Santa Cruz is the county seat and largest city of Santa Cruz County, California in the US. As of the 2010 U.S. Census, Santa Cruz had a total population of 59,946. It is located on the northern edge of the Monterey Bay, about south of San Francisco. The city is part of the U.S. Census-designated 11-county San Francisco Bay Area Combined Statistical Area but not within the traditional 9-county definition of the San Francisco Bay Area, as it is not in a county that touches the San Francisco Bay. Primarily, Santa Cruz is counted as part of the Monterey Bay region.
The present-day site of Santa Cruz was the location of Spanish settlement beginning in 1791, including Mission Santa Cruz and the pueblo of Branciforte. Following the Mexican–American War of 1846–48, California became the 31st state in 1850. The City of Santa Cruz was chartered in 1866. Important early industries included lumber, gunpowder, lime and agriculture. Late in the 19th century, Santa Cruz established itself as a beach resort community. Santa Cruz is now known for its moderate climate, the natural beauty of its coastline and redwood forests, alternative community lifestyles, and socially liberal leanings. It is also home to the University of California, Santa Cruz, a premier research institution and educational hub, as well as the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, an oceanfront amusement park.
The Ohlone and pre-contact period
Prior to the arrival of Spanish soldiers, missionaries and colonists in the late 18th century, the Santa Cruz area was home to the Ohlone Native Americans. The Ohlone had no written language, and lived in small villages scattered around the Monterey Bay and San Francisco Bay regions. Within fifty years of the Spaniards' arrival, the Ohlone culture and way of life had virtually disappeared in the Santa Cruz area. The only remnants of their spoken language are three local place names: Aptos, Soquel and Zayante.
Mission and Pueblo period
In 1769 the Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolà accidentally arrived in the vicinity while attempting to travel to Monterey. He named the river San Lorenzo for Saint Lawrence and he named a local creek "Arroyo de Santa Cruz" which translates as "Holy Cross Creek". In 1791, Father Fermín Lasuén continued the use of Portolà's name when he declared the establishment of La Misión de la Exaltación de la Santa Cruz (also known as Mission Santa Cruz) for the conversion of the Awaswas of Chatu-Mu and surrounding Ohlone villages. Santa Cruz was the twelfth mission to be founded in California.
In 1797, Governor Diego de Borica, by order of the Viceroy of New Spain, Miguel de la Grúa Talamanca y Branciforte, marqués de Branciforte, established the Villa de Branciforte, a town named in honor of the Viceroy. One of only three civilian towns established in California during the Spanish colonial period (the other two became Los Angeles and San Jose), the Villa was located across the San Lorenzo River, less than a mile from the Mission. Its original main street is now North Branciforte Avenue. Villa de Branciforte later lost its civic status, and in 1905 the area was annexed into the City of Santa Cruz.
In the 1820s, newly independent Mexico assumed control of the area. Following the secularization of the Mission in 1834, the community that had grown up around the Mission was renamed Pueblo de Figueroa. The name didn't catch on, however, and later reverted back to Santa Cruz. After 1834, immigrants from the United States began to arrive in steadily increasing numbers. In 1848, following the Mexican–American War, Mexico ceded the territory of Alta California to the U.S. in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. California was the first portion of the territory to become a state, in 1850. Santa Cruz became a city in 1866.
California Powder Works began manufacturing blasting powder for California mining when normal supplies were interrupted by the American Civil War. A powder mill built on the San Lorenzo River upstream of Santa Cruz used charcoal and powder kegs manufactured from local forests. The mill later manufactured smokeless powder used in United States Army Krag-Jørgensen rifles and guns of the United States Navy Pacific and Asiatic fleets. The mill was heavily damaged by a series of explosions on the evening of April 26, 1898. The explosions caused flaming debris to fall on Mission Hill and caused fires threatening the city. The powder works employed 150 to 275 men until operations ceased in 1914.
Santa Cruz was hard hit by the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. It was also hit by ocean surges caused by the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, wherein the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor sustained an estimated $10 million of damage, with another $4 million of damage to docked boats there.
Santa Cruz has an activist Veteran community. The United Veterans Council sponsors a community-based program for Veterans dealing with re-entry into society as an alternative to government remedies. The Bill Motto VFW post #5888 sponsors anti-war and peace efforts in Santa Cruz and throughout the country. The Veterans Memorial Building is host to punk, reggae, and hip-hop acts from Santa Cruz and around the world. It is also the home of the Bill Motto Post-sponsored Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. These dinners were started by post #5888 in the late seventies. In 2006, the Thanksgiving dinner served 1,400 people. Founded in 1976, The Resource Center for Nonviolence is one of the oldest and most centrally located non-profit organizations committed to political and social activism in Santa Cruz County. The center is "dedicated to promoting the principles of nonviolent social change and enhancing the quality of life and human dignity". In 1998, the Santa Cruz community declared itself a Nuclear-free zone, and in 2003, the Santa Cruz City Council became the first City Council in the U.S. to denounce the Iraq War. The City Council of Santa Cruz also issued a proclamation opposing the USA PATRIOT Act.
As a center of liberal and progressive activism, Santa Cruz became one of the first cities to approve marijuana for medicinal uses. In 1992, residents overwhelmingly approved Measure A, which allowed for the medicinal uses of marijuana. Santa Cruz also became one of the first cities in California to test the state's medical marijuana laws in court after the arrest of Valerie Corral and Mike Corral, founders of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana, by the DEA. The case was ruled in favor of the growers. In 2005, the Santa Cruz City Council established a city government office to assist residents with obtaining medical marijuana. On November 7, 2006, the voters of Santa Cruz passed Measure K by a vote of 64-36 percent. Measure K made adult non-medical cannabis offenses the lowest priority for law enforcement; this does not apply to cultivation, distribution, sale in public, sale to minors, or driving under the influence. The measure requests the Santa Cruz city clerk send letters annually to state and federal representatives advocating reform of cannabis laws.
Notable feminist activists Nikki Craft and Ann Simonton resided in Santa Cruz where they formed the "Praying Mantis Brigade". This collection of activists organized the "Myth California Pageant" in the 1980s protesting "the objectification of women and the glorification of the beauty myth." Myth California was staged concurrently with the Miss California pageant held in Santa Cruz since the 1920s. The protests ran for nine years and eventually contributed to the Miss California pageant leaving Santa Cruz. Simonton founded and coordinates the non-profit group "Media Watch" which monitors and critiques media images of women and ethnic minorities. Beginning in 1983 Santa Cruz has hosted an annual Take Back the Night candlelight vigil, rally, march, and protest focusing on the issue of violence against women.
Likewise Occupy Santa Cruz formed as an autonomous organization in solidarity with the worldwide Occupy movement, a broad-based protest against economic and social inequality. Occupy Santa Cruz was most active in the fall of 2011, and included over a thousand active members at its peak. The organization gained most of its publicity when members occupied an empty bank building owned by Wells Fargo at 75 River Street. A revolving cast of dozens occupied the building from December 1 to December 4, 2011. At time of writing, criminal charges against 11 activists involved in the occupation are ongoing.