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San Luis Obispo County is a county located along the Pacific Oceanmarker in the Central Coast of the U.S. state of Californiamarker, between Los Angelesmarker and the San Francisco Bay Areamarker. As of 2000 its population was 246,681. The county seat is San Luis Obispomarker, with about 46,000 residents.

The county's distance from the large metro areas of San Francisco and Los Angeles has helped it to retain its rural character and reminders of old California abound. Commonly referred to as "the Central Coast," the area is more rural and agricultural than many other coastal regions in California. Father Junipero Serra founded the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosamarker in 1772 and the Mission is today an active part of downtown San Luis Obispo (popularly referred to as SLO or SLO-town). The small size of the county's communities, scattered along the beaches, coastal hills, and mountains of the Santa Lucia range, provides a wide variety of coastal and inland hill ecologies to support many kinds of fishing, agriculture, and tourist activities.

The mainstays of the economy are California Polytechnic State Universitymarker with its almost 20,000 students, tourism, and agriculture. San Luis Obispo County is the third largest producer of wine in California, surpassed only by Sonoma and Napa Counties. Wine grapes are by far the largest agricultural crop in the county, and the wine production they support creates a direct economic impact and a growing wine country vacation industry.

The town of San Simeonmarker is located at the foot of the hill where newspaper publisher William Randolph Hearst built the famed Hearst Castlemarker. Other coastal towns include Cambriamarker, Morro Baymarker and Cayucosmarker to the north of San Luis Obispo city, and Avila Beachmarker and the Five Cities to the south: Arroyo Grandemarker, Grover Beachmarker, Oceanomarker, Pismo Beachmarker and Shell Beach. Nipomomarker, just south of the Five Cities, borders northern Santa Barbara County. Inland, the cities of Paso Robles, Templetonmarker, and Atascaderomarker lie along the Salinas River, near the Paso Robles wine region. Just south of Cambria lies Harmonymarker, one of the smallest towns in California with a population of 18.


The prehistory of San Luis Obispo County is strongly influenced by the Chumash people who had significant settlement here at least as early as the Millingstone Horizon thousands of years before the present age. Important settlements existed, for example, in many coastal areas such as Morro Baymarker and Los Ososmarker.

The entrance lobby and belfry of the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa.
A statue of Fray Junípero Serra stands outside the church.

Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosamarker was founded on September 1, 1772 in the area that is now the city of San Luis Obispomarker.

San Luis Obispo County was one of the original counties of California, created in 1850 at the time of statehood.

The Salinas River Valley, a region that figures strongly in several Steinbeck novels, stretches north from San Luis Obispo County. The remote California Valley near Soda Lake is the region most untouched by modernity. Travels through this area and the hills east of highway 101 during wildflower season are very beautiful and can be incorporated with wine tasting at local vineyards.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 3,616 square miles (9,364 km²), of which, 3,304 square miles (8,558 km²) of it is land and 311 square miles (806 km²) of it (8.61%) is water.

Cities and towns


Unincorporated communities

Adjacent counties

National protected areas

Transportation Infrastructure

Major highways

Public Transportation

San Luis Obispo County is served by Amtrak trains and Greyhound Lines buses.The San Luis Obispo Regional Transit Authority provides countywide service along US 101 as well as service to Morro Bay, Los Osos, Cambria and San Simeon.

The cities of San Luis Obispo, Atascadero and Paso Robles operate their own local bus services;all of these connect with SLORTA routes.

Intercity service is provided by Amtrak trains, Greyhound and Orange Belt Stages buses.


  • San Luis Obispo County Regional Airportmarker (SBP) is located just south of the City of San Luis Obispo. Commercial flights are available.
  • Paso Robles Airport (PRB) is located north-east of the City of Paso Robles and is home to California Highway Patrol, CAL-FIRE and the Estrella Warbirds Museum.


Age distribution (2000 census)
As of the census of 2000, there were 246,681 residents, 92,739 households, and 58,611 families in the county. The population density was 75 people per square mile (29/km²). There were 102,275 housing units at an average density of 31 per square mile (12/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 84.60% White, 2.03% Black or African American, 0.95% Native American, 2.66% Asian, 0.12% Pacific Islander, 6.21% from other races, and 3.44% from two or more races. 16.29% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 13.9% were of German, 11.4% English, 9.7% Irish, 6.1% Americanmarker and 5.7% Italian ancestry according to Census 2000. 85.7% spoke English and 10.7% Spanish as their first language.

There were 92,739 households out of which 28.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.40% were married couples living together, 9.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.8% were non-families. 26.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.01.

In the county the population was spread out with 21.7% under the age of 18, 13.60% from 18 to 24, 27.0% from 25 to 44, 23.3% from 45 to 64, and 14.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 105.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 105.2 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $42,428, and the median income for a family was $52,447. Males had a median income of $40,726 versus $27,450 for females. The per capita income for the county was $21,864. About 6.8% of families and 12.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.4% of those under age 18 and 5.9% of those age 65 or over.


Presidential election results
Year GOP DEM Others
2008 46.6% 57,550 51.2% 63,159 2.2% 2,672
2004 52.7% 67,995 45.5% 58,742 1.8% 2,313
2000 52.2% 56,859 40.9% 44,526 6.9% 7,501
1996 46.5% 46,733 40.2% 40,395 13.3% 13,372
1992 34.8% 36,384 38.4% 40,136 26.9% 28,099
1988 55.9% 46,613 42.7% 35,667 1.4% 1,187
1984 63.7% 49,035 35.0% 26,946 1.3% 969
1980 55.6% 38,631 29.5% 20,508 14.9% 10,388
1976 51.2% 27,785 45.9% 24,296 2.9% 1,587'
1972 56.0% 28,566 40.7% 20,779 3.3% 1,688
1968 51.3% 19,420 41.8% 15,828 7.0% 2,633
1964 40.1% 14,906 59.8% 22,252 0.1% 28
1960 54.0% 17,862 45.3% 14,975 0.7% 218

San Luis Obispo County, as a whole, tends toward a Republican plurality in presidential and congressional elections. In 2008, however, Barack Obama won the county with 51.5 percent of the vote. Prior to Obama's victory, the last Democrat to win a majority in the county was Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Coastal San Luis Obispo is part of California's 23rd congressional district, which is held by Democrat Lois Capps, while the inland is part of the 22nd district, which is held by Republican Kevin McCarthy. In the state legislature, San Luis Obispo is part of the 33rd Assembly district, which is held by Republican Sam Blakeslee, and the 15th Senate district, which is held by Republican Abel Maldonado.

As of April, 2008, the California Secretary of State reports that there are 147,326 registered voters in San Luis Obispo County. Of those voters, 52,586 (35.7%) are registered Democratic, 61,226 (41.6%) are registered Republican, 8,030 (5.4%) are registered with other political parties, and 25,484 (17.3%) declined to state a political party. The cities of Grover Beach, Morro Bay, and San Luis Obispo have pluralities or majorities of registered Democratic voters, whereas the rest of the county's towns, cities, and the unincorporated areas have a plurality or majority of registered Republican voters.

See also


  1. Terry L. Jones and Kathryn Klar (2007) California Prehistory: Colonization, Culture, and Complexity, Published by Rowman Altamira ISBN 0759108722, 408 pages
  2. C.Michael Hogan (2008) Morro Creek, ed. by A. Burnham
  3. Map of Election Results, County-by-County: The New York Times

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