The city is part of the North Bay region, which includes such cities as Sonoma, Healdsburg and Sebastopol. It lies along the U.S. Route 101 corridor, approximately 55 miles (90 km) north of San Francisco, via the Golden Gate Bridge.
Santa Rosa lies on the Santa Rosa Plain; its eastern extremities stretch into the Valley of the Moon, and the Sonoma Creek watershed known as the Sonoma Valley, while its western edge lies in the Laguna de Santa Rosa catchment basin.
The city is in the watershed of Santa Rosa Creek, which rises on Hood Mountain and discharges to the Laguna de Santa Rosa. Tributary basins to Santa Rosa Creek lying significantly in the city are Brush Creek, Matanzas Creek, Colgan Creek and Piner Creek. Other water bodies within the city include Fountaingrove Lake, Lake Ralphine, and Santa Rosa Creek Reservoir.
Santa Rosa has cool, wet winters and warm, mostly dry summers. Fog and low overcast sometimes moves in from the Pacific Ocean during summer nights and mornings. Average annual rainfall is , falling on 74 days annually. The wettest year was 1983 with and the dryest year was 1976 with . The most rainfall in one month was in February 1998 and the most rainfall in 24 hours was on December 19, 1981. Measurable snowfall is rare in the lowlands, but light amounts sometimes fall in the nearby mountains.
There are an average of 28.9 days with highs of 90 °F (32 °C) or more and an average of 30.2 days with lows of 32 °F (0°) or lower. The record high was on September 13, 1971, and the record low was on December 13, 1932.
|Month||High (°F)||Low (°F)||Precip. (inches)|
|January||58 (14 °C)||37 (3 °C)||6.2 (15.74cm)|
|February||63 (17 °C)||40 (4 °C)||4.64 (11.78cm)|
|March||65 (18 °C)||41 (5 °C)||4.34 (11.02cm)|
|April||70 (21 °C)||42 (6 °C)||1.8 (4.57cm)|
|May||75 (24 °C)||46 (8 °C)||0.31 (0.79cm)|
|June||80 (27 °C)||50 (10 °C)||0.3 (0.76cm)|
|July||84 (29 °C)||51 (11 °C)||0 (0cm)|
|August||83 (28 °C)||52 (11 °C)||0 (0cm)|
|September||83 (28 °C)||51 (11 °C)||0.6 (1.52cm)|
|October||77 (25 °C)||47 (8 °C)||1.86 (4.72cm)|
|November||65 (18 °C)||42 (6 °C)||4.8 (12.2cm)|
|December||57 (14 °C)||37 (3 °C)||4.96 (12.6cm)|
Santa Rosa lies atop the Healdsburg-Rodgers Creek segment of the Hayward-Rodgers Creek Fault System. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates a 20% chance of a magnitude 6.7 or greater earthquake on this segment by 2030.
On April 14, 2005, the United States Geological Survey released a map detailing the results of a new tool that measures ground shaking during an earthquake. The map determined that the 1906 San Francisco earthquake was most powerful in an area between Santa Rosa and what is now Sebastopol, causing more damage in Santa Rosa (for its size) than any other city affected.
Two earthquakes of magnitudes 5.6 and 5.7 shook Santa Rosa October 1, 1969, damaging about 100 structures. They were the strongest quakes to affect the city since 1906. The epicenters were about two miles (3 km) north of Santa Rosa.
Due to its population, Santa Rosa's only remaining undisturbed areas are on its urban fringe and comprise the principal corridors of Santa Rosa Creek and its tributaries. Great blue herons, great egrets, snowy egrets and black-crowned herons nest in the trees of the median strip on West Ninth Street. Deer often are spotted roaming the neighborhoods nearer the eastern hills; flocks of wild turkeys are relatively common in some areas, and mountain lions are occasionally observed within the city limits.
Santa Rosa can be seen as divided into four quadrants: Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest. Highway 101 runs roughly north and south through the city, and divides it into east and west sides. State Highway 12 runs roughly east and west, and divides the city into north and south sides.
Neighborhood associations include:
There were 56,036 households out of which 30.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.9% were married couples living together, 11.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.3% were non-families. 27.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 3.14.
In the city the population is spread out with 24.3% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 30.0% from 25 to 44, 22.3% from 45 to 64, and 13.9% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 36 years. For every 100 females there are 95.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 91.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $50,931, and the median income for a family is $59,659. Males have a median income of $40,420 versus $30,597 for females. The per capita income for the city is $24,495. 8.5% of the population and 5.1% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 9.5% of those under the age of 18 and 4.7% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
Horticulturalist Luther Burbank lived in Santa Rosa for over 50 years. He said of Sonoma County, "I firmly believe, from what I have seen, that this is the chosen spot of all this earth as far as Nature is concerned." For many years the City's slogan was, "The City Designed For Living".
In early 2007, the Chamber of Commerce, the City, and Santa Rosa Main Street (a Downtown booster group funded by the City), started searching for a new slogan, to "help the City of Santa Rosa discover its identity". The Chamber said it wants to develop "a strategic community message for marketing the city to visitors, residents, and businesses in the year 2007 and beyond."
Local historian Gaye LeBaron, in a March 4, 2007 Press Democrat column, commented that:
There is a disconnect between the average Santa Rosan's perception of the town and reality. ... What we have are a lot of people, some old-timers, some fairly new residents, who never, ever intended to live in the fifth-largest city in any area. And, frightened by new crimes, stalled in old traffic, watching tall buildings rise, they're mad as hell! When you stop to think about it, this revelation explains a lot. We have spent decades wondering why we couldn't save the Carrillo Adobe or the Hoag House, why we can't have a plaza like Healdsburg's or Sonoma's, why we've never achieved a proper historical museum like all the other towns around, why it takes so long (20 years for ANYthing) to reach the simplest civic goal, why we have to hire an image consultant to tell us what we represent. It's because we have outgrown the hometown, small-town advantage. We've become a real city while we were busy complaining about our farm town.
The first known permanent European settlement of Santa Rosa was the homestead of the Carrillo family, in-laws to Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, who settled the Sonoma pueblo and Petaluma area. In the 1830s, during the Mexican period, the family of Dona Maria Carrillo built an adobe house on their land grant, the Rancho Cabeza de Santa Rosa, just east of what later became downtown Santa Rosa. Allegedly, however, by the 1820s, before the Carrillos built their adobe in the 1830s, Spanish / Mexican settlers from nearby Sonoma and other settlements to the south raised livestock in the area and slaughtered animals at the fork of the Santa Rosa Creek and Matanzas Creek, near the intersection of modern-day Santa Rosa Ave. and Sonoma Ave. This is supposedly the origin of the name of Matanzas Creek as, because of its use as a slaughtering place, the confluence came to be called La Matanza.
By the 1850s, a Wells Fargo post and general store were established in what is now downtown Santa Rosa. In the mid-1850s, several prominent locals, including Julio Carrillo, son of Maria Carrillo, laid out the grid street pattern for Santa Rosa with a public square in the center, a pattern which largely remains as the street pattern for downtown Santa Rosa to this day despite changes to the central square, now called Old Courthouse Square.
In 1867, the county recognized Santa Rosa as an incorporated city and in 1868 the state officially confirmed the incorporation, making it officially the third incorporated city in Sonoma County, after Petaluma, incorporated in 1858, and Healdsburg, incorporated in 1867.
The U.S. Census records, among others, show that after California became a state, despite initially lagging behind nearby Petaluma in the 1850s and early 1860s, Santa Rosa grew steadily early on. According to the U.S. Census, in 1870 Santa Rosa was the 8th largest city in California, and county seat of one of the most populous counties in the state. Growth and development after that were never rapid, but were steady.
As a result, the city continued to grow when other early population centers declined or stagnated, but by 1900 it had been, or was being, overtaken by many other newer population centers in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California. According to a 1905 article in the Press Democrat newspaper reporting on the "Battle of the Trains," the city had just over 10,000 people at the time.
The April 18, 1906 San Francisco Earthquake essentially destroyed the entire downtown, but the city's population did not greatly suffer. However, after that period the population growth of Santa Rosa, as with most of the area, was very slow.
Famed director Alfred Hitchcock filmed his thriller Shadow of a Doubt in Santa Rosa in 1943; the film, which has been released on VHS and DVD, gives glimpses of Santa Rosa in the 1940s. Many of the downtown buildings seen in the film no longer exist, due to major reconstruction following an earthquake in September 1969. However, some, like the rough-stone Northwestern Pacific Railroad depot and the prominent Empire Building (built in 1910 with a gold-topped clock tower), still survive.
With the end of World War II in 1945, Santa Rosa would soon see substantial growth for the next 25 years. The population enlarged by 2/3 between 1950 and 1970, an average of 1,000 new residents a year over the 20 years. Some of the increase was from immigration, and some from annexation of portions of the surrounding area.
In 1958 the United States Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization designated Santa Rosa as one of its eight regional headquarters, with jurisdiction over Region 7, which included American Samoa, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah. Santa Rosa continued as a major center for civil defense activity (under the Office of Emergency Planning and the Office of Emergency Preparedness) until 1972 when FEMA was created in its place, ending the civil defense's 69-year history.
When the City Council adopted the City's first modern General Plan in 1991, the population was about 113,000. In the 21 years since 1970, Santa Rosa had grown by about 3,000 residents a year--triple the average growth during the previous twenty years.
Santa Rosa 2010, the 1991 General Plan, called for a population of 175,000 in 2010. The Council expanded the City's urban boundary to include all the land then planned for future annexation, and declared it would be Santa Rosa's "ultimate" boundary. The rapid growth that was being criticized as urban sprawl became routine infill development.
At the first five-year update of the plan, in 1996, the Council extended the planning period by ten years, renaming it Vision 2020 (updated to Santa Rosa 2020, and then again to Santa Rosa 2030 Vision), and added more land and population. Now the City projects a population of 195,000 in 2020.
The City Council has adopted these Strategic Planning Goals for 2007-2009 :
Santa Rosa City Schools (partial list)
The Sonoma County Library offers a Central Library in downtown Santa Rosa, a Northwest branch at Coddingtown Mall, and a Rincon Valley branch in east Santa Rosa. The Library is a member of the North Bay Cooperative Library System. The Santa Rosa Central Library, the largest branch of the Sonoma County Library system, has a Local History and Genealogy Annex, located behind the Central Library.
The Sonoma County Public Law Library is located at the Sonoma County Courthouse.
At Santa Rosa Junior College, the new four-story Frank P. Doyle Library is a state-of-the-art facility. It houses the Library, Media Services, and Academic Computing Departments, as well as the College art gallery, tutorial center and Center for New Media, a multimedia production facility for SRJC faculty.
Forbes Magazine ranked the Santa Rosa metropolitan area 185th out of 200, on its 2007 list of Best Places For Business And Careers. It was second on the list five years before. The area 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.
According to the City's Community Profile 2008, five of Santa Rosa's major employers are government agencies, four are manufacturers, two are hospitals, and one is a public utility:
Santa Rosa sits at the southwestern gateway to the Sonoma and Napa Valleys of California's famed Wine Country. Many wineries and vineyards are nearby, as well as the Russian River Resort Area, the Sonoma Coast along the Pacific Ocean, Jack London State Historic Park and the redwood trees of Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve.
The City sprawls along Highway 101, about an hour north of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. Airline service by Horizon Air, from the Charles M. Schulz - Sonoma County Airport, just north of Santa Rosa, is available to Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle. The City Council is also encouraging major new commercial and residential development along a proposed Sonoma-Marin Rapid Transit (SMART) railway from Larkspur to Cloverdale--parallel to the congested 101 freeway--which will be developed if local voters approve a new sales tax surcharge.
The City Council pays the Chamber of Commerce to operate the Santa Rosa Convention & Visitors Bureau. The Chamber's visitors center is in the City-owned old railroad depot at the bottom of Fourth Street, in Historic Railroad Square. The SRC&VB has been a California Welcome Center since 2003.
Downtown Santa Rosa, including the central Old Courthouse Square and historic Railroad Square, is a shopping, restaurant, nightclub, and theater area. Downtown also includes City Hall, State, and Federal office buildings, many banks, and professional offices. The Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital medical center area is just to the east.
The City Council funds a private booster group, Santa Rosa Main Street, which lobbies the City to revitalize the traditional business district. Three new mixed-use, high-rise buildings, and a new City parking garage, are under development. The Council and Downtown business boosters hope condos atop the new buildings will house a population to keep the area alive 24 hours a day.
Railroad Square is the portion of downtown that is on the west side of U.S. Route 101 and it has the highest concentration of historic commercial buildings in the downtown area. Of particular note are the four rough-hewn stone buildings at its core, two of which are rare in that they predate the 1906 earthquake. They include the old Northwestern Pacific Railroad depot, prominent in the beginning and end of "Shadow of a Doubt" by Alfred Hitchcock and the still-functioning Hotel La Rose, built in 1907 and registered as one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation Historic Hotels of America. The area contains numerous other historic buildings, such as the former Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railroad depot, and the Lee Bros. Building, both at the corner of 4th and Wilson Streets. Near it in the West End district are numerous other old buildings, including not only many old houses but the masonry DeTurk Winery complex, dating to the 1880s-1890s, and the DeTurk round barn. Also of note nearby is the former Del Monte Cannery Building built in 1894. One of the oldest surviving commercial buildings in town, it was renovated into the new 6th Street Playhouse.
The performing arts in Santa Rosa are represented by Summer Repertory Theatre, the Santa Rosa Symphony, the Wells Fargo Center for the Performing Arts (formerly the Luther Burbank Center), and the Santa Rosa Players and the Actors Theater, both performing in the G. K. Hardt Theatre at the 6th Street Playhouse. Santa Rosa is the home of the North Bay Theater Group, an alliance of some 40 theater companies, theater departments and individual performance companies from five North Bay counties.
Summer Repertory Theater (SRT) is a complete and extensive practicum in all aspects of stage production. The program combines professional directing, design, and production staff with outstanding students in acting, design, technical theater, dance, music, and management. The ensemble mounts five productions, which are performed in full rotating Repertory six days a week beginning in mid June. Company members put theory to the test and learn to work in a professional system. SRT, located in the heart of the Sonoma County wine country, one hour north of San Francisco and forty-five minutes east of the beautiful Northern California coast is a well organized program.
The Santa Rosa Symphony is the major symphony orchestra of Santa Rosa, and is currently under the direction of Bruno Ferrandis. Former conductor Jeffrey Kahane resigned from the post, which he held for ten years, in order to pursue new conducting opportunities in Colorado.
The Santa Rosa Symphony education department consists of four youth ensembles categorized by their level of skill. The department provides classical music education to students across Sonoma County, who can audition for any of these groups. The three full orchestral ensembles, from lowest to highest are the Preparatory Orchestra, the Discovery Orchestra, and the Youth Orchestra. The chamber strings ensemble is known as the Young People's Chamber Orchestra.
The visual arts are represented by the Sonoma County Museum, and numerous independent art galleries. The Arts Council of Sonoma County is based at the Museum. The annual ARTrails event showcases the work of local visual artists from around Sonoma County, who open their private studios for two weekends in the fall to the public.
Santa Rosa was the home of horticulturalist Luther Burbank, who said of Sonoma County, "I firmly believe, from what I have seen, that this is the chosen spot of all this earth as far as Nature is concerned." Burbank lived in Santa Rosa for more than 50 years in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, working to develop new strains of plants and toward improving the world's food supply. During that time, he introduced more than 200 varieties of fruits, vegetables, grains, and ornamental flowers, including the Shasta daisy and the Santa Rosa plum. (Note: Burbank introduced the Russet Burbank Potato prior to his move to Santa Rosa.) His home and the surrounding gardens, now called the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens, are located in downtown Santa Rosa and have been designated a California Historical Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. Burbank is buried under an oak tree on the property.
Santa Rosa is the birthplace of cartoonist Robert Ripley, creator of Ripley's Believe It or Not!. The Church of the One Tree, a church built entirely of the wood from a single redwood tree, and popularized by Ripley, stands on the north side of Juilliard Park in downtown Santa Rosa, across the street from the Luther Burbank Home and Gardens. Ripley is buried in Santa Rosa near his parents in the Oddfellows Lawn Cemetery, next to the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery.
For over 30 years, Santa Rosa was home to Charles M. Schulz, the world-famous cartoonist and creator of the beloved comic strip Peanuts. The Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center in Santa Rosa celebrates his life's work and the art of cartooning. A bronze statue of Charlie Brown and Snoopy stands in Depot Park at the northwest corner of 4th and Wilson Streets in downtown Santa Rosa's Railroad Square District. In 2000, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors rechristened the "Charles M. Schulz - Sonoma County Airport" in his honor. The airport's amusing logo features Snoopy with goggles and scarf, taking to the skies on top of his red doghouse.
Schulz was also the owner of Santa Rosa's Redwood Empire Ice Arena.
Technology journalist Mark Stephens (a.k.a. Robert X. Cringely) lived in Santa Rosa from 1999 to 2004.
Singer-songwriter Dan Hicks grew up in Santa Rosa. He started playing drums in grade school, played snare drum in marching band, and was playing gigs with area dance bands when he was 14. Thinking about a career in broadcasting, he had a spot on the local radio program "Time Out for Teens", while going to Montgomery High in the '50s.
Dan began playing guitar and singing while going to San Francisco State College (where he earned a degree in Broadcasting), and became part of the SF coffeehouse folk music scene. By 1965 he was playing drums with the San Francisco folk-rock group The Charlatans. They were the house band at the new Red Dog Saloon in Virginia City, Nevada; and were among the groups that inspired the SF '60s psychedelic dancehall scene. He began recording in 1969 as Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, an acoustic group with two female backup singers.
Dan lives in Mill Valley, tours with the current version of the Hot Licks, and also sings with the group Bayside Jazz.
Professional cyclist Levi Leipheimer (/ˈlaɪ̯pˌhaɪ̯mər/) calls Santa Rosa his home when not racing in Europe. He was a member of the United States Postal Service cycling team that saw Lance Armstrong win the Tour de France. Then, as leader of the Gerolsteiner team, Leipheimer won the Tour of Germany and finished in the top five in the Tour de France and the Vuelta an España, and notched a podium finish in the Dauphiné Libéré. He still competes in the UCI Pro Tour, which includes the Tour, Giro, and Vuelta. On February 26, 2006, Leipheimer finished sixth overall (riding first through Santa Rosa) in the inaugural Amgen Tour of California (designed to rival the Tour de France in the United States) but, true to his strength (climbing), he captured the King of the Mountain title. In 2007, now as leader of the Discovery Channel team, he returned to capture 1st overall at the 2007 Tour of California. He won again in 2008. Levi finished third in the 2007 Tour de France , helped his teammate win the tour, and won the final individual time trial.
19th-Century spiritual leader Thomas Lake Harris, after creating a community on the shores of Lake Erie, established the Fountain Grove spiritual community ("Eden of the West") in northern Santa Rosa in 1875. Thomas Lake Harris Drive is named after him.
Kanaye Nagasawa (1852-1934) was a Japanese-American who became a known as "The Grape King," "The Baron of Fountaingrove." and "The Japanese Wine King of California". He was a follower and adoptive son of Thomas Lake Harris. For his efforts to improve U.S.-Japanese relations, he was awarded the Order of the Rising Sun. Nagasawa Community Park is named after him.
Julie London (1926-2000), American singer and actress, was a native of Santa Rosa.
Dona Maria Ygnacia Lopez de Carrillo was the first Mexican/Spanish settler and land grantee of Santa Rosa, establishing the Rancho Cabeza de Santa Rosa in 1838. She was also notable in California as a rare female land grantee; mother-in-law of Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, a major Californio administrator who played a crucial role in California during both the Mexican and US periods; mother of Vallejo's wife, Francisca Maria Felipe Benicia, after whom the city of Benicia was named; grandmother of Romualdo Pacheco, California's only Californio state governor; and aunt of Californio administrators Andres Pico and Pio Pico.
The Hunt brothers, founders of the Hunt's tomato company started the business in Santa Rosa. Although originally from Sebastopol, they established their business in Santa Rosa in 1890, located in a building on West Third Street near Railroad Square. Hunt's products often note this date of founding. They eventually opened a new plant in Hayward.
Florian Dauenhauer of Santa Rosa founded Dauenhauer Manufacturing which is still located on 5th Street in Santa Rosa. Around 1940, he revolutionized the US hop industry by inventing a hop harvesting machine which mechanized what was a time-consuming, labor-intensive process and which is the basis for current hop harvesting. Unfortunately for the region, it helped destroy the region's once-thriving hop industry.
Shirlee Busbee is an American writer of romance novels since 1977.