Sonoma County, located on
the northern coast of California, is one of the northernmost counties of the nine
county Greater San Francisco Bay Area, U.S.
population as of July 2008 is estimated at 466,741 by the United States Census Bureau
American Community Survey
Its population at the 2000 census was 458,614. Its largest city and
county seat is Santa
the southwestern county of California's Wine Country region, which also
includes Napa, Mendocino, and Lake counties.
It has thirteen approved American Viticultural Areas
over 250 wineries. In 2002 Sonoma County ranked as the
thirty-second county in the United States in agricultural
production. As early as 1920
Sonoma County was ranked as the eighth most agriculturally
productive U.S county and a leading producer of poultry products,
hops, grapes, prunes, apples, and dairy products, largely due to
the abundance of high quality irrigation water. More than 7.4
million tourists visit each year, spending more than $1 billion in
2006. Sonoma County is the home of Sonoma State
University and Santa Rosa Junior College.
Sonoma County was once home to several Native American
; by 1850, European settlement
had set a new direction that would prove
to radically alter the course of land use
and resource management of this region. As of 2007, Sonoma County
has rich agricultural
land, albeit now
largely divided between two nearly monocultural
and pasturage. The voters have twice approved open space
initiatives that have provided funding for public acquisition of
natural areas, preserving forested
other open space.
peoples were the earliest
human settlers of Sonoma County, between 5000 to 8000 BC,
effectively living within the natural carrying capacity of the
land. Archaeological evidence of these First people
includes a number of occurrences
of rock carvings
, especially in
southern Sonoma County; these carvings often take the form of
, and other Europeans
claimed and settled in the
county from the late 16th to mid 19th century, seeking timber, fur,
Russians were the first newcomers to establish a permanent foothold
in Sonoma County, with the Russian-American Company
establishing Fort Ross on the Sonoma Coast in 1812.
and its outlying Russian settlements came to include a population
of several hundred Russian and Aleut
and a stockaded fort with artillery. However, the Russians
abandoned it in 1841 and sold the fort to John Sutter, settler and Mexican land grantee of Sacramento.
Francisco Solano, founded in 1823 as the last and northernmost of 21
is in the present City of Sonoma, at the northern end of El Camino Real.
El Presidio de
Sonoma, or Sonoma Barracks (part of Spain's Fourth
Military District), was established in 1836 by Comandante
General Mariano Guadalupe
Fort Ross, Sonoma County, established
by the Russians in 1812.
His duties included keeping an eye on the
Russian traders at Fort Ross, secularizing the Mission, maintaining
cooperation with the Native Americans of the entire region, and
doling out the lands for large estates and ranches. The City of Sonoma was
the site of the Bear Flag Revolt in 1846.
Sonoma was one of the original counties formed when California
became a state in 1850 with its county
originally the town of Sonoma. However, by the early 1850s
the town of Sonoma had declined in importance in terms of both
commerce and population, its county buildings were crumbling, and
it was relatively remote. As a result, elements in the newer, rapidly
growing towns of Petaluma, Santa Rosa, and Healdsburg began vying to move the county seat to their
The dispute ultimately was between the bigger, richer
commercial town of Petaluma and the more centrally located, growing
agricultural center of Santa Rosa. The fate was decided following
an election for the state legislature in which James Bennett of
Santa Rosa defeated Joseph Hooker
Sonoma and introduced a bill that ultimately resulted in Santa Rosa
being confirmed as county seat in 1854. Allegedly, several Santa
Rosans, not caring to wait, decided to take action and, one night,
rode down the Sonoma Valley to Sonoma, took the county seals and
records, and brought them to Santa Rosa.
Early post-1847 settlement and development focused primarily on the
city of Sonoma, then the region's sole town and a common transit
and resting point in overland travel between the region and
Sacramento and the gold fields to the east. However, after 1850, a
settlement that soon became the city of Petaluma began to grow
naturally near the farthest navigable point inland up the Petaluma River
. Originally a hunting camp
used to obtain game to sell in other markest, by 1854 Petaluma had
grown into a bustling center of trade, taking advantage of its
position in the river near a region of highly productive
agricultural land that was being settled. Soon, other inland towns,
notably Santa Rosa and Healdsburg began to develop similarly due to
their locations along riparian areas in prime agricultural
flatland. However, their development initially lagged behind
Petaluma which, until the arrival of railroads in the 1860s,
remained the primary commercial, transit, and break-of-bulk point
for people and goods in the region. After the arrival of the
and North Pacific Railroad
in 1870, Santa Rosa began to boom,
soon equalling and then surpassing Petaluma as the region's
population and commercial center. The railroad bypassed Petaluma
for southern connections to ferries of San Francisco
Six nations have claimed Sonoma County from 1542 to the
||Spanish Empire, 1542, by sea,
voyage of Juan Rodríguez
Cabrillo as far as the Russian River. Later validated by
voyage of Sebastián
England, June 1579, voyage of the Golden
Hind under Captain Francis Drake
Bay (exact location disputed).
||Spanish Empire, October 1775, the
Sonora at Bodega Bay, under Lt. Juan Francisco de la Bodega
y Quadra until 1821, when Mexico gained
Independence from Spain.
||Russian Empire, by Russian-American Company expedition led by
Alexandrovich Kuskov, the founder
of Fort Ross and, from 1812 to 1821, its colonial
administrator. Note: There is an overlap of rule with the
Mexican Empire (next item), until the Russians sold Fort Ross in
1841 to John Sutter, before leaving the area in 1842.
||First Mexican Empire,
24 August 1821, under Emperor Agustin Iturbide (October
1822, probable time new flag raised in California) until 1823.
Republic, 1823 until June 1846.
||California Republic, 14 June 1846 until 9 July 1846.
||United States of America, 9 July 1846
Sonoma County was severely shaken by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake
The displacements along the faultline averaged .
According to the book California Place Names
, "The name of
the Indian tribe is mentioned in baptismal records of 1815 as
Chucuines o Sonomas
, by Chamisso in 1816 as
, and repeatedly in Mission records of the following
According to the Coast Miwok and the Pomo tribes that lived in the
region, Sonoma translates "valley of the moon" or "many moons".
Their legends detail this as a land where the moon nestled, hence
the names Sonoma Valley
"Valley of the Moon." This translation was first recorded in an
1850 report by General Mariano
to the California Legislature. Jack London
popularized it in his 1913 novel
The Valley of the
In the native languages there is also a constantly recurring ending
, from tso
, the earth; and noma
village; hence tsonoma
, "earth village." Other sources say
Sonoma comes from the Patwin tribes west of the Sacramento River
, and their Wintu
word for "nose". Per California
, "the name is doubtless derived from a Patwin word
for 'nose', which Padre Arroyo (Vocabularies, p. 22) gives as
Bowman (CFQ 5:300-302 ) theorized that Spaniards found an
Indian chief with a prominent protuberance and applied the nickname
of Chief Nose
to the village and the territory (cf.
Alfred L. Kroeber
, AAE 29:354 ). Beeler
believes the name applied originally to a nose-shaped geographic
feature (WF 13:268-72 ).
Geography and environment
According to the U.S.
County has a total area of 1,768 sq mi
(4,580 km²). 1,576 sq mi (4,082
km²) is land, and 192 sq mi (498 km²) (10.88%) is water.
counties are Marin (to the south), Mendocino (to the north), Lake
(northeast), Napa (to the east), and Solano and Contra Costa (to the southeast).
The county lies in the North
of northwestern California. Its ranges include
the Mayacamas and the Sonoma Mountains, the southern peak of the latter being the
prominent landform, Sears
Point. The highest peak in the Mayacamas within the
county is Hood
has uncommon occurrences of pygmy
, dominated by Mendocino
. The highest peak of the Sonoma Mountains is
which boasts two significant public access properties: Jack London
State Historic Park and Fairfield Osborn Preserve.
The county includes the City of Sonoma and the Sonoma Valley, in
which the City of Sonoma is located. However, these are not
synonymous. The City of Sonoma is merely one of several
incorporated cities in the county. The Sonoma Valley itself makes
up only the southeastern portion of the county, which includes many
other valleys and geographic zones. Moreover, the Sonoma Valley
itself includes not only the City of Sonoma, but a portion of the
City of Santa Rosa and the unincorporated communities of Kenwood,
Agua Caliente, Boyes Hot Springs, and Fetters Hot Springs.
regions of the county beyond the Sonoma Valley include, among
others, the Petaluma Valley, the
Santa Rosa Plain, the Russian River, the Alexander Valley, and the Dry Creek
Distinct habitat areas within the county include oak woodland
, redwood forest
northern coastal scrub
and riparian woodland
. The California oak woodland in the upper
Yulupa Creek and Spring Creek watersheds in Annadel
State Park is a relatively undisturbed ecosystem with
forested areas have been characterized as some of the best examples
of such woodlands. An unusual characteristic of these forests is
the high content of undisturbed prehistoric bunch grass understory
, testifying to the absence of historic
or other agriculture
Trees of the oak woodland habitat include Pacific Madrone
, Douglas fir
, Garry oak
and California laurel
. Common understory
plants are toyon
, and at the fringes coast
Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley
Sonoma County, as is often the case with coastal counties in
California, has a great degree of climatic variation and numerous,
often very different, microclimates. Key determining factors for
local climate are proximity to the ocean, elevation, and the
presence and elevation of hills or mountains to the east and west.
in large part due to the fact that, as throughout California, the
prevailing weather systems and wind come normally from the Pacific Ocean, blowing in from the west and southwest so that
places closer to the ocean and on the windward side of higher
elevations tend to receive more rain from autumn through spring and
more summer wind and fog.
This itself is partly a result of
the presence of high and low pressures in inland California, with
persistent high summer temperatures in the Central Valley, in
particular, leading to low pressures, drawing in air moist air from
the Pacific, cooling into damp cool breezes and fog over the cold
coastal water. Those places further inland and particularly in the
lee of significant elevations tend to receive less rain and less,
in some cases no, fog in the summer.
The coast itself is typically cool and moist throughout summer,
often foggy, with fog generally blowing in during the late
afternoon and evening until it clears in the later morning to be
sunny, before repeating. Coastal summer highs are typically in the
mid to high 60s, warming to the low 70s further from the
Certain inland areas, including the Petaluma area and the Santa
Rosa Plain, are also prone to this normal fog pattern in general.
However, they tend to receive the fog later in the evening, the fog
tends to be more short-lived, and mid-day tempertatures are
significantly higher than they are on the coast, typically in the
low 80s F. This is particularly true for Petaluma,
Cotati and Rohnert Park, and, only slightly less so, Santa Rosa, Windsor, and Sebastopol. In large part this results from lower
elevations and the prominent Petaluma Gap in the hills between the ocean to the west and the
Petaluma Valley and Santa Rosa Plain to the east.
Areas north of Santa Rosa and Windsor, with larger elevations to
the west and further from the fog path, tend to receive less fog
and less summer marine influence. Healdsburg to the north of
Windsor is less foggy and much warmer, with summer highs typically
in the higher 80s to about . Sonoma and the Sonoma Valley, east of
Petaluma, are similar, with highs typically in the very high 70s F
to . This is in part due to the presence of the Sonoma Mountains
between Petaluma and Sonoma. Cloverdale far to the north out of the Santa Rosa Plain, is
significantly hotter than any other city in the county, with rare
evening-morning fog and highs often in the 90s, reaching 100 much
more frequently than the other cities.
Notably, however, the
temperature differences among the different areas of the county are
greatest for the highs during mid-day, with the diurnal lows much
more even throughout the entire county. The lows are closely tied
to the evening-morning cooling marine influence, in addition to
elevation, bringing similarly cool temperatures to much of
These weather patterns contribute to high diurnal temperature
fluctuations in much of the county. In summer, daily lows and highs
are typically 30-40 degress F apart in land, with highs for
Petaluma, Cotati, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Windsor, and Sebastopol
typically being in the very low 80s F and lows at or near .
Healdsburg and Sonoma, with similar lows, have even greater diurnal
fluctuations due to their significantly warmer highs. On the other
hand, the coast, with strong marine influence, tends to have low
diurnal temperature fluctuation, with summer highs much cooler than
the inland towns, typically 65-75 F, yet lows in the high 40s to
low 50s F, fairly comparable to most inland towns.
These microclimates are evident during the rainy seasons as well,
with great variation in the amount of rainfall throughout the
county. Generally, all of Sonoma County receives a fair amount of
rain, with much of the county receiving between about 25 inches,
comparable to areas such as Sonoma and Petaluma, and roughly normal
for Santa Rosa. However, certain areas, particularly in the
north-west portion of the county around the Russian River, receive
significantly more rainfall. The Guerneville area, for example, typically receives about 50
inches of rain a year, with annual rain occasionally going as high
Nearby Cazadero typically receives about 72 inches of
rain a year, many times has reached over a year, and sometimes over
of rain a year. The Cazadero region is the second wettest
place in California after Gasquet.
exceedingly rare in Sonoma County except in the higher elevations
on and around the Mayacamas Mountains, particularly Mount Saint Helena, and Cobb Mountain in nearby Lake County.
Ocean, bays, rivers and streams
Sonoma County is bounded on the west by the Pacific Ocean, and has
of coastline. The major coastal hydrographic features are
Bay, the mouth of the Russian River, and the mouth of
the Gualala River, at the border with
Six of the county's nine cities, from Healdsburg south through
Santa Rosa to Rohnert Park and Cotati, are in the Santa Rosa Plain.
The northern Plain drains to the Russian River, or a tributary; the
southern Plain drains to the Russian River via the Laguna de Santa Rosa
Much of central and northern Sonoma County is in the watershed of
the Russian River and its tributaries. The river rises in
the coastal mountains of Mendocino County, north of the city of
Ukiah, and flows into Lake Mendocino, a major flood control reservoir.
Russian flows south from the lake through Mendocino to Sonoma
County, paralleled by Highway 101. It turns west at Healdsburg, receiving
water from Lake
Sonoma via Dry Creek, and empties
into the Pacific Ocean at Jenner.
Laguna de Santa Rosa
The Laguna de Santa Rosa is the largest tributary of the Russian
River. It is 14 miles (23 km) long, running north from Cotati to
the Russian River near Forestville. Its flood plain is more than
7,500 acres (30 km²). It drains a 254 square mile (658 km²)
watershed, including most of the Santa Rosa Plain.
The Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation says:
"The Laguna de Santa Rosa is Sonoma County's richest
area of wildlife habitat, and the most biologically diverse region
of Sonoma County (itself the second-most biologically diverse
county in California)...
It is a unique ecological system covering more than
30,000 acres (120 km²) and comprised of a mosaic of creeks, open
water, perennial marshes, seasonal wetlands, riparian forests, oak
woodlands and grasslands...
As the receiving water of a watershed where most of the
county's human population lives, it is a landscape feature of
critical importance to Sonoma County's water quality, flood
control, and biodiversity."
The Laguna's largest tributary is Santa
, which runs through Santa Rosa. Its major
tributaries are Brush Creek
, Mark West
Creek, Matanzas Creek
, Spring Creek
Other water bodies
boundary with Marin County runs from the mouth of the Estero Americano at Bodega Bay, up Americano Creek, then overland to San Antonio
Creek and down the Petaluma River to its mouth at the northwest
corner of San Pablo
Bay, which adjoins San Francisco Bay.
The southern edge of Sonoma County
comprises the northern shore of San Pablo Bay between the Marin
County border at the Petaluma River and the border with Solano
County at Sonoma Creek
. Sonoma County
has no incorporated communities directly on the shore of San Pablo
Bay. At the present there is only a private marina with related
facilities called Port Sonoma
mouth of the Petaluma River
the Petaluma River which flows into San Pablo Bay, is navigable up
to the city of Petaluma.
The Petaluma River, Tolay Creek
Sonoma Creek enter the bay at the county's southernmost tip. The
intertidal zone where they join the bay is the vast Napa Sonoma Marsh
, the Petaluma River,
Tolay Creek, and Sonoma Creek are the principal streams draining
the southern portion of the county. The Sonoma Valley is drained by Sonoma
Creek, whose major tributaries are Yulupa
Creek, Calabazas Creek,
Schell Creek and Carriger Creek;
Arroyo Seco Creek is tributary to
reservoirs in the county include Lake Sonoma, Tolay
Ilsanjo, Santa Rosa Creek Reservoir, Lake Ralphine, and Fountaingrove Lake.
A number of endangered plants and animals are found in Sonoma
County including the California
, Salt Marsh
, Showy Indian
Species of special local concern include the California Tiger Salamander
some endangered plants, including Burke's Goldfields (Lasthenia
), Sebastopol Meadowfoam (Limnanthes vinculans
), and Sonoma
Sunshine or Baker's Stickyseed (Blennosperma bakeri
Endangered species that are endemic
to Sonoma County include
Sebastopol Meadowfoam, Sonoma Sunshine, and Pitkin Marsh lily
The Sonoma County Water Agency has had a Fisheries Enhancement
Program since 1996. Its website says:
"The primary focus of the FEP is to enhance habitat for
three salmonids: Steelhead, Chinook
salmon, and Coho
These three species are listed as threatened under the
The California Department of Fish and Game considers
the Coho salmon endangered."
Cities and towns
Sonoma County has nine incorporated municipalities.
Downtown Santa Rosa, county seat of
Sonoma County since 1854.
U.S. Route 101
U.S. Route 101 is the westernmost Federal highway
U.S.A. Running north/south through the states of
California, Oregon, and
Washington, it generally parallels the coastline from the Mexican border to the
Highway 101 links seven of the county's nine
incorporated cities: Cloverdale, Healdsburg, Windsor, Santa Rosa,
Rohnert Park, Cotati, and Petaluma. It is a freeway for almost its
entire length within the county, except for a section south of
The four-lane sections of the highway have been heavily congested
during peak commute hours for many years. The part of the highway
between Santa Rosa and Rohnert Park was widened to six lanes, with
the section within Santa Rosa (between Highway 12 and Steele Lane)
being completed in late 2008. The two new inner lanes are
designated for vehicles with two
or more occupants
during commute hours. The next section due to
be expanded from four to six lanes is between Santa Rosa and
State Route 1
Within Sonoma County, Highway 1 follows the coastline from the
Mendocino County border, at the mouth of the Gualala River, to the
Marin County border, at the Estero Americano (Americano Creek
), east of Bodega Bay.
State Route 12
Highway 12 runs eastward from its intersection with Highway 116 in
Sebastopol to Santa Rosa. There it turns south through the Valley
of the Moon to Sonoma, then east into Napa County. The four-lane
freeway section within Santa Rosa, between Fulton Road and Farmers
Lane, is called the Luther Burbank Memorial Highway. That section,
especially where it crosses Highway 101, is severely congested
during peak commute hours.
The two-lane Bodega Highway runs west from the intersection of
Highways 12 and 116 in Sebastopol, through the coastal hills to its
intersection with Highway 1, east of Bodega Bay. East of Santa
Rosa, Highway 12 is also called Sonoma Highway; and east of Sonoma,
State Route 37
Highway 37 connects Highway 101 at Novato, in Marin County, with
Interstate 80 in Vallejo, in Solano County, at the top of San Pablo
Bay. Within Sonoma County, it is also called Sears Point
State Route 116
Highway 116 is a winding, two-lane rural route that runs from
Jenner, at the mouth of the Russian River on the coast, southeast
to Arnold Drive near Sonoma. It is also called Guerneville Highway,
between Guerneville and Forestville; Gravenstein Highway North,
between Forestville and Sebastopol; and Gravenstein Highway South,
between Sebastopol and Stony Point Road, west of Rohnert Park. East
of Petaluma it is Lakeville Highway, then Stage Gulch Road.
State Route 121
Highway 121 is a two-lane rural route running from Highway 37 near
Sears Point Raceway to Highway 128 in Lake Berryessa.
State Route 128
The northernmost section of Highway 128 is a two-lane rural route
running southeast from Highway 101 at Geyserville, north of
Healdsburg, through the Alexander Valley into Napa County.
Sonoma-Marin Area Rail
Transit/SMART is a commuter rail system planned to go between
Larkspur in Marin County and Cloverdale in Sonoma
- Sonoma County Transit is
the countywide transit operator, providing service to all cities in
- Santa Rosa Transit provides bus routes in and near the city of
- The cities of Healdsburg and Petaluma also provide their own
local bus service.
- Golden Gate Transit connects
Santa Rosa and points south with Marin County and San
- Mendocino Transit Authority runs north from Santa Rosa to Ukiah (via US
101) and to the coast (via California Routes 12 and 1).
A sales tax surcharge measure to finance it narrowly
failed in the 2006 election, but passed in 2008.
Charles M. Schulz -
Sonoma County Airport is at 2290 Airport Boulevard, west of Highway 101,
between Santa Rosa and Windsor. Its main runway is 5,115
feet (1559 m) long and 150 feet (46 m) wide, and can accommodate
planes up to 95,000 pounds (43,000 kg) maximum gross take off
weight. It offers fuel, major maintenance, hangar space, and tie-downs for local and transient
Air, of Seattle, Washington, offers regular daily commercial
Historical railroads of Sonoma
Mesa Grande train station, about
The Petaluma and Haystack Railroad connected the city of Petaluma
to a ferries of San
landing at the head of navigation on the Petaluma
River in 1864.
Francisco and North Pacific Railroad
(SF&NP) connected the
City of Santa Rosa to ferry connections at Donahue landing on the
Petaluma River in 1870. Rail service was extended north to
Healdsburg in 1871 and Cloverdale in 1872. In 1884 the railroad
was extended south to an alternate ferry connection in Tiburon.
This rail line will be used by SMART.
The 3-foot-gauge North Pacific Coast Railroad
extended northward in 1876 from a ferry connection at Sausalito
through Valley Ford, Freestone and Occidental to Monte Rio on the
lower Russian River. Service was extended to Duncan Mills in 1877
and Cazadero in 1885. The standard
Fulton and Guerneville Railroad left the SF&NP at
Fulton to reach Korbel in 1876 and Guerneville in 1877.
Standard-gauge rails were extended down-river to Duncan Mills in
1909 after the Northwestern Pacific Railroad
merger, and narrow-gauge service was discontinued in 1930.
The unique Sonoma Valley Prismoidal Railway linked the city of
Sonoma to bay ferries in 1876, and was replaced in 1879 by the
3-foot-gauge Sonoma Valley Railroad to a ferry landing near the
mouth of the Petaluma River. Service was extended from Sonoma to
Glen Ellen in 1882. The southern end of the line was extended
westward in 1888 to a connection with the SF&NP at Ignacio.
This line was converted to standard-gauge
in 1890 and remains (in 2009) as Sonoma County's connection to the
national rail system at Schellville.
Rosa and Carquinez Railroad extended eastward in 1888 to link Santa
Rosa with the national rail system.
A SF&NP branch line from Santa Rosa brought rail service to
Sebastopol in 1890. The Petaluma and Santa Rosa
north from a ferry connection in Petaluma to reach Sebastopol in
1904, Santa Rosa in 1905, and Forestville in 1906.
At the 2000 census
, there were 458,614
people, 172,403 households, and 112,406 families in Sonoma County.
The population density
291/sq mi (112/km²). There were 183,153 housing units at an
average density of 116/sq mi (45/km²).
The racial makeup was 81.60% White
, 1.42% Black
or African American
, 1.18% Native American
, 3.07% Asian
, 0.20% Pacific Islander
, 8.44% of
, and 4.09%
of two or more races. 17.34% of the population were Hispanic
of any race. 12.1% were
, 10.6% Irish
, 9.8% English
and 8.9% Italian
ancestry according to Census 2000
. 80.4% spoke English
and 13.8% Spanish
as their first language.
Of the 172,403 households, 50.30% were married
living together, 34.80% were non-families, and 10.40%
had a female householder with no husband present. 31.90% had
children under the age of 18 living with them, 25.70% were
individuals, and 10.00% were 65 years of age or older living alone.
The average household size was 2.60, and the average family size
The median age was 38 years. 24.50% were under 18, 8.80% from 18 to
24, 29.20% from 25 to 44, 24.90% from 45 to 64, and 12.60% were 65
years of age or older. For every 100 females there were 97 males.
For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94 males.
The median household income was $53,076, and the median family
income was $61,921. Males had a median income of $42,035, females
$32,022. The per capita income
the county was $25,724. About 4.70% of families and 8.10% of the
population were below the poverty line
including 8.40% of those under age 18 and 5.70% of those age 65 or
Sonoma County's governing board and legislative body is a
five-member Board of Supervisors. Supervisors are elected by
district at the Consolidated Primary Election, and serve for four
years. The Supervisors also sit as directors of several local
jurisdictions, such as the Water Agency, and Agricultural
Preservation & Open Space District.
Three current Supervisors were elected in 2008: Valerie Brown (1st
District), Shirlee Zane (3rd District), and Efren Carrillo (5th
District); and two in 2006: Mike Kerns (2nd District) and Paul L.
Kelley (4th District). Supervisor Kelley is the current Chairman.
The Supervisors appoint the members of 59 boards, commissions, and
The County Administrator is the county's chief executive officer,
reporting to the Board of Supervisors. The administrator (currently
vacant, formerly Bob Deis) manages the county's departments, such
as the regional
Deis resigned abruptly in June 2009 under
pressure related to two newly-seated Board members, Carrillo and
Zane, his controversial leadership style and decisions regarding
employee benefits in the midst of unprecedented budget
Places of interest
Forbes Magazine ranked the Santa Rosa metropolitan area—essentially
the entire county—185th out of 200, on its 2007 list of Best Places
For Business And Careers. It was second on the list five years
before. Sonoma County was downgraded because of an increase in the
cost of doing business, and reduced job growth, both blamed on
increases in the cost of housing.
—both the growing of the grapes
and their vinting—is an important part of the economic and cultural
life of Sonoma County. In 2004, growers harvested 165,783 tons
) of wine
grapes worth US$
310 million. In 2006 the Sonoma
County grape harvest amounted to over 185,000 tons, exceeding
County's harvest by over 30 percent.
percent of non-pasture agricultural land in the county is for
growing wine grapes—59,973 acres (242.70 km²) of vineyards
, with over 1100 growers. The most common
varieties planted are Chardonnay
, and Pinot Noir
, though the area is also known for its
County is home to more than 250 wineries with eleven distinct and
two shared American
Viticultural Areas, including the Sonoma Valley AVA, Russian River Valley AVA, Alexander Valley
Valley AVA and Dry Creek Valley AVA,
the last of which is known for the production of high-quality
In addition, the county's tolerant political environment have made
the Guerneville area along the Russian River the home of a number
of gay and lesbian resorts, which have catered to the San Francisco
weekend-getaway community since the
Presidential election results
Sonoma is a strongly Democratic county in Presidential
elections. The last
Republican to win a majority in the county was Ronald Reagan
is part of California's 1st and 6th congressional districts, which are held by
Democrats Mike Thompson and Lynn Woolsey, respectively.
, Sonoma is
in the 1st 6th, and 7th districts, which are held by Democrats
, Jared Huffman
, and Noreen Evans
, respectively. In the State Senate
, Sonoma is part of the
2nd and 3rd districts, which is held by Democrats Pat Wiggins
On Nov. 4, 2008 Sonoma County voted 66.1 % against Proposition 8
which amended the California Constitution to ban same-sex
According to the California Secretary of State, as of April, 2008,
there are 235,175 registered voters in Sonoma County. Of those,
121,067 (51.5%) are registered Democratic, 58,410 (24.8%) are
registered Republican, 4,871 (5.5%) are registered with other
political parties, and 42,647 (18.1%) declined to state a political
party. Every city, town, and the unincorporated areas of Sonoma
County have more registered Democrats than Republicans.
Elementary and secondary
The educational system of Sonoma County is similar to that of other
counties in California.
The Sonoma County Library System offers a Central Library in
downtown Santa Rosa, as well as ten branch libraries, two rural
stations and bookmobile service. The system is also a member of the
North Bay Cooperative Library System. More than half of Sonoma
County's residents have library cards. They borrow over 2.5 million
items a year. Expert reference librarians answer nearly half a
million reference questions annually for individuals, businesses
and government agencies. They offer instruction in the use of
Library resources in such fields as genealogy, grant writing, and
use of the Internet. During a typical school year over 750 classes,
more than half the county total, either visit a library or are
visited by a children's librarian. The Library operates an adult
literacy program, training volunteers to tutor individuals who lack
basic reading ability. Computer terminals are made available for
free Internet access.
Law enforcement and crime
The Sonoma County Sheriff's Department is the law enforcement
agency for the unincorporated area of the county. It also contracts
to provide the police forces of the City of Sonoma and the Town of
Windsor. The department has more than 1,000 employees, including
more than 275 Deputy Sheriffs, in four Bureaus. More than 300
Correctional Officers and staff work in two jail facilities, with a
total daily population of nearly 1,200 inmates. Police shootings in
2007 have led to calls for an independent civilian police review
Due to the varied scenery in Sonoma County and proximity to the
city of San Francisco, a large number of motion pictures
have been filmed using venues
within the county. Some of the earliest U.S. filmaking occurred in
Sonoma County such as Salomy Jane
(1914) and one of
Broncho Billy Anderson's
Westerns. Many of these films are classics in American cinematography
such as the 1947 film
and Loretta Young
) and two
Shadow of a Doubt
1943, filmed and set in Santa Rosa and The Birds
of 1963, filmed largely in
Bodega Bay and Bodega. Many other modern classics have used Sonoma
County as a filming venue, including American Graffiti
, filmed largely in
A few other representative films produced partially in Sonoma
- 1965 The Third Day
Peggy Sue Got Married
- Petaluma, including a 1950s makeover of Washington St., the diner
"Millie's Chili Bar" (rechristened as "The Donut Hole"), and
exterior and interior shots of Santa Rosa High School.
- 1993 Nowhere to Run - Coleman Valley Road, Occidental,
for farmhouse and pond scenes.
- 2001 The Man Who Wasn't
- 2001 Bandits - Flamingo Hotel,
Clover milk truck featuring local icon "Clo the cow", and
rural county roads.
- 1977 Heroes - Bus stop at
corner of Kentucky and C streets. Walnut Street.
- 1925 Braveheart - Along the river.
- 1942 Holiday Inn -
Village Inn Lodge in Monte Rio as the "Holiday Inn" with tons of
The town of Sonoma in southeast Sonoma County hosts the annual
Sonoma Valley Film
, a nationally recognized event.
- California Gazetteer. Wilmington: American Historical
- Finley, Ernest L. History of Sonoma County, California: Its
People and Its Resources. Santa Rosa: Press Democrat Pub. Co.,
- Gille, Frank H. ed. The Encyclopedia of California,
1999. St. Clair Shores: Somerset Publishers, Inc., 1999.
- Gregory, Thomas Jefferson. History of Sonoma County,
California, with Biographical Sketches of the Leading Men and Women
of the County, Who Have Been Identified with Its Growth and
Development from the Early Days to the Present Time. Los
Angeles: Historic Record Company, 1911.
- Hansen, Harvey J. Wild Oats in Eden; Sonoma County in the
19th Century. Santa Rosa, 1962.
- Historical Atlas Maps of Sonoma County, California. Oakland:
Thos. H. Thompson & Co., 1877.
- Taber, George M. Judgment of Paris: California vs. France
and the Historic 1976 Paris Tasting that Revolutionized Wine.
NY: Scribner, 2005.
- Thompson, Robert A. Historical and Descriptive Sketch of
Sonoma County, California. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts &
- Tuomey, Honoria. History of Sonoma County, California.
Chicago: S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1926.