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Location of Santa Cruz, California

Santa Cruz is the county seat of Santa Cruz County, California, United States. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 54,593. It is on the northern edge of the Monterey Bay, about 60 miles (100 km) south of San Francisco.

The area was first settled by Ohlone Indians, Native American hunter-gatherers. Santa Cruz was colonized in the mid-1700s by the Spanish, who established both a mission (Mission Santa Cruz) and a secular settlement named Branciforte. The town was named, as many of the early Spanish settlements were, for the Catholic feast day on which it was founded. The Ohlones were concentrated by the Spanish into the mission and suffered a rapid decline due to diseases and overwork.

Santa Cruz was settled by Americans in the 19th century. Immigrants from Scotland, Italy, China and Portugal also added distinctive contributions to the area's culture. In the 19th Century forestry and commercial fishing were primary industries, as well as dairy farming and leather production.

Santa Cruz is home to the University of California, Santa Cruz, which was built starting in the 1960s as an 'alternative' campus. Overlooking the Monterey Bay among the redwood trees, UCSC is arguably the most beautiful of the University of California campuses. UCSC was long known for its lack of letter grades and organized sports teams, although this has been changing in recent years, with letter grades being required in addition to Narrative Evaluations provided by the instructor. Their mascot is the banana slug.

Santa Cruz is also well-known for surfing, and is the home of O'Neill Wetsuits and Santa Cruz Surfboards (as well as Santa Cruz Skateboards). It also has a Beach Boardwalk that is moderately famous.

In addition to its repution in surfing and skateboarding, Santa Cruz is known for other alternative sports such as disc golf. The De Laveaga Disc Golf Course hosts PDGA tournaments, including the annual Masters Cup. De Laveaga will also be the disc golf and discathon venue for the WFDF sanctioned World Disc Games overall event to be held in Santa Cruz in July 2005.

Santa Cruz is also notable for the extensive damage it suffered during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, which leveled the mostly unreinforced-brick downtown, killing five people. The downtown area, the Pacific Garden Mall, has been rebuilt almost from scratch.

The principal industries of Santa Cruz are agriculture, tourism, and high technology. Santa Cruz is a center of the organic agriculture movement, and many specialty products such as artichokes, grown in the Castroville area. Tourist attractions include the classic Santa Cruz Boardwalk on the beach, the redwood forests, and the unspoiled Monterey Bay, which has been protected as a marine sanctuary.

Santa Cruz provides many great opportunities for birding (see: bird list) and butterfly watching.

In recent years, because of its proximity to Silicon Valley, Santa Cruz has supported a large high technology industry, particularly in the Scotts Valley area. Many workers from Silicon Valley live in Santa Cruz and the surrounding towns. The influx of workers from Silicon Valley, in combination with growing enrollment at the university, have caused growing traffic problems and a high cost of housing; Santa Cruz is regularly listed among the five most expensive housing markets in the United States.

As a center of liberal activism, Santa Cruz became one of the first cities in California to test the state's medical marijuana laws in court after the arrest of several medical marijuana proponents by the DEA. The case was ruled in favor of the growers, and Santa Cruz has continued to be a haven for medical and recreational pot smokers. A pirate radio station, Free Radio Santa Cruz has been in operation there for a decade.

Camper Van Beethoven was spawned in Santa Cruz.

The climate is Mediterranean, with mild summers due to coastal fog. Winters tend to be rainy, although periodic droughts have occurred in recent years.

Shakespeare Santa Cruz annually has a summer festival at UC Santa Cruz. The festival typically does two Shakespeare plays and one other play every summer, many of which are performed in a unique outdoor space among the redwoods.

Santa Cruz is also home to the Cabrillo Music Festival.

In the early 1970s, Santa Cruz was referred to as "The Murder Capital of the World" because there were two active serial killers and one mass murderer in town. These were Ed Kemper, Herbert Mullin, and John Linley Frazier respectively.


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Web Sites and Links

City of Santa CruzOfficial city site. Information about Santa Cruz City government services, departments, public meetings, and programs.
Neighbors of Lower OceanInformal neighborhood group in the Lower Ocean Street area. Newsletter, action alerts, photos and mailing list.
Santa Cruz HarborIncludes launch ramp information, visitor berthing guide, and information about the Santa Cruz Port District.
Santa Cruz Municipal WharfTide tables, upcoming events, natural history and information on shops and restaurants on the wharf.
Santa Cruz Police DepartmentInformation and resources pertaining to Santa Cruz law enforcement
Secret Santa CruzAn unconventional guide to some aspects of Santa Cruz.

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