Before the arrival of Europeans, the wide valley containing Santa Rosa was home to a strong and populous tribe of Pomo natives known as the Bitakomtara. The Bitakomtara controlled the valley closely, barring passage to others until permission was arranged. Those who entered without permission were subject to harsh penalties. The tribe gathered at ceremonial times on Santa Rosa Creek near present-day Spring Lake Regional Park. Upon the arrival of Europeans, the Pomos were decimated by smallpox brought from Europe, and by the eradication efforts of Anglo settlers. By 1900 the Pomo population had decreased by 95%.
The first known permanent European settlement of Santa Rosa was the homestead of the Carrillo family, in-laws to Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, who settled the Sonoma pueblo and Petaluma area. In the 1830s, during the Mexican period, the family of María López de Carrillo built an adobe house on their Rancho Cabeza de Santa Rosa land grant, just east of what later became downtown Santa Rosa. Allegedly, however, by the 1820s, before the Carrillos built their adobe in the 1830s, Spanish and Mexican settlers from nearby Sonoma and other settlements to the south raised livestock in the area and slaughtered animals at the fork of the Santa Rosa Creek and Matanzas Creek, near the intersection of modern-day Santa Rosa Avenue and Sonoma Avenue. This is supposedly the origin of the name of Matanzas Creek as, because of its use as a slaughtering place, the confluence came to be called La Matanza.
By the 1850s, a Wells Fargo post and general store were established in what is now downtown Santa Rosa. In the mid-1850s, several prominent locals, including Julio Carrillo, son of Maria Carrillo, laid out the grid street pattern for Santa Rosa with a public square in the center, a pattern which largely remains as the street pattern for downtown Santa Rosa to this day, despite changes to the central square, now called Old Courthouse Square.
In 1867, the county recognized Santa Rosa as an incorporated city and in 1868 the state officially confirmed the incorporation, making it officially the third incorporated city in Sonoma County, after Petaluma, incorporated in 1858, and Healdsburg, incorporated in 1867.
The U.S. Census records, among others, show that after California became a state, Santa Rosa grew steadily early on, despite initially lagging behind nearby Petaluma in the 1850s and early 1860s. According to the U.S. Census, in 1870 Santa Rosa was the eighth largest city in California, and county seat of one of the most populous counties in the state. Growth and development after that was steady but never rapid. The city continued to grow when other early population centers declined or stagnated, but by 1900 it was being overtaken by many other newer population centers in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California. According to a 1905 article in the Press Democrat newspaper reporting on the "Battle of the Trains", the city had just over 10,000 people at the time.
The 1906 San Francisco earthquake essentially destroyed the entire downtown, but the city's population did not greatly suffer. However, after that period the population growth of Santa Rosa, as with most of the area, was very slow.
Famed director Alfred Hitchcock filmed his thriller Shadow of a Doubt in Santa Rosa in 1943; the film gives glimpses of Santa Rosa in the 1940s. Many of the downtown buildings seen in the film no longer exist due to major reconstruction following the strong earthquakes in October 1969. However, some, like the rough-stone Northwestern Pacific Railroad depot and the prominent Empire Building (built in 1910 with a gold-topped clock tower), still survive. A scene at the bank was filmed at the corner of Fourth Street and Mendocino Avenue (at present day Old Courthouse square); the KRESS building on Fourth Street is also visible. However, the courthouse and bank are now gone. The Coen brothers' 2001 film The Man Who Wasn't There is set in Santa Rosa c. 1949.
Santa Rosa grew following World War II, because it was the location for Naval Auxiliary Landing Field Santa Rosa, the remnants now located in southwest Santa Rosa. The city was a convenient location for San Francisco travelers bound for the Russian River.
The population increased by 2/3 between 1950 and 1970, an average of 1,000 new residents a year over the 20 years. Some of the increase was from immigration, and some from annexation of portions of the surrounding area.
In 1958 the United States Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization designated Santa Rosa as one of its eight regional headquarters, with jurisdiction over Region 7, which included American Samoa, Arizona, California, Guam, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah. Santa Rosa continued as a major center for civil defense activity (under the Office of Emergency Planning and the Office of Emergency Preparedness) until 1972 when the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was created in its place, ending the civil defense's 69-year history.
When the City Council adopted the city's first modern General Plan in 1991, the population was about 113,000. In the 21 years following 1970, Santa Rosa grew by about 3,000 residents a year—triple the average growth during the previous twenty years.
Santa Rosa 2010, the 1991 General Plan, called for a population of 175,000 in 2010. The Council expanded the city's urban boundary to include all the land then planned for future annexation, and declared it would be Santa Rosa's "ultimate" boundary. The rapid growth that was being criticized as urban sprawl became routine infill development.
At the first five-year update of the plan, in 1996, the Council extended the planning period by ten years, renaming it Vision 2020 (updated to Santa Rosa 2020, and then again to Santa Rosa 2030 Vision), and added more land and population. Now the City projects a population of 195,000 in 2020.
Santa Rosa is located at 38°26′55″N 122°42′17″W in Sonoma County. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 41.50 sq mi (107.5 km2), of which 41.29 sq mi (106.9 km2) is land and 0.205 sq mi (0.5 km2) (0.49%) is water.
The city is part of the North Bay region, which includes such cities as Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Windsor, and smaller cities as Sonoma, Healdsburg, Sebastopol. It lies along the US Route 101 corridor, approximately 55 miles (89 km) north of San Francisco, via the Golden Gate Bridge.
Santa Rosa lies on the Santa Rosa Plain. The city's eastern extremities stretch into the Valley of the Moon, and the Sonoma Creek watershed known as the Sonoma Valley. The city's western edge lies in the Laguna de Santa Rosa catchment basin.
The city is in the watershed of Santa Rosa Creek, which rises on Hood Mountain and discharges to the Laguna de Santa Rosa. Tributary basins to Santa Rosa Creek lying significantly in the city are Brush Creek, Matanzas Creek, and Piner Creek. Other water bodies within the city include Fountaingrove Lake, Lake Ralphine, and Santa Rosa Creek Reservoir.
The prominent visual features east of the city include Bennett Peak, Mount Hood, and Sonoma and Taylor Mountains.
Santa Rosa has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen Csb) with cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers. In the summer, fog and low overcast often move in from the Pacific Ocean during the evenings and mornings. They usually clear up to warm, sunny weather by late morning or noon before returning in the later evening but will occasionally linger all day. Average annual rainfall is 32.20 inches (818 mm), falling on 74 days annually. The wettest year was 1983 with 63.07 inches (1,602 mm) and the driest year was 1976 with 11.38 inches (289 mm). The most rainfall in one month was 19.42 inches (493 mm) in February 1998 and the most rainfall in 24 hours was 5.23 inches (133 mm) on December 19, 1981. Measurable snowfall is rare in the lowlands, but light amounts sometimes fall in the nearby mountains.
There are an average of 28.9 days with highs of 90 °F (32 °C) or more and an average of 30.2 days with lows reaching the freezing mark. The record high was 113 °F (45 °C) on July 11, 1913, and the record low was 9 °F (−13 °C) on December 25, 1924.
Santa Rosa lies atop the Healdsburg-Rodgers Creek segment of the Hayward-Rodgers Creek Fault System. The Working Group on California Earthquake Probabilities estimated a minimum 27 percent chance of a magnitude 6.7 or greater earthquake on this segment by 2037.
On April 14, 2005, the United States Geological Survey released a map detailing the results of a new tool that measures ground shaking during an earthquake. The map determined that the 1906 San Francisco earthquake was most powerful in an area between Santa Rosa and what is now Sebastopol, causing more damage in Santa Rosa (for its size) than any other city affected.
On October 1, 1969, two earthquakes of magnitudes 5.6 and 5.7 shook Santa Rosa, damaging about 100 structures. They were the strongest quakes to affect the city since 1906. The epicenters were about two miles (3 km) north of Santa Rosa.
Due to its population, much of Santa Rosa's remaining undisturbed area is on its urban fringe. However, the principal wildlife corridors of Santa Rosa Creek and its tributaries flow right through the heart of the town. Great blue herons, great egrets, snowy egrets and black-crowned herons nest in the trees of the median strip on West Ninth Street as well as along Santa Rosa Creek and downtown. Deer often are spotted roaming the neighborhoods nearer the eastern hills, as deep into town as Franklin Avenue and the McDonald area; rafters of wild turkeys are relatively common in some areas; and mountain lions are occasionally observed within city limits. Raccoons and opossums are a common sight throughout the city, while foxes, and rabbits may be regularly seen in the more rural areas. In addition, the city borders and then wraps around the northern end of Trione Annadel State Park, which itself extends into the Sonoma Mountains and Sonoma Valley. Trione Annadel State Park also adjoins Spring Lake County Park and Howarth Park, forming one contiguous park system that enables visitors to venture into wild native habitats.
Santa Rosa can be seen as divided into four quadrants: Northeast, Southeast, Southwest, and Northwest. U.S. Route 101 runs roughly north and south through the city, and divides it into east and west sides. State Route 12 runs roughly east and west, and divides the city into north and south sides.
A graph of the population growth of Santa Rosa (to 2010).
The 2010 United States Census reported that Santa Rosa had a population of 167,815. The population density was 4,043.8 people per square mile (1,561.3/km2). The racial makeup of Santa Rosa was: 119,158 (71%) Caucasian (59.7% non-Hispanic Caucasian), 4,079 (2.4%) African American, 2,808 (1.7%) Native American, 8,746 (5.2%) Asian (1.0% Filipino, 1.0% Chinese, 0.8% Vietnamese, 0.6% Indian, 0.5% Cambodian, 0.5% Laotian, 0.3% Japanese, 0.3% Korean, 0.1% Thai, 0.1% Nepalese), 810 (0.5%) Pacific Islander (0.2% Fijian, 0.1% Samoan, 0.1% Hawaiian, 0.1% Guamanian), 23,723 (14.1%) from other races, 8,491 (5.1%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 47,970 persons (28.6%). Among the Hispanic population, 98% of Santa Rosa is Mexican, 0.8% Salvadoran, and 0.4% Puerto Rican.
The Census reported that 164,405 people (98.0% of the population) lived in households, 1,697 (1.0%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 1,713 (1.0%) were institutionalized.
There were 63,590 households, out of which 20,633 (32.4%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 27,953 (44.0%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 7,663 (12.1%) had a female householder with no husband present, 3,615 (5.7%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 5,020 (7.9%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 757 (1.2%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 18,021 households (28.3%) were made up of individuals and 7,474 (11.8%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.59. There were 39,231 families (61.7% of all households); the average family size was 3.18.
In terms of age cohorts, there were 39,217 people (23.4%) under the age of 18, 15,982 people (9.5%) aged 18 to 24, 46,605 people (27.8%) aged 25 to 44, 43,331 people (25.8%) aged 45 to 64, and 22,680 people (13.5%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36.7 years. For every 100 females there were 95.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.2 males.
There were 67,396 housing units at an average density of 1,624.0 per square mile (627.0/km2), of which 34,427 (54.1%) were owner-occupied, and 29,163 (45.9%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 2.0%; the rental vacancy rate was 5.0%. 87,244 people (52.0% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 77,161 people (46.0%) lived in rental housing units.
As of 2011, there are an estimated 4,539 homeless people living in Sonoma County, many of whom live in Santa Rosa.
Santa Rosa's Hispanic population, mainly of Mexican descent, while spread out through the city, is concentrated within the western part of Santa Rosa. The highest percentage of Hispanic residents in Santa Rosa is in the Apple Valley Lane/Papago Court neighborhood, at 87%.
The Southeast Asian communities, mainly Vietnamese, Laotian, and Cambodian, are concentrated within the western Santa Rosa neighborhoods of Bellevue Ranch, Roseland, and West Steele areas. The northeast neighborhoods of Skyhawk and Fountaingrove have the most populous Chinese communities.
As of the census of 2000, there were 63,153 households, of which 30.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.9% were married couples living together, 11.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.3% were non-families. 27.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 3.14.
In terms of age cohorts, 24.3% of the population was under the age of 18, 9.5% was from 18 to 24, 30.0% from 25 to 44, 22.3% from 45 to 64, and 13.9% were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 95.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.8 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $50,931, and the median income for a family was $59,659. Males had a median income of $40,420 versus $30,597 for females. The per capita income for the city was $24,495. 8.5% of the population and 5.1% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 9.5% of those under the age of 18 and 4.7% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
In the United States House of Representatives, Santa Rosa is in California's 5th congressional district, represented by Democrat Mike Thompson. It was moved to the district beginning with the 2013 Congress. In the 1980s, future U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer was Santa Rosa's representative.
In the California State Legislature, the city is in California's 2nd State Senate district. The city is split between California's 2nd and 10th State Assembly districts.
The city's Mayor is Chris Coursey, the Vice Mayor is Jack Tibbetts, and the other five council members are Julie Combs, Ernesto Olivares, Chris Rogers, John Sawyer, and Tom Schwedhelm.
Horticulturalist Luther Burbank lived in Santa Rosa for more than 50 years. He said of Sonoma County, "I firmly believe, from what I have seen, that this is the chosen spot of all this earth as far as Nature is concerned."
For many years the city's slogan was "The City Designed For Living." In 2007 the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce adopted a new slogan, "California's Cornucopia".
The Sonoma State University Library, in Rohnert Park, holds the Gaye LeBaron Collection: 700 file folders of her research notes and primary source materials, containing some 10,000 documents.
The city council in 2013 adopted a set of "Goals and Strategic Objectives" through 2015 comprising six main goals. A "strong, sustainable" economy topped the list; other goals include showing leadership in environmental and cultural issues, and promoting "partnerships between neighborhoods, community organizations, schools, and the City." Cherkasy, Ukraine
Jeju City, South Korea
Los Mochis, Mexico
Santa Rosa Junior College
University of San Francisco (USF) – Santa Rosa
School districtsBellevue Union
Bennett Valley Union
Mark West Union
Oak Grove Union
Rincon Valley Union
Roseland Public Schools
Santa Rosa City Schools
Private schoolsCardinal Newman High School (9–12)
Redwood Adventist Academy (K-12)
Rincon Valley Christian School (K-12)
Sonoma Academy (9–12)
St. Eugene's cathedral school
St. Luke's Elementary School
St. Rose Elementary School
Sonoma Country Day School (K-8)
Summerfield Waldorf School (K-12)
Stuart School (K-8)
The Sonoma County Library offers a Central Library in downtown Santa Rosa, a Northwest branch at Coddingtown Mall, and a Rincon Valley branch in east Santa Rosa. The Library is a member of the North Bay Cooperative Library System. The Santa Rosa Central Library, the largest branch of the Sonoma County Library system, has a Local History and Genealogy Annex, located behind the Central Library.
The Sonoma County Public Law Library is located at the Sonoma County Courthouse.
At Santa Rosa Junior College, the four-story Frank P. Doyle Library is a state-of-the-art facility. It houses the Library, Media Services, and Academic Computing Departments, as well as the college art gallery, tutorial center and Center for New Media, a multimedia production facility for SRJC faculty.Charles M. Schulz Museum
Luther Burbank Home and Gardens
Sonoma County Museum
California Indian Museum and Cultural Center
The Pacific Coast Air Museum is located on the southeast corner of the Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport, next to the airplane hangar used in the 1963 Hollywood all-star comedy movie It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.
Forbes Magazine ranked the Santa Rosa metropolitan area 185th out of 200, on its 2007 list of Best Places For Business And Careers. It was second on the list five years before. The area was downgraded because of an increase in the cost of doing business, and reduced job growth—both blamed on increases in the cost of housing.
According to the city's 2015 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
Santa Rosa is also home to notable smaller businesses such as Moonlight Brewing Company, Russian River Brewing Company and ATIV Software.
As of 2014, Santa Rosa has 12 neighborhood shopping centers and 17 commercial districts, including three sizeable shopping malls: Santa Rosa Plaza, with more than 100 merchants; Coddingtown Mall, with over 40; and Montgomery Village, an open-air mall with more than 70 shops, a supermarket, five banks, and a satellite U.S. Post Office.
Santa Rosa sits at the northwestern gateway to the Sonoma and Napa Valleys of California's famed Wine Country. Many wineries and vineyards are nearby, as well as the Russian River resort area, the Sonoma Coast along the Pacific Ocean, Jack London State Historic Park, and the redwood trees of Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve.
The city sprawls along U.S. Route 101, about an hour north of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. Charles M. Schulz–Sonoma County Airport located just north of Santa Rosa is served by United, American, Alaska, Allegiant, and Sun Country airlines. Nonstop flights are available to San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Santa Ana, Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, Las Vegas, and Phoenix. The City Council is also encouraging major new commercial and residential development along the planned Sonoma–Marin Area Rail Transit (SMART) railway from Larkspur to Cloverdale, parallel to Highway 101. SMART, scheduled to open in 2017, is funded by a sales tax surcharge passed by Sonoma and Marin voters in 2008. Santa Rosa hosts two stations: Guerneville Road and Railroad Square.
The City Council pays the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce to operate the Santa Rosa Convention & Visitors Bureau. The Chamber's visitors center is in the city-owned old railroad depot at the bottom of Fourth Street, in Historic Railroad Square. The SRC&VB has been a California Welcome Center since 2003.
Downtown Santa Rosa, including the central Old Courthouse Square and historic Railroad Square, is an area of shopping, restaurants, nightclubs, and theaters. Downtown also includes City Hall, state and federal office buildings, many banks, and professional offices. The Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital medical center is just to the east of downtown.
The City Council funds a private booster group, Santa Rosa Main Street, which lobbies the city to revitalize the traditional business district. Three new mixed-use, high-rise buildings, and a new city parking garage, are under development. The Council and downtown business boosters hope condos atop the new buildings will house a population to keep the area active 24 hours a day.
The nearby cities and towns of Bodega Bay, Calistoga, Guerneville, Healdsburg, Petaluma, Sebastopol, Sonoma, and Windsor are popular with tourists and readily accessible from Santa Rosa.
Railroad Square is the portion of downtown that is on the west side of U.S. Route 101 and has the highest concentration of historic commercial buildings. Of particular note are the four rough-hewn stone buildings at its core, two of which are rare in that they predate the 1906 earthquake. They include the old Northwestern Pacific Railroad depot, prominently seen in the beginning and the end of the Alfred Hitchcock film Shadow of a Doubt, and the still-functioning Hotel La Rose, built in 1907 and registered as one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation Historic Hotels of America. The area contains numerous other historic buildings, such as the former Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railroad depot, and the Lee Bros. Building, both at the corner of 4th and Wilson Streets. Near it in the West End district are numerous other old buildings, including not only many old houses but the masonry DeTurk Winery complex, dating to the 1880s–1890s, and the DeTurk round barn. Also of note nearby is the former Del Monte Cannery Building, built in 1894. One of the oldest surviving commercial buildings in town, it was renovated into the 6th Street Playhouse in 2005.
Local attractionsCarrillo Adobe. Built in 1837 for Dona Maria Ignacia Lopez de Carrillo (General Mariano Vallejo's mother-in-law), the Carrillo Adobe was the first home on the site of the future Santa Rosa. The remains of the Carrillo home rest behind a cyclone fence off Montgomery Drive, on property owned by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santa Rosa in California, adjacent to its Cathedral of St. Eugene.
Luther Burbank Home and Gardens
Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center
Redwood Empire Ice Arena ("Snoopy's Home Ice")
Sonoma County Museum
Trione Annadel State Park
Spring Lake Regional Park
Prince Memorial Greenway. This is a developed bicycle and pedestrian path along Santa Rosa Creek through downtown and out to the west of town. Near Railroad Square, it connects directly to the Joe Rodota Trail, a paved path which goes to Sebastopol.
Railroad Square. With the highest concentration of historic commercial buildings in Santa Rosa, this portion of downtown is popular with tourists and locals alike.
Historic residential neighborhoods. Although most of Santa Rosa's commercial buildings were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake, almost all of its numerous houses survived and most have survived to this day. As a result, Santa Rosa has a number of old neighborhoods in and around downtown, several historically designated. These contain numerous old homes, including many Victorians. Most of these are on quiet, often tree-lined streets. An example of one of these houses would be the McDonald Mansion, near downtown.
The annual Luther Burbank Rose Parade and Festival
The performing arts in Santa Rosa are represented by the Sonoma County Philharmonic, the Summer Repertory Theatre, the Santa Rosa Symphony, and the 6th Street Playhouse. Santa Rosa is the home of the North Bay Theater Group, an alliance of some 40 theater companies, theater departments and individual performance companies from five North Bay counties.
The Sonoma County Philharmonic performs at the Santa Rosa High School Performing Arts Auditorium. It is a 65-member all-volunteer orchestra that has presented hundreds of free and low-cost concerts throughout Sonoma County over the past 15 years. The orchestra is made up of professional-level local musicians who volunteer their time.
Summer Repertory Theater (SRT) is a complete and extensive practicum in all aspects of stage production. The program combines professional directing, design, and production staff with outstanding students in acting, design, technical theater, dance, music, and management. The ensemble mounts five productions, which are performed in full rotating Repertory six days a week beginning in mid-June. Company members put theory to the test and learn to work in a professional system.
The 85-year-old Santa Rosa Symphony Orchestra performs at Green Music Center in Rohnert Park, a new venue with traditional "shoebox" acoustics. Its education department supports four youth ensembles and provides classical music education to students across Sonoma County. Bruno Ferrandis serves as music director, replacing Jeffrey Kahane who held the post for ten years.
The visual arts are represented by the Sonoma County Museum and numerous independent art galleries. The Arts Council of Sonoma County is based at the museum.
The Santa Rosa Police Department currently has 259 employees, of which 172 are sworn peace officers. Its budget is more than $40 million, comprising more than one third of the city's General Fund budget. Police shootings in 2007 led to calls for an independent civilian police review board.
Neighborhoods such as South Park in south Santa Rosa, and Roseland, West Ninth District, and Apple Valley in west Santa Rosa, are most vulnerable to criminal activity. Acts of crime in these neighborhoods are commonly burglaries, graffiti, and violent gang activity. Mexican American street gangs such as Sureños and Norteños have large concentrations throughout Santa Rosa. In 2011, there were 5 homicides, 58 rapes, 134 robberies, 485 aggravated assaults, and 637 burglaries. The violent crime rate for Santa Rosa (401.7 per 100,000 people) is slightly lower than the rate of California (411.1 per 100,000 people) and higher than that of the entire U.S. (386.3 per 100,000 people).
On May 9, 1878, Charles Henley, a 57-year-old farmer from Windsor, California, murdered his neighbor James Rowland after Rowland complained about Henley's pigs being loose on his property. Henley left Rowland's body to be eaten by his hogs, and the next day Henley turned himself in to the authorities. In the early morning hours of June 9, groups of men started to appear on the streets of Santa Rosa. One group went to the home of jailer Sylvester Wilson, where the men held his family hostage while Wilson was taken to the jail to hand over the keys to the lynch mob. Wilson and night guard R. Dryer were taken in a wagon and dropped off on the outskirts of Santa Rosa. Henley was found hanging from a tree not far from where the two men were released. The lynchers were never caught.
On December 5, 1920, Santa Rosa native Terry Fitts, along with San Francisco hoodlums "Spanish" Charley Valento and George Boyd, got into a shootout with a joint police squad from Santa Rosa, Sonoma County and the San Francisco Police department. The outlaws were wanted in San Francisco for the gang rape of a young woman. Fitts, Valento, and Boyd were at the home of an acquaintance, looking for food or money, when the police caught up with them. As the police crashed through the door of the home, Boyd shot and killed San Francisco police detective Lester Dohrman, Sergeant Miles Jackson, and Sonoma County Sheriff Jim Petray. The three wanted men were then quickly taken into custody. On December 10, 1920, a group of men entered the jail without a struggle, took the men out of their cell, and drove them to Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery. They were strung up by their necks in their long underwear and left to swing in the wind. The inquest's verdict was "death by persons unknown". It was rumored that the lynch mob was made up of men from nearby Healdsburg, California who were friends of Sheriff Petray.
On July 15, 1935, disgruntled rancher and hunting guide Al Chamberlain dressed up in his finest cowboy clothes, drove to his former ranch outside of Santa Rosa and shot John McCabe, the new owner of the property, leaving him for dead. He survived. Chamberlain drove his beat-up car to Santa Rosa where he walked into the Santa Rosa police station and killed Chief Charlie O'Neal. Chamberlain had owned a livery stable in downtown Santa Rosa for years, but was forced to vacate his business through eminent domain when the city wanted to build their new city hall on Chamberlain's property. Chief O'Neal personally signed and served Chamberlain his notice to vacate. Financially broken, Chamberlain had to sell his beloved ranch on Saint Helena Road. O'Neal continued to harass Chamberlain to the point where he got the prosecutor to sentence Chamberlain to thirty days and a hundred-dollar fine for accidentally hitting a pedestrian. He was never the same man after he was released from jail. After shooting O'Neal, Chamberlain calmly walked down the street with a pistol in each hand, searching for Sonoma County Sheriff Harry Patteson. Patteson heard the gunshots and bumped into Chamberlain, who did not recognize him. Patteson disarmed and tackled Chamberlain, with the help of Joe Schurman and Burnette Dibble. He was sentenced to life in prison and died in San Quentin Prison.
On October 22, 2013, 13-year-old Andy Lopez was shot and killed by Sonoma County sheriff's deputy Erick Gelhaus in the Moorland neighborhood of Santa Rosa. Lopez was walking to his friend's house while carrying an airsoft gun replica of an AK-47. Gelhaus mistook the airsoft gun for a real rifle, and demanded that Lopez drop the weapon. Gelhaus then fired eight shots at Lopez, killing him. The shooting prompted protests in Santa Rosa, which attracted protesters from around Northern California. The Lopez family filed a lawsuit at the District Court in November, claiming that Gelhaus shot Lopez "without reasonable cause." They amended their lawsuit in January 2014, claiming that the Sheriff's office had long known that Gelhaus had a "propensity ... to recklessly draw his firearm and to use excessive force". The deputy's attorney argued that Gelhaus "absolutely believed" that the gun was real and that his life was in danger.
Notable people who were born or have lived in Santa Rosa include botanist Luther Burbank, chef Guy Fieri, singer and actress Julie London, cartoonists Charles M. Schulz and Stephan Pastis, Ripley's Believe It or Not! creator Robert Ripley, international concert pianist and arts entrepreneur Kevin Kwan Loucks, and former professional road racing cyclist Levi Leipheimer.
Santa Rosa has served as a location for many major films, including:The Happy Land (1943), shot in Santa Rosa and Healdsburg. This was Natalie Wood's first movie, at age four.
Shadow of a Doubt (1943), Alfred Hitchcock's personal favorite, filmed at Santa Rosa Railroad Depot, NWP Engine #140, Old Courthouse Square, Public Library, and McDonald Avenue. The 1991 telefilm involved eight weeks' filming on McDonald Avenue.
The Sullivans (1944), shot on Morgan Street.
All My Sons (1948), shot on McDonald Avenue.
Storm Center (1956) – Bette Davis spent six weeks on location at the Santa Rosa Main Library, which keeps a collection of clippings. The movie includes scenes from downtown and a house on Walnut Court.
Pollyanna (1960), featured the Mableton Mansion (also known as the McDonald Mansion), on McDonald Avenue.
The Wonderful World of Disney – The "Inky the Crow" episodes (beginning in the late 1960s), filmed in the Fountain Grove area.
It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963) – the sequence involving the plane flying full bore, at about 150 knots, through an airplane hangar in less than a second, was shot at the Sonoma County Airport, just north of Santa Rosa.
The Candidate (1972), directed by Michael Ritchie, shot in Howarth Park and Schlumberger Gallery.
Slither (1972) – Highway 101 south of Santa Rosa, and Cloverdale.
Steelyard Blues (1973), shot in downtown Santa Rosa and at the Sonoma County Airport.
Smile (1975), shot at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium and many other nearby locations. Made into a 1986 Broadway musical of the same name with music by Marvin Hamlisch.
Little Miss Marker (1980), shot at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds.
Shoot the Moon (1982), used a real Carl's Jr. on Industrial Drive at Cleveland Avenue. Also filmed at Wolf House at Jack London State Historic Park.
Cujo (1983) – locations include Santa Rosa and Petaluma.
Smooth Talk (1985) – locations include Santa Rosa shopping malls and Sebastopol.
Peggy Sue Got Married (1986) – locations include Santa Rosa High School and Petaluma.
Wildfire (1988) – includes Wood Pontiac & Cadillac on Corby Avenue.
Wired (1989) – filmed in Santa Rosa.
Die Hard 2 (1990) – scenes shot at Santa Rosa Air Center.
Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot! (1992) – shot over a four-week period at Santa Rosa Air Center.
Phenomenon (1996) – used Santa Rosa Junior College as an establishing shot for UC Berkeley. Also used "The Wagon Wheel" bar off of Highway 101 for bar scenes.
Scream (1996) – scenes show a house on McDonald Avenue, a local grocery store, and the Bradley Video Store on Marlow Road.
Inventing the Abbotts (1997), shot at Santa Rosa High School, on location in Healdsburg and Petaluma.
Mumford (1999), shot at Santa Rosa Junior College, other Santa Rosa locations, and in Guerneville and Healdsburg.
Bandits (2001) – locations included the Flamingo Hotel
The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)- set in Santa Rosa.
Cheaper by the Dozen (2003) – filmed in Railroad Square.
Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) – set in Santa Rosa during the 1980s.
Bad Ass (2012) – set in Santa Rosa in 1957