Martinez (/mɑːrˈtnɪs/ mar-TEE-niss; Spanish: Martínez) is a city in and the county seat of Contra Costa County, California, in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area.[11] The population was 35,824 at the 2010 census. The downtown is notable for its large number of preserved old buildings and antique shops. Martinez is located on the southern shore of the Carquinez Strait in the San Francisco Bay Area, directly facing the city center of Benicia and the southeastern end of Vallejo, California.


In 1824 the Alhambra Valley was included in the Rancho El Pinole Mexican land grant to Ygnacio Martínez.[12] In 1847, Dr. Robert Semple contracted to provide ferry service from Martinez to Benicia, which for many years was the only crossing on the Carquinez Strait.[12] By 1849, Martínez served as a way station for the California Gold Rush. The town was laid out in 1849 by Col. William M. Smith and named for Martinez.[13] It became the county seat in 1850, but could not incorporate at the time because it lacked the 200 registered voters required, and only became a city in 1876.[14]

John Muir House

Martinez was the home of naturalist John Muir from 1880 until his death in 1914. He was buried about a mile south of the building that is now the John Muir National Historic Site. Also nearby is the Vicente Martinez Adobe, built in 1849 by the son of Ygnacio Martinez.[14]

The first post office opened in 1851.[13]

Main Street in Martinez

In 1860, Martinez played a role in the Pony Express, where riders would take the ferry from Benicia (particularly if they missed the steamer in Sacramento).[15]

The first oil refinery in the Martinez area was built in 1904 at Bull's Head Point, a then-unincorporated waterfront area two miles east of the downtown district. That area soon became known as Mococo, following the 1905 arrival of a smelting works, operated by the Mountain Copper Company (Mo Co Co).

That first facility, operated by the Bull's Head Oil Company, was followed in 1908 by a test refinery built by the Pacific Coast Oil Company. Shortly thereafter, Pacific Coast became part of Standard Oil (now Chevron), and consolidated their oil refining operations in the Point Richmond, Hercules, Rodeo waterfront corridor some twelve miles to the west of Martinez.

In 1913, the Golden Eagle facility became the third oil refinery to be built in the area. It was located in the newly-created company town of Avon, immediately to the East of Martinez. A fourth refinery, built by the Shell Oil Company on land adjacent to the Martinez City limits, went online in January 1916. The Golden Eagle Refinery (currently owned by Andeavor) and the Shell Oil refining facility are still operational today, maintaining the position of Martinez as a significant petroleum processing center.[16][17][18]

Folk etymology in Martinez claims the invention of the Martini cocktail and that it is named for the city.[19]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 13.1 square miles (34 km2), of which, 12.1 square miles (31 km2) of it is land and 1.0 square mile (2.6 km2) of it (7.64 percent) is water.

Although the common perception of Martinez is that of a refinery town, given the view from Highway 680 across the Shell refinery from the Benicia–Martinez Bridge, the city is in fact largely surrounded by water and regional open space preserves. The Martinez–Benicia Bridge carries Highway 680 across the eastern end of the Carquinez Strait to Solano County. The city can be defined as a more densely built downtown valley threaded by Alhambra creek and north of Highway 4. Suburban areas stretch south of Highway 4 to join the neighboring city of Pleasant Hill. Unincorporated areas include the rural Alhambra Valley and the Franklin Canyon area.

The Martinez Regional Shoreline bounds the city to the north along the Carquinez Strait. Carquinez Strait Regional Shoreline includes the Franklin Hills west of downtown, stretching west to the unincorporated community of Port Costa and the town of Crockett. Briones Regional Park borders the Alhambra Valley to the south. Waterbird Regional Preserve and the McNabney Marsh border the city and Highway 680 to the east. Martinez's location at the east end of the Carquinez Strait as it widens to Suisun Bay includes dramatic water views stretching to the Sierra range. From surrounding ridge tops views stretch to nearby Mount Diablo, Mount Saint Helena, Mount Tamalpais, and others.

Martinez is one of the only two places in the Bay Area, the other being Golden Gate Bridge, where the Bay Area Ridge Trail and the San Francisco Bay Trail converge. The Bay Trail is a planned recreational corridor that, when complete, will encircle San Francisco and San Pablo bays with a continuous 400-mile (640 km) network of bicycling and hiking trails. It will connect the shoreline of all nine Bay Area counties, link 47 cities, and cross the major toll bridges in the region, including the Benicia–Martinez Bridge. To date, approximately 240 miles (390 km) of the alignment—over half the Bay Trail's ultimate length—have been completed. The Bay Area Ridge Trail ultimately will be a 500+ mile trail encircling the San Francisco Bay along the ridge tops, open to hikers, equestrians, mountain bicyclists, and outdoor enthusiasts of all types. So far, over 300 miles (480 km) of trail have been dedicated for use. East Bay Regional Park District's Iron Horse Regional Trail will join the Bay Trail along the waterfront, and the Contra Costa Canal Trail threads through the city from Pleasant Hill to the south.


Martinez has a mild mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csa/b).[20] Summers are warm and dry, with some morning fog during sea breezes. The maritime influence is much less significant than in other parts of the Bay Area that are closer to the Pacific, which causes very high daytime averages compared to San Francisco and Oakland in summer. However, nights normally cool off significantly which results in daytime highs of around 87 °F (31 °C) and night time lows of 55 °F (13 °C) during July and August.[21] Winters are wet and cool with occasional frost. The majority of the city is within a USDA hardiness zone of 9b.

Climate data for Martinez, California
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 83.0
Average high °F (°C) 55.2
Average low °F (°C) 38.6
Record low °F (°C) 20.0
Average precipitation inches (mm) 3.93
Source: Western Regional Climate Center (1906-present) [22]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 560
1890 1,609
1900 1,380 −14.2%
1910 2,115 53.3%
1920 3,858 82.4%
1930 6,569 70.3%
1940 7,381 12.4%
1950 8,268 12.0%
1960 9,604 16.2%
1970 16,506 71.9%
1980 22,582 36.8%
1990 31,808 40.9%
2000 35,866 12.8%
2010 35,824 −0.1%
Est. 2016 38,259 [10] 6.8%
U.S. Decennial Census[23]
The Contra Costa County courthouse in downtown Martinez


The 2010 United States Census[24] reported that Martinez had a population of 35,824. The population density was 2,727.4 people per square mile (1,053.1/km²). The racial makeup of Martinez was 27,603 (77.1%) White, 1,303 (3.6%) African American, 255 (0.7%) Native American, 2,876 (8.0%) Asian, 121 (0.3%) Pacific Islander, 1,425 (4.0%) from other races, and 2,241 (6.3%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5,258 persons (14.7 percent).

The Census reported that 34,528 people (96.4 percent of the population) lived in households, 235 (0.7 percent) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 1,061 (3.0 percent) were institutionalized.

There were 14,287 households, out of which 4,273 (29.9 percent) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 6,782 (47.5 percent) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 1,751 (12.3 percent) had a female householder with no husband present, 640 (4.5 percent) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 928 (6.5 percent) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 137 (1.0 percent) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 3,920 households (27.4 percent) were made up of individuals and 1,078 (7.5 percent) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42. There were 9,173 families (64.2 percent of all households); the average family size was 2.95.

The age distribution of the population showed 7,329 people (20.5 percent) under the age of 18, 2,842 people (7.9 percent) aged 18 to 24, 9,193 people (25.7 percent) aged 25 to 44, 12,121 people (33.8 percent) aged 45 to 64, and 4,339 people (12.1 percent) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42.2 years. For every 100 females there were 96.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 94.8 males.

There were 14,976 housing units at an average density of 1,140.2 per square mile (440.2/km²), of which 9,619 (67.3 percent) were owner-occupied, and 4,668 (32.7 percent) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.4 percent; the rental vacancy rate was 4.9 percent. 23,876 people (66.6 percent of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 10,652 people (29.7 percent) lived in rental housing units.

Demographic profile[25] 2010
Total Population 35,824 – 100.0 %
One Race 33,583 – 93.7%
Not Hispanic or Latino 30,566 – 85.3%
White alone 24,604 – 68.7%
Black or African American alone 1,263 – 3.5%
American Indian and Alaska Native alone 163 – 0.5%
Asian alone 2,810 – 7.8%
Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone 99 – 0.3%
Some other race alone 67 – 0.2%
Two or more races alone 1,560 – 4.4%
Hispanic or Latino (of any race) 5,258 – 14.7%


As of the census[26] of 2000, there were 35,866 people, 14,300 households, and 9,209 families residing in the city. The population density was 2,927.6 people per square mile (1,130.4/km²). There were 14,597 housing units at an average density of 1,191.5/sq mi (460.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 81.03 percent White, 3.35 percent Black or African American, 0.74 percent Native American, 6.63 percent Asian, 0.23 percent Pacific Islander, 3.29 percent from other races, and 4.72 percent from two or more races. 10.20 percent of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 11.7 percent claimed to be of German, 10.8 percent Irish, 10.2 percent Italian, 9.4 percent English and 5.4 percent American ancestry.

There were 14,300 households out of which 30.0 percent had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.4 percent were married couples living together, 11.0 percent had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.6 percent were non-families. 27.4 percent of all households were made up of individuals and 6.9 percent had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41 and the average family size was 2.96.

In the city, the age distribution of the population showed 22.7 percent under the age of 18, 7.3 percent from 18 to 24, 32.6 percent from 25 to 44, 27.3 percent from 45 to 64, and 10.1 percent who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 98.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $63,010, and the median income for a family was $77,411 (these figures had risen to $73,668 and $92,486 respectively as of a 2007 estimate).[27] Males had a median income of $52,135 versus $40,714 for females. The per capita income for the city was $29,701. About 3.2 percent of families and 5.2 percent of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.9 percent of those under age 18 and 4.8 percent of those age 65 or over.

The languages spoken were 88 percent English, 6 percent Spanish, 2 percent Tagalog, 1 percent German, 1 percent Chinese, 0.5 percent Italian, 0.5 percent Persian, 0.3 percent Korean, 0.3 percent Portuguese, 0.3 percent Russian, 0.3 percent Arabic, 0.2 percent Dutch, 0.2 percent Polish, 0.2 percent French, 0.2 percent Punjabi, 0.2 percent Vietnamese, 0.1 percent Japanese, 0.1 percent Tamil, 0.1 percent Cantonese. Of the 4,176 people who did not use English as their primary language 3,663 (87.7 percent) spoke it well or very well while 513 (12.3 percent) spoke it "not well" or "not at all"[28]


Historic wine label from the J. Gonsalves Winery, one of the first to reopen in Contra Costa County after Prohibition ended.[29]

Top employers

According to the City's 2009 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[30] the top employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Contra Costa County 9,847
2 Shell Oil Company 742
3 Kaiser Permanente 722
4 Veterans Health Administration 650
5 Martinez Unified School District 380
6 Wal-Mart 234
7 Safeway 174
8 Contra Costa Electric 150
9 City of Martinez 127
10 The Home Depot 120

Sister cities

According to Sister Cities International, Martinez is paired with Dunbar in Scotland, Hanchuan in China, and the Italian towns of Milazzo and Stresa.



Amtrak station in Martinez
The 1,680-foot (512.06 m) "Muir Trestle" at Muir Station Road


Major highways


The city of Martinez is served by the Martinez News Gazette, the Martinez Tribune, and the East Bay Times.

Martinez is also served by Martinez Patch, a local news website covering community news and events, and the local news and talk blog Claycord.com.


Covering most of Martinez, the Martinez Unified School District encompasses four elementary schools, one middle school, one high school, and two alternative/independent study schools. Students in K-5 attend John Swett, John Muir, Las Juntas, or Morello Park Elementary School. Martinez Junior High School serves students in grades 6 through 8. St. Catherine of Siena is a private Catholic school that serves grades K-8. Alhambra High School serves as the districts' comprehensive high school. As of 2006, the districts' K-12 enrollment was 4,194. Part of Martinez is served by the Mount Diablo Unified School District, whose Hidden Valley Elementary School is located in Martinez. St. Catherine of Siena School (Martinez, California), a private Roman Catholic elementary, also serves the Martinez community.

Public libraries

The Martinez Library is part of the Contra Costa County Library and is located in Martinez. The Art Deco style building was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in early 2008.[31]


In early 2007, a group of beavers settled in a section of Alhambra Creek that flows through the city.[32] The beavers and their dam became a local attraction. Because the 6-foot-high (1.8 m), 30-foot-wide (9.1 m) dam created a potential flood hazard, local officials proposed to remove the beavers. Increased run-off from developed areas along the creek has increased flooding in Martinez, a low-lying city built on a flood plain, in recent decades. Although Martinez had completed the construction of a $9.7 million flood control project in 1999, the downtown was flooded in 2005, ironically two years before the beavers arrived. A City Council subcommittee was formed to consider whether the beavers could be protected and flood risk managed, and was given 90 days to issue a report to the full council for a vote.[33] During this period, expert Skip Lisle was hired to install a flow device that could reduce the level of impounded water behind the beaver dam and mitigate flooding risk above the beaver dam.[34] The beavers have received national attention, amateur video coverage, a webpage devoted to them, and a new nonprofit organization ("Worth A Dam") formed.[35] The beaver have transformed Alhambra Creek from a trickle into multiple dams and beaver ponds, which in turn, led to the return of steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and river otter (Lontra canadensis) in 2008, and mink (Neovison vison) in 2009.[36][37] The beaver parents have produced babies every year since their 2006 arrival.[38] However, in June 2010, after birthing and successfully weaning triplets this year (and quadruplets the previous three years), "Mom Beaver" died of natural causes.[39]

The Martinez beavers probably originated from the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta. Historically, before the California Fur Rush of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Delta probably held the largest concentration of beaver in North America. It was California's early fur trade, more than any other single factor, that opened up the West, and the San Francisco Bay Area in particular, to world trade. In 1840, explorer Captain Thomas J. Farnham wrote that "There is probably no spot of equal extent in the whole continent of America which contains so many of these much sought animals."[40]

Notable people

See also


  1. ^ "Homepage". City of Martinez. Retrieved November 20, 2014. 
  2. ^ "California Cities by Incorporation Date". California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions. Archived from the original (Word) on November 3, 2014. Retrieved March 27, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Mayor and City Council". City of Martinez. Retrieved March 21, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Senators". State of California. Retrieved March 21, 2013. 
  5. ^ "Members Assembly". State of California. Retrieved March 21, 2013. 
  6. ^ "California's 11th Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. Retrieved September 28, 2014. 
  7. ^ "2016 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved Jun 28, 2017. 
  8. ^ "Martinez". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved January 21, 2015. 
  9. ^ "Martinez (city) QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on August 24, 2012. Retrieved April 12, 2015. 
  10. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved June 9, 2017. 
  11. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2011. 
  12. ^ a b "Martinez Historical Society". Martinezhistory.org. Archived from the original on June 13, 2013. Retrieved July 14, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Durham, David L. (1998). California's Geographic Names: A Gazetteer of Historic and Modern Names of the State. Clovis, Calif.: Word Dancer Press. p. 660. ISBN 1-884995-14-4. 
  14. ^ a b Martinez, CA, City History Archived August 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ "Martinez History and the Pony Express". Martinezhistory.org. Archived from the original on June 13, 2013. Retrieved July 14, 2013. 
  16. ^ "California Refinery". Arb.ca.gov. Retrieved July 14, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Welcome to Shell Martinez Refinery". shell.us. Shell Oil Company. Retrieved July 14, 2013. 
  18. ^ City of Martinez (12 March 2015). "Historic Resources of Martinez". Application to the National Register of Historic Places. Martinez City Council. p. 14 of 72. Retrieved 8 March 2018. 
  19. ^ "The Martini Story". cityofmartinez.org. City of Martinez. Retrieved July 14, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Martinez, California Climate Summary". Weatherbase. Retrieved March 6, 2015. 
  21. ^ "Martinez, California Temperature Averages". Weatherbase. Retrieved March 6, 2015. 
  22. ^ [1] Western Regional Climate Center Retrieved August 30, 2017
  23. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Archived from the original on May 12, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  24. ^ "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA – Martinez city". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2014. 
  25. ^ "Demographic Profile Bay Area Census". bayareacensus.ca.gov. 
  26. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on September 11, 2013. Retrieved January 31, 2008. 
  27. ^ Martinez, California, US Census Bureau
  28. ^ MLA Data Center, Martínez, California entry, U.S. Census Dept. (Census 2000), retrieved January 17, 2008
  29. ^ Farm Report: Contra Costa wines "After Prohibition was repealed, wineries began to open again in Contra Costa County, including J.E. Digardi Winery, Viano Vineyards and the J. Gonsalves Winery. Viano Vineyards has been making wine at their family winery ever since.
  30. ^ "City of Martinez CAFR". Retrieved July 14, 2013. 
  31. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. Retrieved 12 January 2017. 
  32. ^ Jason B. Johnson (May 21, 2007). "Martinez Beavers set up shop downtown:Mayor says they've become city's most popular attraction". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved November 22, 2009. 
  33. ^ "Martinez Beaver Dam Safe Despite Rough Storms". CBS News. January 4, 2008. Archived from the original on January 8, 2008. 
  34. ^ "Telluride Leaves It to Beaver". United States Golf Association. January–February 2005. Archived from the original on February 8, 2005. 
  35. ^ "Martinez Beavers". martinezbeavers.org. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 
  36. ^ Aleta George (2008). "Martinez Beavers". Bay Nature. Bay Nature Institute. Retrieved November 6, 2009. 
  37. ^ Nicola DeRobertis-Theye. "Beavers and More in Martinez:New Habitat Thanks to Beavers". Bay Nature. Bay Nature Institute. Retrieved November 6, 2009. 
  38. ^ Carolyn Jones (June 11, 2010). "New baby beaver has Martinez residents beaming". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved June 12, 2010. 
  39. ^ Joe Eaton (July 5, 2010). "Wild Neighbors: A Death in the Family". The Berkeley Daily Planet. Retrieved July 6, 2010. 
  40. ^ Thomas Jefferson Farnham (1857). Life, adventures, and travels in California. Blakeman & Co. p. 383. Retrieved April 1, 2016. 

External links