Ventura County Information
Ventura County, California
Ventura County is located on California's Pacific coast. It is often referred to as the Gold Coast, and has a reputation of being one of the safest populated places and one of the most affluent places in the country. It is ranked as one of the 100 highest-income counties in the country and as the sixth wealthiest county in California by per capita income. As of December 2008, the median home price is $355,000. This is partly because it is part of the Tech Coast Area, and has a large presence in technology corporations like telecommunications, healthcare, development, and especially biotech corporations, most of which are located in the Conejo Valley.
As of the 2000 census, the county had a population of 753,197. A more current California Department of Finance estimate places the population at 813,052. The county seat is the city of Ventura (formally known as San Buenaventura). Ventura County's largest city is Oxnard, with a population of about 200,000.
Prior to the arrival of Europeans in California, the area was home to the Chumash tribe of Native Americans.
In October 1542, the expedition led by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo anchored in an inlet near Point Mugu; its members were the first Europeans to arrive in the area that would become Ventura County.
Active occupation of California by Spain began in 1769. Gaspar de Portolà led a military expedition by land from San Diego to Monterey, passing through Ventura County in August of that year. A priest with the expedition, Father Juan Crespi, kept a journal of the trip and noted that the area was ideal for a mission to be established and it was a "good site to which nothing is lacking." Also on this expedition was Father Junípero Serra, who later founded a mission on this site.
On March 31, 1782, the Mission San Buenaventura was founded by Father Serra, named after Saint Bonaventure, one of the early intellectual founders of the Franciscan Order. Buenaventura is composed of two Spanish words, buena meaning "good" and ventura meaning "fortune." The town that grew up around the mission is named San Buenaventura, which came to be known as Ventura.
In the 1790s, the Spanish Governor of California began granting land concesssions to Spanish Californians, often retiring soldiers. These concesssions were known as ranchos and consisted of thousands of acres of land that were used primarily as ranch land for livestock. In Ventura County, Rancho Simi was granted in 1795 and Rancho El Conejo in 1802.
In 1822, California was notified of Mexico's independence from Spain and the Governor of California, the Junta, the military in Monterey and the priests and neophytes at Mission San Buenaventura swore allegiance to Mexico on April 11, 1822. California land that had been vested in the King of Spain was now owned by the nation of Mexico.
By the 1830s, Mission San Buenaventura was in a decline with fewer neophytes joining the mission. The number of cattle owned by the mission dropped from first to fifteenth ranking in the California Missions. The missions were secularized by the Mexican government in 1834. The Mexican governors began granting land rights to Mexican Californians, often retiring soldiers. By 1846, there were 19 rancho grants in Ventura County. In 1836, Mission San Buenaventura was transferred from the Church to a secular administrator. The natives who had been working at the mission gradually left to work on the ranchos. By 1839, only 300 Indians were left at the Mission and it slipped into neglect.
Several outhouses were discovered in July 2007 dating back to the 1800s. They have proved to be a treasure trove for archaeologists who braved the lingering smell in the dirt to uncover some 19th Century artifacts.
The Mexican–American War began in 1846 but its effect was not felt in Ventura County until 1847. In January of that year, Captain John C. Frémont led the California Battalion into San Buenaventura finding that the Europeans had fled leaving only the Indians in the Mission. The Fremont and the Battalion continued south to sign the Treaty of Cahuenga with General Andrés Pico. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo formally transferred California to the United States in 1848.
By 1849, a constitution had been adopted for the California territory. The new Legislature met and divided the pending state into 27 counties. At the time, the area that would become Ventura County was the southern part of Santa Barbara County.
The 1860s brought many changes to the area. A drought caused many of the ranchos to experience financial difficulties and most were divided, sub-divided and sold. Large sections of land were bought by eastern capitalists based on favorable reports of petroleum deposits. A United States Post Office was opened at Mission San Buenaventura in 1861. On April 1, 1866, the town of San Buenaventura was incorporated becoming the first officially recognized town in Ventura County.
On January 1, 1873, Ventura County was officially split from Santa Barbara County, bringing a flurry of change. That same year, a courthouse and wharf were built in San Buenaventura. A bank was opened and the first public library was created. The school system grew, with the first high school opening in 1890.
Other towns were starting in the county. A plan for Port Hueneme was recorded in 1874, and Santa Paula's plan was recorded in 1875. The community of Nordhoff (later renamed Ojai) was started in 1874. Piru, Fillmore and Montalvo were established in 1887. 1892 saw Simi (later Simi Valley), Somis, Saticoy and Moorpark. Oxnard was a late-comer, not being established until 1898.
The Southern Pacific Railroad laid tracks through San Buenaventura in 1887. For convenience in printing their timetables, Southern Pacific shortened San Buenaventura to Ventura. The Post Office soon followed suit. While the city remains officially known as San Buenaventura, it is more commonly referred to as Ventura.
It had been known that oil existed in Ventura County as far back as the Chumash people, who used tar to make baskets and canoes waterproof. In the 1860s, several attempts were made to harvest the petroleum products under Ventura County but none were financially successful, and the oil speculators eventually changed from oil to land development. In 1913, oil exploration began in earnest, with Ralph Lloyd obtaining the financial support of veteran oil man Joseph B. Dabney. Their first well, named "Lloyd No. 1", was started on January 20, 1914. The well struck oil at 2558 feet (780 m) but was destroyed when it went wild. Other wells met a similar fate, until 1916, when a deal was struck with the Shell Oil Company. Other deals followed with General Petroleum in 1917 and Associated Oil Company in 1920. At its peak, the Ventura Avenue oilfield was producing 90,000 barrels of oil a day, with annual production of over a million and a half barrels.
In the early hours of the morning of March 13, 1928, the St. Francis Dam collapsed, sending billions of gallons of water rushing through the Santa Clarita Valley, killing 385 people, destroying 1,240 homes and flooding 7,900 acres (32 km²) of land, devastating farm fields and orchards. This was the largest single disaster to strike Ventura County.
Ventura County can be separated into two major parts, East County and West County.
East County consists of all cities east of the Conejo Grade,
known locally as "The Grade." East County, geographically, is the end of the
Santa Monica Mountains, in which the Conejo Valley is located, and where there
is a considerable decrease in elevation. Communities which are considered
to be in the East County are Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park, Lake Sherwood,
Hidden Valley, Santa Rosa Valley, Oak Park, Moorpark, and Simi Valley.
A majority of these communities are in the Conejo Valley, one of the
most affluent areas in the United States. West County, which is everything
west of the Conejo Grade, consists of communities such as Camarillo, Oxnard,
Somis, Point Mugu, Port Hueneme, Ventura, Ojai, Santa Paula, and Fillmore.
West County consists of some of the first developed cities in Ventura County.
Ventura County's largest beach communities are located in West County on the
coastline of the Channel Islands Harbor.
Ventura County consists of a number of suburban areas. Starting in the mid-1900s,
there was a large growth in population in the East County, moving from the
San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles and out into the Conejo and Simi Valleys,
which consists of Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Agoura Hills, Agoura, and parts of
Westlake Village belonging to Los Angeles County.
The other half of the Conejo Valley, which belongs to Ventura County,
consists of Lake Sherwood, Hidden Valley, Oak Park, parts of Westlake Village,
Thousand Oaks, and Newbury Park, which was formerly an unincorporated area
that is now the most westerly part of Thousand Oaks.
Many working-class white people migrated to this area during the 1960s and 1970s
out of East and Central Los Angeles. As a result, there was a large growth in
population into the Conejo Valley and into Ventura County through the US 101 corridor.
Making the US 101 a full freeway in the 1960s, and the expansions that followed,
helped make commuting to Los Angeles easier and opened the way for development westward.
The communities that have seen the most substantial development are Calabasas,
Hidden Hills, Agoura Hills, Westlake Village, Thousand Oaks, and Newbury Park.
Development moved farther down the US 101 corridor and sent population rising in
West County cities as well. The largest population growth there has been in
Camarillo, Oxnard, and Ventura. Development in the East County and along the
US 101 corridor is becoming more rare today, because most of these cities were
master-planned cities, such as Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley, and are approaching
build-out. Although the area still has plenty of open space and land, almost all of it
was put aside and mandated never to be developed as part of the master plan of each city.
Because of this, its private low-key location, its country feel, and its close proximity
to Los Angeles, the Conejo Valley area has become a very attractive place to live.
It once had relatively inexpensive real estate, but this has changed due to sharply
rising real-estate prices. For example, real estate in Newbury Park has increased in
price by over 250% in the last 10 years. Median home prices in the Conejo Valley,
for instance, now range from $700,000 to $2.2 million. The Conejo Valley area is
one of the most affluent areas in the country.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,208 sq mi,
of which, 1,845 square miles is land and 363 square miles (16.43%) is water.
Anacapa Island of Channel Islands National Park and San Nicolas Island
are located in the county.
Most of the population of Ventura County lives in the southern portion of the county.
The major population centers are the Oxnard Plain and the Simi and Conejo Valleys.
In local media, the county is usually split between the eastern portion,
generally associated with the San Fernando Valley, and the western portion,
often referred to as "Oxnard-Ventura."
North of Highway 126 the county is mountainous and mostly uninhabited,
and contains some of the most unspoiled, rugged and inaccessible wilderness remaining
in southern California. Most of this land is in the Los Padres National Forest,
and includes the Chumash Wilderness in the northernmost portion, adjacent to Kern County,
as well as the large Sespe Wilderness and portions of both the Dick Smith Wilderness
and Matilija Wilderness (both of these protected areas straddle the line
with Santa Barbara County).
All of the wilderness areas are within the jurisdiction of Los Padres National Forest.
The highest peaks in the county include Mount Pinos (8831'), Frazier Mountain (8017'),
and Reyes Peak (7525'), all except Reyes Peak in the San Emigdio Mountains
(Pinos and Frazier Mountain are sometimes assigned to the Tehachapis).
The uplands are well-timbered with coniferous forests, and receive
plentiful snow in the winter.
Mount Pinos is sacred to the Chumash Indians. It is known to them as Iwihinmu,
and was considered to be the center of the universe; being the highest peak
in the vicinity, it has a spectacular view, unimpeded in three directions.
The Santa Clara River is the principal waterway.
Lake Casitas, an artificial reservoir, is the largest body of water.
Ventura (San Buenaventura)
Towns and other communities
Channel Islands Beach
Santa Barbara County, California—west
Kern County, California—north
Los Angeles County, California—east / southeast
National protected areas
Angeles National Forest (part)
Channel Islands National Park (part)
Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge
Los Padres National Forest (part)
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (part)
Dick Smith Wilderness (part)
Ventura County is served by Amtrak and Metrolink trains, as well as
Greyhound Lines, Gold Coast Transit (formerly South Coast Area Transit),
and VISTA buses. The cities of Camarillo, Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks
have their own small bus systems.
Island Packers ferries connect Ventura with the five islands
of Channel Islands National Park
Oxnard Airport, just west of Downtown Oxnard, is a commercial and
general aviation airport. Commercial flights are available to Los Angeles International Airport.
Camarillo Airport, formerly a US Air Force Base, is a general aviation
airport located south of the City of Camarillo. It is the current base
of operations of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department Aviation Unit
and the home of the VCSD's Training Facility and Academy,
the Ventura County Criminal Justice Training Center.
The Camarillo Airport also serves as the base of operations
for the Ventura County Fire Department and facilitates the
Oxnard College Regional Fire Academy and the Ventura County
Reserve Officers Training Center.
Santa Paula Airport is a privately owned airport.
However, it is open to the public for general aviation.
Ventura County Library - 15 locations, Oxnard Public Library,
Thousand Oaks Library, Moorpark City Library, and
Blanchard Community Library (in Santa Paula)
CSUCI (California State University Channel Islands),
Cal Lutheran University, St. Thomas Aquinas, Moorpark College,
Oxnard College, and Ventura College
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, Ventura County Law Library
Unlike most other areas of Coastal California, Ventura County
is relatively evenly split between Democrats and Republicans,
with a slight majority tending to support the Republican Party
in local and national elections. While Republicans used to win
a large majority of votes throughout the 1970s and 1980s,
no party has received more than 55% of the county's vote since 1992.
Prior to Barack Obama's victory in the county in 2008, the last
Democrat to win a majority as Lyndon Johnson in 1964, though
Democrat Bill Clinton carried the county by a plurality in 1992 and 1996.
Most of the county's area, including inland areas and the cities of
Thousand Oaks and Moorpark, lies in the 24th district, which has a
PVI of R +5 (meaning that based on the presidential election results
of 2000 and 2004, the district is 5% more Republican than the nation)
and is represented by Republican Elton Gallegly.
Coastal regions of Ventura County along with the cities of Oxnard
and Ventura, the 23rd congressional district, which includes has
a Cook Partisan Index (CPI) rating of D +9 and is currently
represented by Democrat Lois Capps.
Republicans have historically held the registration advantage,
but on March 3, 2008, Democratic registration surpassed Republican
registration. The cities of Camarillo, Moorpark, Simi Valley,
and Thousand Oaks all have voter rolls with Republican pluralities.
The remaining cities and towns in the county have a Democratic
plurality or majority on the voter rolls, while the unincorporated
areas are split almost evenly between the parties.
Census Pop. %±
1900 14,367 —
1910 18,347 27.7%
1920 28,724 56.6%
1930 54,976 91.4%
1940 69,685 26.8%
1950 114,647 64.5%
1960 199,138 73.7%
1970 376,430 89.0%
1980 529,174 40.6%
1990 669,016 26.4%
2000 753,197 12.6%
Est. 2006 799,720 6.2%
As of the census of 2000, there were 753,197 people,
243,234 households, and 182,911 families living in the county.
The population density was 408 people per square mile. There were
251,712 housing units at an average density of 136 per square mile.
The racial makeup of the county was 69.93% White, 5.35% Asian,
1.95% Black or African American, 0.94% Native American,
0.22% Pacific Islander, 17.68% from other races, and 3.93% from
two or more races. About one third (33.42%) of the population is
Hispanic or Latino of any race. 9.8% were of German, 7.7% English
and 7.1% Irish ancestry according to Census 2000. 67.1% spoke English,
26.2% Spanish and 1.5% Tagalog as their first language.
There were 243,234 households, of which 39.7% had children under the
age of 18 living with them, 59.5% were married couples living together,
10.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.8%
were non-families. 18.9% of all households were made up of individuals,
and 7.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older.
The average household size was 3.04 and the average family size was 3.46.
In the county the population was spread out, with 28.4% under the
age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 30.7% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64,
and 10.2% who were 65 or older. The median age was 34 years.
For every 100 females there were 99.7 males. For every 100 females
age 18 and over, there were 97.5 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $59,666, and the
median income for a family was $65,285. Males had a median income
of $45,310, versus $32,216 for females. The per capita income for
the county was $24,600. About 6.4% of families and 9.2% of the
population were below the poverty line, including 11.6% of those
under age 18 and 6.3% of those aged 65 or over.
According to an updated 2005 US Census, median household
income was $66,859, while mean was $85,032. Per capita income was
up to $29,634, making it the 6th wealthiest county in California.
Official county website
Ventura County Star
largest Ventura County daily news organization
Municipalities and communities
of Ventura County, California
County seat: Ventura
Camarillo | Fillmore | Moorpark | Ojai | Oxnard | Port Hueneme
| Santa Paula | Simi Valley | Thousand Oaks | Ventura
Casa Conejo | Channel Islands Beach | El Rio | Meiners Oaks
| Mira Monte | Oak Park | Oak View | Piru
Bardsdale | Bell Canyon | Buckhorn | Dulah | La Conchita
| Lake Sherwood | Newbury Park | Point Mugu | Saticoy | Sea Cliff | Somis
This page was last updated January 22, 2010.