Salinas is the county seat and the largest municipality of Monterey County, California. Salinas is located 10 miles (16 km) east-southeast of the mouth of the Salinas River, at an elevation of about 52 feet (16 m) above sea level. The most current estimate from the California Department of Finance sets the 2006 population at about 148,350, showing a small decline since the year 2000. The mostly suburban city is located at the mouth of the Salinas Valley roughly eight miles from the Pacific Ocean and enjoys a mild climate. The city consists mostly of late 20th century single family homes, some low-level apartment, ranging from modest bungalows to spacious luxury homes. The climate is also ideal for the floral industry and grape vineyards planted by world-famous vintners. Salinas is known for being an agricultural center and also for being the hometown of the noted writer and Nobel Prize in Literature laureate John Steinbeck, who based several of his novels here.
The land currently occupied the City of Salinas was historically settled by native Americans known as the Ensen, a subgroup of the Rain Dancers. Large Spanish land grants for the Catholic Missions and as bonuses to soldiers gave way to Mexican land grants for smaller ranchos where mostly cattle were grazed, and a thriving trade in cattle hide came through the Port of Monterey.
California officially became part of the United States of America in 1850, following several years of battles in the Salinas area with John Fremont flying the American flag on the highest peak of the Gabilan Mountains and claiming California for the United States. Before this time Monterey was the capital of California and had been under military rule after the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo at the end of the Mexican-American war.
The Salinas post office opened in 1854. A traveler’s inn called the Halfway House at the intersection of two stage coach routes was built in 1856 and a settlement grew up there. The streets of Salinas were laid out in 1867, and the town was incorporated in 1874. The city was named after the word for a “salt marsh” in Spanish, salinas.
The conversion of grazing land to crops and the coming of the rail road in 1868 to transport goods and people was a major turning point in the history and economic advancement of Salinas. Dry farming of wheat, barley, and other grains as well as potatoes and mustard seed was common in the 1800s. Chinese labor drained thousands of acres of swampland to become productive farmland, and as much early farm labor was done by Chinese immigrants, Salinas boasted the second largest Chinatown in the state, slightly smaller than San Francisco. Irrigation changed farming in Salinas to mainly row crops of root vegetables and sugar beets. A wide variety of fruits and vegetables are now grown including wine grapes supporting the burgeoning wine industry in the Salinas Valley.
The economy of Salinas is largely based on agriculture. Located in one of California’s richest farming regions, the area produces a variety of fruits and vegetables, including lettuce, many major vegetable producers are headquartered in Salinas. The historic prevalence of row crops is documented by aerial photographic interpretation of Earth Metrics, Aerial photographic interpretation which study also indicated a major conversion of cropland to urban uses over the time period 1956 to 1968, with that trend continuing for the next decades as well.
Salinas was also the birthplace of writer and Nobel Prize laureate John Steinbeck. The historic downtown (so called Old Town Salinas), featuring much fine Victorian architecture, is home to the National Steinbeck Center, the Steinbeck House and the John Steinbeck Library.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 22.8 square miles (52.5 km²), all of it land.
The city rests about 18 meters (59 ft) above sea level, and it is located roughly eight miles from the Pacific Ocean, as the crow flies. The Gabilan and Santa Lucia mountain ranges border the Salinas Valley to the east and to the west, respectively. Both mountain ranges and the Salinas Valley run approximately 90 miles (145 km) south-east from Salinas towards King City.
The Salinas River runs the length of the Salinas Valley and empties into the Pacific Ocean at the center of the Monterey Bay. It is one of only 30 in the world that flows from the south to the north. During the summer months the river flows partially underground and it this extensive underground aquifer that allows for irrigation of cropland in an area without much annual rainfall.
The population density was 7,948.4 per square mile (3,068.1/km²). There were 39,659 housing units at an average density of 2,086.8/sq mi (805.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 64.1% Hispanic or Latino of any race, 45.2% White, 6.2% Asian American, 3.3% African American, 1.3% Native American, 38.7% from other races, and 5.1% from two or more races. 49.2% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.6% were married couples living together, 14.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 21.6% were non-families. 17.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.69 and the average family size was 4.08.
Age distribution was 33.0% under the age of 19 or younger, 11.8% from 18 to 24, 33.7% from 25 to 44, 15.5% from 45 to 64, and 7.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28 years. For every 100 females there were 117.7 males. For every 102 females age 18 and over, there were 117.4 males.
The median household income was $43,728, and the median family income was $44,669. Males had a median income of $35,641 versus $27,013 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,495. About 12.8% of families and 16.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 20.1% of those under age 18 and 9.4% of those age 65 or over.
Median household income in the city tended to be significantly higher alongside the city limits, especially in the northern Harden Ranch and Creekbridge neighborhoods. East Salinas and the downtown area suffered from a very low median household income as well as high crime rates. South and North Salinas featured roughly the same level of median households income with the latter being home to city’s wealthiest newly constructed neighborhoods.
Salinas is known as the Salad Bowl of America or Salad Bowl of the World. Over 80% of the lettuce grown in the United States is grown in the Salinas Valley. The city’s labor force is 54.6% blue collar and 45.4% white collar. According to the 2000 US Census, 24% of the population worked in sales and office occupations, 21.4% worked in management, professional, and related occupations, 16.2% worked in service occupations, 14.9% worked in farming, fishing, and forestry occupations, 14.4% worked in production, transportation, and material moving occupations, and 9.1% worked in construction, extraction, and maintenance occupations. Many believe these numbers are skewed as they do not include a significant portion of farm workers and blue collar workers who are migratory and undocumented, and are present for approximately 9 months of the year.
Salinas has cool and moderate temperatures, due to the “natural air conditioner” that conveys ocean air and fog from the Monterey Bay to Salinas, while towns to the north and south of Salinas experience hotter summers, as mountains block the ocean air. Thus, Salinas weather is closer to that of the Central Coast of California, rather than that of inland valleys, and thus enjoys a mild Mediterranean climate with typical daily highs ranging from around 52 °F (11 °C) in the winter to around 72 °F (22 °C) in the summer. According to the Weather channel, monthly average temperature highs range from 63 to 75 F.
The difference between ocean and air temperature also tends to create heavy morning fog during the summer months, known as the marine layer, driven by an onshore wind created by the local high pressure sunny portions of the Salinas Valley, which extend north and south from Salinas and the Bay.
The average annual rainfall for the city is approximately 14.4 inches (370 mm). Occasionally, there is snowfall on the peaks of the Gabilan and Santa Lucia mountain ranges, but snow in the city itself is extremely rare, occurring about once every 10 to 20 years on average.
Arts and culture
Salinas boasts an emerging arts scene led by the First Fridays Art Walk and the innovative use of non-traditional or business venues to exhibit art and host live local music. The oldest gallery in Salinas, the Valley Art Gallery, has been active for over 30 years. The Hartnell College Gallery hosts world-class exhibitions of art during the school year. The National Steinbeck Center has two galleries with changing exhibits, and the city’s newest @Risk Gallery features cutting-edge and visionary exhibitions. The Art Walk, held in the downtown area, features 50 venues.
Live theater companies in Salinas include ARIEL Theatrical located in the Wilson’s Children’s Theater in Oldtown Salinas, and the Western Stage, a professional company who performs in the Hartnell College Performing Arts Center.
Live local music is available at many restaurants in the downtown area, and during the First Fridays Art Walk. Concerts are held at the historic Fox California Theater, Sherwood Hall and the Salinas Sports Complex, as well as at Hartnell Community College.
Salinas is home to many public murals, including work by John Cerney which can be viewed in the agricultural fields surrounding the city. Claes Oldenburg placed his sculpture, Hat in Three Stages of Landing, in Sherwood Park at the center of the city.
Highways and roads
U.S. Route 101 is the major north-south highway in Salinas, linking the city to the rest of the Central Coast region, San Francisco to the north, and Los Angeles to the south. California State Route 68 heads west to Monterey, while California State Route 183 runs northwest to Castroville.
Public transportation via bus is provided by Monterey-Salinas Transit. Public buses take passengers throughout the county, as well as San Jose and Gilroy. Buses to San Jose and Gilroy connect to Caltrain and Amtrak in those cities.
Greyhound operates a bus station on West Gabilan Street in downtown Salinas with service to other California cities and throughout the United States.
Salinas Municipal Airport is located on the southeastern boundary of the City of Salinas, three miles (5 km) from the city center. It is a general aviation facility occupying 763 acres (3.1 km2), with three runways serving single and twin engine aircraft and helicopters, as well as an increasing number of turbopropeller and turbine-powered business jets.
The airport has an air traffic control tower in operation twelve hours a day, seven days a week. The airport terminal is located on Mortensen Avenue and houses airport office staff as well as professional offices. The city is currently[when?] accepting proposals for leasing and operation of the restaurant located within the Terminal. Salinas Airport Commissioners agreed to a proposed project that would bring a 100-room hotel, offices and hangars to a vacant lot in front of the Salinas Municipal Airport terminal. The Salinas Jet Center would include a national chain hotel, 80,000 square feet (7,000 m2) of office space, four large complexes combining more offices with airplane hangars and a 24-hour, full-service aircraft fueling station. The project would also include a taxiway to allow planes to access the new hangars.
The airport has full Instrument Landing System (ILS) and VHF omnidirectional range (VOR) located on the airport. The ILS has a Medium Intensity Approach Lighting System, with Runway Alignment Indicator Lights. The VOR approach has Runway End Identifier Lights. All but the ILS runway, RWY 31, have Visual Approach Slope Indicators (VASIs).
The airport is the site of the California International Airshow, set annually in the late summer or early autumn. The event draws thousands of visitors to Salinas over its three-day run.
School districts in Salinas
Salinas has seven school districts serving the city core and adjacent unincorporated areas. The largest school district in Salinas is the Salinas Union High School District (grades 7-12) with 13,578 students enrolled in 10 campuses. The Salinas City Elementary School District is the largest elementary school district in Salinas, with 12 schools and 7,954 students. Other districts include Santa Rita Union Elementary School District, Graves Elementary School District, Washington Union School District, Lagunita School District, and Alisal Union School District.
Opportunities for higher education in Salinas include Hartnell Community College.
Points of interest
Boronda Adobe History Center
Just outside the official city limits, the restored adobe dwelling constructed in 1844 by José Eusebio Boronda, rests on one of the original Mexican land grants. The Boronda Adobe is a California Historical Landmark and listed in the National Register of Historic Places and holds a museum of early Salinas and California history. Other historic buildings are located here, including the Lagunita School house John Steinbeck wrote about in the Red Pony. The site also holds the official archive of Monterey County, open to researchers by appointment.
California Rodeo Salinas
Salinas is a major stop on the professional rodeo circuit. The California Rodeo Salinas began in 1911 as a Wild West Show on the site of the old race track ground, now the Salinas Sports Complex. Every third week of July is Big Week, when cowboys and fans come for the traditional rodeo competitions, including bull riding. Rodeo-related events held in Salinas and Monterey include cowboy poetry, wine tasting, a carnival, barbecues and a gala cowboy ball.
- See also: Media in Monterey County
Local radio stations include:
- KPRC-FM – 100.7
- KDON-FM – 102.5
- KRAY-FM – 103.5
- KOCN-FM – 105.1
- KDBV-AM – 980
- KTGE-AM – 1570
- KHDC-FM – 90.9
- SalinasRadio (Plays only artists from within Monterey County.)
- Monica Abbott, 2008 Olympic softball pitcher
- Everett Alvarez, Jr., American Navy pilot and prisoner of war
- Dustin Lance Black, Academy Award–winning screenwriter
- Chris Dalman, National Football League offensive lineman and coach
- Jackie Greene, singer-songwriter and blues musician
- Alvin and Calvin Harrison, twins, and 1996 Olympic Track and Field athletes
- Vanessa Hudgens, singer and actress
- Ernie Irvan, NASCAR driver
- Joe Kapp, National Football League quarterback
- Slim Keith, socialite
- Craig Kilborn, talk show host
- Xavier Nady, Major League Baseball player
- Carl Nicks, National Football League offensive lineman
- Kassim Osgood, National Football League wide receiver, Pro-Bowl
- Van Partible, cartoonist
- Del Rodgers, National Football League running back
- John Steinbeck, author and Nobel laureate
- Anthony Toney, National Football League running back
- Monty Roberts, horse tamer and author of The Man Who Listens to Horses
- Cain Velasquez, collegiate wrestler/mixed martial arts fighter, signed with UFC
- David Estrada, Former UCLA soccer player (Midfield, Forward), Estrada was drafted in the first round (11th overall) of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft by Seattle Sounders FC
- Brendon Small, Actor, composer, and musician. He is best known as the creator of the animated series Home Movies and Metalocalypse.
- Verna Felton, actress
- Sam Spence, NFL Films composer
- Chris Dalman NFL 49er Center
Salinas in popular culture
- The Kris Kristofferson song Me and Bobby McGee, popularly sung by Janis Joplin, refers to losing Bobby “somewhere near Salinas”, although it’s often misheard as “somewhere miscellaneous”.
- Salinas is mentioned in various John Steinbeck novels, and it is the setting of his monumental novel East of Eden.
- James Dean was en route to a car race in Salinas when he was killed in an automobile accident near Paso Robles, California.
- Rancid mentions Salinas in their song “St. Mary” (She took the Greyhound into Salinas . . . ) on the “Lets Go” LP.