Trisha Shetty (Editor)

Watsonville, California

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March 30, 1868

Time zone
Pacific (UTC-8)

Local time
Sunday 5:33 AM

52,477 (2013)

Santa Cruz

29 ft (9 m)

ZIP codes
95076, 95077

Area code

Watsonville, California httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediacommons44

United States of America

4°C, Wind NE at 5 km/h, 100% Humidity

Watsonville is a city in Santa Cruz County, California, United States. The population was 51,199 according to the 2010 census. Located on the central coast of California, the economy centers predominantly around the farming industry. It is known for growing strawberries, apples, lettuce and a host of other vegetables. Watsonville is home to people of varied ethnic backgrounds. There is a large Hispanic population, a group of Croats, Portuguese, Filipino, Caucasian, Sikhs and Japanese population that live and work in the city.


Map of Watsonville, CA, USA

The Pajaro Valley, wherein Watsonville is located, has a climate that is usually pleasant — around 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year. This climate makes Watsonville an attractive coastal environment for the neighboring inland communities with very hot summers. The Pajaro Valley Unified School District has an attendance of about 18,000 students kindergarten through 12th grades. There are several private religious-based schools in Watsonville such as Notre Dame School, Monte Vista Christian, Salesian Sisters and St. Francis. There are also several charter schools and the non-religious independent Pre-K through 12th grade Mount Madonna School. These schools provide a wide range of educational options for local families. Watsonville is generally conservative on the political spectrum and average in relationship to the neighboring communities of Salinas, Castroville, and Prunedale.

The larger coastal town directly north of Watsonville is the city of Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is a draw for many young college students who attend Cabrillo College or University of California, Santa Cruz. Because Watsonville and Santa Cruz are beach towns, they draw many visitors from San Jose and from the Central Valley areas. Like neighboring Salinas in Monterey County, Watsonville produces a variety of fruits and vegetables, primarily apples, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, and table mushrooms.


Watsonville's land was first inhabited by an Indian tribe called the Costanoans. This tribe settled along the Pajaro Dunes since the land was fertile and useful for the cultivation of their plants and animals. In 1796, European explorers came to the land where they claimed to have seen a big bird along the side of the river, this symbol helped explorers to establish the name of the main river, which they identified as Rio del Pajaro, or River of the Bird. This river that runs along the boundaries of the city divides the Santa Cruz County and the Monterey County. In 1847, the second wave of European explorers was presented to this land where they finally decided to settle. Forty of these explorers officially lived in the city and had animals and some crops. In 1848, the gold rush in the Sierra Mountains was an important event for the city because people began to buy land for the low price that it had, allowing them to acquire large acres of property where farming and ranching would be among the simple practices that would shape the economy of the city. The community was incorporated as the Town of Watsonville on or about March 30, 1868 and named after Judge John Watson. The town changed its name to the City of Watsonville about 1889. The voters adopted a charter in 1903.

The first European land exploration of Alta California, the Spanish Portolà expedition, passed through the area on its way north, camping at one of the lakes north of town for five nights, on October 10–14, 1769. Many of the expedition soldiers were suffering from scurvy, so progress was slow. While the sick recuperated, scouts led by Sergeant Ortega went ahead to find the best way forward. On the fifth day, Franciscan missionary Juan Crespi, traveling with the expedition, noted in his diary that, "This afternoon the explorers returned. The sergeant reported that he had gone ahead twelve leagues without getting any information of the harbor that we are looking for, and that he went to the foot of a high, white mountain range."

During the October 10 march, the explorers first saw the Coast redwood tree (Spanish: palo colorado). A bronze plaque at Pinto Lake commemorates the event. On October 15, the expedition continued to the northwest past today's community of Freedom, camping that night at Corralitos Lagoon.

Watsonville is located on the Rancho Bolsa del Pajaro Mexican land grant made to Sebastian Rodríguez in 1837. Judge John H. Watson and D. S. Gregory laid out the town in 1852. Watsonville was incorporated on March 30, 1868.


The main industries in Watsonville are construction, agriculture and manufacturing. Some of the largest companies headquartered in Watsonville are Martinelli's, Fox Racing Shox, Nordic Naturals, Graniterock, Granite Construction, West Marine, California Giant, Vendwize, A&I Transport Inc. and Orion Telescopes & Binoculars.

Watsonville is known for the production of crops and goods in the agricultural business along the Northern Pacific Coast. The city's economy is dependent on its agro-business market and in the distribution of crops to different parts of the world. The crops that are fundamental to the economy include: strawberries, cauliflower, broccoli, lettuce, natural plants, and raspberries. Companies such as Driscoll's and California Giant spend around $280 million every year in the processing and transportation of fresh food to most cities in the area, such as San Jose, California, Castroville, California, and Santa Cruz, California where the numbers of these fruits and vegetables are insufficient for the demand of the people. The large investments by big corporations in the city and the labor force, which accounts for 75% of Latino workers, have helped the city to become ranked amongst the top most important farming cities in the United States for its agro-business market. Besides relying mainly on farming goods and practices, the economy also relies on other small private owned businesses in the city because of different industries such as: industries in the fields of electronics, service firms, non-agricultural stores, and other private owned restaurant in the area that contribute to the economy every year. The dominant industries that benefit the economy correspond to the labor forces in the field of construction, farming and manufacturing that account for the majority of the contribution to the labor force and stability of the community in the city.

Top employers

According to the City's 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:


During Spanish and Mexican times, the Pajaro Valley was at first used as pastureland for the Carmel mission, then was divided up into several large ranchos, mainly raising cattle. In the middle 1800s, American, British, Irish and German immigrants began farming alongside the Californios. Later in the century and into the 1900s, new immigrant workers from China, Japan, Italy, Portugal, The Philippines and Mexico accounted for the majority of the workforce in the city. The new immigrants were important to the growth of the city because the fertile land needed personnel in order to perform jobs in the industries of farming and construction. These immigrants were able to shape the economy of the city through their labor and settlement in the city. They created more job openings as well as a market for new private owned businesses where these laborers had the opportunity to buy goods and other needed services. Large companies then turned their interest to the city because of the large number of workers and production of crops that could be achieved in a short period of time. When these agricultural companies settled along the boundaries of the city, they created more jobs increasing the population of the city. The market of agriculture served as the main foundation of the city because it was the industry that needed the most workers, this allowed for the creation of a larger market of agriculture where companies could transport large number of crops from city to city and even to different parts of the world. The city is ranked as the 21st largest city in the country with the most Latino workers that account for 75% of the total population in the city.

Santa Cruz County and Monterey County work together to provide training for workers in new job skills that are needed in the industries of farming and construction in the city. Colleges in the area such as California State University, Monterey Bay, University of California, Santa Cruz, and Cabrillo College are important for shaping the training of new workers, these colleges have links with companies that expose students and workers to the real labor force. Since these close links exists between schools and labor companies in the city, the economy is able to create new jobs that stabilize the income and output of the community. The agricultural business is dependent on the contribution of college students and workers with their skills gathered through the training programs at institutions in Santa Cruz County and Monterey County. College students along with expert workers have created new ways of growing and processing food that are useful for the economy and the population of the city. The workforce has changed since the 20th century because companies have created new programs in the heart of the city that better prepare workers with the skills that are requires to perform different jobs in the city. These skills include basic sections in the usage of computers systems, Internet, and other programs that are needed by companies related to jobs in the farming, manufacturing, and construction industries. These programs also include job recruitment, job subsidies, and retention services that are important for the economy and the community.

According to the California Employment Department, the industry of employment in the Santa Cruz County consists of:


Watsonville is located in the Monterey Bay area about 95 miles south of San Francisco at the southern end of Santa Cruz County.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.8 square miles (18 km2), of which, 6.7 square miles (17 km2) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) of it (1.42%) is water.


The National Weather Service cooperative station at the Watsonville Waterworks reports cool, relatively wet winters and mild, dry summers. Fog and low overcast is common in the night and morning hours, especially in the summer when warmer air from inland areas mixes with the cool, moist air near Monterey Bay. Its Köppen classification is cool-summer mediterranean climate.

January, normally the coldest month, has an average maximum of 59.9 °F and an average minimum of 38.5 °F. September, normally the warmest month, has an average maximum of 73.2 °F and an average minimum of 51.7 °F. There are an average of 4.9 days annually with highs of 90 °F (32 °C) or higher and an average of 13.5 days annually with lows of 32 °F (0 °C) or lower. Cool nights are common in the summer, due to the influence of chilly Monterey Bay. The record high temperature from the late 20th century onwards was 106 °F on October 2, 1980. However, previously a June day has been recorded as 110 °F. The record low temperature from the late 20th century onwards was 12 °F on December 22, 1990, although a 2 °F low has been previously recorded.

Average annual rainfall is 22.42 inches, with measurable precipitation falling on an average of 61 days each year. The wettest year on record was 1983 with 48.35 inches and the driest year was 1976 with 10.66 inches. The most rainfall in one month was 15.99 inches in February 1998. The most rainfall in 24 hours was 5.93 inches on February 14, 2000. Although significant snowfall occurs several times a year on the higher mountains nearby, measurable snowfall is a rarity along Monterey Bay. On February 26, 2010 there was slight snowfall in Watsonville, though it was such a small amount that it could not be measured.

Environmental features

The City of Watsonville has habitat areas that support the endangered species Santa Cruz Tarweed on the California coastal prairie ecosystem. Considerable population growth occurred since 1980, requiring preparation of a number of Environmental Impact Reports, with resultant development removing certain lands of the city from productive natural habitat.

Most of the coastal land adjacent to Watsonville is part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, a designation championed by former Congressman Leon Panetta. Heading away from the coast, the backdrop features the southern end of the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Another protected natural resource is the Watsonville wetlands. Also referred to as the Watsonville sloughs, they are a system of fresh water sloughs with open water and native vegetation which extend from the city to the ocean. This slough system is only one of a few remaining wetland areas of its kind in the California Coastal Region. Not only are the wetlands home to approximately nine species of fish and over 200 species of waterfowl, raptors and song birds, but they are also a vital stopping off point on the Pacific Flyway for the thousands of migrating birds.

In 1990 both private and municipal organizations worked together to stop development and protect this important resource. The Watsonville Wetlands Watch was established at that time with the task of restoring and protecting the slough's natural habit. "Watching the Watsonville Wetlands," a book published by the organization and written by Jerry Busch, Gary Kittleson and Christine Johnson-Lyons tells the history and explains the importance of these wetland areas.


Watsonville provides a wide variety of recreational opportunities including hiking, boating, festivals, sports, birdwatching, and beach access.

Strawberry Festival

Watsonville is home to the annual Strawberry Festival, which includes a wide variety of strawberry based foods, live music, vendors, and rides.

Air show

Watsonville Municipal Airport (WVI) is home to the annual Watsonville Fly-in and Air Show, which showcases both military and civilian aircraft and includes a small car show.

Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds

Near the end of every summer, the Santa Cruz County fair has drawn visitors from across and outside the county to its many attractions including rides, food, art exhibits, flower exhibits, pony rides, petting zoos, dog shows, and live music performances, among other things.

The fairgrounds also host a number of different events including car races at the Ocean Speedway, dog training programs, wedding receptions, the annual Santa Cruz County Science Fair, and the Scottish Renaissance Festival.


The City maintains 28 unique parks, including a skate park, indoor soccer field, lake with boat rentals and RV camping, BBQ areas, handball courts, an art gallery, tennis courts, and volleyball courts.

Watsonville Wetlands

Hiking trails are positioned throughout the city as well as a nature center provides the public with an intimate view of The Watsonville Wetlands.

Pajaro River

A number of trail heads have been built throughout the city, which provide access to the Pajaro River and its tributaries via The Pajaro River Levee Trail Park. The levee trails are a popular spot for walking, running, and biking. In 2010 the City of Watsonville was awarded a $424,000 grant to create a public access point to the Pajaro River for canoes and kayaks, including a parking lot, trail and public restroom.

Pinto Lake

The City operates one of two parks at Pinto Lake, which includes a small watercraft launch ramp, group picnic areas, an RV park, a Baseball field, Volleyball, children's playground, boat rentals, fishing, and bird watching. There have been many cases in which the water at Pinto Lake becomes a thick green due to different types of algae forming in the water. Due to these occurrences, the City of Watsonville has prohibited the eating of fish caught in Pinto Lake. The second park at Pinto Lake is operated by The County of Santa Cruz and includes nature trails, disc golf, sports fields also home to the Monterey Bay Center of the California Conservation Corps.

Pajaro Dunes

The Pajaro Dunes area of Watsonville attracts tourists to its high end beach front condos and time shares.

The town was the location in which much of Killer Klowns From Outer Space, a cult classic, was filmed.

California writer Robert A. Heinlein set a part of his 1982 novel Friday at Pajaro Sands, near Watsonville. Scenes from the 1986 film Brotherhood of Justice were shot in Watsonville with Keanu Reeves and Kiefer Sutherland.

The 1996 play Watsonville by Cherríe Moraga is set in the city.

In 2012 UC Santa Cruz students filmed a full-length documentary about Watsonville, titled Exit: 426 Watsonville.


The 2010 United States Census reported that Watsonville had a population of 51,199. The population density was 7,547.7 people per square mile (2,914.2/km²). The racial makeup of Watsonville was 22,399 (43.7%) White, 358 (0.7%) African American, 629 (1.2%) Native American, 1,664 (3.3%) Asian, 40 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 23,844 (46.6%) from other races, and 2,265 (4.4%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 41,656 persons (81.4%).

The Census reported that 50,671 people (99.0% of the population) lived in households, 322 (0.6%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 206 (0.4%) were institutionalized.

There were 13,528 households, out of which 7,130 (52.7%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 7,231 (53.5%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 2,375 (17.6%) had a female householder with no husband present, 903 (6.7%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 890 (6.6%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 107 (0.8%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 2,466 households (18.2%) were made up of individuals and 1,213 (9.0%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.75. There were 10,509 families (77.7% of all households); the average family size was 4.17.

The population was spread out with 16,111 people (31.5%) under the age of 18, 6,001 people (11.7%) aged 18 to 24, 14,834 people (29.0%) aged 25 to 44, 10,014 people (19.6%) aged 45 to 64, and 4,239 people (8.3%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29.2 years. For every 100 females there were 99.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.2 males.

There were 14,089 housing units at an average density of 2,077.0 per square mile (801.9/km²), of which 5,957 (44.0%) were owner-occupied, and 7,571 (56.0%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.9%; the rental vacancy rate was 2.5%. 21,365 people (41.7% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 29,306 people (57.2%) lived in rental housing units.

As reported by the 2007-2011 American Community Survey, the median income for a household in the city was $46,073, and the median income for a family was $49,550. Male full-time year-round workers had a median income of $31,758 versus $31,155 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,407. About 18.6% of families and 20.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.6% of those under age 18 and 15.6% of those age 65 or over. Therefore, although the median household income did rise significantly between 2000-2010 (unadjusted for inflation), the percentage of city residents experiencing poverty rose at a faster rate.


As of the census of 2000, there were 44,265 people, 11,381 households, and 8,865 families residing in the city. The population density was 6,969.4 people per square mile (2,691.5/km²). There were 11,695 housing units at an average density of 1,841.3 per square mile (711.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 43.00% White, 0.75% African American, 1.74% Native American, 3.29% Asian, 0.12% Pacific Islander, 45.92% from other races, and 5.18% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 75.12% of the population, with the majority of these being of Mexican origin.

Watsonville also has a large Asian-American presence consisting of Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos despite the fact that the percentage of city residents of Asian descent has dropped since 1960. The Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos had residential sections and opened many businesses to serve their customer base in town during the mid 20th century. The history of East Asians in Watsonville dates back to the late 19th century and are involved in the local agricultural industry. It is presumed that as a result of Japanese-American internment during WWII, local farm companies began to attract Mexican migrant labor to the area in higher numbers and the town's racial-ethnic composition became more Hispanic in the 1980s and 1990s. There was also medium-sized Sikh population in Watsonville during the late 1990s to early 2000s that were involved mostly in the trucking industry, but most have moved away to California's Central Valley for cheaper housing.

There were 11,381 households out of which 49.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.3% were married couples living together, 16.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.1% were non-families. 17.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.84 and the average family size was 4.26.

In the city, the population was spread out with 34.0% under the age of 18, 11.8% from 18 to 24, 30.5% from 25 to 44, 15.1% from 45 to 64, and 8.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 27 years. For every 100 females there were 101.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 100.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $37,617, and the median income for a family was $40,293. Males had a median income of $26,701 versus $22,225 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,205. About 15.4% of families and 19.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.8% of those under age 18 and 8.8% of those age 65 or over.

Law and government

The City of Watsonville was incorporated on March 30, 1868 It adopted its first charter in 1903. It adopted its present charter on February 16, 1960. It uses the council–manager government model. The city is divided into seven districts, each of which elects a representative to the city council. In turn, the mayor of Watsonville is not elected. Instead the office of mayor rotates annually in December. As of 2014, the mayor is Oscar Rios (2017).


Watsonville does not practice water fluoridation. A proposal to fluoridate public water supplies narrowly failed a voter referendum in 2002, and the Martinelli beverage company has threatened to move a planned expansion elsewhere rather than use fluoridated water in its products. Local health-care professionals argue that the city is experiencing a tooth decay epidemic.

After several years of legal wrangling, Watsonville was cited in August 2010 for violating a California state law that requires fluoridating the water in a town over 10,000 people when outside money becomes available.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that "[i]n a 4-3 vote [on September 28, 2010], the City Council approved a contract for a $1.6 million grant from the California Dental Association Foundation to design and build a fluoridation system and operate it for two years."

Eventually the California Dental Association Foundation notified the City that it was too expensive to fluoridate the City's water supply. Without funding from an outside source, there is no state requirement and the City's water supply remains un-fluoridated.

State and federal representation

In the California State Legislature, Watsonville is in the 17th Senate District, represented by Democrat Bill Monning, and in the 30th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Anna Caballero.

In the United States House of Representatives, Watsonville is in California's 20th congressional district, represented by Democrat Jimmy Panetta.


Watsonville has 65 police officers and 68 authorized positions. In comparison to nearby incorporated cities, overall crime index is 24.1% lower than Santa Cruz, 15.4% lower than Salinas, and 38.4% higher than Gilroy. Watsonville is home to approximately 560 documented gang members and 9-10 known gangs. While gang activity is on the rise, crime itself continues to fall and is currently at its lowest in 30 years. Despite a significant drop in crime, Watsonville continues to suffer from its past reputation, particularly amongst more affluent areas in the region.


The Monterey/Salinas metro area is served by a variety of local television stations, and is the 124th largest designated market area (DMA) in the U.S. with 222,900 homes:

  • Channel 2: KOTR — (MNT) — Monterey/Salinas/Santa Cruz (Comcast Cable 11)
  • Channel 8: KSBW — (NBC; ABC on DT2) — Salinas
  • Channel 15: KMUV — (Telemundo) — Monterey/Salinas/Santa Cruz (Simulcast of KSTS 48)
  • Channel 25: KQET — (PBS) — Watsonville (Simulcast of San Francisco's KQED)
  • Channel 33: KDJT-CD — (Telefutura) — Salinas/Monterey
  • Channel 35: KCBA — (Fox) — Salinas
  • Channel 43: KMCE — (Azteca América) — Monterey/Salinas
  • Channel 46: KION — (CBS) — Salinas
  • Channel 67: KSMS-TV — (Univision) — Monterey
  • Radio

  • KAZU, 90.3 FM
  • KSCO, 1080 AM
  • KUSP, 88.9 FM
  • KZSC, 88.1 FM
  • KHIP, 104.3 FM
  • KAPU, 104.7 FM
  • KPIG-FM, 107.5 FM
  • KWAV, 96.9 FM
  • KDON, 102.5 FM
  • Newspapers

  • Watsonville Register-Pajaronian
  • Public schools

    Public schools in Watsonville fall under the jurisdiction of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District.

    Elementary schools

  • Freedom Elementary School: Grades K-5
  • Amesti Elementary School: Grades K-5
  • Ann Soldo Elementary School: Grades K-5
  • Bradley Elementary School: Grades K-6
  • Calabasas Elementary School: Grades K-6
  • H. A. Hyde Elementary School: Grades K-5
  • T. S. MacQuiddy Elementary School: Grades K-5
  • Mintie White Elementary School: Grades K-5
  • Ohlone Elementary School: Grades K-5
  • Starlight Elementary School: Grades K-5
  • Radcliff Elementary School: Grades K-5
  • Landmark Elementary School: Grades K-5
  • Hall District Elementary School: Grades K-5
  • Salsipuedes Elementary school: Grades K-5 {Currently Alianza Charter School: Grades K-8}
  • Middle schools

  • E. A. Hall Middle School: Grades 6-8
  • Lakeview Middle School: Grades 6-8
  • Pajaro Middle School: Grades 6-8
  • Rolling Hills Middle School: Grades 6-8
  • Cesar E. Chavez Middle School: Grades 6-8
  • Solano Summit Academy: Grades 6-8
  • High schools

  • Watsonville High School: Grades 9-12
  • New School Community Day: Grades 9-12
  • Pajaro Valley High School: Grades 9-12
  • Renaissance High School: Grades 10-12
  • Watsonville Community School
  • Charter

    All charter schools in Watsonville are under the jurisdiction of the Pajaro Valley Unified School District.

  • Diamond Technology Institute: Grades 9-12
  • Alianza Charter School: Grades K-8 {Formerly Salsipuedes Elementary school: Grades K-5}
  • Linscott Charter School: Grades K-8
  • Pacific Coast Charter School: Grades K-12
  • Watsonville Charter School of the Arts: Grades K-6
  • Ceiba College Preparatory Academy: Grades 6-8, and 9-12. (High School serves 9th grade only in 2011-12, adding a grade each year through 2015).
  • Private

  • Green Valley Christian School: Grades K-8
  • Moreland Notre Dame: Grades K-8
  • Monte Vista Christian: Grades 6-12
  • Monterey Bay Academy: Grades 9-12
  • Mount Madonna School: Grades Pre-K-12
  • Potter's House Community Christian School:K-12
  • St. Francis Central Coast Catholic High School: Grades 9-12
  • Community College

  • Cabrillo College: Watsonville Branch
  • Graduate School

  • Mount Madonna Institute College of Ayurveda and Yoga
  • Notable residents

  • Annie Law (died 1889), conchologist
  • Jason Jessee, Professional skateboarder.
  • References

    Watsonville, California Wikipedia