin County hot-tubber"

In 2002, former U.S. President George H.W. Bush denounced convicted American terrorist John Walker Lindh as "some misguided Marin County hot-tubber," as a reference to the county's liberal, "hippie" political culture. Outraged by the label, some local residents wrote scathing letters to the Marin Independent Journal, complaining of Bush's remarks. In response, Bush wrote a letter to readers in the same newspaper, admitting regret and promising to not use the phrases Marin County and hot tub "in the same sentence again."


Presidential election results
Year DEM GOP Others
2008 78.0% 109,320 20.2% 28,384 1.8% 2,493
2004 73.2% 99,070 25.4% 34,378 1.4% 1,877
2000 64.2% 79,135 28.3% 34,872 7.4% 9,148
1996 58.0% 67,406 28.2% 32,714 13.8% 16,020
1992 58.3% 76,158 23.3% 30,479 18.4% 24,070
1988 58.9% 69,394 39.7% 46,855 1.4% 1,671
1984 49.6% 57,533 49.0% 56,887 1.4% 1,630
1980 36.2% 39,231 45.8% 49,678 18.1% 19,598
1976 42.9% 43,590 52.5% 53,425 4.6% 4,700
1972 45.6% 47,414 52.1% 54,123 2.3% 2,346
1968 43.8% 36,278 50.1% 41,422 6.1% 5,055
1964 61.6% 46,462 38.1% 28,682 0.3% 220
1960 42.5% 27,888 57.3% 37,620 0.2% 157
Marin is part of California's 6th congressional districtmarker, held by ninth-term Democrat Lynn Woolsey.

In the state legislature, Marin is in the 6th Assembly district, held by second-term Democrat Jared Huffman, and the 3rd Senate district, held by first-term Democrat Mark Leno.

The county has become a stronghold of the Democratic Party in recent decades. Out of California counties, only San Francisco Countymarker and Alameda County voted more Democratic in the 2008 Presidential election, all three counties voted more heavily for Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama than Cook County, Ill.marker, Obama's home county.

On Nov. 4, 2008, the citizens of Marin county voted strongly against Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment which eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry, by a 75.1 percent to 24.9 percent margin. The official tally was 103,341 against and 34,324 in favor. Only San Francisco Countymarker voted against the measure by a wider margin (75.2% against).

According to the California Secretary of State, as of March 20, 2009, Marin County has 150,679 registered voters, out of 181,918 eligible (82.8%). Of those, 82,549 (54.8%) are registered Democrats, 29,980 (19.9%) are registered Republicans, 6,384 (4.0%) are registered with other political parties, and 32,094 (21.3%) have declined to state a political party. Democrats hold wide voter-registration majorities in all political subdivisions in Marin County, except for the town of Belvederemarker, in which Democrats only hold a 46-vote (2.9%) registration advantage. Democrats' largest registration advantage in Marin is in the town of Fairfaxmarker, wherein there are only 426 Republicans (8.1%) out of 5,261 total voters compared to 3,413 Democrats (64.9%) and 1,092 voters who have declined to state a political party (19.7%) voters.


As of 2008, the largest private-sector employers in Marin County were:
  1. Kaiser Permanente (1,626 full-time employees in Marin County)
  2. Marin General Hospital (1,267)
  3. Autodesk (1,200)
  4. Fireman's Fund Insurance Company (1,200)
  5. Comcast (619)
  6. Safeway Inc. (452)
  7. Macy's, Inc.
  8. Frank Howard Allen Realtors (423)
  9. BioMarin Pharmaceutical
  10. Fair Isaac
  11. MHN (350)
  12. Dominican University of Californiamarker (325)
  13. W. Bradley Electric (295)
  14. Brayton Purcell (288)
  15. Guide Dogs for the Blind (287)
  16. Novato Community Hospital (274)
  17. Mollie Stones (270)
  18. Wells Fargo
  19. Costco
  20. Ghilotti Bros. (250)
  21. Kentfield Rehabilitation and Specialty Hospital
  22. Lucasfilm
  23. Longs Drugs
  24. Nordstrommarker (211)
  25. Coldwell Banker (207)


Marin county has several media outlets that serve the local community.

Notable current and former residents

Cities, towns and unincorporated districts

Adjacent counties

south (across the Golden Gate Bridgemarker)
east (across the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge)

Books and films

Marin County has been used as the venue for numerous films and books; in some cases these works have also incorporated scenes set in neighboring San Francisco or Sonoma County. The following are representative works produced in whole or in part in Marin County:

  • Marin County lifestyles of the 1970s were spoofed in the 1977 novel The Serial: A Year in the Life of Marin County by Cyra McFadden, and in the subsequent film Serial which was based on the novel.
  • The book The Body Snatchers was set in Mill Valleymarker.
  • Key scenes in the 1973 movie American Graffiti were filmed in Marin at Tamalpais High Schoolmarker and on 4th Street in downtown San Rafael.
  • Scenes from The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II were filmed in Marin.
  • Marin County's reputation as a counterculture enclave, especially the town of Bolinas and its isolationist reputation, made it a location of many key events in the 1981 novel Ecotopia Emerging by Ernest Callenbach.
  • The 2002 film High Crimes takes place in Marin.
  • Many scenes of the 1971 film Dirty Harry and its sequels were filmed in Marin.
  • The 2006 film The Beckoning was filmed in Marin, and tells of Sir Francis Drake's landing.
  • The 1995 film Village of the Damned was filmed entirely in Marin.
  • The 1996 film Jack was filmed almost entirely in Rossmarker.
  • The 2001 film Bandits was filmed in Marin.
  • The 1997 film Gattaca was filmed at the Marin County Civic Centermarker.
  • Scenes from the 1971 film THX 1138 were filmed at the Marin County Civic Centermarker.
  • In the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark, the college scenes were filmed at Dominican University of California; additionally, Indiana Jones' home exteriors was filmed in San Rafael.
  • In the book Youth in Revolt: The Journals of Nick Twisp, the Twisp family resides in Oaklandmarker and Nick's father is in jail in Marin County.
  • The book A Time For Dancing was set in Mill Valley, and the characters attended Tamalpais High School
  • Scenes from the 1992 film Basic Instinct were filmed in Marin, particularly the car chase scene when Nick Curran (Michael Douglas), follows Catherine Trammell (Sharon Stone) from Mill Valley to Muir Beach on Highway 1.
  • In the 1978 movie Foul Play Chevy Chase's character, Tony Carlson, lives on a houseboat in Sausalitomarker.
  • Short scenes in the 1995 movie Nine Months were set in Tiburon with a view of San Francisco.
  • Short scenes from the 2007 film "Zodiac" were filmed in and around Marin County. Note: the stabbing scene at the lake was not filmed in Novato but at Lake Berryessamarker.
  • The staging of George Grisby's shooting in Lady From Shanghai was shot on the dock outside what is now the Gaylord Indian Restaurant in Sausalito.
  • In the television series M*A*S*H, the fictional character Capt. B.J. Hunnicut (played by actor Mike Farrell) was from Mill Valley in Marin County.
  • Much of the film Radio Flyer was filmed in Novato (other portions were filmed in Sonora, CA).
  • The independent film The Moneytree was set in Marin County.
  • Segments from the 2009 film Funny People were filmed in Marin County.


  1. California's Legislature, "APPENDIX M, Origin and Meaning of the Names of the Counties of California With County Seats and Dates Counties Were Created," p. 302. Spring 2006, Accessed March 26, 2007
  2. Gudde, Erwin G. (1949). California Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary, p. 204. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press; Paperback edition (2004). ISBN 0520243173.
  3. Thomas, Robert C., Drake at Olompali
  4. " Contact Us." Marin County Free Library. Retrieved on May 4, 2009.
  5. United States Census Bureau. 2005-2007 American Community Survey 3-Year Estimates. Data Profile Highlights
  6. "Marin Ranks No. 1 in Shopping." Marin Independent Journal. March 8, 2007.
  8. County of Marin. Registrar of Voters. November 4, 2008 General Election Results
  9. San Francisco Department of Elections. Election Summary: November 4, 2008.
  10. CA Secretary of State - Report of Registration - March 20, 2009

See also

External links

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