Sonoma, California

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Sonoma, California
Location in Sonoma County and California
Location in Sonoma County and California
Coordinates: 38°17′20″N 122°27′32″W / 38.28889°N 122.45889°W / 38.28889; -122.45889Coordinates: 38°17′20″N 122°27′32″W / 38.28889°N 122.45889°W / 38.28889; -122.45889[1]
CountryUnited States
IncorporatedSeptember 3, 1883[2]
 • TypeCouncil-manager
 • MayorKen Brown[3]
 • City ManagerLinda Kelly[4]
 • City2.742 sq mi (7.102 km2)
 • Land2.742 sq mi (7.102 km2)
 • Water0 sq mi (0 km2)  0%
Elevation[6]85 ft (26 m)
Population (2010)
 • City10,648
 • Density3,900/sq mi (1,500/km2)
 • Metro32,678
Time zonePST (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST)PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP code95476
Area code(s)707
FIPS code06-72646
GNIS feature ID277617
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Sonoma, California
Location in Sonoma County and California
Location in Sonoma County and California
Coordinates: 38°17′20″N 122°27′32″W / 38.28889°N 122.45889°W / 38.28889; -122.45889Coordinates: 38°17′20″N 122°27′32″W / 38.28889°N 122.45889°W / 38.28889; -122.45889[1]
CountryUnited States
IncorporatedSeptember 3, 1883[2]
 • TypeCouncil-manager
 • MayorKen Brown[3]
 • City ManagerLinda Kelly[4]
 • City2.742 sq mi (7.102 km2)
 • Land2.742 sq mi (7.102 km2)
 • Water0 sq mi (0 km2)  0%
Elevation[6]85 ft (26 m)
Population (2010)
 • City10,648
 • Density3,900/sq mi (1,500/km2)
 • Metro32,678
Time zonePST (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST)PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP code95476
Area code(s)707
FIPS code06-72646
GNIS feature ID277617

Sonoma is a historically significant city in Sonoma Valley, Sonoma County, California, United States, surrounding its historic town plaza, a remnant of the town's Mexican colonial past. It was the capital of the short-lived California Republic. Today, Sonoma is a center of the state's wine industry for the Sonoma Valley AVA Appellation, as well as the home of the nationally recognized Sonoma International Film Festival. Sonoma's population was 10,648 as of the 2010 census, while the Sonoma urban area had a population of 32,678.[7]



The region of Sonoma was originally the home of Native American Coast Miwok tribes as well as the Pomo people and Wintuns. Many of the Native Americans still remain, even after seven changes in government since the Spanish first explored and took over the region (see Sonoma County for governments.)

The town of Sonoma began with the foundation of Mission San Francisco Solano in 1823 by Father José Altimira of the Franciscan Order. This mission was the farthest north of all 21 California missions, and was connected to the others by the Camino Real (Royal Road). Mission San Francisco Solano was the last of the California missions to be established, and the only one founded after Mexico's independence from Spain.

Soon after it was built, it was secularized by the Mexican government under the orders of Lieutenant, later General, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. Under Vallejo's supervision, the Presidio of Sonoma, or Sonoma Barracks (part of Spain's Mexico's Fourth Military District), was built beside the mission for the army, and he pursued control and order in the region over the native tribes and kept a military eye on the Russians of Fort Ross. Vallejo, who owned over 7 million acres (28,000 km2) in landholdings and was one of Sonoma's most illustrious residents, was instrumental in its growth and made Sonoma the political center of Northern California. He maintained good relationships with the Native Americans of the region and was helped by his friendship with native Chief Solano of the Suisunes, who had been baptized at the mission and who lived near the city.

Vallejo was also partial towards the influx of American immigrants, both legal and illegal, who entered by way of Sutter's Fort, despite his personal dislike of John Sutter. He was, however, careful to ensure the newcomers did not achieve too much power, lest they destabilize the state. His partiallity was tested when an illegal American alien, Edward Bale, formed an American mob attempted to murder Vallejo's brother Salvador in Sonoma's central plaza after losing to him in a duel. Bale was foiled, and plans were made to execute him right on the plaza. However, Vallejo, law-abiding citizen he was, ordered a court trial at the Sonoma alcaldia, where Bale was nonetheless found guilty of attempted murder. His life, however, was spared by the Mexican government, which did not want to create any problems. After the overthrow of the unpopular governor Nicolás Gutiérrez by Vallejo's nephew Juan Bautista Alvarado in 1836, the Monterey diputación named him Comandante General of California, further increasing the prestige of Vallejo and Sonoma. When the American immigrants attempted to overthrow the Mexican government in the Bear Flag Revolt, they imprisoned Vallejo in the town jail and declared Sonoma capital of the "Republic of California".


Sonoma City Hall in the town plaza

El Pueblo de Sonoma was laid out in the standard form of a Mexican town, centered around the largest plaza in California, 8 acres (32,000 m2) in size. This plaza is surrounded by many historical buildings, including the Mission San Francisco Solano, Captain Salvador Vallejo's Casa Grande, the Presidio of Sonoma, the Blue Wing Inn, the Sebastiani Theatre, and the Toscano Hotel. In the middle of the plaza, Sonoma's early 20th-century city hall, at the plaza's center and still in use, was designed and built with four identical sides in order not to offend the merchants on any one side of the plaza. The plaza is a National Historic Landmark and still serves as the town's focal point, hosting many community festivals and drawing tourists all year round. There are approximately thirty restaurants in the plaza area, including Italian, Irish, Mexican, Portuguese, Basque, Mediterranean, Himalayan, and French. It provides a central tourist attraction. It is also the location of the Farmer's Market, held every Tuesday evening from April to October.

American revolt against Mexican rule[edit]

Bear Flag of the California Republic, flown in the town of Sonoma, June–July, 1846.

Sonoma is known as the birthplace of American California, for it was in this town plaza that the Bear Flag Revolt took place and a Bear Flag was first raised on June 14, 1846. The rebelling men claimed to act on the orders of Col. John C. Fremont proclaiming independence from Mexican rule and a free country called the California Republic here. Sonoma served as the capital of the short-lived California Republic until the United States Stars and Stripes flag was raised during the Mexican-American war.

General Vallejo was imprisoned during the Bear Flag Revolt of 1846, and he later transferred his allegiance to the U.S. and endorsed California statehood (1850). With his amassed land holdings, Vallejo guided the development of the town of Sonoma. He was one of the most powerful residents in the town's history, dividing up the lands into large ranches for friends and family.

20th century[edit]

The United States Navy operated a rest center at the Mission Inn through World War II.[8]


Sonoma is also considered the birthplace of wine-making in California, dating back to the original vineyards of Mission San Francisco Solano, then improvements made by Agoston Haraszthy, the father of California viticulture and credited with introduction of the Zinfandel/Primitivo grape varietal. The Valley of the Moon Vintage Festival takes place late each September, and is California's oldest celebration of its winemaking heritage.


The city is situated in the Sonoma Valley, with the Mayacamas Mountains to the east and the Sonoma Mountains to the west, with the prominent landform Sears Point to the southwest.

The city has an area of 2.7 sq mi (7.0 km2), none of it covered by water.


Sonoma has typical Mediterranean weather with hot, dry summers (although nights are comfortably cool) and cool, wet winters. In February, the normal high is 58.4 °F (14.7 °C) and the typical low is 37.3 °F (2.9 °C). In July, the normal high is 89.8 °F (32.1 °C) and the normal low is 51.9 °F (11.1 °C). There are an average of 58.1 days with highs of 90 °F (32 °C) or higher and 12.1 days with highs of 100 °F (38 °C). The highest temperature on record was 116 °F (47 °C) on July 13, 1972, and the lowest temperature was 13 °F (−11 °C) on December 22, 1990. Normal annual precipitation is 30.64 inches (778 mm). The wettest month on record was 20.29 inches (515 mm) in January 1995. The greatest 24-hour rainfall was 6.75 inches (171 mm) on January 4, 1982. There are an average of 68.6 days with measurable precipitation. Snow has rarely fallen, but 1.0 inch fell in January 1907; more recently, snow flurries were observed on February 5, 1976 and in the winter of 2001.[9]

Climate data for Sonoma, California
Record high °F (°C)84
Average high °F (°C)57.2
Average low °F (°C)37.2
Record low °F (°C)20
Precipitation inches (mm)6.14
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)111010631001481166
Source: Western Regional Climate Center (normals and extremes 1893–present)[9]

Environmental features[edit]

The principal watercourse in the town is Sonoma Creek, which flows in a southerly direction to discharge ultimately to the Napa Sonoma Marsh; Arroyo Seco Creek is a tributary to Schell Creek with a confluence in the eastern portion of the town. The active Rodgers Fault lies to the west of Sonoma Creek; however, risk of major damage is mitigated by the fact that most of the soils beneath the city consist of a slight alluvial terrace underlain by strongly cemented sedimentary and volcanic rock.[10] To the immediate south, west and east are deeper rich, alluvial soils that support valuable agricultural cultivation. The mountain block to the north rises to 1,200 feet (366 m) and provides an important scenic backdrop, around whose views the city's original streetscape was carefully laid out.

In terms of fauna, there are a variety of birds, small mammals and amphibians who reside in Sonoma. California quail frequent the riparian areas, while black tailed deer kite, duck, swan, goose, towhee, waxwing, Great Blue Heron, many egret, ibis and hawk, gull, tern, species, robin, thrush and sparrow bird species are found locally. Deer, mountain lions, and many small mammals are found locally.

The town of Sonoma boasts a relatively quiet setting, with California State Route 12 (called from north to south Sonoma Highway, West Napa Street, and Broadway), Fifth Street West, and Spain Street being the primary noise sources. About eight miles (13 km) south of the city is the Infineon Raceway, which is also a significant noise generator. The total citywide population exposed to environmental noise exceeding 60 CNEL is approximately 300.



The 2010 United States Census[11] reported that Sonoma had a population of 10,648. The population density was 3,883.3 people per square mile (1,499.4/km²). The racial makeup of Sonoma was 9,242 (86.8%) White, 52 (0.5%) African American, 56 (0.5%) Native American, 300 (2.8%) Asian, 23 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 711 (6.7%) from other races, and 264 (2.5%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1,634 persons (15.3%).

The Census reported that 10,411 people (97.8% of the population) lived in households, 11 (0.1%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 226 (2.1%) were institutionalized.

There were 4,955 households, out of which 1,135 (22.9%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 2,094 (42.3%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 425 (8.6%) had a female householder with no husband present, 174 (3.5%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 230 (4.6%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 48 (1.0%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 1,920 households (38.7%) were made up of individuals and 1,054 (21.3%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.10. There were 2,693 families (54.3% of all households); the average family size was 2.82.

The population was spread out with 1,920 people (18.0%) under the age of 18, 559 people (5.2%) aged 18 to 24, 2,252 people (21.1%) aged 25 to 44, 3,250 people (30.5%) aged 45 to 64, and 2,667 people (25.0%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 49.2 years. For every 100 females there were 83.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.8 males.

There were 5,544 housing units at an average density of 2,021.9 per square mile (780.7/km²), of which 2,928 (59.1%) were owner-occupied, and 2,027 (40.9%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 2.6%; the rental vacancy rate was 7.0%. 6,294 people (59.1% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 4,117 people (38.7%) lived in rental housing units.


At the previous census[7] of 2000, there were 9,128 people, 4,373 households, and 2,361 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,442/sq mi (1,330/km²). There were 4,671 housing units at an average density of 1,762/sq mi (681/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 93.80% White, 0.36% African American, 0.34% Native American, 1.70% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 1.61% from other races, and 2.14% from two or more races. 6.85% of the population were Hispanics (of any race).

There are 4,373 households of which 21.1% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.5% were married couples living together, 8.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.0% were non-families. 39.2% of households consist of individuals and 21.5% have someone living alone who is 65 or older. The average household size was 2.07 and the average family size was 2.77. The age distribution is as follows: 18.6% under the age of 18, 4.8% from 18 to 24, 23.5% from 25 to 44, 28.9% from 45 to 64, and 24.2% who have achieved age 65. The median age is 47 years. For every 100 females there were 81.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 77.0 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $50,505, and the median income for a family was $65,600. Males had a median income of $51,831 versus $40,276 for females. The per capita income for the city was $32,387. 3.7% of the population and 2.0% of families were below the poverty line. 3.3% of those under 18 and 4.7% of those are 65 and older.


In the state legislature Sonoma is located in the 2nd Senate District, represented by Democrat Noreen Evans, and in the 6th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Jared Huffman.

Federally, Sonoma is in California's 5th congressional district, represented by Democrat Mike Thompson.[12]

Sonoma's current mayor is Tom Rouse, his first term which expires this year (2014).

In addition to the official title of mayor as a city leader, Sonoma has a tradition to name a Honorary Mayor of the year, titled "Alcalde/Alcaldessa".[13] Alcalde or Alcaldessa presides over ceremonial events for the city. This honor was bestowed upon: Al and Kathy Mazza (Alcalde and Alcaldessa, 2006), [14] Elizabeth Kemp(2009),[13] Mary Evelyn Arnold (2011),[15] Les and Judy Vadasz, (Alcalde and Alcaldessa, 2013),[16]


There are three local news sources in Sonoma: The Sonoma Index Tribune, the Sonoma Valley Sun, and Sonoma Valley Patch.

The Sonoma Index-Tribune from Sonoma Valley Publishing, was family owned from 1884 to 2012. It was started by Benjamin Frank in 1879 as "The Sonoma Index." In 1884, Harry Granice purchased the small weekly and it soon became "The Sonoma Index-Tribune." Upon Granice's death, his daughter Celeste Granice Murphy took over the publication. In 1946, Robert M. Lynch joined his aunt in the newspaper business, eventually buying the paper from her. Robert Lynch's sons, Bill Lynch and Jim Lynch, served as owners and publishers of the twice weekly publication until 2012, when they sold a controlling interest to the newly formed Sonoma Media Investments LLC. The company also provides the quarterly SONOMA magazine. The newspaper has received dozens of awards in its history, including recognition from the National Newspaper Association and the California Newspaper Publishers Association.

The Sonoma Valley Sun is a weekly newspaper serving the city of Sonoma and surrounding communities since 2004. The free paper, with news reporting, graphics, and photography, was run by Three House MultiMedia, Inc., founded by consulting engineer Bill Hammett, who moved to Sonoma in 1994. At one time, Three House also published the free weekly newspaper "El Sol de Sonoma," in Spanish, and a bimonthly magazine called "FineLife." In 2010, Three House ceased operation, transferring its assets through a bulk sale to four members of the former staff, including Editors Jody Purdom and Val Robichaud and Design Director Barney LaHaye, who continue to publish the Sun, with distribution on Thursdays.

Sonoma Valley Patch is a website offering comprehensive local coverage of Sonoma Valley news and events, business listings, discussions, announcements, photos and videos.

Transportation and highways[edit]

California State Route 12 is the main route in Sonoma, passing through the populated areas of the Sonoma Valley and connecting it to Santa Rosa to the north and Napa to the east. State routes 121 and 116 run to the south of town, passing through the unincorporated area of Schellville and connecting Sonoma Valley to Napa, Petaluma to the west, and Marin County to the south. Sonoma County Transit provides bus service from Sonoma to other points in the county. VINE Transit also operates a route between Napa and Sonoma.

Notable residents[edit]

Other topics[edit]

Historic sites[edit]

Blue Wing Inn

Sonoma can boast three of the first ten California Historical Landmarks:

Items named after the town[edit]

Sebastiani Theatre on the Plaza

Points of interest[edit]

Blue Wing Inn


  1. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  2. ^ "Dates of incorporation". Retrieved 2008-07-11. 
  3. ^ "Welcome from the mayor". Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  4. ^ "City Manager and City Clerk". Retrieved 1 July 2012. 
  5. ^ U.S. Census
  6. ^ "Sonoma". Geographic Names Information System, U.S. Geological Survey. 
  7. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  8. ^ "U.S. Naval Activities World War II by State". Patrick Clancey. Retrieved 2012-03-19. 
  9. ^ a b "General Climate Summary Tables - Sonoma, California". Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved December 7, 2012. 
  10. ^ General Plan, City of Sonoma, California, prepared for the City of Sonoma by Hall and Goodhue Community Design Group, San Francisco, Ca. (1974)
  11. ^ All data are derived from the United States Census Bureau reports from the 2010 United States Census, and are accessible on-line here. The data on unmarried partnerships and same-sex married couples are from the Census report DEC_10_SF1_PCT15. All other housing and population data are from Census report DEC_10_DP_DPDP1. Both reports are viewable online or downloadable in a zip file containing a comma-delimited data file. The area data, from which densities are calculated, are available on-line here. Percentage totals may not add to 100% due to rounding. The Census Bureau defines families as a household containing one or more people related to the householder by birth, opposite-sex marriage, or adoption. People living in group quarters are tabulated by the Census Bureau as neither owners nor renters. For further details, see the text files accompanying the data files containing the Census reports mentioned above.
  12. ^ "California's 5th Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. Retrieved March 3, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b Recognizing Alcaldessa Elizabeth Kemp Of Sonoma, California
  14. ^ Recognizing Al And Kathy Mazza Of Sonoma, California
  15. ^ Statement Recognizing Mary Evelyn Arnold, Alcaldessa for the City of Sonoma's
  16. ^ Les and Judy Vadasz Are Alcalde and Alcaldessa for 2013

External links[edit]