Martinez ("mar-TEE-niss" or "mar-TEE-nezz") is the county seat of Contra Costa County, California, United States. The population was 35,866 at the 2000 census. The downtown is notable for its large number of preserved old buildings. Martinez is located on the south side of the Carquinez Strait in the San Francisco Bay Area, directly facing the city of Benicia. Martínez means "son of Martín" in Spanish, and in this sense the name is the Spanish equivalent of the English surname "Martinson".
In 1860, Martinez played a role in the Pony Express, where riders would take the ferry from Benicia (particularly if they missed the steamer in Sacramento). In 1915, Shell Oil Company built an oil refinery near Martinez, which sparked a building boom in the area. Martinez's oil refineries can still be seen today from Interstate 680, and it continues to be a significant port and petroleum processing center. Martinez is also purportedly the birthplace of the martini.
Although the common perception of Martinez is that of a refinery town, given the view from Highway 680 across the Shell Refinery and the strong smell of petroleum that greets visitors coming from the Martinez-Benicia Bridge, the city is in fact largely surrounded by water and regional open space preserves. The Martinez-Benicia Bridge carries Highway 680 across the eastern end of the Carquinez Strait to Solano County.
The city can be defined as a more densely built downtown valley threaded by Alhambra creek and north of Highway 4. Suburban areas stretch south of Highway 4 to join the neighboring city of Pleasant Hill. Unincorporated areas include the rural Alhambra Valley and the Franklin Canyon area.
The Martinez Regional Shoreline bounds the city to the north along the Carquinez Strait. Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline includes the Franklin Hills west of downtown, stretching west to the unincorporated community of Port Costa and the town of Crockett. Briones Regional Park borders the Alhambra Valley to the south. Waterbird Regional Preserve and the McNabney Marsh border the city and Highway 680 to the east.
Martinez's location at the east end of the Carquinez Strait as it widens to Suisun Bay includes dramatic water views stretching to the Sierra range. From surrounding ridge tops views stretch to nearby Mt. Diablo, Mt. St. Helena, Mt. Tamalpais, etc.
Martinez is one of the only two places in the Bay Area--the other is the Golden Gate Bridge--where the Bay Area Ridge Trail and the San Francisco Bay Trail converge. The Bay Trail is a planned recreational corridor that, when complete, will encircle San Francisco and San Pablo Bays with a continuous network of bicycling and hiking trails. It will connect the shoreline of all nine Bay Area counties, link 47 cities, and cross the major toll bridges in the region, including the Martinez-Benicia Bridge. To date, approximately of the alignment—over half the Bay Trail’s ultimate length—have been completed. The Bay Area Ridge Trail ultimately will be a 500+ mile trail encircling the San Francisco Bay along the ridge tops, open to hikers, equestrians, mountain bicyclists, and outdoor enthusiasts of all types. So far, over of trail have been dedicated for use. East Bay Regional Park District's Iron Horse Regional Trail will join the Bay Trail along the waterfront, and the Contra Costa Canal Trail threads through the city from Pleasant Hill to the south.
As of the census of 2000, there were 35,866 people, 14,300 households, and 9,209 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,927.6 people per square mile (1,130.4/km²). There were 14,597 housing units at an average density of 1,191.5/sq mi (460.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 81.03% White, 3.35% Black or African American, 0.74% Native American, 6.63% Asian, 0.23% Pacific Islander, 3.29% from other races, and 4.72% from two or more races. 10.20% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 14,300 households out of which 30.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.4% were married couples living together, 11.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.6% were non-families. 27.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41 and the average family size was 2.96.
In the city the population was spread out with 22.7% under the age of 18, 7.3% from 18 to 24, 32.6% from 25 to 44, 27.3% from 45 to 64, and 10.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 98.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $63,010, and the median income for a family was $77,411. Males had a median income of $52,135 versus $40,714 for females. The per capita income for the city was $29,701. About 3.2% of families and 5.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.9% of those under age 18 and 4.8% of those age 65 or over.
The languages spoken were 88% English, 6% Spanish, 2% Tagalog, 1% German, 1% Chinese, 0.5% Italian, 0.5% Persian, 0.3% Korean, 0.3% Portuguese, 0.25% Russian, 0.25% Arabic, 0.2% Dutch, 0.2% Polish, 0.2% French, 0.2% Punjabi, 0.2%Vietnamese, 0.14% Japanese, 0.14% Tamil, 0.07% Cantonese. Of the 4,176 people who did not use English as their primary language 3,663 (87.72%) spoke it well or very well while 513 (12.28%) spoke it "not well" or "not at all
In early 2007, a group of beavers settled in a section of Alhambra Creek that flows through the city. The beavers and their dam became a local attraction. Because the dam created a potential flood hazard, local officials proposed to remove the beavers. In an emotional city council meeting that was widely attended, residents argued not to remove the beavers. A subcommittee was formed to consider whether this would be possible, and was given 90 days to issue a report to the full council for a vote. During this period, expert Skip Lisle was hired to install a flow device that could regulate dam height and address fears of flooding. The beavers have received national attention, amateur video coverage, a webpage devoted to them, and a new nonprofit organization ("Worth A Dam").