During the Spanish expeditions of the late 1700s, several missions were founded in the San Francisco Bay Area. During the mission period, Milpitas served as a crossroads between Mission San José de Guadalupe in modern-day Fremont and Mission Santa Clara de Asis, in present Santa Clara. The land in modern-day Milpitas was divided between the 6,352.9-acre (25.7 km2) Rancho Rincon de los Esteros, the 4,457.66-acre (18.0 km²) Rancho Milpitas and the 4,394-acre (17.8 km²) Rancho Tularcitos. Ignacio Alviso was granted Rancho Rincon de Los Esteros, José Higuera was granted Rancho Tularcitos, and José María Alviso occupied Rancho Milpitas (The latter now has a middle school named after it in southeast Milpitas.). Jose Maria Alviso was the son of Francisco Xavier Alviso and Maria Bojorquez, both of whom arrived in San Francisco as children with the Anza Expedition. (A son of Ignacio Alviso was also named Jose Maria Alviso, this has led to some confusion by researchers.) Due to Jose Maria Alviso's descendents' difficulty securing his claims to the Rancho Milpitas property, much of his land was either swindled from the Alviso family or had to be quickly sold to American settlers. Both landowners had built prominent adobe homes on their properties. Today, both adobes still exist and are the oldest structures in Milpitas. The seriously eroded walls of the Higuera Adobe, now in Higuera Adobe Park, are encapsulated in a brick shell built c.1970 by Marian Weller, a descendant of pioneer Joseph Weller. , but the Alviso Adobe can be seen mostly in its original form with one kitchen addition made by the Cuciz family c.1920. Prior to the city acquiring the Alviso Adobe it was the oldest continuously occupied adobe house in California dating from the Mexican period and is gradually being restored and undergoing seismic upgrades by the City of Milpitas. Alviso Adobe History Park is to be opened, after the restoration is completed, as an educational museum with historic items, trees, buildings, and documents.
In the 1850s, large numbers of Americans of English, German, and Irish descent arrived to farm the fertile lands of Milpitas. The Burnett, Rose, Dempsey, Jacklin, Trimble, Ayer, Parks, Wool, Weller, Minnis, and Evans are among the early settlers of Milpitas. 1 (Today many schools, streets, and parks have been named in honor of these families.) These early settlers farmed the land and set up many businesses on a section of what was then called Mission Road, which by the late 20th century became known as the "Midtown" district. Yet another influx of immigration came in the 1870s and 1880s as Portuguese sharecroppers from the Azores came to farm the Milpitas hillsides. Many of the Azoreans had such locally well-known surnames like Coelho, Covo, Mattos, Nunes, Spangler, Serpa, and Silva.
There is a local legend that during the late 1800s, when the U.S. Postal Service wanted to locate a Post Office in the town, there was some support for naming the town, Penitencia, after the small Roman Catholic confessional building that served local Indians and ranchers and that stood near Penitencia Creek which ran along the Mission Road. Prominent land owner and civic leader, Joseph Weller, felt the Spanish word Penitencia might be confused with the English word "penitentiary." Instead of choosing Penitencia, he suggested another popular name for the area, Milpitas, after the name of Alviso's property, Rancho Milpitas.
For over a century, Milpitas served as a popular rest stop for travelers on the old Oakland–San Jose Highway. At the intersection of that road with the Milpitas-Alviso Road, Smith's Corners, which still stands, was built in 1895 as a saloon that served beer and wine to thirsty travelers for a century before becoming a restaurant in 2001. Around this central core, grocery and dry goods stores, blacksmithys, service stations, and, in the 1920s, one of America's earliest "fast food" chain restaurants, "The Fat Boy", opened nearby. Another of Milpitas' most popular restaurants was the "Kozy Kitchen" established in 1940 by the Carlos family in the former "Central Market" building. Kozy Kitchen was demolished soon after Jim Carlos sold the restaurant in 1999. ) Even in the early 1950s, Milpitas served a farming community of 800 people who walked a mere one or two blocks to work.
On January 26, 1954, faced with getting swallowed up by a rapidly expanding San Jose, Milpitas residents incorporated as a city that included the recently built Ford Auto Assembly plant. When San Jose attempted to annex Milpitas barely seven years later, the "Milpitas Minutemen" were quickly organized to oppose annexation and keep Milpitas independent. An overwhelming majority of Milpitas registered voters voted "No" to annexation in the 1961 election as a result of a vigorous anti-annexation campaign. Following the election, the anti-annexation committee, who had compared themselves to the Revolutionary War Minutemen who fought the British on Lexington Green - a role filled in this case by the neighboring city of San Jose - adopted the image of Daniel Chester French's Minuteman statue, that stands near the site of the Old North Bridge in Concord, MA, as part of the official city seal. In the 1960s, the city approved the construction of the Calaveras overpass. Formerly at a junction with the Union Pacific railroad, Calaveras Boulevard had a bridge passing over six sets of railroad tracks after the construction was completed. Though the result was that local residents could now drive over the train tracks without waiting for a slow freight to pass, it resulted in the loss of the historical residential area. Here houses owned by city leaders had to be purchased by the city at full market value and either moved or demolished. 2
Starting in the 1950s with the construction of the Ford Motor Assembly Plant, and accelerating in the 1960s and 1970s, extensive residential and retail development took place. Hayfields in Milpitas rapidly disappeared as high-tech industries and residential developments sprang up. Soon, the once rural town of Milpitas found itself as a bustling San Jose suburb. In only 30 years, the population jumped from about 20,500 in 1970 to 62,698 in 2000. Because the high-tech computer industries increased labor demand which was met in large part by skilled workers from China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and the Philippines, the percentage of Asian American residents skyrocketed from 12% of the population in 1980, to 37% in 1990, and boomed to 51% in 2000.
In the early twenty-first century, Milpitas light rail transit system station was added, making it the northeasternmost light rail destination in the region. On January 26, 2004, the city celebrated its 50th anniversary of incorporation and issued the book Milpitas: Five Dynamic Decades to commemorate 50 years of Milpitas' history as a busy, exciting crossroads community.
In a milpa, several crops are grown simultaneously in the same location. The combination of crops provides complete nutrition for humans, and the method of growing them preserves the soil's quality better than what generally results from industrial agriculture. So the name Milpitas as used by Jose Maria Alviso to name his land grant, Rancho Milpitas, thus most likely meant "little or precious garden where many crops can be grown," reflecting the rich alluvial soils of the area. As a nineteenth century California Spanish idiomatic expression, the reason Alviso used Milpitas to name his rancho, occupying more than 4,000 acres (1,618 hectares), is, for the present, lost to us. Given the extended meaning attached to milpa, however, the most reasonable modern American equivalent expression to Milpitas might be "backyard vegetable garden." For a more detailed description of Milpitas' origins see The Milpitas History Homepage
Milpitas is located at (37.434586, -121.895059). Milpitas lies in the northeastern corner of the Santa Clara Valley, which is south of San Francisco. Milpitas is generally considered to be a San Jose suburb in the South Bay, a term used to denote the southern part of the San Francisco Bay Area.
The median elevation of Milpitas is 19 feet (6 m). At Piedmont Road, Evans Road, and North Park Victoria Avenue, the elevation is generally about 100 feet (30 m), while the western area is almost at sea level. The highest point in Milpitas is a 1,289-foot (393 m) peak in the southeastern foothills.
To the east of Milpitas lie the foothills, rolling hills, and mountains of the Diablo Range. Monument Peak, the most prominent summit in the eastern Milpitas hills, is one of the oldest and most well-known symbols of Milpitas. It currently has a broadcasting antenna which provides several television channels to the South Bay.
Although not within Milpitas' city limits, Monument Peak, Calaveras Reservoir, Arroyo Hondo, Laguna Valley, and the surrounding region are culturally and historically considered part of Milpitas. (Loomis, Patricia - Milpitas: A Century of Little Cornfields) Many Portuguese farmers from the Azores have settled there, including the Coelho, Covo, Mattos, Serpa, and Silva families. They are often nicknamed by longtime Milpitans as the "hill people." These Azorean families still own the undeveloped lands in the Milpitas foothills, such as the Silvas living on Old Calaveras Road. 4 The southeasternmost hills belong to the City of Milpitas, which then leases the lands to cattle livestock companies.
There are also many creeks in Milpitas, most of which are part of the Berryessa Creek watershed. Calera Creek, Arroyo de los Coches, Penitencia Creek and Piedmont Creek are some of the creeks that flow from the Milpitas hills and empty into the San Francisco Bay. (See Berryessa Creek)
Milpitas is divided into three sections by Interstates 680 and 880. To the west of I-880 is a largely industrial and commercial area. Between I-880 and its eastern counterpart freeway, I-680, is an industrial zone in the south and residential neighborhoods in the north. Other residential neighborhoods and undeveloped mountains lie east of I-680.
In reality, Milpitas has no concentrated downtown "center," but instead has several small retail centers generally located near residential developments and anchored by a supermarket. The so-called "Midtown" area, the oldest part of Milpitas, has few remaining historic residences and was the only commercial district that existed before 1945. Midtown is situated in the region where Main and Abel Streets run parallel to each other bordered by Montague Expressway in the south and Weller Street at the north end. A USPS post office, Saint John the Baptist's Elementary & Junior High Catholic School, the old Milpitas Grammar School building, the Smith/DeVries mansion, the Senior Center, and Elmwood Correctional Facility are all in the Midtown section of Milpitas. The Milpitas Civic Center, which includes the City Hall and local branch of the Santa Clara County Library, is not located in Midtown, but stands at the intersection of Milpitas and Calaveras Boulevards. The Civic Center is separated from Midtown by the Calaveras overpass. The boundaries that divide major Milpitas neighborhoods and districts include Calaveras Boulevard running from east to west and the Union Pacific railroad, which runs from north to south. The newest retail centers are west of Interstate 880. There are several predominantly Asian retail centers with store signs written in Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean.
Almost all of Milpitas' homes were built after World War II. The first housing developments constructed after the war were Sunnyhills and Milford Village, which were both built in the 1950s. (Source: 2)
Set within a mild Mediterranean climate zone in California, Milpitas enjoys warm, sunny weather with no extreme temperatures or snow. Having one of the mildest climates in the United States, the city's temperature seldom drops below 35 °F (2 °C) and very rarely experiences snow. The ice storms, or blizzards found in the eastern US are unknown in Milpitas. During the winter, temperatures are relatively warm at an average of to 58 °F (4 °C to 14 °C). Showers and cloudy days are frequent during this season dropping most of the city's annual of precipitation, and as spring approaches, the gentle rains gradually dwindle. In summer, the grasslands on the hillsides dehydrate rapidly and form bright, golden sheets on the mountains set off by stands of oak. As opposed to Milpitas' rainy, cool winters, the summer is dry and warm but not hot like the Central Valley. Temperatures infrequently reach over 100 °F (38 °C) with most days in the mid 70s to mid 80s. From June to September, Milpitas experiences little rain, and as autumn approaches, the weather gradually cools down. Many temperate-climate trees drop their leaves during fall in the South Bay but the winter temperature is warm enough for evergreens like date palms to thrive.
As of the census of 2000, there were 62,698 people, 17,132 households, and 13,996 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,785.2/km² (4,622.9/mi²). There were 17,364 housing units at an average density of 494.4/km² (1,280.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 51.81% Asian, 30.87% White, 3.66% African American, 0.62% Native American, 0.63% Pacific Islander, 7.48% from other races, and 4.94% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 16.61% of the population.
There were 17,132 households out of which 43.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 65.1% were married couples living together, 10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 18.3% are nonfamilies. 11.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 2.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.47, and the average family size was 3.72.
In the city, the population was spread out with 24.6% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 38.0% from 25 to 44, 20.9% from 45 to 64, and 7.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females, there are 110.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 111.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $84,429, and the median income for a family was $84,827. Males had a median income of $51,316 versus $36,681 for females. The per capita income for the city was $27,823. About 3.3% of families and 5.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.5% of those under age 18 and 6.4% of those age 65 or over.
Compared to many rural parts of California, living in Milpitas is somewhat more expensive, as it is throughout Silicon Valley. But compared to other South Bay bedroom communities Milpitas is considered affordable. For example, a regular one-story, detached single-family home with a 1,300-square-foot (140 m²) size sells for between $600,000 to $700,000 in the city. These prices are slightly more affordable than the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area, as a similar sized house may cost well over a million dollars in nearby cities such as Palo Alto, Cupertino or Saratoga. Reasons for the expensive housing in the South Bay Area include the regional high tech industries, mild climate, strong foreign investment in the West Coast's housing, and a huge demand for limited homes.
The Milpitas Municipal Code, which has eleven sections, can also be found online
The Milpitas Police Department has a long tradition of reaching out to the community and its citizens. Most recently, in the Spring of 2007, the police department conducted a youth academy, in which teenagers were able to experience various aspects of policing, including the K-9 program, use of force issues and Internet safety.
The police department has an ethnically diverse employee composition.
The Milpitas fire department is headed up by Chief Clare Frank, who has been serving as chief since 2005.
Milpitas fire fighters and police employees are among the best compensated in the state.
Most people who live in Milpitas work out of the city. While most of the workers employed in Milpitas come from other cities. This results in heavy traffic commutes along key arterial roads twice each day.
The computer industry, which includes computer equipment manufacturing and software programming, is the largest source of employment in Milpitas.
Milpitas is home to the headquarters of Sandisk, Linear Technology, LSI Logic, Solectron, JDSU and Adaptec. Many other companies have offices in Milpitas including Quantum, Maxtor, Cisco Systems, Avaya, KLA Tencor, Seagate, LifeScan, Sipex, and Symantec. Creative Technology's well-known U.S. subsidiary, Creative Labs, is based in Milpitas.
Milpitas is also home to one of Santa Clara County's two correctional facilities, the Elmwood Correctional Facility, which houses 3,035 inmates.
Milpitas' public schools are run by the Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD). The area schools are among the most ethnically diverse in the United States. The school district was originally Milpitas Elementary S.D. when it was started as a separate district in the 1950s. Formerly, James Lick High School in Alum Rock was the closest high school to Milpitas. Samuel Ayer High School (now the Milpitas Sports Center, Teen Center and Adult Education Center on Calaveras Road) was built as the only high school located in the city. In the late 1960s MUSD was formed and included Ayer High which had previously been part of East Side Union High School District. In 1970s, Milpitas High School was built on Escuela Parkway and, due to declining enrollment, Samuel Ayer High School closed. See Milpitas High School.
Milpitas has one library, a branch of the Santa Clara County Library system. It is the most used facility in the system with over 2 million check-outs per year. With the City Council's decision to restore and convert the Milpitas Grammar School building (c. 1915) into a regional library of more than twice the size of the former building, the many citizens who utilize the library will be better served. This new library will anchor the north end of Main Street where a senior housing complex and a county medical clinic will be located by 2010.
The movie River's Edge was based on a 1981 murder that happened in Milpitas.
Milpitas often experiences odorous air traveling downwind from bay salt marshes that were formerly part of the Cahill salt works, from the Newby Island landfill and from the San Jose sewage treatment plant's percolation ponds. Most malodorous during the autumn, it is especially pungent west of Interstate 880 because of its close location to the San Francisco Bay and the direction of the prevailing winds out of the north-northwest. The City of Milpitas would like to remedy this air quality problem to the extent it can and encourages its residents to file odor complaints
Local creeks and the nearby San Francisco Bay suffer somewhat from water pollution originating from street water runoff and industrial wastes. The creeks in Milpitas, especially Calera, Scott, and Berryessa Creeks, used to be prime fishing spots for native steelhead until pollutants from urban development and industry killed the fish starting in the 1950s. While small populations of steelhead and even salmon still may be seen in area streams these cannot legally be fished and consumption of legal catches is limited by mercury contamination.
The I880 corridor has experienced relatively elevated levels of air pollution from freeway traffic. For example eight hour standards for carbon monoxide have been near to maximum levels for the last two decades.
The Milpitas City Council voted 3-2 on January 16, 2007 to do away with the idea of having citizens oversee a commission that monitors the city's sunshine law, opting instead to name two councilmembers to supervise the post.
In the late twentieth century and early twenty-first century, Milpitas voters enacted measures to protect the west-facing hillsides east of the city from development.
Milpitas residents enjoy various visual and performing arts. The Milpitas Alliance for the Arts, founded in 1997, is an organization which promotes and funds murals, plays, sculptures, and many other forms of art. The "Art in Your Park" project has put many sculptures in local Milpitas parks, including a ceramic tower in Hillcrest Park, a sundial in Augustine Park, and a historical memorial in Murphy Park. The Celebrate Milpitas Festival is held annually every August, featuring vendors of crafts-type merchandise and providing local talent with a performance venue while selling visitors samplings of exotics like garlic fries or lumpia and even offerings from one or two Californian wineries.
Because of Milpitas' diversity such as that of the United States as a whole, the suburb has a rich variety of restaurants and cuisines. Several kinds of cuisines offer Milpitans a wide choice of quality foods. With a large manufacturing workforce, Milpitas also has many fast food restaurants and other regional/national brand franchised eateries such as McDonalds (8), Carl's Jr., Burger King, Taco Bell, Applebee's, Marie Calendar, and Wienerschnitzel allowing corporate employees to get a quick lunch and return to work. For the coffee lover, there are eight Starbucks outlets, drive through Caffino's, and a few independent shops like Ola's or Cafe Roma around the city.
The large recreational and community services in Milpitas gives it a reputation as having one of the South Bay's best recreational programs. The Milpitas Sports Center on Calaveras Road hosts a variety of sports, including swimming, tennis, soccer, and baseball. The Milpitas Recreational Services Department offers a wide range of tutors and coaches in basketball, dancing, karate, and other leisure activities. The Miliptas Teen Center and the Milpitas Senior Center also provide residents with fun, activities, and educational opportunities.
Milpitas is also home to the largest Bay Area enclosed shopping mall (in terms of land area), the Great Mall of the Bay Area. Great Mall's premises is the conversion of a Ford automobile assembly plant that shut down in the 1970s as a corporate cost-cutting measure.
A large outdoor shopping center called Milpitas Square is anchored by the 99 Ranch Market west of Interstate 880. It is home to dozens of Asian retail businesses and restaurants.
There is one car dealership in Milpitas. It is Piercey Toyota covering a vast area near Great Mall Parkway and Interstate 880. There are plans for a second dealership to open next to the Piercey site by 2010.
In the past, Milpitas had a very different culture from that of its modern suburban state. As late as the 1950s, Milpitas was an unincorporated rural town with the Midtown district on Main Street as its main center of business and social activities. Back then, many people knew each other and walked only one or two blocks to familiar workplaces. Many old businesses, such as Main Street Gas (operated by the Azorean Spangler brothers), Smith's Corner Saloon, and Kozy Kitchen were well-known places which were favorite spots for old-timers to chat or stop by. The Cracolice Building was one of the oldest commercial buildings in Milpitas and was the site of many political conventions and meetings. "As Milpitas Goes, So Goes the State" used to be a popular slogan around the town. Most of the land now within modern-day Milpitas' boundaries were used for strawberry, asparagus, apricot, and potato cultivation until the postwar boom during the 1950s and 1960s.
Ed R. Levin County Park is the largest county regional park near Milpitas. The County of Santa Clara Parks and Recreation Department runs the park. Monument Peak can be accessed through trails that lead north through the county park. The park also provides facilities for hang gliding and paragliding and includes a newly built dog park that was a joint effort by the county and the city of Milpitas. Two golf courses, Spring Valley Golf Course and Summitpointe Golf Course, are located in the Milpitas foothills. Both have expensive gated residential developments located adjacent to them. Milpitas itself has 17 traditional neighborhood parks which are generally 3 to 10 acres (12,000 to 40,000 m²). There also is a sports complex and sports parks with baseball and tennis play areas fenced off. There are also smaller parks of less than three acres scattered in newer developments. Milpitas has begun to develop the San Francisco Water District's Hetch Hetchy right-of-way as park land in lieu of using land from new high density residential developments adjacent to it. Together, these parks total 166 acres (672,000 m²) of land area or less than 2% of the city's acreage. The ratio of resident to park land in Milpitas is one of the highest in the San Francisco Bay area.
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From north to south, the major east-west roads in Milpitas are Dixon Landing Road, Jacklin Road, Calaveras Boulevard, and Landess Avenue/Montague Expressway. From east to west, the major north-south roads are Piedmont Road, Evans Road, Park Victoria Drive, Milpitas Boulevard, Main Street, Abel Street, and McCarthy Boulevard. Milpitas roads that reach into the hills are, from north to south, Country Club Drive, Old Calaveras Road, Calaveras Road, and a private ranch drive, the historic Urridias Ranch Road.
As with many other Californian suburbs, Milpitas has divided roads that are maintained well by the local city government. Street signs are in green, as opposed to San Jose's blue ones. Like the San Jose public works system, all pedestrians must manually press a button in order to turn the pedestrian signal lights on (unlike the South Bay cities, San Francisco has automatic pedestrian lights at intersections and do not have "press to cross" buttons for pedestrians).
Not all streets in Milpitas have bicycle lanes or sidewalks. Piedmont Road, Evans Road, and Jacklin Road have excellent bike lanes and sidewalks with ample spacing, but Montague Expressway and South Milpitas Boulevard have limited sidewalks and narrow bike lanes, which causes some problems for workers commuting by bike or on foot. The roads most favorable for recreational jogging and biking are Evans and Piedmont Roads.
State Route 237, Interstate 680, and Interstate 880 link Milpitas to the rest of the Bay Area. Interstates 680 and 880 lead north to Fremont and south to downtown San Jose. On the other hand, Highway 237 begins at Milpitas and goes west to Sunnyvale and Mountain View.
The Altamont Commuter Express provides 3 morning express train service towards Milpitas from neighboring cities in San Joaquin and Alameda County, and 3 returning evening trips. Although the nearest stop is located near Great America Park, in San Jose, shuttle busses are provided with stops in Milpitas.
The nearest airports to the city are the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) and Reid-Hillview Airport in East San Jose, the latter which is for small private airplanes. Although Milpitas is bordered by the San Francisco Bay in the extreme northwest, that area is not accessible to ships and boats. Being landlocked, the city depends on the Port of Oakland for oceangoing freight and on the Union Pacific Railroad for cargo transport.
The Milpitas Monster was filmed in the town in 1976. Originally started as a high school project it developed into a feature length film. In the quiet town of Milpitas, California, a gigantic creature is spawned in a polluted, overflowing waste disposal site. The townspeople rally to destroy the creature, which has an uncontrollable desire to consume large quantities of garbage cans.
The movie River's Edge was inspired by the true story of a murder that happened in Milpitas in 1981. It is a story about a teenage boy that murders a classmate and shows off the body to his friends. The names and races of the individuals involved were changed. The story was "Hollywood-ized" for dramatic purposes. The filmmakers added stories that did not occur and characters that did not exist. It starred some relatively unknown actors at the time named Keanu Reeves, Crispin Glover and Ione Skye as well as veteran actor Dennis Hopper.