Camarillo is a city in Ventura County, California, USA. The population was 65,201 at the 2010 census, up from 57,084 at the 2000 census. The Ventura Freeway (U.S. Route 101) is the city's primary thoroughfare. Camarillo is named for Adolfo and Juan Camarillo, two of the few Californios (pre-1848 California natives of Hispanic ancestry) to preserve the city's heritage after the arrival of Anglo settlers. The railroad coast route came through in 1898 and built a station here. Adolfo Camarillo eventually employed 700 workers growing mainly lima beans. Walnuts and citrus were also grown on the ranch. Adolfo bred Camarillo White Horses in the 1920s through the 1960s and was well known for riding them, dressed in colorful Spanish attire, in parades such as the Fiesta of Santa Barbara.
The city grew slowly prior to World War II but the war effort saw the construction of the Oxnard Army Air Field (later Oxnard Air Force Base in 1951, now Camarillo Airport) to the west of town. The community also grew as the new base along with nearby Naval Air Station Point Mugu and a Seabee base at Port Hueneme brought many workers and their families to the area. The grounds of Camarillo State Hospital, that opened in 1936 south of town, is now the campus of California State University, Channel Islands.
As with most cities in Ventura County, it is noted for its resistance to new development. In 2014, the council voted against a 895 acre project that would have extended development on agricultural lands east towards the Conejo Grade.
The Chumash Indians were the first known settlers in what is now known as Ventura County. Fishermen built their villages along the Pacific Coast near the mouths of the Calleguas Creek and Santa Clara River. Artifacts from their settlements are on display in the Ventura County Historical Museum and their paintings are still visible on canyon walls and in caves in the area.
The Portuguese navigator Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, while exploring the Pacific coast for the king of Spain, came upon the Chumash in an area near Point Mugu. He explored the surrounding region and claimed it in the name of Spain in 1542. Cabrillo was followed in 1602 by Sebastian Viscaino on a mapping expedition for the King of Spain. The Chumash continued to inhabit the coast until 1768 when Russians, having established a settlement to the north, launched expeditions challenging the Spanish land claims. In the 18th century, the Spanish began settling California and built the first of what would become a chain of 21 missions in San Diego. Father Junípero Serra establish the ninth mission in Ventura in 1782 bringing more settlers to the area and exposing the Indians who had settled around the mission to many European diseases to which they had no immunity. Their numbers diminished until the Chumash, once the largest Indian nation in California, had largely vanished by 1839.
By the early 1820s, Mexico had gained independence from Spain, and shortly afterward California allied itself with Mexico. The Mexican land grant system was liberalized in 1824 resulting in many large grants in California and the proliferation of Ranchos north of the border. One grant to José Pedro Ruiz created Rancho Calleguas in 1837, in the area that is now Camarillo. The grant was later sold to Juan Camarillo, who had arrived in 1834 as a member of the Hijar-Padres Expedition; it was his sons Adolfo and Juan that are credited with the founding of the town that was to bear their name. The earlier proposed name of Calleguas was rejected as too difficult to pronounce.
At about same time, the town of Springville had begun to form just to the west of the emerging town of Camarillo on the main road to Ventura which is now the intersection of Ventura Boulevard and Wood Road. The Springville Post Office, which was open from 1875 to 1903, was one of seventeen post offices operating in the county in 1890. The grammar school was south of the settlement on the main road (now Pleasant Valley Road) to the new wharf at Hueneme where schooners brought lumber from the north and carried grain, lima beans and sheep to markets in San Francisco. Springville's existence was threatened though when the Southern Pacific Railroad Coast Route was routed farther south through Pleasant Valley and a depot was established in nearby Camarillo. The settlement disappeared but in 2012 a new road was named Springville Drive to honor the little town and is now marked on the 101 freeway with an overpass and ramps at the western end of Camarillo. The original settlement would have been nearby on the south side of the freeway.
St. John's Seminary
Camarillo's growth was slow from founding through World War II. In the late 1940s, building lots on Ventura Boulevard, the main downtown street, were being offered for $450 and home lots on the adjoining streets were $250, with few buyers. Travel to and from Los Angeles was difficult, owing to the narrow, tortuous road climbing the Conejo Grade to the east of the city.
The main industry during this period was agriculture, and the area surrounding the small town was blanketed with orange, lemon and walnut groves. The State Mental hospital south of the town was the largest employer. A few houses had sprung up to the north and south of town center. The Oxnard Army Air Field, built during World War II to the west of town, the Navy Facility at Point Mugu and the Seabee base at Port Hueneme brought many military personnel to the area, but there was little private industry or other source of non-agricultural employment. Oxnard AAF closed at the end of World War II, but the Navy facilities remained open. With the Korean War and associated Cold War tensions, the former Oxnard AAF was reactivated in 1951 as Oxnard Air Force Base.
Ventura Freeway (US Route 101)
In the mid-1950s, the Ventura Freeway, which bisects the town, was completed from Los Angeles to points north, making it an easy one-hour trip to Camarillo. The freeway was originally planned to follow the path of Potrero Road, south of Camarillo, which would have completely by-passed the soon-to-be city. However, after much debate, city officials persuaded Caltrans to lay the freeway parallel to Ventura Boulevard, creating the infamously steep descent from the Santa Monica Mountains, known as the Conejo Grade. The grade is about and posted as a 7% grade—which translates as about one thousand feet of elevation change in less than three miles (70 meters per kilometer). There is a California Highway Patrol brake inspection station at the top of the grade and a stop is mandatory for all 18-wheel trucks. The completion of the freeway facilitated the growth that followed. In 1962, the population was 7,500 and 3M began construction for the Mincom and Magnetic Tape Divisions, which would ultimately employ 900 people, becoming the largest local employer. That plant briefly housed a factory for 3M spinoff Imation before being closed in 2008. Housing tracts were built where orchards once stood. House prices were $14,000 to $65,000.
Incorporation in 1964
At this time plans were made for the incorporation of the city to control the rapid expansion. Camarillo became a city in 1964 and soon put into place a General Plan and building codes that were to lead to an attractive city environment. In 1964 the closest traffic signal was from the City center on the road to Point Mugu, and the first shopping center and supermarket were under construction. Because of the late date of city incorporation, the local telephone exchange is still listed as part of Oxnard. Much of the city was expected to be developed to the south of Ventura Blvd, however it was to the north that the new city grew, and the land south of Ventura Blvd remains reserved for agricultural use to this day.
Many of the home buyers during the 1960s were military veterans, who had been stationed at one of the local bases during their service. The temperate climate and the living conditions lured them back. With the establishment of both the Pacific Missile Range at NAS Point Mugu and the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory at Port Hueneme many found employment that utilized their military training. Other newcomers were those who worked and lived in the San Fernando Valley and were willing to endure the commute for the opportunity to raise their families in a smog-free, semirural environment. Still others relocated here with their employers, like 3M, and Harbor Freight Tools who built facilities in and around the city to take advantage of the large workforce. Technicolor Video Services Inc. is the largest DVD duplicator in the world.
Camarillo State Hospital & CSUCI
Camarillo State Mental Hospital was established near the city in the 1930s so that persons suffering from mental illnesses or tuberculosis could recover in Ventura County's balmy climate. Jazzman Charlie Parker's "Relaxin' at Camarillo," written while he was detoxing from heroin addiction, is a tribute to the facility. The song "Camarillo" by punk outfit Fear is also written about the facility. The band Ambrosia released a song called "Ready for Camarillo" on their 1978 Life Beyond L.A. album. "Ready for Camarillo" also appeared as the single B side of their hit "How Much I Feel." Perhaps the most famous song associated with the facility was "Hotel California", by The Eagles, which is widely rumored to be about lead singer Don Henley's brother's struggles to overcome a mental disorder, but Henley claims this connection is false. The former hospital is the now the site of California State University, Channel Islands. The University has retained the distinctive Mission Revival Style architecture bell tower in the South quad. The band Brazzaville released a video called "Camarillo" in 2007, with mental hospital-like imagery and lyrics concerning lead singer David Brown's relatives' stay in the institution.
The Camarillo State Hospital was closed in the 1990s and remained vacant until the site was converted into California State University, Channel Islands (CSUCI). CSUCI officially opened in August 2002 and is now accredited by the WASC.
Mission Oaks is the name given by developer Pardee Homes to a parcel of land located in the north-eastern portion of the city. This parcel was developed as a planned community over the span of 35 years, and was completed in October 2004. The area developed by Pardee Homes makes up approximately 15% of Camarillo's total land. Due to the decades-long timescale of the project, many residents are unaware of Mission Oaks' proprietary nature, and the area east of Lewis Road (State Route 34), south of Somis and north of the 101 Freeway is generally thought of as Mission Oaks regardless of which company built the buildings in the area.
Camarillo Premium Outlets
In the mid-1990s, multiple large retail centers, including one of California's largest outlet malls and movie theater were built south of US 101 and west of Carmen Drive. These new retail centers have provided a large influx of cash to the city; from 1993 to 1998 sales tax revenues nearly doubled from approximately $3.5 million to approximately $6.5 million. On April 23, 2009, several new shops and restaurants opened at the Camarillo Premium Outlets, designated "The Promenade". The Promenade is , while the Premium Outlets is 454,000. The new center has 45 stores and restaurants, bringing the total to about 160
Camarillo Springs Fire
Beginning 7:02 am. on Thursday, May 2, 2013, a major brush fire began in the Camarillo Springs area and burned throughout the area. The community of Dos Vientos was evacuated due to the proximity of the fire. About 15 houses were damaged, but none burned down. 28,000 acres of land was burned by the fire. Finally, on Sunday, May 5, 2013, rain in the area during the night helped firefighters bring the fire under full control.