Vallejo is home to the Six Flags Discovery Kingdom theme park (formerly Marine World and Marine World Africa USA) ; the now-defunct Mare Island Naval Shipyard; the regional office for Region 5 of the United States Forest Service; the California Maritime Academy (part of the California State University system); the Vallejo Center campus of Solano Community College; and Touro University, an osteopathic medical college. Ferry service runs from a terminal on Mare Island Strait to San Francisco, through Vallejo Transit's BayLink division. Vallejo has twice served as the capital of the State of California: once in 1852 and again in 1853, both periods being quite brief. Some of the first Europeans drawn to the Vallejo area were attracted by the sulfur springs; in fact, in the year 1902 the area was named Blue Rock Springs. In 2008 Vallejo became the largest California city to ever file for bankruptcy.
According to United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 126.3 km² (48.8 mi²). 78.2 km² (30.2 mi²) of it is land and 48.1 km² (18.6 mi²) of it (38.07%) is water. The Napa River flows until it changes into the Mare Island Strait in Vallejo which then flows into the San Pablo bay.
Vallejo is accessible by Interstate 80 between San Francisco and Sacramento. It is the location for the northern half of the Carquinez Bridge. It is also part of the North Bay region of the Bay Area in Central California. It is also accessible by Interstate 780 from neighboring Benicia to the east, and by Route 37 from Sonoma to the west. Route 29 (former U.S. Route 40) begins in the city near the Carquinez Bridge and travels north through the heart of the city and past into Napa County, entering neighboring American Canyon and eventually Napa.
Several faults have been mapped in the vicinity of Vallejo. The San Andreas Fault and Hayward Faults are the most active faults, even though the San Andreas is at some distance. Locally, the Sulphur Springs Valley Thrust Fault and Southhampton Fault are found. No quaternary seismic activity along these minor faults has been observed with the possible exception of a slight offset revealed by trenching. The Sulphur Mountain and Green Valley faults have been associated with the Concord Fault to the south. The Concord Fault is considered active. Historically there have been local cinnabar mines in the Vallejo area. The Hastings Mine and St. John's Mine contribute ongoing water contamination for mercury; furthermore, mine shaft development has depleted much of this area's spring water. Both Rindler Creek and Blue Rocks Spring Creek have been affected.
There are a variety of flora and fauna in the Vallejo area. The Suisun Shrew, Sorex ornatus sinuosus, a mammal found only in salt marshes, has local habitat. Also according to city's 1989 Environmental Assessment, the Tiburon Indian paintbrush, (Castilleja neglecta) is found in the Vallejo area.
Vallejo has the third highest percentage of Filipino Americans in the United States mainland, behind the nearby cities of Daly City and Hercules. Vallejo is the 9th largest city in the San Francisco Bay Area by population, 45th in the state of California, and 189th in the U.S. by population.
There were 39,601 households out of which 36.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.1% were married couples living together, 16.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.7% were non-families. 22.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.90 and the average family size was 3.43.
In the city the population was spread out with 27.6% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 29.6% from 25 to 44, 22.6% from 45 to 64, and 11.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 93.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.7 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $47,030, and the median income for a family was $53,805. Males had a median income of $40,132 versus $32,129 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,415. About 7.7% of families and 10.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.2% of those under age 18 and 8.9% of those age 65 or over.
The city of Vallejo was once part of a Mexican land grant of 1844 by Governor Pío Pico to General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo called the Rancho Soscol. The city was named for this original Mexican military officer and title holder, he helped to settle and oversee the north bay region. General Vallejo wanted the site named Eureka, but the other citizens of the area wanted to name the new city after the General. Neighboring Benicia is named after Vallejo's wife, Francisca Benicia Carrillo.
General Vallejo was responsible for military peace in the region until 1846, first under Spanish then Mexican rule, until independently-minded Californians rose up against the Mexican government of California in 1846 in the Bear Flag Revolt, and the annexation of California to the United States. General Vallejo, though a Mexican and Mexican army officer, generally acquiesced in the annexation of California to the United States, recognizing the greater resources of the United States and benefits that would bring to his beloved California. He was a proponenent of reconciliation and statehood after the Bear Flag Revolt, and has a U.S. Navy submarine, the USS Mariano G. Vallejo (SSBN 658), named after him.
In 1850, Vallejo proposed plans for a new city, to be called Eureka, with the capitol, university, botanical garden and other features. After a state wide referendum, his proposal was accepted, although a new name was decided upon: Vallejo. In 1851, a commission appointed by the Senate found a site on a hill that overlooked the bay and could see San Francisco on a clear day, and it was approved for its symbolic strategic value. In 1851, Vallejo was the official state capitol, with the government prepared to meet for the first time the following year. In 1852, the legislature convened for the first time. Unfortunately, Vallejo didn't follow through with building a capitol for them to meet in. After being forced to meet in a leaky building, sitting on barrels, they motioned to move sessions to Sacramento, and served there for the remainder of the session after only 11 days. In 1853, it was again the meeting place for the legislature, solely for the purpose of moving the capitol officially to Benicia, which occurred on February 4, 1853, after only a month. After legislature left, the government established a naval shipyard on Mare Island, which helped the town overcome the loss. The yard functioned for over a hundred years, finally closing in 1996.
In the early 1900s, Vallejo was home to a Class D minor-league baseball team, referred to in local newspapers sometimes as the "Giants" and other times simply as "The Vallejos." Pacific Coast League star and future Chicago White Sox center fielder Ping Bodie played for Vallejo during the 1908 season, in which the team reached the California state title game. The team was disbanded in the early 1920s.
Downtown Vallejo retains many of its historic Victorian and craftsman homes.
Two contributing factors have also been cited: the aforementioned high salaries, and current and future pension outlays, payments of which are likely not sustainable if bankruptcy is to be avoided. .
West Vallejo is the oldest and most historic section of the city, and stretches from Interstate 80 and Sonoma Blvd. to Mare Island and the Vallejo waterfront. The majority of streets in West Vallejo are either named after U.S States or California counties and cities.
The downtown and waterfront areas, located in West Vallejo near Mare Island are currently undergoing extensive transformation and development as many people from San Francisco move to the Victorian homes downtown.
The City's three historic neighborhoods are in West Vallejo:
This subdivision, originally named the "Georgetown" was renamed the "Bay Terrace" in 1920. It is a district composed of 126 individual buildings, designed by Architect George W. Kelham (a student of Frederick Law Olmsted, architect of Golden Gate Park, Central Park and the "Emerald Necklace in Boston) and constructed by the United States Housing Corporation in 1918 as the permanent component of Project 581, to provide housing for Mare Island Naval Shipyard workers during World War I.
This project was one of only two on the Pacific Coast. The district has a remarkably high degree of integrity. Most of the original residential buildings remain; almost 2/3 of them have survived in their original condition. The residential buildings are detached single-family houses, semi-detached two-family houses and semi-detached two-flat houses, distributed fairly evenly along the street. A sense of individuality among the houses was achieved by using fifteen variations on six basic plans, while visually harmonious streetscapes were created through the use of the Colonial Revival style. This distinctive architectural style of the housing visually distinguished the boundaries of the Bay Terrace district from the surrounding neighborhood. Although the subdivision is not currently on the National Register of Historic Places, it does meet the "significant" requirements under criteria A and C for evaluation.
The newest neighborhoods of Vallejo are located in the northeast section of the city, east of Interstate 80 and include the Northgate neighborhood around Costco and the high end Hiddenbrooke with its own golf course in the mountains between Vallejo and Fairfield.
East Vallejo is the largest and most populated, containing newer neighborhoods of the city, which has undergone considerable growth since the late 1940s. East Vallejo begins on the east side of Interstate 80 and includes the "manor neighorhoods" such as Tennessee and Steffan Manor, Silverview, Skyview Terrace, Granada Hills, Greenmont, Somerset Highlands (the most easternly part of Georgia Street; Columbus Parkway is the southern border of East Vallejo. The Woods are all the streets in East Vallejo with the "wood" in them: redwood, rollingwood, oakwood, located on the south east side of the city between I-80 and the eastern-most city limits.
North Vallejo includes "The Crest", a neighborhood located north of Highway 37. The Crest is famously known for the neighborhoods of national rap artists Mac Dre and Mac Mall, as it is mentioned frequently in both of their lyrics. "Rancho" is a neighborhood located on the northwest side of the city near American Canyon. North Vallejo's boundaries include Interstate 80 on the east and Highway 37 on the South.
South Vallejo is located south of York and Marin Streets and is sometimes known as "Hillside", the "Su side", or "Beverly Hills". South Vallejo is famous for being the birthplace of the famous Vallejo rap group The Click, as well as B-Legit's record label Sic-Wid-It records. The southwest area of Vallejo includes Glen Cove, a neighborhood located where Interstates 80 and 780 meet, near Benicia. It boasts views of the Carquinez Strait, including the newly built westbound Carquinez Bridge. Most of the home construction in this area was completed in the 1980s but includes some of the most expensive housing in the city. South Vallejo also has another historic area "Sandy Beach", the first area in Vallejo to be settled. Although this area is located in South Vallejo, Sandy Beach is actually unincorporated Solano County. The houses here, located on the shore at the mouth of the Napa River, were formerly fishing shacks originally built in the 1800s. It is rumoured that Jack London used to play poker at the age of 16 in the shack on the pier directly across the water (shack torn down and replaced with a house).
South Vallejo has other historic buildings, including a rare 1869 historic mansion, the only one of its kind left in Vallejo. The Starr Mansion--named after Abraham Dubois Starr who built the structure--sits on top of a hill and offers panoramic views of the City of Vallejo, the waterways of San Francisco Bay, Mare Island and the picturesque hillso. The beautiful, unique architecture is Second Empire Italianate. Now a bed and breakfast, the mansion is filled with furniture and accessories of the period. The two adjoining parlors have matching Italian marble fireplaces and breath-taking unique gold leaf light fixtures original to the structure.
Mare Island, former home to the oldest Naval Base west of the Mississippi and decommissioned in 1996, has the newest homes in the City as well as some of the oldest. Touro University, located on the south side of the island, has plans to build a state-of-the-art cancer research center. This project, combined with the new neighborhoods, is poised to revitialize Mare Island and have a positive impact on the entire city, especially West Vallejo. As one of the nation’s oldest decommissioned shipyard & naval bases, Mare Island has a rich history and contains many National Historic Landmark buildings, including a 19th century industrial brick warehouse, the Coal Shed Artists Studios, Officers Mansions, designated historic landscapes Alden Park and Chapel Park, the oldest golf course west of the Mississippi, and Saint Peters Chapel, a nondenominational church built in 1901 that boasts the largest collection of actual Louis Comfort Tiffany stain-glass windows on the west coast.
The Zodiac Killer was a serial killer who was active in Northern California during the 1960s. He claimed to have killed 37, but only 7 victims were confirmed, two of which survived. Two of his victims, Michael Renault Mageau, 19, and Darlene Elizabeth Ferrin, 22, were attacked within the city limits of Vallejo at the Blue Rocks Springs Golf Course parking lot. Mageau survived the attack, while Ferrin was DOA at Kaiser Foundation Hospital. His first confirmed victims, David Arthur Faraday, 17, and Betty Lou Jensen, 16, were killed on Lake Herman Road which goes through both Vallejo and Benicia, however, the victims were just inside the city limits of Benicia. The mountain overlooking Blue Rock Springs Park and Golf Course is known to locals as "Zodiac's Cave".
The Zodiac Killer sent letters and cryptograms to the Vallejo Times Herald, San Francisco Chronicle, and San Francisco Examiner after his murders. These letters described parts of the scenes only he would know and also hinted at his identity, future murders, and threats to others such as school children and Halloween trick-or-treaters.
Both the Vallejo Police Department and San Francisco Police Department investigated the murders but were never able to solve the case. The case was marked inactive in April 2004 but was reopened before March 2007. The Vallejo Police Department website has a menu tab for providing Zodiac Crime Tips. The case also remains open in additional jurisdictions. The story of the Zodiac Killer is outlined in Robert Graysmith’s book Zodiac and the 2007 film by David Fincher entitled Zodiac.