Chumash Indians were the early inhabitants of the valley. They called it Ojai, which derives from the Ventureño Chumash word ʼawhaý meaning "moon". The area became part of the Rancho Ojai Mexican land grant made to Fernando Tico in 1837, and he established a cattle ranch. Tico sold it in 1853 without much success to prospectors searching for oil. By 1864, the area was settled.
The town was laid out in 1874 by real estate developer R.G. Surdam and named Nordhoff, California, in honor of the writer Charles Nordhoff. Leading up to and during World War I, American sentiment became increasingly anti-German. Across the United States, German and German-sounding place names were changed. As part of this trend, Nordhoff was renamed Ojai in 1917.
The public high school in Ojai is still named Nordhoff High School. The public junior high school, named "Matilija", formerly served as Nordhoff Union High School and still features large tiles with the initials "NUHS" on the steps of the athletic field.
The main turning point in the development of the city was the coming of Edward Libbey, early owner of the Libbey Glass Company. He saw the valley and fell in love, thinking up many plans for expansion and beautification of the existing rustic town. A fire destroyed much of the original western-style downtown Nordhoff—Ojai in 1917. Afterwards Libbey helped design, finance, and build a new downtown more in line with the then contemporary taste for Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture. The projects included a Spanish-style arcade along the main street, a bell-tower reminiscent of the famous campanile of the Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis in Havana, and a pergola opposite the arcade.
To thank Libbey for his gifts to the town, the citizens proposed a celebration to take place on March 2 of each year. Libbey declined their offer to call it "Libbey Day", and instead suggested "Ojai Day". The celebration still takes place each year in October. The arcade and bell tower still stand, and have come to serve as symbols of the city and the surrounding valley. Libbey's pergola was destroyed in 1971, after being damaged in an explosion. It was rebuilt in the early 2000s to complete the architectural continuity of the downtown area.
The Taormina neighborhood was established as the first historic district in the city in 2016. The housing development was built in the style of French architecture of Normandy in the 1960s and 1970s by members of the Theosophy movement adjacent to the Krotona Institute of Theosophy. Taormina’s founder, theosophist Ruth Wilson, envisioned the development as a retirement community for fellow theosophists but in the early 1980s a court ruling required the community to be open to residents of all faiths and backgrounds.
Ojai located in the eponymous valley, and is nestled in the Topatopa Mountains of central Ventura County. Ojai is situated at 34°26′57″N 119°14′48″W (34.449079, -119.246654). The city is approximately 745 feet (227 m) above sea level and is bordering the Los Padres National Forest to the north.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.4 square miles (11 km2), of which only 0.35% is water, and the rest is land.
Ojai is situated in a small east-west valley, north of Ventura and east of Santa Barbara. It is approximately 15 miles (24 km) inland from the Pacific Ocean coast. Nordhoff Ridge, the western extension of the Topatopa Mountains, towers over the north side of the town and valley at more than 5,000 feet (1,500 m). Sulphur Mountain creates the southern ranges bounding the Ojai Valley, a little under 3,000 feet (910 m) in elevation. The Sulphur and Topatopa Mountains are part of the Transverse Ranges system. The Ojai Valley and the surrounding mountains are heavily wooded with oak trees.
The Ventura River flows through the Ventura River Valley, draining the mountains surrounding Ojai to the north and east and emptying into the Pacific Ocean at the city of Ventura. The Ventura River was once known for its steelhead fishing before Matilija Dam and Lake Casitas were constructed, eliminating habitat for this trout species.
The climate of Ojai is Mediterranean, characterized by hot, dry summers, sometimes exceeding 100 °F (38 °C), and mild winters, with lows at night sometimes below freezing. As is typical for much of coastal southern California, most precipitation falls in the form of rain between the months of October and April, with intervening dry summers.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Ojai had a population of 7,461. The population density was 1,695.3 people per square mile (654.6/km²). The racial makeup of Ojai was 6,555 (87.9%) White, 42 (0.6%) African American, 47 (0.6%) Native American, 158 (2.1%) Asian, 1 (0.0%) Pacific Islander, 440 (5.9%) from other races, and 218 (2.9%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1,339 persons (17.9%).
The Census reported that 7,281 people (97.6% of the population) lived in households, 48 (0.6%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 132 (1.8%) were institutionalized.
There were 3,111 households, out of which 876 (28.2%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 1,396 (44.9%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 366 (11.8%) had a female householder with no husband present, 128 (4.1%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 151 (4.9%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 25 (0.8%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 992 households (31.9%) were made up of individuals and 496 (15.9%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34. There were 1,890 families (60.8% of all households); the average family size was 2.95.
The population distribution was spread out with 1,520 people (20.4%) under the age of 18, 515 people (6.9%) aged 18 to 24, 1,446 people (19.4%) aged 25 to 44, 2,547 people (34.1%) aged 45 to 64, and 1,433 people (19.2%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 47.1 years. For every 100 females, there were 84.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 79.9 males.
There were 3,382 housing units at an average density of 768.5 per square mile (296.7/km²), of which 1,717 (55.2%) were owner-occupied, and 1,394 (44.8%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.7%; the rental vacancy rate was 5.4%. 4,243 people (56.9% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 3,038 people (40.7%) lived in rental housing units.
As of the census of 2000, there were 7,862 people, 3,088 households, and 1,985 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,773.0 people per square mile (685.2/km²). There were 3,229 housing units at an average density of 728.2 per square mile (281.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 88.01% White, 0.60% African American, 0.50% Native American, 1.58% Asian, 0.17% Pacific Islander, 6.26% from other races, and 2.90% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 15.84% of the population.
There were 3,088 households out of which 31.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.0% were married couples living together, 11.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.7% were non-families. 29.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 3.06.
In the city, the population was spread out with 24.9% under the age of 18, 6.5% from 18 to 24, 23.9% from 25 to 44, 26.8% from 45 to 64, and 17.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 88.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.2 males.
The median income for households in the city was $44,593, and the median income for a family was $52,917. Males had a median income of $40,919 versus $30,821 for females. The per capita income for the city was $25,670. About 7.9% of families and 10.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.9% of those under age 18 and 9.3% of those age 65 or over.Ojai Unified School District
Chaparral High School
Nordhoff High School
Matilija Junior High School
Meiners Oaks Elementary School
Mira Monte Elementary School
San Antonio School
Summit Elementary School
Topa Topa Elementary School
The Ojai Valley is home to several private boarding schools:Besant Hill School (formerly Happy Valley School)
The Thacher School
Ojai Valley School
Villanova Preparatory School
The Oak Grove School
Monica Ros School (preschool through 3rd grade)
The Ojai Valley is also home to: the Montessori School of Ojai, a private day school, Laurel Springs School, which specializes in distance education and home-schooling, and Global Village School, a progressive K–12 homeschooling program.
Camp Ramah in California is in the hills of Ojai.
The Summer Science Program was formerly hosted at the Besant Hill School (2000–2009) and at The Thacher School (1959–1999).
Public Libraries: Ventura County Library—14 county locations, with three branches in the Ojai Valley:Ojai Library
Oak View Library
Meiners Oaks Library
Ojai's culture is heavily focused on ecology, health and organic agriculture, walking/hiking, spirituality, music and local art. It is often seen as a hippie-friendly city, and many New Age shops exist. The benign climate has also fostered subcultures devoted to driving and exhibiting classic cars and there are several motorcycle clubs that regularly tour through Ojai as well. On July 8, 1999, former Apollo astronaut Pete Conrad, one of the twelve men who walked on the moon, died of injuries suffered from a motorcycle accident in Ojai.
The Ojai Music Festival (founded in 1947) is an annual festival of performances by some of the world's top musicians and composers, and occurs on the first weekend after Memorial Day. Notable appearances include Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Pierre Boulez, who was festival director in 2003. The outdoor bookshop Bart's Books, subject of news programs and documentaries, has been in Ojai since 1964. Ojai is home to the annual Ojai Playwrights Conference, a two-week playwrights festival that brings professional writers and actors from across the country to Ojai. The community is served by The Ojai and Ventura VIEW, Ojai Valley News and The Ojai Post.
The script for the movie Head was written in Ojai by The Monkees, Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson.
Ojai is the setting for the 2010 comedy film Easy A (much of which was shot on location), and for part of Michael Scott's book The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. Ojai is the location of the fruit orchards of the fictional Ojai Foods, central to the conflict and drama of the Walker family in the ABC series Brothers & Sisters.
The title characters of TV series The Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man (Jaime Sommers and Col. Steve Austin) are described in the series as having been childhood sweethearts in Ojai, and a number of episodes from both series take place in Ojai and its vicinity.
Ojai Valley News
The town of Ojai and its surrounding area is home to many recreational activities. Los Padres National Forest borders the town on the north, and many back country areas within the forest are accessible from Highway 33, the major north–south highway through town. Matilija Creek is a spot to enjoy splashing under waterfalls, backpacking, and soaking in a hot spring. To the west, the Lake Casitas Recreation Area offers camping, picnicking, and hiking as well.
The valley has several public courts in downtown Libbey Park. There are also two major golf courses: the Soule Park Golf Course, and the noted Ojai Valley Inn Golf Course. The town completed a new park, Cluff Vista Park, in 2002, which contains several small themed regions of California native plants.
Annually, in early April, the town hosts a bicycle race that draws professional and amateur teams from around the country. The "Garrett Lemire Memorial Grand Prix" began in 2004 as a tribute to a 22-year-old cyclist from Ojai who died racing his bicycle in Arizona the previous year. The race is held on a 1 mile (1.6 km) circuit that circumnavigates Libbey Bowl in the heart of downtown Ojai. Proceeds from event promote cycling safety and education in local schools. Also in April, "The Ojai" tennis tournament is held. It is the oldest tennis tournament west of the Mississippi River (founded in the 1887) and has been an early competition for many players who went on to earn one or more Grand Slam titles.
In early June, often coinciding with the Music Festival, the Ojai Wine Festival is held at Lake Casitas. Over 3,000 wine lovers sample the products of over 30 wineries. Proceeds go to charity.
In 2013, a plan to take over the private water system was approved by voters. Up to $60 million in bonds would be issued and a special tax district would be formed. This was approved by almost 90 percent of voters but it was tied up in court by the private water purveyor, Golden State Water Company.