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Santa Cruz ( ) is the county seat and largest city of Santa Cruz Countymarker, Californiamarker in the United States of Americamarker. As of the 2006 census estimate, Santa Cruz had a total population of 54,778, up 0.3% from the 2000 Census. It is located on the northern edge of the Monterey Baymarker, about 72 mi (115 km) south of San Franciscomarker.

The present-day site of Santa Cruz was the location of a Native American settlement since ancient times. It was also one of the earliest settlements of the Spanish during the exploration of Alta Californiamarker in the later part of the 1700s, including a California Mission. During the late 1800s, after California became part of the United States, Santa Cruz became widely popular for its idyllic beaches and coastal redwood forests, establishing itself as a resort community. Santa Cruz is now known for its moderate climate, natural beauty, educational institutions, alternative community lifestyles, and socially liberal leanings. It is also home to the prestigious University of California at Santa Cruzmarker.


The Ohlone & pre-contact period

Prior to the arrival of Europeans in the Eighteenth Century, Santa Cruz was home to the nomadic Ohlone Native Americans.

Mission and Pueblo period

In 1769 the Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolà accidentally arrived in the vicinity while attempting to travel to Monterey. He named the river San Lorenzo for Saint Lawrence and he called the rolling hills above the river "Santa Cruz" which means "holy cross". In 1791, Father Fermín Lasuén declared the establishment of La Misión de la Exaltación de la Santa Cruz (also known as Mission Santa Cruzmarker) for the conversion of the Awaswas of Chatu-Mu and surrounding Ohlone villages. Santa Cruz was the twelfth mission to be founded in Californiamarker. In April 1796 and by order of the Viceroy of New Spain Miguel de la Grúa Talamanca y Branciforte, marqués de Branciforte, Captain Pere d'Alberní, and his First Free Company of Volunteers of Cataloniamarker, a 72-man irregular unit serving the Spanish Crownmarker, were moved to Californiamarker to take care of the Spanish military garrisons of Monterreymarker, Santa Bárbaramarker, San Diegomarker and San Franciscomarker. Across the San Lorenzo River, in what is now known as the East Side of Santa Cruz, Alberní founded a town called Villa Branciforte (Spanish for Branciforte Village), in honor of the Viceroy of New Spain. Villa Branciforte later merged with the Mission Santa Cruz community across the river, and together they formed what is today known as Santa Cruz. By the 1820s Mexico had assumed control of the area. Within the next twenty years, immigrants from the United States began to arrive in great numbers. Mexico ceded the territory of California in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo following the Mexican-American War, and California became a state in 1850.

California statehood

View of Santa Cruz and the Monterey Bay from UCSC

Santa Cruz was incorporated in 1866 as a town under the laws of the State of California and received its first charter as a city in 1876. At that time the city was governed by a Mayor and Common Council consisting of four members. Victorian houses remaining from this period can be found on Walnut Avenue. Due to its mild climate and scenic beauty, Santa Cruz also became a prominent resort community.

From 1880 to 1940, logging, lime processing, agriculture, and commercial fishing industries prospered in the area, and a narrow gauge railroad connected Santa Cruz and Los Gatosmarker with standard gauge connections from Los Gatos to the other parts of the San Francisco Bay Areamarker. The railroad was acquired by the Southern Pacific in the early 1900s and carried freight and passenger trains. Excursion trains operated until the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which caused major damage to tracks, tunnels, and bridges. The Southern Pacific repaired the line and resumed operations until March 1940, following more damage by a major winter storm. With the completion of State Route 17 that same year, there was less reason to continue the rail operations.

In 1907, the citizens voted for a new charter designating a Mayor as chief executive and a City Council consisting of seven members. Subsequent charters gave a Mayor and four Commissioners both executive and administrative powers. At that time the city was divided into five departments: Public Affairs, Revenue and Finance, Public Health and Safety, Public Works, and Streets and Parks. In 1948, the City of Santa Cruz adopted a new City Charter. This charter established a Council-Manager form of government, with a Mayor and six Councilmembers setting policy for the city and a city manager serving as the chief administrator of those policies. The Charter, with amendments, is still in existence today.

On October 17, 1989, the city suffered major damage from the Loma Prieta earthquakemarker, which was centered on Loma Prietamarker, the highest point in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountainsmarker. Many of the historic buildings in the downtown business district were damaged or destroyed, especially along Pacific Avenue. Reconstruction of the district has continued in recent years, and some of the original buildings, which were filmed as a part of a car chase scene, can be viewed in Clint Eastwood's movie, Sudden Impact.

Social activism

As a center of liberal and progressive activism, Santa Cruz became one of the first cities to approve marijuana for medicinal uses. In 1992, residents overwhelmingly approved Measure A, which allowed for the medicinal uses of marijuana. Santa Cruz also became one of the first cities in California to test the state's medical marijuana laws in court after the arrest of Valerie Corral and Mike Corral, founders of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, by the DEA. The case was ruled in favor of the growers. In 2005, the Santa Cruz City Council established a city government office to assist residents with obtaining medical marijuana. In 2006, Measure K was passed by voters, making marijuana enforcement "lowest priority" for law enforcement.

Santa Cruz has an activist Veteran community. The United Veterans Council sponsors a community-based program for Veterans dealing with re-entry into society as an alternative to government remedies. The Bill Motto VFW post #5888 sponsors anti-war and peace efforts in Santa Cruz and throughout the country. The Veterans Memorial Building is host to punk, reggae, and hip-hop acts from Santa Cruz and around the world. It is also the home of the Bill Motto Post sponsored Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. These dinners were started by post #5888 in the late seventies. In 2006, the Thanksgiving dinner served 1,400 people. Founded in 1976, The Resource Center for Nonviolence is one of the oldest and most centrally located non-profit organizations committed to political and social activism in Santa Cruz County. The center is "dedicated to promoting the principles of nonviolent social change and enhancing the quality of life and human dignity". In 1998, Santa Cruz declared itself a Nuclear-free zone, and in 2003, the Santa Cruz City Council became the first City Council in the U.S. to denounce the Iraq War. The City Council of Santa Cruz also issued a proclamation opposing the USA PATRIOT Act.

Notable feminists activists Nikki Craft and Ann Simonton resided in Santa Cruz where they formed the "Praying Mantis Brigade". This collection of activists organized the "Myth California Pageant" in the 1980s protesting "the objectification of women and the glorification of the beauty myth." Myth California was staged concurrently with the Miss California pageant held in Santa Cruz since the 1920s. The protests, including women dressed in meat and pouring the blood of raped women across a pageant entryway , ran for nine years and eventually contributed to the Miss California pageant leaving Santa Cruz. Simonton founded and coordinates the non-profit group "Media Watch" which monitors and critiques media images of women and ethnic minorities. Beginning in 1983 Santa Cruz has hosted an annual Take Back the Night candlelight vigil, rally, march, and protest focusing on the issue of violence against women.

Santa Cruz has an active community of independent media makers as demonstrated by the Santa Cruz Independent Media Center and many other do-it-yourself media projects. A pirate radio station, Free Radio Santa Cruz (FRSC 101.1 FM), has been in operation in Santa Cruz for more than a decade, operating with active participation from a cross section of Santa Cruz residents. Incendio is a bi-lingual journal to connect English- and Spanish-speaking anarchists throughout the world to anarchist, indigenous, ecological, and social struggles occurring throughout Latin America. Santa Cruz also has an active independent media outlet.

Other non-profit organizations have been developed to address various issues in the community, such as The Santa Cruz AIDS Project, Barrios Unidos, SubRosa, and The Homeless Garden Project.


Santa Cruz has mild weather throughout the year, enjoying a Mediterranean climate characterized by cool, wet winters and warm, mostly dry summers. Due to its proximity to Monterey Baymarker, fog and low overcast are common during the night and morning hours, especially in the summer.

January is the coolest month with an average maximum of and an average minimum of . September is the warmest month with an average maximum of and an average minimum of . There are an average of only 5.7 days with highs of 90°F (32°C) or higher and an average of 12.7 days with lows of 32°F (0°C) or lower. The highest temperature on record was on September 14, 1971. The lowest temperature on record was on December 23, 1990.

Average annual rainfall in Santa Cruz is , with most of the rain falling from November through April. There are an average of 65 days with measurable rain annually. The most rainfall in one year was in 1983 and the least rainfall in one year was in 1989. In December 1955, 21.07 inches fell in Santa Cruz and the San Lorenzo River had one of its greatest floods in history. Heavy rains and high winds in the spring of 1958 caused extensive damage along the coastline of Santa Cruz County. The greatest 24 hour rainfall in Santa Cruz was on January 5, 1982.


The principal industries of Santa Cruz are agriculture, tourism, education (UCSC) and high technology. Santa Cruz is a center of the organic agriculture movement, and many specialty products as well as housing the headquarters of California Certified Organic Farmers. Tourist attractions include the classic Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalkmarker on the beach, the redwood forests, and Monterey Baymarker, which is protected as a marine sanctuary.


Santa Cruz
Population by year
Year Pop.
1860 950
1870 2,561
1880 3,898
1890 5,596
1900 5,659
1910 11,146
1920 10,917
1930 14,395
1940 16,896
1950 21,970
1960 25,596
1970 32,076
1980 41,483
1990 49,040
2000 54,593
Recorded from the census of 2000, there were 54,593 people total with 20,442 households and 10,404 families residing in the city. The population density includes 1,682.2/km² (4,356.0/sq mi). There were 21,504 housing units at an average density of 1,715.8/sq mi (662.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 78.74% White, 17.39% Hispanic or Latino, 1.73% African American, 0.86% Native American, 4.90% Asian, 0.13% Pacific Islander, 9.14% from other races, and 4.50% from two or more races.

There were 20,442 households out of which 25.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 37.0% were married couples living together, 9.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 49.1% were non-families. 29.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 2.98.

In the city the population was spread out with 17.3% under the age of 18, 20.5% from 18 to 24, 32.6% from 25 to 44, 21.0% from 45 to 64, and 8.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 99.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.9 males age 18 and over.

The median income for a household in the city was $50,605, and the median income for a family was $62,231 (these figures had risen to $59,172 and $80,496 respectively as of a 2007 estimate). Males had a median income of $44,751 versus $32,699 for females. The per capita income for the city was $25,758. About 6.6% of families and 16.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.5% of those under age 18 and 4.8% of those age 65 or over.

Law and government

City of Santa Cruz Logo
In the state legislature Santa Cruz is located in the 11th Senate District, represented by Democrat Joe Simitian, and in the 27th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Bill Monning. Federally, Santa Cruz is located in California's 17th congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of D +17 and is represented by Democrat Sam Farr.

Sister cities

Santa Cruz has six sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International, Inc., including Alushtamarker, Ukrainemarker, which was established in the waning days of the Soviet Unionmarker before the fall of Communism and was controversial at the time , Jinotepemarker, Nicaraguamarker, Puerto La Cruz, Venezuelamarker, Sestri Levantemarker, Italymarker, Shingū, Japanmarker, which was established in 1974 when three Santa Cruz college students resided in Shingu for a year (1973-74) doing intensive Aikido training at the historic Kumano Juku Aikido school , and Santa Cruz de Tenerifemarker, Spain. A monument next to the downtown Santa Cruz post office has a small circular plaza surrounded by marble posts topped with bronze maps of each of the sister cities.


State Routes 1 and 17 are the main roads in and out of Santa Cruz. Geographically constrained between the Santa Cruz Mountains and the Monterey Bay, the narrow transportation corridor served by SR 1 suffers mild congestion. The ramp from SR 1 northbound to SR 17 southbound, onto Ocean Street, is commonly known as the "fish hook" due to its tightening curve. A project to widen the highway and this interchange was begun in 2006 and completed in the fall of 2008.

7 Sonora Class C Shay
Big Trees Railroad

The Santa Cruz Metropolitan Transit Districtmarker provides bus service throughout Santa Cruz Countymarker. Metro also operates bus service between Santa Cruz (city) and San Josemarker by way of a partnership with the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and Amtrak California. Connections are possible in San Jose. A complete transit itineraries between Santa Cruz and San Francisco Bay Areamarker cities and major airports are available from Greyhound Lines bus service is another option for visiting Santa Cruz.

The nearest airports for commercial travel are San Jose International Airportmarker, Monterey Peninsula Airportmarker, San Francisco International Airportmarker, and Oakland International Airportmarker.

Santa Cruz has an extensive network of bike lanes and bike paths. Most major roads have bike lanes, and wide, luxurious bike lanes were recently installed on Beach Street, near the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalkmarker. Additionally, there are levee bike paths along the San Lorenzo River. A Rail Trail -- a bicycle and pedestrian path beside an existing coastal train track—is under consideration.

The Santa Cruz, Big Trees and Pacific Railway operates diesel-electric tourist trains between the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalkmarker and Roaring Camp in Feltonmarker, through Henry Cowell Redwoods State Parkmarker, with its famous Redwood Grove walking trail.


Santa Cruz is home to several notable educational institutions, including Pacific Collegiate School (a grade 7-12 charter school), Georgiana Bruce Kirby Preparatory School (a grade 6-12 private school), Santa Cruz High School, the University of California, Santa Cruzmarker, and Cabrillo College (which is located in nearby Aptosmarker and holds some classes within Santa Cruz city).



A Pacific Avenue street corner.

Santa Cruz's downtown area consists of a segment of Pacific Avenue and adjacent streets. This area is known for shopping in locally-owned businesses (formerly known as the Pacific Garden Mall), and is the city's cultural center with several book stores and independent movie theaters, The Catalyst nightclub, bars which often feature live music, a variety of street performers, an art museum, and a civic auditorium. The atmosphere is generally peaceful and relaxed; people play music and sing. On weekends, at the fork of Pacific Avenue and Front Street, representatives of the local Brazilian and Portuguese-speaking populations have dance contests. There has been a local campaign to "Keep Santa Cruz Weird", and Robert Steffen, a gentleman who walks slowly down Pacific Avenue dressed in pink women's clothing, pink makeup, and a pink parasol demonstrates this.

Roy Rydell was engaged as the landscape architect for the former Pacific Garden Mall and other notable places in Santa Cruz including: Abbott Square beside The Museum of Art & History and Lulu's at the historical Octagon, Plaza Branciforte on Soquel Avenue, the Town Clock Plaza, the Communication Building at UCSC, Deer Park Center, Santa Cruz City Hall Annex, and the Alfred Hitchcock estate.

During the Loma Prieta earthquakemarker in 1989, several buildings along what was known as the Pacific Garden Mall were destroyed, including the former beaux arts courthouse renamed and reopened in the 1960s as the Cooper House. The Cooper House was widely regarded as the heart of the downtown area and featured outdoor music played each day by Don McCaslin's band "Warmth". The Cooper House had a restaurant and bar that went through several owners throughout the 1980s but consistently attracted the townspeople, their guests, and local characters such as "Rainbow Ginger" to the outdoor patio where cocktails, food, music, and people watching were always on the menu. Since the earthquake, the old "Pacific Garden Mall" theme was eliminated, and an updated downtown design plan was implemented. The few remaining empty lots on Pacific Avenue are currently in the process of being developed.

Parks, beaches, and greenbelt districts

Santa Cruz is home to several state parks and beaches, including Lighthouse Field State Beachmarker, Natural Bridges State Beachmarker, Santa Cruz Mission State Historic Park, Twin Lakes State Beach, and Seabright State Beach.

Santa Cruz has five greenbelt districts, including Arana Gulch, Lighthouse Field, Moore Creek, Neary Lagoon, and Pogonip. Pogonip is a city-run park and open space located adjacent to the University of California, Santa Cruzmarker. It includes second-growth redwoods and meadows as well as several streams, and is crossed by several hiking trails. The Pogonip also includes a former country club, with its golf courses and polo fields. The name for the park is derived from the Ohlone Native American word pogonip meaning "icy fog". There are also three regional parks and twenty-one neighborhood parks.


Roof of the Carousel building (the "Merry-Go-Round") at the Boardwalk
A surfer
Santa Cruz is well-known for watersports such as sailing, diving, swimming, paddling, and is regarded as one of the best spots in the world for surfing. It is the home of O'Neill Wetsuits and Santa Cruz Surfboards, as well as Santa Cruz Skateboards and Santa Cruz Bicycles. Santa Cruz also houses Derby skate park. The Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalkmarker is California’s oldest amusement park and a designated State Historic Landmark. Home to a National Historic Landmark, a 1911 Charles I. D. Looff Carousel and 1924 Giant Dippermarker roller coaster, the Boardwalk has been owned and operated by the Santa Cruz Seaside Company since 1915.

Santa Cruz is the reputed site of the first surfing in California in 1885 , when three Hawaiian princes, Prince Edward, Prince David and Prince Jonah Kalaniana’ole, surfed on locally milled redwood boards at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River. Santa Cruz has 11 world-class surf breaks, including the point breaks over rock bottoms near Steamer Lane and Pleasure Point, which create some of the best surfing waves in the world . Home to the Santa Cruz Surfing Museummarker at Steamer Lane, which continues to be staffed by docents such as Harry Mayo and others from the Santa Cruz Surfing Club who have surfed Santa Cruz waves since the 1930s, Santa Cruz hosts several surf contests drawing international participants each year, including the O'Neill Cold Water Classic, the International Longboard Association contest, and many others. Santa Cruz was home to the Miss California Pageant, state finals to Miss America for six decades.

The Santa Cruz Wharfmarker is known for fishing, viewing marine mammals and other recreation. Local parks offer many opportunities for birding and butterfly watching, as well as outdoor sports such as skateboarding, cycling, camping, hiking, and rock climbing. In addition to its reputation in surfing and skateboarding, Santa Cruz is known for other alternative sports such as disc golf. The Santa Cruz Skatepark is open to the public 7 days a week and is free. The De Laveaga Disc Golf Course hosts PDGA tournaments, including the annual Masters Cup. De Laveaga was the disc golf and discathon venue for the WFDF-sanctioned World Disc Games overall event held in Santa Cruz in July 2005.

Sun sets on the wharf and the city skyline

The city also is often said to be a huge hot spot for Volkswagen Beetle enthusiasts, featuring many in local auto shows annually. One of the Volkswagen Beetle's custom variations, the "So-Cal" Bug, has received nationwide attention as a true California surf car. Many of these are seen on the beaches in Santa Cruz, as well as the occasional Volkswagen Bus .

Cultural attractions

Santa Cruz has several smaller attractions, including the University of California, Santa Cruz, Arboretummarker, Mission Santa Cruzmarker, the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, the Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History and the Santa Cruz Surfing Museummarker which is housed in a lighthouse near Steamer Lane.

Cultural events

  • Santa Cruz County Symphony — Founded in 1958, the Santa Cruz County Symphony is a fully professional ensemble of 65 members which presents an annual concert series at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium and the Mello Center in Watsonville. Additional offerings include musician school visits, free concerts for area school children, family concerts, and pops concerts.
  • Shakespeare Santa Cruz — An annual summer festival at UC Santa Cruz, the event typically performs two Shakespeare plays and one other play every summer, many of which are performed in a unique outdoor space among the redwoods.
  • Santa Cruz Film Festival — An annual event for independent filmmakers to share their work with film enthusiasts

  • Santa Cruz Pride — The annual parade is a celebration of sexual preference and diversity in Santa Cruz, held on the Pacific Avenue mall.
  • Open Studios Art Tour — The art fair has been run for more than three decades and draws artists and patrons from around the area.
  • O'Neill Cold Water Classic — An annual surfing event that draws crowds at the popular Steamer Lane.
  • Wharf to Wharf Race — An annual race which has been held for more than three decades.
  • Woodies on the Wharf — An annual woodies show that takes place on the Santa Cruz Wharf.
  • Santa Cruz Farmers Market - Year Round Outdoor Markets showcasing the agricultural diversity of the Central Coast region with emphasis on sustainable agriculture and organic food. Regional specialties include strawberry, apple, artichoke, artisan goat cheeses and brassica. The main market is held downtown on Wednesdays.

Historic places



The Monterey-Salinas metropolitan statistical (or service) area (MSA) is served by a variety of local television stations, and is the 124th largest designated market area (DMA) in the U.S. with 222,900 homes:

ABC affiliate

The Monterey-Salinas area lost its American Broadcasting Company broadcast affiliate in 2000, when KNTVmarker was purchased, and then became the NBC station for the San Francisco Oakland San Jose metropolitan area. KNTV, now known as NBC11marker, later moved its tower from Loma Prieta Peakmarker to San Bruno Mountainmarker, ceasing its coverage in Monterey. At that time, ABC reached an agreement with Comcast Cable to provide a slightly-customized feed of San Franciscomarker ABC O&O KGO-TVmarker for the Monterey area, branded simply as ABC 7 and occasionally referred to by the mock call letters AABC.



The Santa Cruz Sentinel is Santa Cruz's only daily newspaper. The area is also served by weeklies: Santa Cruz Weekly (formerly called Metro Santa Cruz) and Good Times. University of California has its own publication, City on a Hill Press, and an alternative humor publication, Fish Rap Live!.

Notable Santa Cruzans and Santa Cruz-based organizations

Due to being the home of University of California, Santa Cruzmarker as well as being bustling with local musicians, Santa Cruz has a number of notable residents.

Businesses headquartered in Santa Cruz

Notable businesses that are headquartered in Santa Cruz include Cruzio, Fullpower Technologies, O'Neill , Plantronics, RF Micro Devices, Santa Cruz Biotechnology, Giro, and Santa Cruz Skateboards. Several businesses which used to be headquartered in Santa Cruz include Odwalla and Santa Cruz Operation.


After Huntington Beachmarker, Californiamarker trademarked the Surf City USA name, Santa Cruz politicians tried to stop the mark from being registered by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office because of a 10-year-old controversy over Santa Cruz's nickname "Surf City." Huntington Beach has obtained a total of seven registrations for the Surf City USA trademark. None of these registrations of the trademark are on the principal register, but on the secondary register, which means that Huntington Beach has no exclusive right to assert ownership over the "Surf City USA" trademark. Two Santa Cruz surf shops, Shoreline Surf Shop and Noland's on the Wharf, sued the city of Huntington Beach in order to protect the public use of the term "Surf City." The parties reached a confidential settlement in January 2008, in which neither side admitted liability and all claims and counterclaims were dismissed. The Santa Cruz surf shops continue to print t-shirts, and the Visitor's Bureau retains the right to use the trademark.

Pop culture references

See also


  1. U.S. Census QuickFacts - Santa Cruz
  2. San Diego Historical Society - Gaspar de Portola
  3. Santa Cruz City - History of Santa Cruz
  4. California Missions Online - Mission Santa Cruz
  5. Villa de Branciforte Preservation Society
  8. Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, January, 2007, "Santa Cruz Coastal Trail Network Fact Sheet"
  9. Mercury News - The Catalyst / Santa Cruz
  10. Mercury News - Santa Cruz celebrates the cycling scene: Museum exhibit documents city's contribution to cycling, just in time for Tour de California
  11. City of Santa Cruz - Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium
  12. MetroActive - Keeping the Weird Rolling
  13. - Umbrella Man Sighted in Downtown Santa Cruz
  14. Surfer Magazine picks Santa Cruz as top spot to surf 06/05/2009
  15. Mercury News - Santa Cruz County Symphony Appeals for Funds To Keep Season Afloat
  16. SF Gate - Shakespeare Santa Cruz marks 25th season, and you'll like it
  19. | Retrieved 18 Nov. 2009
  20. Surfin' in Pichilemu

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