Santa Clara County, California

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Santa Clara County, California
County of Santa Clara
AlumRockViewSiliconValley w.jpg
Lick Observatory Shane Telescope.jpg Winchester House Front.jpg
Stanford Oval May 2011 panorama.jpg
USA-Morgan Hill-El Toro Hill-1.jpg Aerial view of Moffett Field's Hangar One (2012).jpg
Images, from top down, left to right: A view looking west across Silicon Valley, Lick Observatory, Winchester Mystery House, a view of Stanford University from across the Oval, El Toro Hill in Morgan Hill, an aerial view of Hangar One at Moffett Federal Airfield in 2012
Flag of Santa Clara County, California
Official seal of Santa Clara County, California
Location in the state of California
Location in the state of California
Coordinates: Lua error in Module:Coordinates at line 668: callParserFunction: function "#coordinates" was not found.
Country  United States of America
State  California
Region San Francisco Bay Area
Incorporated February 18, 1850[1]
Named for Mission Santa Clara de Asís, St. Clare of Assisi
County seat San Jose
Largest city San Jose
 • Total 1,304 sq mi (3,380 km2)
 • Land 1,290 sq mi (3,300 km2)
 • Water 14 sq mi (40 km2)
Highest elevation[2] 4,216 ft (1,285 m)
Population (April 1, 2010)[3]
 • Total 1,781,642
 • Estimate (2014)[3] 1,894,605
 • Density 1,400/sq mi (530/km2)
Time zone Pacific (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) Pacific Daylight Time (UTC-7)
Area codes 408/669, 650
FIPS code 06-085
GNIS feature ID 277307

Santa Clara County, California, officially the County of Santa Clara, is a county located in the U.S. state of California. As of the 2010 census, the population was 1,781,642.[3] The county seat is San Jose,[4] the tenth-most populous city in the United States.

Santa Clara County is included in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area as well as the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area. Located at the southern end of the San Francisco Bay, the highly urbanized Santa Clara Valley within Santa Clara County is also known as Silicon Valley. Santa Clara is the most populous county in the San Francisco Bay Area region, and one of the most affluent counties in the United States.


The Santa Clara County government center in May 2006

Santa Clara County is named after Mission Santa Clara, which was established in 1777, and is also named for Saint Clare of Assisi.


Santa Clara County was one of the original counties of California, formed in 1850 at the time of statehood. The original inhabitants included the Ohlone, residing on Coyote Creek and Calaveras Creek. Part of the county's territory was given to Alameda County in 1853.

In 1882, Santa Clara County tried to levy taxes upon property of the Southern Pacific Railroad within county boundaries. The result was the U.S. Supreme Court case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, 118 U.S. 394 (1886), in which the Court extended Due Process rights to artificial legal entities.

In the early 20th Century, the area was promoted as the "Valley of the Heart's Delight" due to its natural beauty, including a significant number of orchards.[5]

The first major technology to be based in the area was Hewlett-Packard, founded in a garage in Palo Alto in 1939. IBM selected San Jose as its West Coast headquarters in 1943. Varian Associates, Fairchild Semiconductor, and other early innovators, were located in the county by the late 1940s and 1950s. The U.S. Navy had a large presence in the area and began giving large contracts to Silicon Valley electronics companies. The term "Silicon Valley" was coined in 1971. The trend accelerated in the 1980s and 1990s, and agriculture has since then been nearly eliminated from the northern part of the county. Today, Santa Clara County is the headquarters for approximately 6500 high technology companies, including many of the largest tech companies in the world, among them hardware manufacturers AMD, Cisco Systems and Intel, computer and consumer electronics companies Apple Inc. and Hewlett-Packard, and internet companies eBay, Facebook, Google and Yahoo!. Most of what is considered to be Silicon Valley is located within the county, although some adjoining tech regions in San Mateo, Alameda, and Santa Cruz counties are also considered a part of Silicon Valley.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,304 square miles (3,380 km2), of which 1,290 square miles (3,300 km2) is land and 14 square miles (36 km2) (1.1%) is water.[6]

The San Andreas Fault runs along the Santa Cruz Mountains in the south of the county.

National protected area


Tule elk roam the Diablo Range and are often seen on Coyote Ridge from U.S. Highway 101 - courtesy Bill Leikam
Three tule elk just north of U. S. Highway 101 in Basking Ridge Park. The freeway is a barrier to elk migration to the Coast Range. Courtesy Craige Edgerton

In 1978, California Department of Fish and Game warden Henry Coletto urged the department to choose the Mount Hamilton area as one of California's relocation sites under a new statewide effort to restore tule elk (Cervus canadensis ssp. nannodes). While other ranchers refused, tech pioneers Bill Hewlett and David Packard allowed Coletto and state biologists to translocate 32 tule elk from the Owens Valley in the eastern Sierra onto the 28,000-acre (11,000 ha) San Felipe Ranch, which the families jointly own, in the hills east of Morgan Hill.[7] From the three original 1978-1981 translocations to the Mount Hamilton region of the Diablo Range, there are multiple herds in different locations including the Isabel Valley, San Antonio Valley, Livermore area, San Felipe Ranch, Metcalf Canyon, Coyote Ridge, Anderson Lake, and surrounding areas. As of 2012, an estimated 400 tule elk roam 1,875 square kilometres (724 sq mi) in northeastern Santa Clara County and southeastern Alameda County.[8]

The Nature Conservancy "Mount Hamilton Project" has acquired or put under conservation easement 100,000 acres (40,000 ha) of land towards its 500,000 acres (200,000 ha) goal for habitat conservation within a 1,200,000 acres (490,000 ha) area encompassing much of eastern Santa Clara County as well as portions of southern Alameda County, western Merced and Stanislaus Counties, and northern San Benito County. Acquisitions to date include the 1,756-acre (711 ha) Rancho Cañada de Pala, straddling the Alameda Creek and Coyote Creek watersheds for California tiger salamander habitat; a conservation easement on the 3,259-acre Blue Oak Ranch Reserve, which abuts the north side of Joseph D. Grant County Park; a conservation easement on the 28,359-acre San Felipe Ranch, connecting Joseph D. Grant County Park with Henry W. Coe State Park; the 2,899-acre South Valley Ranch which protects a tule elk herd in the San Antonio Valley, and other properties.[9][10]

As of 1980, Santa Clara County has the highest number of Superfund Sites of any county in the United States, accounting for 25 polluted locations requiring a long-term response to clean up hazardous material contaminations.[11][12] The vast majority of these Superfund sites were caused by firms associated with the high tech sector located in Silicon Valley.[13]



As of 2011, Santa Clara County has the second-highest median household income of any county in California, the highest being Marin County.[citation needed]

Places by population, race, and income


Historical population
Census Pop.
1860 11,912
1870 26,246 120.3%
1880 35,039 33.5%
1890 48,005 37.0%
1900 60,216 25.4%
1910 83,539 38.7%
1920 100,676 20.5%
1930 145,118 44.1%
1940 174,949 20.6%
1950 290,547 66.1%
1960 642,315 121.1%
1970 1,064,714 65.8%
1980 1,295,071 21.6%
1990 1,497,577 15.6%
2000 1,682,585 12.4%
2010 1,781,642 5.9%
Est. 2014 1,894,605 6.3%
U.S. Decennial Census[21]
1790–1960[22] 1900–1990[23]
1990–2000[24] 2010–2014[3]

The 2010 United States Census reported that Santa Clara County had a population of 1,781,642. The ethnic makeup of Santa Clara County was 836,616 (47.0%) White, 46,428 (2.6%) African American, 12,960 (0.7%) Native American, 570,524 (32.0%) Asian (8.6% Chinese, 7.1% Vietnamese, 6.6% Indian, 4.9% Filipino, 1.6% Korean, 1.4% Japanese, 0.3% Cambodian, 0.3% Pakistani, 0.1% Thai, 0.1% Laotian, 0.1% Burmese, 0.1% Indonesian, 0.1% Bangladeshi), 7,060 (0.4%) Pacific Islander (0.1% Samoan, 0.1% Guamanian, 0.1% Tongan, 0.1% Native Hawaiian), 220,806 (12.4%) from other races, and 87,248 (4.9%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 479,210 persons (26.9%): 22.5% Mexican, 0.4% Puerto Rican, 0.1% Cuban, 3.8% Other Hispanic.[25]


As of the census[27] of 2000, there are 1,682,585 people, 565,863 households, and 395,538 families residing in the county. The population density is 503/km² (1,304/mi²). There are 579,329 housing units at an average density of 173/km² (449/mi²). The ethnic makeup of the county is 53.8% White, 2.8% Black or African American, 0.7% Native American, 25.6% Asian, 0.3% Pacific Islander, 12.1% from other races, and 4.7% from two or more races. 24.0% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 565,863 households out of which 34.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.9% were married couples living together, 10.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.1% were non-families. 21.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.92 and the average family size was 3.41.

In the county the population was spread out with 24.7% under the age of 18, 9.3% from 18 to 24, 35.4% from 25 to 44, 21.0% from 45 to 64, and 9.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 102.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.90 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $74,335, and the median income for a family was $81,717. Males had a median income of $56,240 versus $40,574 for females. The per capita income for the county was $32,795. About 4.9% of families and 7.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.4% of those under age 18 and 6.4% of those age 65 or over.


Santa Clara County has five elected supervisors, elected within their districts.

The county is one among three counties in California (with Napa and Madera) to establish a separate department, the Santa Clara County Department of Corrections, to deal with corrections pursuant to California Government Code §23013.

In the United States House of Representatives, Santa Clara County is split between 4 congressional districts:[28]

In the California State Senate, the county is split between 4 legislative districts:[30]

In the California State Assembly, the county is split between 6 legislative districts:[31]


Santa Clara County vote
by party in presidential elections
Year GOP DEM Others
2012[32] 27.2% 174,843 70.1% 450,818 2.5% 16,365
2008[33] 28.6% 190,039 69.5% 462,241 1.8% 13,168
2004 34.6% 209,094 63.9% 386,100 1.4% 8,622
2000 34.4% 188,750 60.7% 332,490 4.9% 26,889
1996 32.2% 168,291 56.9% 297,639 11.0% 57,361
1992 28.4% 170,870 49.2% 296,265 22.4% 134,920
1988 47.0% 254,442 51.3% 277,810 1.7% 9,276
1984 54.8% 288,638 43.7% 229,865 1.5% 8,136
1980 48.0% 229,048 35.0% 166,995 17.0% 80,960
1976 49.5% 219,188 46.9% 208,023 3.6% 15,927
1972 51.9% 237,334 45.6% 208,506 2.5% 11,453
1968 45.6% 163,446 48.4% 173,511 6.0% 21,410
1964 36.6% 117,420 63.1% 202,249 0.3% 858
1960 52.7% 131,735 47.1% 117,667 0.3% 690
1956 59.1% 105,657 40.6% 72,528 0.4% 633
1952 59.7% 91,940 39.7% 61,035 0.6% 932
1948 53.3% 52,982 42.1% 41,905 4.6% 4,615
1944 47.0% 39,409 52.4% 43,869 0.6% 499
1940 49.2% 40,100 49.6% 40,449 1.2% 947
1936 40.4% 26,498 58.5% 38,346 1.1% 732
1932 47.5% 27,353 49.1% 28,272 3.3% 1,906
1928 63.8% 31,710 35.4% 17,589 0.8% 395
1924 58.0% 20,056 7.4% 2,560 34.6% 11,952
1920 68.1% 19,565 22.6% 6,485 9.1% 2,682
Santa Clara County vote
by party in gubernatorial elections
2014 27.1% 107,113 72.9% 288,732
2010 34.9% 178,695 61.3% 314,022
2006 52.2% 225,132 42.9% 185,037
2003 39.2% 160,807 39.9% 163,768
2002 32.4% 116,862 55.3% 199,399
1998 31.7% 133,015 64.3% 270,105
1994 47.5% 212,075 47.5% 211,904
1990 42.6% 178,310 52.2% 218,843
1986 59.9% 227,285 37.6% 142,907
1982 44.0% 180,232 52.9% 216,781
1978 29.8% 110,444 61.4% 227,493
1974 46.7% 153,761 50.6% 166,760
1970 51.5% 172,562 46.1% 154,570
1966 55.4% 164,970 44.6% 132,793
1962 47.6% 112,700 51.2% 121,149

Since 1992, Santa Clara County has been a strongly Democratic county in presidential and congressional elections. The last Republican to win a majority in the county was Ronald Reagan in 1984. It was a bellwether county for much of the twentieth century. However, like the rest of the Bay Area, it swung heavily to the Democrats in the 1990s nationally. While Republicans remained competitive at the state and local level for the rest of the 1990s, there are currently no elected Republicans representing significant parts of the county above the county level.

As of November 2012, all of the cities, towns, and the unincorporated areas of Santa Clara County have more registered Democrats than Republicans.[34] In the 2008 US Presidential Election, Democratic nominee Barack Obama carried every city and town in the county, as well as the unincorporated areas.[35]

Following the passage of Proposition 8, Santa Clara County joined San Francisco and Los Angeles in a lawsuit, becoming, along with San Francisco and Los Angeles, the first governmental entities in the world to sue for same-sex marriage.[36]

Voter registration

Cities by population and voter registration


The following table includes the number of incidents reported and the rate per 1,000 persons for each type of offense.

Cities by population and crime rates


The county's economy is heavily service based. Technology, both hardware and software, dominates the service sector by value, but like any other county, Santa Clara has its share of retail and office support workers.

The San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara metropolitan region, comprising Santa Clara County and San Benito County, was ranked as the highest performing metropolitan area in the US in 2012, ahead of Austin, Texas and Raleigh, North Carolina, according to the Milken Institute.[40] The GDP of the metro area reached $176.7 billion in 2011, or $94,587 per capita,[41] roughly on par with Qatar in both total GDP and per capita (nominal).[42] GDP grew a strong 7.7% in 2011, and in contrast with most of California, GDP and per capita GDP (nominal) is well above 2007 (financial crisis) levels. Despite relative wealth vis a vis other regions nationally, a large underclass exists whose income is roughly equivalent to that elsewhere in the country, despite extreme land prices. The surge in metro GDP is highly correlated with home prices, which for average single-family homes passed $1 million ($1,017,528) in August 2013.[43]


Santa Clara County Library, is a public library system serving the communities and cities of Campbell, Cupertino, Gilroy, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Morgan Hill, Saratoga, and all unincorporated areas of the county.[44] All other cities run their own library system.



The county's main airport is Norman Y. Mineta San José International Airport (SJC). It is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection port of entry[45] and as of 2015 has four international routes (one to Japan, two to Mexico, and one to China) but the airport's busiest routes are all to cities in the western United States. San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is also often used for commercial services by residents of Santa Clara County.

Moffett Federal Airfield (NUQ), a former U.S. Naval Air Station, is used by the Air National Guard, NASA, Lockheed Martin, Google, and by the San Jose Police and Santa Clara County Sheriff's Department as an air operations base.[46] There are also smaller general aviation airports in Palo Alto (PAO), San Jose (Reid-Hillview) (RHV), and San Martin(E16)


Santa Clara Station, 2012

Santa Clara Station is served by Caltrain which provides service to Gilroy, San Jose, Silicon Valley, San Francisco Airport and San Francisco, the ACE system which provides services to Stockton, and Amtrak which provides service to Sacramento and Oakland.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority operates the VTA light rail system.


VTA bus arriving at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills


Santa Clara County has consolidated its transportation services into the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, which operates a bus system.

Bicycle network

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority is establishing a bicycle network throughout the county. Santa Clara County Bicycle network is part of the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Bikeway Network.

Freeways and expressways

The county has an extensive freeway system and a separate expressway system. Expressways in California are distinct from freeways; although access to adjoining properties is eliminated, at-grade intersections are allowed. However, unlike expressways virtually everywhere else in California, the Santa Clara County expressways were built, signed, and maintained as county roads; they are not maintained by Caltrans, although they are patrolled by the California Highway Patrol.

There is also a large street network dominated by four- and six-lane arterials. Some of the newer boulevards (primarily in the West Valley) are divided with landscaped medians.

Major highways
County routes
Other roads


The county has no commercial seaports, although small boats can access San Francisco Bay from several points. Like many other Bay Area counties, it is dependent upon the Port of Oakland for transport of ocean cargo.


Santa Clara County has an extensive park system, much of it founded in the major park expansion of the late 1970s. Parks within the county include:

Open space preserves include:

Sister counties

To promote friendship and understanding and to build bridges with countries of origin for various ethnic populations in the county, the County of Santa Clara has created a Sister County Commission to coordinate the program. As of 2009, there are three sister counties:[47]




Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Former townships

See also


  1. Other = Some other race + Two or more races
  2. Native American = Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander + American Indian or Alaska Native
  3. 3.0 3.1 Percentage of registered voters with respect to total population. Percentages of party members with respect to registered voters follow.
  4. Only larceny-theft cases involving property over $400 in value are reported as property crimes.


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External links