Ventura County is a county in the southern part of the U.S. state of California (Southern California). It is located on California's Pacific coast, and forms the northwestern part of the Greater Los Angeles Area. It is often referred to as the Gold Coast, and has a reputation of being one of the safest populated places and one of the most affluent places in the country. It is ranked as one of the top 100 highest-income counties in the country and as the 6th wealthiest county in California by per capita income. Median Home Prices range from $400,000 to around $2 million. This is partly because it is part of the Tech Coast Area, and has a large presence in technology corporations like telecommunications, healthcare, development, and especially biotech corporations, most of which are located in the Conejo Valley.
As of the 2000 census, the county had a population of 753,197. A more current California Department of Finance estimate places the population at 813,052. The county seat is the city of Ventura (formally known as San Buenaventura). Ventura County's largest city is Oxnard, with a population of about 200,000.
Active occupation of California by Spain began in 1769. Gaspar de Portolà led a military expedition by land from San Diego to Monterey, passing through Ventura County in August of that year. A priest with the expedition, Father Juan Crespi, kept a journal of the trip and noted that the area was ideal for a mission to be established and it was a "good site to which nothing is lacking".. Also on this expedition was Father Junípero Serra, who later founded a mission on this site.
On March 31 1782, the Mission San Buenaventura was founded by Father Serra, named after Saint Bonaventure. Buenaventura is composed of two Spanish words, buena meaning "good" and ventura meaning "fortune." The town that grew up around the mission is named San Buenaventura, which came to be known as Ventura.
In the 1790s, the Spanish Governor of California began granting land rights to Spanish Californians, often retiring soldiers. These grants were known as ranchos and consisted of thousands of acres of land that were used primarily as ranch land for livestock. By 1822, there were 19 rancho grants in Ventura County.
In 1836, Mission San Buenaventura was transferred from the Church to a secular administrator. The natives who had been working at the mission gradually left to work on the ranchos. By 1839, only 300 Indians were left at the Mission and it slipped into neglect.
Several outhouses were discovered in July 2007 dating back to the 1800s. They have proved to be a treasure trove for archaeologists who braved the lingering smell in the dirt to uncover some 19th Century artifacts.
The Mexican–American War began in 1846 but its effect was not felt in Ventura County until 1847. In January of that year, Captain John C. Frémont led the California Battalion into San Buenaventura finding that the Europeans had fled leaving only the Indians in the Mission. The Fremont and the Battalion continued south to sign the Treaty of Cahuenga with General Andrés Pico. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo formally transferred California to the United States in 1848.
By 1849, a constitution had been adopted for the California territory. The new Legislature met and divided the pending state into 27 counties. At the time, the area that would become Ventura County was the southern part of Santa Barbara County.
The 1860s brought many changes to the area. A drought caused many of the ranchos to experience financial difficulties and most were divided, sub-divided and sold. Large sections of land were bought by eastern capitalists based on favorable reports of petroleum deposits. A United States Post Office was opened at Mission San Buenaventura in 1861. On April 1 1866, the town of San Buenaventura was incorporated becoming the first officially recognized town in Ventura County.
On January 1 1873, Ventura County was officially split from Santa Barbara County, bringing a flurry of change. That same year, a courthouse and wharf were built in San Buenaventura. A bank was opened and the first public library was created. The school system grew, with the first high school opening in 1890.
Other towns were starting in the county. A plan for Port Hueneme was recorded in 1874, and Santa Paula's plan was recorded in 1875. The community of Nordhoff (later renamed Ojai) was started in 1874. Piru, Fillmore and Montalvo were established in 1887. 1892 saw Simi (later Simi Valley), Somis, Saticoy and Moorpark. Oxnard was a late-comer, not being established until 1898.
The Southern Pacific Railroad laid tracks through San Buenaventura in 1887. For convenience in printing their timetables, Southern Pacific shortened San Buenaventura to Ventura. The Post Office soon followed suit. While the city remains officially known as San Buenaventura, it is more commonly referred to as Ventura.
It had been known that oil existed in Ventura County as far back as the Chumash people, who used tar to make baskets and canoes waterproof. In the 1860s, several attempts were made to harvest the petroleum products under Ventura County but none were financially successful, and the oil speculators eventually changed from oil to land development. In 1913, oil exploration began in earnest, with Ralph Lloyd obtaining the financial support of veteran oil man Joseph B. Dabney. Their first well, named "Lloyd No. 1", was started on January 20 1914. The well struck oil at 2558 feet (780 m) but was destroyed when it went wild. Other wells met a similar fate, until 1916, when a deal was struck with the Shell Oil Company. Other deals followed with General Petroleum in 1917 and Associated Oil Company in 1920. At its peak, the Ventura Avenue oilfield was producing 90,000 barrels of oil a day, with annual production of over a million and a half barrels.
In the early hours of the morning of March 13 1928, the St. Francis Dam collapsed, sending billions of gallons of water rushing through the Santa Clarita Valley, killing 385 people, destroying 1,240 homes and flooding 7,900 acres (32 km²) of land, devastating farm fields and orchards. This was the largest single disaster to strike Ventura County.
Ventura County can be separated into two major parts, East County and West County. East County consists of all cities east of the Conejo Grade, known locally as "The Grade." East County, geographically, is the end of the Santa Monica Mountains, in which the Conejo Valley is located, and where there is a considerable decrease in elevation. Communities which are considered to be in the East County are Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, Lake Sherwood, Hidden Valley, Santa Rosa Valley, Oak Park, Moorpark, and Simi Valley. A majority of these communities are in the Conejo Valley, one of the most affluent areas in the United States. West County, which is everything west of the Conejo Grade, consists of communities such as Camarillo, Oxnard, Somis, Point Mugu, Port Hueneme, Ventura, Ojai, Santa Paula, and Fillmore. West County consists of some of the first developed cities in Ventura County. Ventura County's largest beach communities are located in West County on the coastline of the Channel Islands Harbor.
North of Highway 126 the county is mountainous and mostly uninhabited, and contains some of the most unspoiled, rugged and inaccessible wilderness remaining in southern California. Most of this land is in the Los Padres National Forest, and includes the Chumash Wilderness in the northernmost portion, adjacent to Kern County, as well as the large Sespe Wilderness and portions of both the Dick Smith Wilderness and Matilija Wilderness (both of these protected areas straddle the line with Santa Barbara County). All of the wilderness areas are within the jurisdiction of Los Padres National Forest.
The highest peaks in the county include Mount Pinos (8831', 2697 m), Frazier Mountain (8017', 2444 m), and Reyes Peak (7525', 2294 m), all except Reyes Peak in the San Emigdio Mountains (Pinos and Frazier Mountain are sometimes assigned to the Tehachapis). The uplands are well-timbered with coniferous forests, and receive plentiful snow in the winter.
Mount Pinos is sacred to the Chumash Indians. It is known to them as Iwihinmu, and was considered to be the center of the universe; being the highest peak in the vicinity, it has a spectacular view, unimpeded in three directions.
|2004||51.2% 160,314||47.5% 148,859||1.3% 4,020|
|2000||48.2% 136,173||47.1% 133,258||4.7% 13,261|
|1996||43.5% 109,202||44.1% 110,772||12.4% 31,220|
|1992||35.5% 94,911||37.0% 99,011||27.5% 73,725|
|1988||61.6% 147,604||37.2% 89,065||1.2% 2,804|
|1984||68.7% 151,383||30.2% 66,550||1.2% 2,529|
|1980||60.3% 114,930||29.5% 56,311||10.2% 19,409|
|1976||53.2% 82,670||44.1% 68,529||2.7% 4,201|
|1972||63.2% 95,310||32.7% 49,307||4.1% 6,188|
|1968||51.4% 59,705||41.1% 47,794||7.5% 8,762|
|1964||41.0% 40,264||58.8% 57,805||0.2% 169|
|1960||49.6% 35,074||50.0% 35,334||0.5% 315|
Unlike most other areas of Coastal California, Ventura County is relatively split between Democrats and Republicans, with a slight majority tending to support the Republican Party in local and national elections. While Republicans used to win a large majority of votes throughout the 1970s and 1980s, no party has received more than 60% of votes since 1988. The last Democrat to win a majority in the county was Lyndon Johnson in 1964.
Yet, the 23rd congressional district, which includes coastal regions of Ventura County along with the cities of Oxnard and Ventura, has a Cook Partisan Index (CPI) rating of D +9, meaning that based on the presidential election results of 2000 and 2004, the district is 9% more Democratic than the nation. It is currently represented by Democrat Lois Capps. Most of the county's area, including the inland areas and cities of Thousand Oaks as well as Moorpark, is in the 24th district, which has a PVI of R +5 and is held by Republican Elton Gallegly. In the State Assembly, Ventura is in the 35th, 37th, 38th, and 41st districts. The 35th and 41st districts are held by Democrats, Pedro Nava and Julia Brownley, respectively; the 37th and 38th districts are held by Republicans, Audra Strickland and Cameron Smyth, respectively. In the State Senate, Ventura is part of the 17th, 19th, and 23rd Senate districts, which are held by Republicans George Runner, Tom McClintock, and Democrat Sheila Kuehl, respectively.
Current county supervisors are Steve Bennett, Linda Parks, Kathy Long, Peter Foy (Chair), and John Flynn. Bob Brooks is the sheriff of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department. Bob Roper is the chief of the Ventura County Fire Department.
Republicans have historically held the registration advantage, but on March 3, 2008, Democratic registration surpassed Republican registration. The cities of Camarillo, Moorpark, Simi Valley, and Thousand Oaks all have voter rolls with a Republican pluralities. The remaining cities and towns in the county have a Democratic plurality or majority on the voter rolls, with the unincorporated areas being split almost evenly between the parties.
As of the census of 2000, there were 753,197 people, 243,234 households, and 182,911 families living in the county. The population density was 408 people per square mile (158/km²). There were 251,712 housing units at an average density of 136 per square mile (53/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 69.93% White, 5.35% Asian, 1.95% Black or African American, 0.94% Native American, 0.22% Pacific Islander, 17.68% from other races, and 3.93% from two or more races. About one third (33.42%) of the population is Hispanic or Latino of any race. 9.8% were of German, 7.7% English and 7.1% Irish ancestry according to Census 2000. 67.1% spoke English, 26.2% Spanish and 1.5% Tagalog as their first language.
There were 243,234 households, of which 39.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.5% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.8% were non-families. 18.9% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.04 and the average family size was 3.46.
In the county the population was spread out, with 28.4% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 30.7% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 10.2% who were 65 or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 99.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.5 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $59,666, and the median income for a family was $65,285. Males had a median income of $45,310, versus $32,216 for females. The per capita income for the county was $24,600. About 6.4% of families and 9.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.6% of those under age 18 and 6.3% of those aged 65 or over.