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County of Contra Costa
—  County  —
The west face of Mount Diablo, the most notable natural landmark in Contra Costa County

Location in the state of California
California's location in the United States
Country  United States
State  California
Region/Metro area San Francisco Bay Area
Incorporated 1850
Named for "Opposite coast" (Spanish: Contra costa) of the San Francisco Bay
County seat Martinez
Largest city Concord
 • Total 802.15 sq mi (2,077.6 km2)
 • Land 719.95 sq mi (1,864.7 km2)
 • Water 82.20 sq mi (212.9 km2)
Population (2010)
 • Total 1,049,025
 • Density 1,300/sq mi (500/km2)
Time zone Pacific Standard Time (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) Pacific Daylight Time (UTC-7)
Area code(s) 510, 925

Contra Costa County (Spanish for "opposite coast"[1]) is a primarily suburban county in the San Francisco Bay Area of the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 1,049,025.[2] The county seat is Martinez.[3]

History[edit | edit source]

Pre-human[edit | edit source]

In prehistoric times, particularly the Miocene epoch, portions of the landforms now in the area (then marshy and grassy savanna) were populated by a wide range of now extinct mammals, known in modern times by the fossil remains excavated in the southern part of the county. In the northern part of the county, significant coal and sand deposits were formed in even earlier geologic eras. Other areas of the county have ridges exposing ancient but intact (not fossilized) seashells, embedded in sandstone layers alternating with limestone. Layers of volcanic ash ejected from geologically recent but now extinct volcanos, compacted and now tilted by compressive forces, may be seen at the site of some road excavations. This county is an agglomeration of several distinct geologic terranes, as is most of the greater San Francisco Bay Area, which is one of the most geologically complex regions in the world. The great local mountain Mount Diablo has been formed and continues to be elevated by compressive forces resulting from the action of plate tectonics and at its upper reaches presents ancient seabed rocks scraped from distant oceanic sedimentation locations and accumulated and lifted by these great forces. Younger deposits at middle altitudes include pillow lavas, the product of undersea volcanic eruptions.

Native American period[edit | edit source]

There is an extensive but little recorded human history pre-European settlement in this area, with the present county containing portions of regions populated by a number of native American tribes. The earliest definitively established occupation by modern man (Homo sapiens) appears to have occurred six to ten thousand years ago. However, there may have been human presence far earlier, at least as far as non–settling populations are concerned. The known settled populations were hunter-gatherer societies that had no knowledge of metals and that produced utilitarian crafts for everyday use (especially woven reed baskets) of the highest quality and with graphic embellishments of great aesthetic appeal. Extensive trading from tribe to tribe transferred exotic materials such as obsidian (useful for the making of arrowheads) throughout the region from far distant Californian tribes. Unlike the nomadic native American of the Great Plains it appears that these tribes did not incorporate warfare into their culture but were instead generally cooperative. Within these cultures the concept of individual or collective land ownership was nonexistent. Early European settlers in the region, however, did not record much about the culture of the natives. Most of what is known culturally comes from preserved contemporaneous and excavated artifacts and from inter-generational knowledge passed down through northerly outlying tribes of the larger region.

Spanish colonial[edit | edit source]

Early interaction of these Native Americans with Europeans came with the Spanish colonization via the establishment of missions in this area, with the missions in San Jose, Sonoma, and San Francisco and particularly the establishment of the (a military establishment) in 1776. Although there were no missions established within this county, Spanish influence here was direct and extensive, through the establishment of land grants from the King of Spain to favored settlers.

Mexican land grants[edit | edit source]

In 1821 Mexico gained independence from Spain. While little changed in ranchero life, the Mexican War of Independence resulted in the secularization of the missions with the re-distribution of their lands, and a new system of land grants under the Mexican Federal Law of 1824. Mission lands extended throughout the Bay Area, including portions of Contra Costa County. Between 1836 and 1846, during the era when California was a province of independent Mexico, the following 15 land grants were made in Contra Costa County.[4]

The smallest unit was one square league, or about seven square miles, or 4,400 acres (17.8 km2), maximum to one individual was eleven leagues, or 48,400 acres (195.9 km2), including no more than 4,428 acres (17.9 km2) of irrigable land. Rough surveying was based on a map, or diseño, measured by streams, shorelines, and/or horseman who marked it with rope and stakes. Lands outside Rancho grants were designated ‘el sobrante,' as in surplus or excess, and considered common lands. The law required the construction of a house within a year. Fences were not required and were forbidden where they might interfere with roads or trails. Locally a large family required roughly 2000 head of cattle and two square leagues of land (fourteen square miles) to live comfortably. Foreign entrepreneurs came to the area in order to provide goods that Mexico couldn’t, and trading ships were taxed.[3]

  • Rancho Canada de los Vaqueros was granted to Francisco Alviso, Antonio Higuera, and Manuel Miranda (26,660 acres (107.9 km2) confirmed in 1889 to heirs of Robert Livermore).
  • Two ranchos, both called Rancho San Ramon, were granted by the Mexican government in the San Ramon Valley. In 1833, Bartolome Pacheco (southern San Ramon Valley) and Mariano Castro (northern San Ramon Valley) shared the two square league Rancho San Ramon. Jose Maria Amador was granted a four square league Rancho San Ramon in 1834.
  • In 1834 Rancho Monte del Diablo (present day Concord, California) was confirmed with 17,921 acres (72.5 km2) to Salvio Pacheco (born July 15, 1793, died 1876). The Pacheco family settled at the Rancho in 1846 (between the Pacheco shipping port townsite and Clayton area, and including much of Lime Ridge). The boundary lines were designated with stone markers. Clayton was later located on sobrante lands just east of Rancho Monte del Diablo (Mount Diablo).
  • In 1834, Rancho Arroyo de Las Nueces y Bolbones aka Rancho San Miguel (present day Walnut Creek), was granted to Juana Sanchez de Pacheco, in recognition of the service of Corporal Miguel Pacheco 37 years earlier (confirmed 1853, patented to heirs 1866); the grant was for two leagues, but drawn free hand on the diseño/map, and reading "two leagues, more or less" as indicated in the diseño, but actually including and confirmed for nearly four leagues or nearly 18,000 acres (72.8 km2), but only 10,000 acres (40.5 km2) were ever shown as having once belonged to Juana Sanchez.
  • 'Meganos' means 'sand dunes.' A "paraje que llaman los Méganos" 'place called the sand dunes' (with a variant spelling) is mentioned in Durán's diary on May 24, 1817. Two Los Meganos Ranchos were granted, later differentiated as Rancho Los Meganos (1835, three leagues or at least 13,285 acres (53.8 km2)) in what is now the Brentwood area, to Jose Noriega then acquired by John Marsh; and Rancho Los Medanos (to Jose Antonio Mesa and Jose Miguel Garcia, Pittsburg area, dated November 26, 1839).

Bear Flag Republic and the statehood of California[edit | edit source]

The exclusive land ownership in California by the approximate 9,000[5] Hispanics in California would soon end. This change began with the Bear Flag Revolt in 1846 when a about 30 settlers originally from the United States declared a republic in June 1846 and were enlisted and fighting under the U. S. flag by July 1846. Following the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, California was controlled by U.S. settlers organized under the California Battalion and the U.S. Navy's Pacific Squadron. After some minor skirmishes California was under U.S. control by January 1847 and formally annexed and paid for by the U.S. in 1848. Twenty-seven years of ineffective years of Mexican rule had ended as 161 years (as of 2011) of rapid state advancement continued under U.S. Federal, State and Local government and private development. By 1850 the over 100,000 population and rapidly growing California population gain due to the California gold rush and the large amount of gold being exported east gave California enough clout to choose its own boundaries, write its own Constitution and be admitted to the Union as a free state in 1850 without going through Territorial status as required for most other states.

In 1850 California had a non-Indian population of over 100,000.[6] The number of Indians living in California in 1850 has been estimated to be from 60,000 to 100,000. By 1850 the Mission Indian populations had largely succumbed to disease and abuse and only numbered a few thousand. California's 1852 state Census gives 31,266 Indian residents; but this is an under-count since there was little incentive and much difficulty in getting it more correct.[7]

Contra Costa's creation and division[edit | edit source]

Contra Costa County was one of the original counties of California, created in 1850 at the time of statehood. The county was originally to be called Mt. Diablo County, but the name was changed prior to incorporation as a county. The county's Spanish language name means opposite coast, because of its location opposite San Francisco, in an easterly direction, on San Francisco Bay. Southern portions of the county's territory, including all of the bayside portions opposite San Francisco and northern portions of Santa Clara County, were given up to form Alameda County effective March 25, 1853.

The land titles in Contra Costa County may be traced to multiple subdivisions of a few original land grants. The grantee's family names live on in a few city and town names such as Martinez, Pacheco and Moraga and in the names of streets, residential subdivisions, and business parks. A few mansions from the more prosperous farms have been preserved as museums and cultural centers and one of the more rustic examples has been preserved as a working demonstration ranch, Borges Ranch.

1941-1945[edit | edit source]

During World War II, Richmond hosted one of the two Bay Area sites of Kaiser Shipyards and wartime pilots were trained at what is now Concord/Buchanan Field Airport. Additionally, a large Naval Weapons Depot and munitions ship loading facilities at Port Chicago remain active to this day, but with the inland storage facilities recently declared surplus, extensive redevelopment is being planned for this last large central-county tract. The loading docks were the site of a devastating explosion in 1944. Port Chicago was bought out and demolished by the Federal Government to form a safety zone near the Naval Weapons Station loading docks. At one time the Atlas Powder Company (subsequently closed)produced gunpowder and dynamite. The site of the former Atlas Powder Company is located at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline,[8] part of the East Bay Regional Parks District.[9]

Early postwar period[edit | edit source]

With the postwar baby boom and the desire for suburban living, large tract housing developers would purchase large central county farmsteads and develop them with roads, utilities and housing. Once mostly rural walnut orchards and cattle ranches, the area was first developed as low cost, large lot suburbs, with a typical low cost home being placed on a "quarter acre" (1,000 m²) lot — actually a little less at 10,000 square feet (930 m²). Some of the expansion of these suburban areas was clearly attributable to white flight from decaying areas of Alameda County and the consolidated city-county of San Francisco, but much was due to the postwar baby boom of the era creating demand for three and four bedroom houses with large yards which were unaffordable or unavailable in the established bayside cities.

Later postwar period (1955 - 1970)[edit | edit source]

A number of large companies have followed their employees to the suburbs, filling large business parks. The establishment of a large, prosperous population in turn fostered the development of large shopping centers and created demand for an extensive supporting infrastructure including roads, schools, libraries, police, firefighting, water, sewage, and flood control.

Modern period[edit | edit source]

The establishment of BART, the modernization of Highway 24, and the addition of a third Caldecott Tunnel all served to reinforce the demographic and economic trends in the Diablo area, with cities such as Walnut Creek becoming edge cities.

The central county cities have in turn spawned their own suburbs within the county, extending east along the county's estuarine north shore; with the older development areas of Bay Point and Pittsburg being augmented by extensive development in Antioch, Oakley, and Brentwood.

Political geography[edit | edit source]

According to the 2000 census, the county has a total area of 802.15 square miles (2,077.6 km2), of which 719.95 square miles (1,864.7 km2) (or 89.75%) is land and 82.20 square miles (212.9 km2) (or 10.25%) is water.[10]

It is bounded on the south and west by Alameda County; on the northwest San Francisco Bay (San Francisco and Marin Counties); on the North by San Pablo Bay, the Carquinez Strait, and Suisun Bay (Solano and Sacramento Counties); and on the east by the San Joaquin River (San Joaquin County).

Physical geography[edit | edit source]

Contra Costa County's physical geography is dominated by the bayside alluvial plain, the Oakland HillsBerkeley Hills, several inland valleys, and Mount Diablo, an isolated 3,849-foot (1,173 m) upthrust peak at the north end of the Diablo Range of hills. The summit of Mount Diablo is the origin of the Mount Diablo Meridian and Base Line, on which the surveys of much of California and western Nevada are based.

The Hayward Fault Zone runs through the western portion of the county, from Kensington to Richmond. The Calaveras Fault runs in the south-central portion of the county, from Alamo to San Ramon. The Concord Fault runs through part of Concord and Pacheco, and the Clayton-Marsh Creek-Greenville Fault runs from Clayton at its north end to near Livermore. These slip-strike earthquake faults and the Diablo thrust fault near Danville are all considered capable of significantly destructive earthquakes and many lesser related faults are present in the area that cross critical infrastructure such as water, natural gas, and petroleum product pipelines, roads, highways, railroads, and BART rail transit.

Cities and towns[edit | edit source]

Martinez Court House, California

West County
Incorporated places

Unincorporated places

Central County
Incorporated places

Unincorporated places

East County
Incorporated places

Unincorporated places

Other named regions and developments[edit | edit source]

  • Saranap - an unincorporated residential area between Walnut Creek and Lafayette, centered around the site of a (now-gone) inter-urban train station, comprising much of ZIP Code 94595.
  • Rossmoor - a senior development incorporated into Walnut Creek (not to be confused with the Southern California Rossmoor).

Adjacent counties[edit | edit source]

National protected areas[edit | edit source]

Landmark of Mount Diablo[edit | edit source]

The most notable natural landmark in the county is 3,849 feet (1,173 m) Mount Diablo, at the northerly end of the Diablo Range. Mount Diablo and its neighboring North Peak are the centerpiece of Mt. Diablo State Park (MDSP), created legislatively in 1921 and rededicated in 1931 after land acquisitions had been completed. At the time this comprised a very small portion of the mountain.

In the 1960s the open space of the mountain was threatened with suburban development expanding from the surrounding valleys. In 1971, when MDSP included 6,788 acres (27.5 km2), the non-profit organization Save Mount Diablo, was formed and open space preservation accelerated. MDSP was the first of twenty-nine Diablo area parks and preserves created around the peaks, today totaling more than 89,000 acres (360 km2). These Diablo public lands stretch southeast and include the Concord Naval Weapons Station, Shell Ridge Open Space and Lime Ridge Open Spaces near Walnut Creek, to the State Park, and east to the Los Vaqueros Reservoir watershed and four surrounding East Bay Regional Park District preserves, including Morgan Territory Regional Preserve, Brushy Peak Regional Preserve, Vasco Caves Regional Preserve, and Round Valley Regional Preserves. The new Cowell Ranch State Park, and Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, are among the open spaces stretching back to the north. In this way the open spaces controlled by cities, the East Bay Regional Park District, Mount Diablo State Park, and various regional preserves now adjoin and protect most of the elevated regions of the mountain.

The name Mount Diablo is said to originate from an incident involving Spanish soldiers who christened a thicket ‘Monte del Diablo’ when natives they were pursuing apparently disappeared in the thicket. Anglo settlers later misunderstood the use of the word ‘monte’ (which can mean ‘mountain’, or ‘thicket’), and fastened the name on the most obvious local landmark.

Transportation infrastructure[edit | edit source]

Prior to 1903 most travel to central Contra Costa County was by boat or rail to Martinez on the northern waterfront and from there to the industrial areas east along the waterfront as well as farming regions to the south.

In 1903 the first tunnel through the Oakland hills (now Old Tunnel Road) was built, principally as a means of bringing hay by horse, mule, or ox-drawn wagons from central and eastern agricultural areas to feed the draft animals that provided the power to public and private transportation in the East Bay at the time. The tunnel exited in the hills high above the crossroads of Orinda with the road continuing on to Lafayette, Walnut Creek, and Danville. The road was just wide enough for one car in each direction, and had no shoulders.

In 1937 the two-bore Caldecott Tunnel for road vehicles was completed, making interior Contra Costa much more accessible. After World War II the tunnels allowed waves of development to proceed, oriented toward Oakland rather than the northern shoreline, and the northern shoreline cities began to decline. The tunnel has since been augmented with an additional bore, with the central bore reversed in direction to accommodate commute traffic. Owing to extensive reverse commuting and general increases in traffic, a fourth bore is currently under construction.

Major highways[edit | edit source]

Mass transit[edit | edit source]

Airports[edit | edit source]

The county also has two airports that are not currently providing passenger service:

Railroads[edit | edit source]

The western termini of several original transcontinental railroad routes have been located in Oakland, in Alameda County, Including Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, and Santa Fe railroads. From Oakland, there are two primary routes east:

Formed in 1909, the Oakland Antioch Railway was renamed the Oakland Antioch & Eastern Railway in 1911. It extended through a 3,400-foot (1,000 m) tunnel in the Oakland Hills, from Oakland to Walnut Creek, Concord and on to Bay Point.

The current owner of the Santa Fe Railroad's assets, BNSF Railway has the terminus of its transcontinental route in Richmond. Originally built by the San Francisco and San Joaquin Valley Railroad in 1896, the line was purchased by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway shortly thereafter. The line leaves Richmond through industrial and residential parts of West County before striking due east through Franklin Canyon and Martinez on its way to Stockton, Bakersfield and Barstow.

These railroads spurred the development of industry in the county throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly driving development of the Standard Oil (now Chevron) refinery and port complex in Richmond.

There were a large number of short lines in the county between the late 19th century and the early 20th century. The rights of way of a number of these railroads also served as utility rights of way, particularly for water service, and so were preserved, and in the late 20th century enhanced as walking, jogging, and bicycle riding trails in the central portion of the county.

Alternative Commute Infrastructure[edit | edit source]

Contra Costa County also provides alternative commute options for those without cars or who choose to commute in an environmentally friendly manner. The Bay Area Rapid Transit BART train network stops in many cities in the County, and the County Connection bus service serves areas not immediately adjacent to BART stations. In addition, the local transportation demand management organization 511 Contra Costa offers services to County residents who wish to switch from single occupancy vehicle driving to greener modes.

Economy[edit | edit source]

Agriculture[edit | edit source]

The great rancheros of the Spanish period were divided and sold for agricultural uses, with intensively irrigated farming made possible in some areas by the development of canals that brought water from the eastern riverside portions of the county to the central portion. Other areas could used the more limited water available from local creeks and from wells. Orchards dominated where such water was available, while other, seasonally dry areas were used for cattle ranching. In central parts of the county walnuts were an especially attractive orchard crop, using the thin-shelled English Walnut branches grafted to the hardy and disease-resistant American Walnut root stock. In the Moraga region, pears dominated, and many old (but untended) roadside trees are still picked seasonally by passers-by. In eastern county, stone fruit, especially cherries, is still grown commercially, with seasonal opportunities for people to pick their own fruit for a modest fee.

Commuter railroads[edit | edit source]

The development of commuter railroads proceeded together with the subdivision of farms into parcels. In some cases, such as the development of Saranap, the same developer controlled both the railroad (Sacramento Northern) and the development. These early suburbanization developments were an extension of the earlier development of trolley car suburbs in what are now considered the highly urban environments of the near East Bay.

Irrigation canals[edit | edit source]

The Contra Costa Canal, a concrete-lined and fenced irrigation canal still makes a loop through central county and provided industrial and agricultural grade water to farms and industry. While no longer used for extensive irrigation, it is still possible for adjoining landowners (now large suburban lot owners) to obtain pumping permits. Most of this water is destined for the heavy industry near Martinez. As with the railroad rights of way there is now an extensive public trail system along these canals.

Heavy industry[edit | edit source]

View of the Shell Martinez oil refinery

Owing to its extensive waterfront on San Francisco, San Pablo, and Suisun bays the northwestern and northern segments have long been sites for heavy industry, including a number of still active oil refineries (particularly Chevron in Richmond, Shell Oil and Tesoro - in Martinez), chemical plants (Dow Chemical) and a once substantial integrated steel plant, Posco Steel (formerly United States Steel), now reduced to secondary production of strip sheet and wire. The San Joaquin River forms a continuation of the northern boundary turns southward to form the eastern boundary of the county. Some substantial Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta "islands" (actually leveed former marshes) are included in this corner of the county.

Housing[edit | edit source]

West County[edit | edit source]

The West County is the area near or on San Francisco and San Pablo bays. The housing stock in the region was extensively developed after the great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. Much of the housing stock in these areas is becoming quite expensive. As an alternative to moving to either the expensive central county, or the too-distant East County, this area is becoming gentrified, with a mix of races and income levels — a character actively sought by some housing purchasers. The downside of this is a corresponding lack of affordable housing for those in lower paying service jobs — a problem endemic throughout the region. There has recently been a housing boom or tract housing in Richmond and also in the Hercules areas. These gentrifying areas are the most diverse in Contra Costa County.

Central county[edit | edit source]

Central county scene — Mount Diablo and portions of Concord, Pleasant Hill, and Walnut Creek, with former grasslands now an urban forest in low density suburbs with extensive business centers and residential buildings near BART locations (at the tall building groups). A recent (2007-8) development near the downtown Bart station consists of luxury apartments.
Central county scene — Mount Diablo and portions of Concord, Pleasant Hill, and Walnut Creek, with former grasslands now an urban forest in low density suburbs with extensive business centers and residential buildings near BART locations (at the tall building groups). A recent (2007-8) development near the downtown Bart station consists of luxury apartments.

The central part of the county is a valley traversed by Interstate 680 and Highway 24. The towns east of the hills, on or near Highway 24 and their surrounding areas (Lafayette, Moraga and Orinda) are collectively known as Lamorinda. The major central county cities along Interstate 680 are Martinez, Concord, Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Danville, San Ramon, and unincorporated Alamo. Owing to the high quality of its public schools (due largely to both demographics and added support from prosperous parents), this area has become a magnet for well–off families with children. During the real estate boom, housing prices were driven to astounding levels. From 2007, home prices in the region have seen substantial decreases and the affordability rate has risen. During the real estate boom, the high price of homes and scarcity of land resulted in many speculators purchasing older, smaller homes and partially or completely tearing them down in order to construct larger homes.

In this way the central county region has become a mix of older suburbs, newer developments, small lot "infill" developments, and extensive shopping areas.

Lafayette Reservoir

East County[edit | edit source]

Lower cost modern tract developments continue along Suisun Bay in the "East County" towns of Pittsburg, Antioch, and Oakley - new "bedroom" communities" to serve the now "edge cities". The median income of a family in the two relatively affluent East County towns of Brentwood and Discovery Bay is approaching $100k/yr. placing them in the top fifteen percent of affluent towns in the United States. California Distinguished Schools, golf courses, vineyards, and upscale homes are found in Brentwood and Discovery Bay. Discovery Bay is based on a waterfront community of 3,500+ homes with private docks with access to the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Discovery Bay also features gated and non-gated "off-water" communities with homes from 1,400 square feet (130 m2) up to 4,700 square feet (440 m2). The Streets of Brentwood, an outdoor lifestyle retail center, opened in Brentwood in the Fall of 2008. The Streets of Brentwood's upscale shops include Banana Republic, Coldwater Creek, DSW Shoes, Jos. A. Bank, REI, Swarovski, Victoria’s Secret, and White House/Black Market. The only all-digital Rave Motion Pictures in the San Francisco Bay Area is located in the Streets of Brentwood.

In 2011, Vasco Road is undergoing further construction/improvement to reduce the driving time between East County/Brentwood and Livermore. Highway 4 is currently undergoing multi-million dollar improvements that are scheduled to add lanes through Antioch and Pittsburg by 2015 in order to reduce the driving time between East County and Concord/Walnut Creek.

Urban decay at the fringes[edit | edit source]

Other cities in the once heavily industrialized northwestern and western waterfront areas such as Richmond have fallen on harder times, with Richmond having difficulty balancing its school budget. This may be arguably attributed to a side effect of Proposition 13: it applies also to large industrial and merchandising companies, which have seen their share of property taxes (the bulk of which is used to support local schools) decline severely. As housing prices have not kept pace with the more central and outlying regions and housing turnover is also low (which establishes a new tax base for the parcel), the school districts are having difficulty obtaining proper funding. A lack of the availability of the kind of community support available in the more prosperous regions also contributes to the problem, with higher income residents of some of these declining or gentrifying areas sending their children to private schooling, creating a self reinforcing decline in the public schools.

County budget problems[edit | edit source]

Two forces have combined to create county budget problems peaking in 2008. First, (over a thirty year period) rather than compensate police, medical, and firefighting personnel directly, very favorable health and retirement benefits were granted without proper actuarial examination, leading to unexpected (yet predictable) high costs as personnel age and ultimately retire with continued "first class" health and retirement benefits. Second, the collapse of the "housing bubble" has enabled purchasers of distressed properties (many of which are owned by banks and other mortgage holders) to petition for lower property assessments, in many cases reducing by half the revenue to the county for specific parcels. Continuing downturns in employment prospects (particularly in new housing construction) have further increased the needs for various social services. These deficits and demands, combined with a lack of support from a similarly stressed California state government and the United States Federal government have combined to require unpleasant choices to be made by county supervisors and county service providers in the allocation of limited resources in a time of increasing demand. The projected budget deficit is $45 million as of early 2011.[11]

Technical innovators[edit | edit source]

In the 1970s and 80s many small and innovative technical firms were started in this county, most of which are no longer present, having either failed, been absorbed into larger corporations, or having outgrown their original location are now elsewhere in the Bay Area.

Corporate headquarters[edit | edit source]

During the 1980s and early 1990s, many corporations that were formerly housed in the more central metropolitan area followed their employees by moving to large suburban and edge city office areas and office parks.

A number of large corporations now have headquarters in large developments along what is called the 680 corridor, that segment of Interstate Highway 680 that extends from Concord in the north to San Ramon in the south, continuing into inland Alameda County from Dublin to Pleasanton.

By the early 1990s, more square footage of office space had been built in the 680 corridor than in San Francisco's Financial District.

Redevelopment[edit | edit source]

There are currently political fights over the potential redevelopment of the county seat (Martinez), with long term residents and many elsewhere in the county concerned that it will lose its remaining small-town charm and utility in an effort to become more like the county's major recreational shopping center of Walnut Creek.

The inland portions of the Concord Naval Weapons Station have been declared surplus by the Federal government and this area is expected to provide what is likely the last opportunity to plan and build city-sized development within the central county. This area will become a portion of the city of Concord and it is expected that development will be confined to the lower and flatter portions of the depot, with the remainder becoming a substantial addition to the county's open space. As much of the land to be developed is largely relatively flat grassland space, with the most prominent structures ammunition bunkers that will be removed, the planning of future uses of the property will be largely unconstrained by previous uses.

Education[edit | edit source]

Contra Costa County Library is the county's library system.

Media[edit | edit source]

The city of Concord is served by the daily newspaper, the Contra Costa Times published by the Bay Area News Group-East Bay (part of the Media News Group, Denver, Colorado), with offices in Walnut Creek. The paper was originally a paper run and owned by the Lesher family. Since the death of Dean Lesher in 1993, the paper has had several owners.[12] The publisher also issues weekly local papers, such as the Concord Transcript which is the local paper for Concord and nearby Clayton.

Demographics[edit | edit source]

Historical populations
Census Pop.
1860 5,328
1870 8,461 58.8%
1880 12,525 48.0%
1890 13,515 7.9%
1900 18,046 33.5%
1910 31,674 75.5%
1920 53,889 70.1%
1930 78,608 45.9%
1940 100,450 27.8%
1950 298,984 197.6%
1960 409,030 36.8%
1970 558,389 36.5%
1980 656,380 17.5%
1990 803,732 22.4%
2000 948,816 18.1%
2010 1,049,025 10.6%

2010[edit | edit source]

The 2010 United States Census reported that Contra Costa County had a population of 1,049,025. The racial makeup of Contra Costa County was 614,512 (58.6%) White, 97,161 (9.3%) African American, 6,122 (0.6%) Native American, 151,469 (14.4%) Asian (4.6% Filipino, 3.8% Chinese, 2.1% Indian, 0.8% Korean, 0.7% Vietnamese, 0.7% Japanese, 0.4% Laotian, 0.2% Pakistani), 4,845 (0.5%) Pacific Islander, 112,691 (10.7%) from other races, and 62,225 (5.9%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 255,560 persons (24.4%); 17.1% of Contra Costa County is Mexican, 1.9% Salvadoran, 0.7% Nicaraguan, 0.7% Puerto Rican, 0.5% Guatemalan, 0.5% Peruvian, 0.2% Cuban, and 0.2% Colombian.[16]

Population reported at 2010 United States Census
The County
two or
more races
or Latino
(of any race)
Contra Costa County 1,049,025 614,512 97,161 6,122 151,469 4,845 112,691 62,225 255,560
cities and towns
two or
more races
or Latino
(of any race)
Antioch 102,372 50,083 17,667 887 10,709 817 14,310 7,899 32,436
Brentwood 51,481 34,969 3,389 333 4,051 202 4,964 3,573 13,779
Clayton 10,897 9,273 146 34 717 16 234 477 982
Concord 122,067 78,767 4,371 852 13,538 816 15,969 7,754 37,311
Danville 42,039 34,942 372 67 4,417 68 509 1,664 2,879
El Cerrito 23,549 12,543 1,819 107 6,439 37 1,079 1,525 2,621
Hercules 24,060 5,302 4,547 102 10,956 101 1,564 1,488 3,508
Lafayette 23,893 20,232 166 66 2,162 27 240 1,000 1,388
Martinez 35,824 27,603 1,303 255 2,876 121 1,425 2,241 5,258
Moraga 16,016 12,201 277 31 2,393 25 281 808 1,123
Oakley 35,432 22,641 2,582 314 2,236 142 4,998 2,519 12,364
Orinda 17,643 14,533 149 22 2,016 24 122 777 807
Pinole 18,390 8,488 2,458 147 4,220 64 1,741 1,272 4,005
Pittsburg 63,264 23,106 11,187 517 9,891 645 13,270 4,648 26,841
Richmond 103,701 32,590 27,542 662 13,984 537 22,573 5,813 40,921
San Pablo 29,139 9,391 4,600 244 4,353 172 8,812 1,567 16,462
San Ramon 72,148 38,639 2,043 205 25,713 156 1,536 3,856 6,250
Walnut Creek 64,173 50,487 1,035 155 8,027 125 1,624 2,720 5,540
two or
more races
or Latino
(of any race)
Acalanes Ridge 1,137 951 5 8 126 2 8 37 50
Alamo 14,570 12,662 73 18 1,190 22 126 479 839
Alhambra Valley 924 838 3 0 42 5 17 19 81
Bay Point 21,349 8,848 2,469 225 2,121 147 6,154 1,385 11,730
Bayview 1,754 871 186 18 369 9 179 122 521
Bethel Island 2,137 1,843 40 15 46 4 119 70 280
Blackhawk 9,354 6,882 172 15 1,801 8 75 401 464
Byron 1,277 911 61 11 4 11 224 55 503
Camino Tassajara 2,197 876 53 4 1,117 1 33 113 138
Castle Hill 1,299 1,112 29 1 110 2 9 36 78
Clyde 678 530 11 4 58 3 25 47 99
Contra Costa Centre 5,364 3,488 216 18 1,155 17 171 299 560
Crockett 3,094 2,468 146 31 108 24 123 194 490
Diablo 1,158 1,065 1 2 55 0 5 30 39
Discovery Bay 13,352 10,909 550 86 522 51 468 766 2,074
East Richmond Heights 3,280 1,995 395 13 407 8 187 275 465
El Sobrante 12,669 6,405 1,673 127 1,986 113 1,384 981 3,036
Kensington 5,077 3,963 131 15 610 2 58 298 263
Knightsen 1,568 1,268 14 8 28 3 162 85 454
Montalvin Manor 2,876 1,295 222 36 306 27 855 135 1,800
Mountain View 2,372 1,896 60 30 70 20 155 141 524
Norris Canyon 957 476 41 1 372 1 28 38 42
North Gate 679 566 1 0 65 0 19 28 56
North Richmond 3,717 634 1,239 23 431 18 1,191 181 1,862
Pacheco 3,685 2,814 78 27 366 11 201 188 619
Port Costa 190 172 2 2 7 0 0 7 10
Reliez Valley 3,101 2,693 31 4 233 2 30 108 192
Rodeo 8,679 3,823 1,410 53 1,762 62 885 684 2,134
Rollingwood 2,969 1,130 220 28 534 22 907 128 1,836
San Miguel 3,392 2,986 31 3 190 3 38 141 200
Saranap 5,202 4,275 70 15 451 10 113 268 437
Shell Ridge 959 821 5 2 73 6 8 44 59
Tara Hills 5,126 2,212 682 31 869 18 1,018 296 1,947
Vine Hill 3,761 2,568 111 33 196 35 561 257 1,169
two or
more races
or Latino
(of any race)
All others not CDPs (combined) 9,882 7,630 391 88 475 17 825 456 2,025

2000[edit | edit source]

As of the census[17] of 2000, there were 948,816 people, 344,129 households, and 242,266 families residing in the county. The population density was 1,318 people per square mile (509/km²). There were 354,577 housing units at an average density of 492 per square mile (190/km²).

The largest ethnicites were 9.0% German, 7.7% Irish, 7.3% English and 6.5% Italian ancestry according to Census 2000. 74.1% spoke English, 13.1% Spanish, 2.6% Tagalog and 1.8% Chinese or Mandarin as their first language.

By 2005 53.2% of Contra Costa County's population were non-Hispanic whites. African-Americans made up 9.6% of the population, while Asians constituted 13.1% of it. Latinos were now 21.1% of the county population.

In 2000 there were 344,129 households out of which 35.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.5% were married couples living together, 11.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.6% were non-families. 22.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.72 and the average family size was 3.23.

In the county the population was spread out with:

  • 26.5% under the age of 18
  • 7.7% from 18 to 24
  • 30.6% from 25 to 44
  • 23.9% from 45 to 64
  • 11.3% who were 65 years of age or older.

The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 95.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.2 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $63,675, and the median income for a family was $73,039 (these figures had risen to $75,483 and $87,435 respectively as of a 2007


Males had a median income of $52,670 versus $38,630 for females. The per capita income for the county was $30,615. About 5.4% of families and 7.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.8% of those under age 18 and 6.0% of those age 65 or over.

In 2000, the largest denominational groups were Catholics (with 204,070 adherents) and Evangelical Protestants (with 74,449 adherents).[19] The largest religious bodies were The Catholic Church (with 204,070 members) and The Baptist General Conference (with 24,803 members).[19]

Politics[edit | edit source]

Contra Costa County vote
by party in presidential elections
Year GOP DEM Others
2008 30.3% 136,436 68.0% 306,983 2.2% 9,825
2004 36.5% 150,608 62.3% 257,254 1.3% 5,166
2000 37.1% 141,373 58.8% 224,338 4.1% 15,767
1996 35.2% 123,954 55.7% 196,512 9.1% 32,136
1992 29.5% 112,965 50.9% 194,960 19.6% 74,898
1988 47.9% 158,652 51.1% 169,411 1.0% 3,448
1984 54.5% 172,331 44.6% 140,994 1.0% 2,993
1980 50.1% 144,112 37.4% 107,398 12.5% 36,035
1976 49.4% 126,598 48.2% 123,742 2.4% 6,194
1972 54.1% 139,044 43.5% 111,718 2.4% 6,122
1968 44.5% 97,486 46.4% 101,668 9.0% 19,763
1964 36.5% 65,011 63.4% 113,071 0.1% 163
1960 46.8% 82,922 52.9% 93,622 0.3% 579
1956 51.0% 74,971 48.8% 71,733 0.2% 347
1952 49.6% 70,094 49.8% 70,416 0.6% 786
1948 40.5% 36,958 55.0% 50,277 4.5% 4,141
1944 35.9% 26,816 64.0% 47,831 0.2% 138
1940 37.2% 18,627 61.8% 30,900 1.0% 513
1936 26.7% 9,604 72.3% 26,007 1.0% 364
1932 37.3% 10,907 58.9% 17,218 3.7% 1,089
1928 60.4% 13,495 38.4% 8,573 1.3% 281
1924 54.7% 9,061 6.7% 1,114 38.6% 6,398
1920 63.8% 9,041 24.6% 3,483 11.7% 1,658

Contra Costa County has become a Democratic stronghold, with even wealthy cities like Orinda and Walnut Creek voting Democratic in recent elections. The last Republican to win a majority in the county was Ronald Reagan in 1984. With the exceptions of Danville and Clayton, every city, town, and the unincorporated areas of Contra Costa County have more registered Democrats than Republicans.

Contra Costa is part of California's 7th, 10th, and 11th congressional districts. All three are held by Democrats: George Miller, John Garamendi, and Jerry McNerney, respectively. In the State Assembly, parts of the 11th, 14th, and 15th districts are in the county. The 11th, 14th, and 15th districts are represented by Democrats Susan Bonilla, Nancy Skinner, and Joan Buchanan, respectively. In the State Senate, all of the 7th district and part of the 9th district are in the county. Both districts are represented by Democrats, the 7th by Mark DeSaulnier and the 9th by Loni Hancock.

Museums and historic sites[edit | edit source]

Parks and related places[edit | edit source]

Trails[edit | edit source]

Utilities[edit | edit source]

California casino proposals[edit | edit source]

Since 2003, four Indian gaming casinos have been proposed in Richmond and the surrounding area of West Contra Costa County.

Proposals[edit | edit source]

See also[edit | edit source]

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. ^ For a collection of insightful observations of the Mexican provincial culture and trading practice (most notably in the acquisition of cattle hides for eastern U.S. shoe manufacturies) see portions of Two Years Before the Mast, a first person narative of a seaman's voyage to California starting in 1834.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. ^ "Contra Costa County, California Official Website - Visiting". Retrieved 2009-01-24. 
  2. ^ "USA Today via US Census Bureau". Retrieved 2011-03-09. 
  3. ^ "Contra Costa County, California Official Website". Retrieved 2009-01-24. 
  4. ^ Contra Costa County Mexican Land Grants
  5. ^ U.S. 1850 California Census asks state of birth of all residents and gets about 7300 residents born in California. Adding the approximate 200 Hispanics known to be in San Francisco (1846 directory) and an unknown (but small as shown in 1852 CA Census recount) number in Contra Costa and Santa Clara county whose census was lost gives less than 9,000 Hispanics state wide.
  6. ^ U.S. 1850 California Census counts 92,597 residents but omits the residents of San Francisco (estimated at about 21,000) whose census records were destroyed by fire. Contra Costa County (estimated at about 2,000 residents) and Santa Clara County (estimated at about 4,000 residents) 1850 records were "lost" and also not included.
  7. ^ "Historical Statistics of the United States--1850-California" which includes a summary of the state's 1852 state Census
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ East Bay Regional Parks | Embrace Life!
  10. ^ "Census 2000 U.S. Gazetteer Files: Counties". United States Census. Retrieved 2011-02-13. 
  11. ^ "CBS News article". January 31, 2011. Retrieved 2011-03-02. 
  12. ^ Hall, Carl (August 25, 2005) "East Bay Newspaper Chain Sold", S.F. Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-08-16.
  13. ^ - California population by county, 1900-90
  14. ^ - Contra Costa County
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^ "2010 Census P.L. 94-171 Summary File Data". United States Census Bureau. 
  17. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ a b "County Membership Reports". Retrieved 2011-08-22.  Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "thearda" defined multiple times with different content

External links[edit | edit source]

Coordinates: 37°56′N 121°57′W / 37.93, -121.95

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