Ventura County Cities & Towns
Oxnard (pronounced "OX'nard") is the largest city in Ventura County, California in terms of population. It is located at the western edge of the fertile Oxnard Plain, and is one of the world's most important agricultural centers, with its distinction as the strawberry and lima bean capital. Founded in 1903, it is home to nearly 200,000 citizens (192,997) and is the largest city in the Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura Metropolitan Area.
The city is home to two large U.S. Navy bases (Port Hueneme and NAS Point Mugu). The Port of Hueneme is the busiest commercial port between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Oxnard is also a major transit hub in Southern California, with Amtrak, Union Pacific, Metrolink, Greyhound, Intercalifornias and many others stopping in Oxnard. Oxnard also has a regional airport called Oxnard Airport (OXR).
Before the arrival of Europeans, the area that is now Oxnard was inhabited by Chumash Native Americans. The first European to encounter the area was Spanish explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, who claimed it for Spain in 1542. During the mission period, it was serviced by the Mission San Buenaventura, established in 1782.
Ranching began to take hold among Californio settlers, who lost their regional influence when California became a U.S. state in 1850. At about the same time, the area was settled by American farmers, who cultivated barley and lima beans.
Henry Oxnard, who operated a successful sugar beet factory with his three brothers (Ben, James, and Robert) in Chino, California, was enticed to build a two-million dollar factory on the plain inland from Port Hueneme. Shortly after the 1897 beet campaign, a new town soon emerged. Ironically, the Oxnard brothers never lived in their namesake city, and they sold both the Chino and the giant red-brick Oxnard factory with its landmark twin smokestacks in 1899 for nearly four-million dollars. The Oxnard factory operated from August 19, 1899 until October 26, 1959. Factory operations where interrupted in the Oxnard Strike of 1903. Given the growth of the town of Oxnard, in the spring of 1898, a railroad station was built to service the plant, which attracted a population of Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican laborers and enough commerce to merit the designation of a town. Oxnard intended to name the settlement after the Greek word for "sugar"..."zachari", but frustrated by bureaucracy, named it after himself.
Oxnard was incorporated as a California city on June 30,1903, and the public library was opened in 1907, one of only three built west of the Mississippi river financed by Andrew Carnegie. Prior to and during World War II, the naval bases of Point Mugu and Port Hueneme were established in the area to take advantage of the only major navigable port on California's coast between the Port of Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay, and these encouraged the development of the defense-based aerospace and communications industries.
In the mid-century Oxnard grew and developed the areas outside the downtown with homes, industry, retail, and a new harbor named Channel Islands Harbor. Martin V. ("Bud") Smith (1916-2001) became the most influential developer in the history of Oxnard during this time. Smith's first enterprise in 1941 was the Colonial House Restaurant (demolished 1988) and then the Wagon Wheel Junction in 1947. He was also involved in the development of the high-rise towers at the Topa Financial Plaza, the Channel Islands Harbor, Casa Sirena Resort, the Esplanade Shopping Mall, Fisherman's Wharf, the Carriage Square Shopping Center, the Maritime Museum, and many other major hotel, restaurant and retail projects.
In June 2004, the Oxnard Police Department and the Ventura County Sheriff imposed a gang injunction over a 6.6-square-mile area of the central district of the city, in order to restrict gang activity. The injunction was upheld in the Ventura County Superior Court and made a permanent law in 2005. A similar injunction was imposed in September, 2006 over a 4.26-square-mile area of the south side of the city.
Oxnard is located at 34°11'29N 119°10'57W. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 36.6 mi. 25.3 mi. of it is land and 11.3 mi. of it (30.83%) is water.
Oxnard is located on the Oxnard Plain, an area with fertile soil. With its beaches, dunes, wetlands, creeks and the Santa Clara River, the area contains a number of important biological communities. Native plant communities include: coastal sage scrub, California Annual Grassland, and Coastal Dune Scrub species; however, most native plants have been eliminated from within the city limits to make way for agriculture and urban and industrial development. Also native to the region is the endangered Ventura Marsh Milkvetch, and the last self-sustaining population is in Oxnard in the center of a recently approved high-end housing development.
The city is situated in a Mediterranean (dry subtropical) climate zone, experiencing mild and relatively wet winters, and warm, dry summers. Onshore breezes keep the communities of Oxnard cooler in summer and warmer in winter than those further inland. The average mean temperature is 61°F (16°C). The average minimum temperature is 52°F and the average maximum temperature is 69°F. Generally the weather is cool and dry, with 354 days of sunshine annually. The average annual precipitation is 15.62 in. The last recorded snow fell in January 1942.
Like the rest of California, Oxnard is subject to earthquakes due to its location near the San Andreas Fault.
One active fault line that transverses Oxnard is the Oak Ridge Fault, which straddles the Santa Clara River Valley westward from the Santa Susana Mountains, crosses the Oxnard Plain through Oxnard, and extends into the Santa Barbara Channel.
The fault has proven to be a significant contributor to seismic activity in the Oxnard region and beyond. The Northridge Earthquake, a devastating magnitude 6.7 temblor that occurred on January 17, 1994, is believed to have occurred in the Santa Clarita extension of the Oak Ridge Fault. Landslides and ridge-top shattering resulting from the Northridge Earthquake were observed above Moorpark, a city just east of Oxnard.
A quake with a preliminary magnitude of 3.2 struck at 9:53 p.m. centered at four miles east-southeast of the city of Oxnard on October 16, 2009.
A May 1, 2006 California Department of Finance estimate shows the city's population right at 200,000, with the Oxnard Metro at roughly 800,000 people. As of the census of 2000, there were 170,358 people, 43,576 households, and 34,947 families residing in the city. The population density was 6,729.7/mi. There were 45,166 housing units at an average density of 1,784.2/mi. The racial makeup of the city was 42.08% White, 3.78% African American, 1.26% Native American, 7.39% Asian, 0.41% Pacific Islander, 40.36% from other races, and 4.72% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 66.22% of the population.
There were 43,576 households out of which 46.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.4% were married couples living together, 14.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 19.8% were non-families. 14.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.85 and the average family size was 4.16.
In the city the population was spread out with 31.8% under the age of 18, 11.8% from 18 to 24, 31.0% from 25 to 44, 17.3% from 45 to 64, and 8.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29 years. For every 100 females there were 104.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 104.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $48,603, and the median income for a family was $49,150. Males had a median income of $30,643 versus $25,381 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,288. About 11.4% of families and 15.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.4% of those under age 18 and 8.8% of those age 65 or over.
The economy of Oxnard is driven by international trade, agriculture, manufacturing, defense, and tourism. Oxnard is one of the key manufacturing centers in the Greater Los Angeles Area. The Port of Hueneme is the busiest and only deep-harbor commercial port between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and is vital to trade with the Pacific Rim economies. Companies utilizing the Port include Del Monte Foods, Chiquita, BMW, Land Rover, and Jaguar. Other key industries driving Oxnard's existence include finance, transportation and the high tech industry.
According to the City's 2008 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
# Employer - # of Employees
1 St. John’s Regional Medical Center 1,994
2 Oxnard High School District 1,500
3 Waterway Plastics 1,300
4 City of Oxnard 1,167
5 Haas Automation 996
6 Aluminum Precision 700
Some of the major companies headquartered in Oxnard are Haas Automation, Seminis, Raypak, Drum Workshop, Borla Performance, Boss Audio, and Vivitar which was bought by Sakar International in late 2008. Procter & Gamble and Sysco maintain their West Coast operations in Oxnard.
The Dallas Cowboys held their pre-season training camp at River Ridge Field in Oxnard in 2001, 2004-06, and 2008 (the Cowboys trained at California Lutheran University in nearby Thousand Oaks from 1964-89). The Los Angeles Raiders trained at River Ridge in the 1980s and 90s.
According to the Camarillo General Plan: "The areas studied showed a high percentage of Group I soils, primarily located on the relatively flat Oxnard Plain. The Oxnard Plain, because of these high-quality agricultural soils, coupled with a favorable climate, is considered one of the most fertile areas in the world."
Oxnard has been known for several different crops over the years, including: cucumbers,, sugar beets, lima beans, Stock (the cut flower), and strawberries. In the years of Oxnard's growth during the 70's and 80's, many farms and ranches were annexed for development, and many new development plans threatened much of the plain's farmland. In 1995, a grassroots effort known as SOAR (Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources) was initiated by farmers, ranchers and citizens of Ventura County in an effort to save the vast agricultural asset of the Oxnard Plain.
The Oxnard Plain is well-known for its strawberries. According to the USDA, Oxnard is California’s largest strawberry producer, supplying about one-third of the State's annual strawberry volume . From the end of September through the end of October, strawberries are planted and harvesting occurs from mid-December through mid-July in Oxnard. The peak harvesting season in California runs from April through June, when up to 10 million pint baskets of strawberries are shipped daily . The state of California supplies over 85 percent of U.S. strawberries, with the U.S. supplying for a quarter of total world production of strawberries.
California Strawberry Festival
Each year Oxnard hosts the California Strawberry Festival during the summer at Oxnard College, featuring vendors as well as food items based on the fruit such as strawberry nachos, strawberry pizza, strawberry funnel cake, strawberry sundaes, and strawberry champagne.
This page was last updated January 22, 2010.