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California is a state spanning the southern half of the west coast of the contiguous United States. With a population of 37 million and an area of 158,402 square miles (410,000 km²), California is the largest U.S. state in population and the third largest in area.
The region was inhabited by Native Americans before European explorers started to make sporadic visitations during the 16th century. California had the highest density and greatest diversity of indigenous peoples in what is now the United States. Spain colonized the coastal areas of the territory starting in 1769. The Mexican War of Independence brought independence from European control in 1821, at which time California became a part of the Mexican Republic. Present-day California was part of the territory was ceded to the United States following the Mexican-American War (1846-1848) under the provisions of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The California Gold Rush of 1848-1849 brought about 90,000 additional U.S. immigrants into the state, and California became the 31st state of the Union in 1850.
Although the state's sunny climate has given it a historic reputation for being laid back compared to the East Coast, the $1.55 trillion (as of 2005) California economy is larger than all but the top 7 national economies in the world  and is responsible for 13% of the United States' $12 trillion gross domestic product (GDP). The state's major predominant industries include agriculture, entertainment, light manufacturing, and tourism. California is also the home of several significant economic regions such as Hollywood (entertainment), the California Central Valley (agriculture), Silicon Valley (computers and high tech), and the Wine Country (wine).
California originally referred to the entire region composed of the Mexican peninsula now known as Baja California and land in the current U.S. state of California. The states of Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Wyoming, were claimed by Spain and Mexico but were almost totally undeveloped, with about 100 settlers in Arizona.
The name California is most commonly believed derived from a storied paradise peopled by black Amazons and ruled by Queen Califia. The myth of Califia is recorded in a 1510 work The Exploits of Esplandian, written as a sequel to Amadís de Gaula by Spanish adventure writer García Ordonez Rodriguez de Montalvo. The kingdom of Queen Califia, according to Montalvo, was said to be a remote land inhabited by griffons and other strange beasts and rich in gold.
Know ye that at the right hand of the Indies there is an island named California, very close to that part of the terrestrial Paradise, which was inhabited by black women, without a single man among them, and that they lived in the manner of Amazons. They were robust of body, with strong and passionate hearts and great virtues. The island itself is one of the wildest in the world on account of the bold and craggy rocks. Their weapons were all made of gold. The island everywhere abounds with gold and precious stones, and upon it no other metal was found.
It is thought that the myth of Califia later helped fuel Spanish exploration in the New World.
Others suggest the word California may come from the early Spanish explorers who entered California via the hot southern regions and referred to California as being "hot as an oven" or a "lime oven" ("cali > hot", "fornus->forno > oven" + ending "ia" for a place; or with "cal > lime"). It may be derived from caliente fornalia, Spanish for hot furnace, or it may come from calida fornax, Latin for hot climate.
California borders the Pacific Ocean, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, and the Mexican state of Baja California. The state has many natural features, including an expansive central valley, tall mountains, arid deserts, and hundreds of miles of scenic coastline. With an area of 160,000 square miles (411,000 km²) it is the third largest state in the U.S and is larger than Germany in size. Most major cities are at or near the Pacific coastline, notably Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Long Beach, Oakland, Santa Ana/Orange County, Riverside/Moreno Valley, San Bernardino and San Diego. However, the capital, Sacramento, is in the Central Valley. The geographic center of the state is located in North Fork, California.
California's geography is rich, complex, and varied. In the middle of the state lies the California Central Valley, a huge, fertile valley bounded by the coastal mountain ranges in the west, the granite Sierra Nevada to the east, the volcanic Cascade Range in the north and the Tehachapi Mountains in the south. Mountain-fed rivers, dams, and canals provide water to irrigate the Central Valley. The water supply for much of the state is provided by the State Water Project. The Central Valley Project supports some municipal water supplies, though it primarily provides water to irrigated agriculture. With dredging, several rivers have become sufficiently large and deep that several inland cities (notably Stockton and Sacramento) are seaports. The hot, fertile Central Valley is California's agricultural heartland and grows a large portion of America's food, yet near freezing temperatures are not uncommon during winter which sometimes wipe out portions of crops. The southern part of the valley, which is part desert, is known as the San Joaquin Valley (drained by the San Joaquin River), while the northern half is known as the Sacramento Valley (drained by the Sacramento River). The Sacramento-San Joaquin Bay Delta is a major estuary that supports a brackish ecosystem while serving as the water supply hub for much of the state's population. The Channel Islands are located in the southern part of the state, stretching from Santa Barbara to Orange County. These islands have few inhabitants, but the northernmost islands are a national park. They and the largest island, Santa Catalina Island are attractive to visitors.
In the center and east of the state are the Sierra Nevada (meaning Snowy Range in Spanish), which include the highest peak in the contiguous 48 states, Mount Whitney, at 14,505 feet (4421 m). Also located in the Sierra are the world-famous Yosemite National Park and a deep freshwater lake, Lake Tahoe, the largest lake in the state by volume. To the east of the Sierra are Owens Valley and Mono Lake, an essential seabird habitat. To the west is Clear Lake, California's largest freshwater lake by area. The Sierra Nevada reaches arctic temperatures in the winter and has several dozen small glaciers, including the most southern glacier in the US(Palisade Glacier).
About 35% of the state's total surface area is covered by forests. California's diversity of pine species is unmatched by any other state. Though other states have a higher percentage of their land area covered by forests, in terms of total area, California contains more forestland than any other state except Alaska. Most of the forest is found in 2 areas: the northwestern part of the state and along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada. Smaller forests, mainly consisting of oaks, can be found along the coast ranges of California closer to the coast, and also in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Smaller areas of pine forests can be found in the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains of Southern California and also in the mountain areas of central San Diego County. Deserts in California make up about 25% of the total surface area. In the south lay the Transverse Ranges and a large salt lake, the Salton Sea. The south-central desert is called the Mojave. To the northeast of the Mojave lies Death Valley, which contains the lowest, hottest point in North America, Badwater Flat. The lowest point of Death Valley and the peak of Mount Whitney are less than 200 miles apart. Indeed, almost all of southeastern California is arid, hot desert, with the Coachella Valley and Imperial Valley routinely experiencing extreme high temperatures during the summer. These large deserts kept travel between California and Mexico to a bare minimum during the colonial period. The Coachella Valley in Riverside County is famous for its popular tourist destination Palm Springs, California. Other Coachella Valley communities include Bermuda Dunes, Desert Hot Springs, Indian Wells, Palm Desert, La Quinta, Rancho Mirage, Indio, Coachella and Cathedral City.
Along the densely populated and long California coast are several major metropolitan areas, including San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, Los Angeles-Long Beach, Santa Ana-Irvine-Anaheim, Riverside-San Bernardino, California and San Diego. Climates near the Pacific Ocean are remarkably moderate compared with inland climates. Winter temperatures seldom reach freezing and summer temperatures rarely reach above the high 80's Fahrenheit (low 30's Celsius).
California is famous for earthquakes due to the presence of a number of faults, in particular the San Andreas Fault. While powerful earthquakes in the United States have occurred in other states such as Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and Missouri (along the New Madrid fault), people are more aware of California's earthquakes due to their frequency and tendency to strike in highly populated areas.
- Oregon - north
- Nevada - east
- Arizona - southeast
- Baja California of Mexico - south
- The Pacific Ocean - west
Different regions of California have very different climates, varying from subtropic to subarctic depending on their latitude, elevation, and proximity to the coast. Most of the state has a Mediterranean climate, with rainy winters and dry summers. The influence of the ocean generally moderates temperature extremes, creating warmer winters and substantially cooler summers. The cool California Current offshore, enhanced by upwelling of cold sub-surface waters, often creates summer fog near the coast. Further inland, the climate becomes more continental with colder winters and markedly hotter summers. The temperature gradient between immediate coast and low-lying inland valleys in the north is about 7 °F (4 °C) in winter (the coast being warmer) and in summer roughly 25 °F (14 °C) (the interior being warmer). In the south, the figures are approximately 4 °F and 23 °F (2 °C and 13 °C), respectively; however 4 °F and 35 °F (2 °C and 20 °C) between Santa Barbara and Death Valley.
Westerly winds from the ocean also bring moisture, and the northern parts of the state generally receive higher annual rainfall amounts than the south. California's mountain ranges influence the climate as well: moisture-laden air from the west cools as it ascends the mountains, dropping moisture; some of the rainiest parts of the state are west-facing mountain slopes. Northwestern California has a temperate climate with rainfall of 15–50 inches (400–1270 mm) per year. Some areas of Coast Redwood forest receive over 100 inches of precipitation per year (2540 mm). The Central Valley has a Mediterranean climate but with greater temperature extremes than the coastal areas: parts of the valley are often filled with thick fog, similar to that found in the coastal valleys. The high mountains, including the Sierra Nevada, have a mountain climate with snow in winter and mild to moderate heat in summer.
On the east side of the mountains is a drier rain shadow. California's desert climate regions lie east of the high Sierra Nevada and Southern California's Transverse Ranges and Peninsular Ranges. The low deserts east of the southern California mountains, including the Imperial and Coachella valleys and the lower Colorado River, are part of the Sonoran Desert, with hot summers and nearly frostless mild winters; the higher elevation deserts of eastern California, including the Mojave Desert, Owens Valley, and the Modoc Plateau, are part of the Great Basin region, with hot summers and cold winters. During the summer months, especially from July through early September, the region is affected by the Mexican Monsoon (also called the "southwest monsoon"), which drives moisture from the tropical Pacific, Gulf of California, and/or Gulf of Mexico into the deserts, setting off brief, but often torrential thunderstorms, particularly over mountainous terrain.
In the northern portion of the Mojave Desert on the east side of the state is Death Valley, which is the hottest spot on the Western Hemisphere. It is common in the summer for temperatures in the valley to reach 120 °F (49 °C). The highest temperature in the Western Hemisphere, 134 °F (56.6 °C), was recorded in Death Valley on July 10, 1913. Temperatures of 130 °F (54 °C) or higher have been recorded as recently as 2005. The 24-hour average July temperature in Death Valley is 101 °F (38 °C) (1961—1990 standard).
Ecologically, California is one of the richest and most diverse parts of the world and includes some of the most endangered ecological communities. California's diverse geography, geology, soils and climate have generated a tremendous diversity of plant and animal life. The State of California is part of the Nearctic ecozone, and spans a number of terrestrial ecoregions, and is perhaps the most ecologically diverse state in the United States.
California has a rather high percentage of endemic species. California endemics include relic species that have died out elsewhere, including the redwoods and the Catalina Ironwood (Lyonothamnus floribundus). Many other endemics originated through differentiation or adaptive radiation, whereby multiple species develop from a common ancestor to take advantage of diverse ecological conditions. California's great abundance of species of California lilac (Ceanothus) is an example of adaptive radiation. Many California endemics have become endangered, as urbanization, logging, overgrazing, and the introduction of exotic species have encroached on their habitat. Furthermore, California is home to the largest trees in the world, the Giant Sequoias.
California's native grasses were perennials, which stayed green year-round in most of the state's subclimates. After European contact, these were generally replaced by invasive species of European annual grasses; and, in modern times, California's hills turn a characteristic golden brown in summer. California's nickname The Golden State is in reference to the golden brown summer hillsides and not to the California Gold Rush, as is sometimes stated.
National Parks and Monuments
- Main articles: List of areas in the National Park System of the United States, List of United States National Parks by state, and List of National Monuments of the United States.
To protect and preserve the state's biological diversity, natural beauty, and historic heritage, the U.S. National Park System has acquired control over a huge number of places within California. Please see the lists above for more information.
Some of the oldest and most popular national parks in the United States are located in California. The most prominent by far is Yosemite National Park (which protects Yosemite Valley), followed closely by the Kings Canyon-Sequoia National Park complex (which protects the most massive trees in the world) and Redwood National Park (which protects the tallest trees in the world).
Half Dome, in Yosemite, figures prominently on the reverse side of the California state quarter.
Califorina has several major rivers. Two very important rivers are the Sacramento River and the San Joaquin River. They drain the basin of the San Joaquin Valley and eventually flow to the Pacific Ocean through the San Francisco Bay. Two other important rivers are the Klamath River, in the north, and the Colorado River which drains into the Gulf of California. There are many other rivers around the california are and all of them have their importance in filling the lakes around the state. Some of the smaller river located in the San Bernardino mountain range provides fresh crystal clear water to nearby lakes within the mountain range such the Santa Ana River running through 7 Oaks, Forest Falls, Angelus Oaks and jenks lake.
For other rivers see: List of California rivers
The area was inhabited by more than 70 distinct groups of Native Americans before European contact. On September 28, 1542, Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo landed in what is now San Diego Bay claiming it for Spain. Spanish traders made sporadic visits with the Manila Galleons as early as 1565. The British explorer Sir Francis Drake made contact in 1579. Sebastián Vizcaíno explored and mapped the coast of California in 1602.
Spain colonized the territory with the 1769 expedition of Gaspar de Portolà in conjunction with the creation of the system of Military Districts and Spanish Missions in California between 1769 and 1823. California ceded from Spain and became part of Mexico resultant to the Mexican War of Independence (1810-21). During the outset of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), in the town of Sonoma forty U.S. settlers revolted and established the California Republic, an independent republic, June 14, 1846. This short lived independent republic was annexed by the United States on July 9, 1846. The Mexican officials fled without a fight. The California Gold Rush of 1849 brought a huge population of immigrants into the area, and California became the 31st state of the United States in 1850.
The entire region originally known as California was composed of the Mexican peninsula now known as Baja California and much of the land in the current states of California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona and Wyoming, known as Alta California. In these early times, the boundaries of the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific coast were only partially explored and California was shown on early maps as an island. The name comes from Las sergas de Esplandián (Adventures of Splandian), a 16th century novel, by Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo, where there is an island paradise called California. (For further discussion, see: Origin of the name California.)
Pre-European California was one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse areas in Native northern America. Large, settled populations lived on the West Coast and hunted sea mammals, fished for salmon, and gathered shellfish, while more mobile hunters and gathering groups in the California interior hunted terrestrial game and gathered nuts, acorns, and berries. California groups also were diverse in their political organization with bands, tribes, tribelets, and on the resource-rich coasts large chiefdoms, such as the Chumash, Pomo and Salinan. Trade, intermarriage, and military alliances fostered many social and economic relationships among the diverse groups. Except for the Mojave Indians living along the Colorado River no California Indians grew any domesticated crops.
The first European to explore parts of the coast was the Portuguese João Rodrigues Cabrilho in 1542 working for the Spanish Hernan Cortes. The first to explore the entire coast and claim possession of it was the English man Francis Drake in 1579. Beginning in 1769, Spanish missionaries set up California Missions along the California coast. In addition four small towns or presidos were set up. Upon Mexican independence from Spain, the chain of missions became the property of the Mexican government, and were quickly dissolved and abandoned in 1832. Friends of the Mexican government officials got most of the livestock and property. The total Spanish speaking population in California in 1846, when the U.S. took over, was about 4000. Many of California's major cities were settled by non-Spanish immigrants around these missions and presidios. They preserved only their religious names (Los Angeles for the Virgin Mary. San Francisco for St. Francis of Assisi, San Jose for St. Joseph of Nazareth and San Diego for St. Didacus).
In 1821, the Mexican War of Independence ended, giving California its independence from Spain. For the following quarter century, California was a remote northern province of the nation of Mexico. Cattle ranches, or ranchos, emerged as the dominant institutions of Mexican California, and cattle and horses introduced into California in the 1770's doubled in population with minimal care about every five years.
Beginning in the 1820s, trappers and settlers from the United States and Canada began to arrive, harbingers of the great changes that would sweep California. These new arrivals used the Siskiyou Trail, California Trail, and Old Spanish Trail to cross the rugged mountains and harsh deserts surrounding California.
In 1846, at the outset of the Mexican-American War (1846-1848), the California Republic was founded and the Bear Flag was flown, which featured a golden bear and a star. The Republic came to a sudden end, however, when Commodore John D. Sloat of the United States Navy sailed into San Francisco Bay and claimed California for the United States. Following the war, the region was divided between Mexico and the United States. The Mexican portion, Baja (lower) California was later divided into the states of Baja California and Baja California Sur. The western part of the U.S. portion, Alta (upper) California, was to become the U.S. state of California.
In 1848, the Spanish-speaking population of distant upper California numbered around 4,000. But after gold was discovered, the population burgeoned with U.S. citizens, Europeans, and other immigrants during the great California Gold Rush. In 1850, the state was admitted to the union USA as a free state (one in which slavery was prohibited).
At first, travel between the far Pacific West to the eastern population centers was time consuming and dangerous, requiring either long ocean voyages or difficult transcontinental passages by stagecoach and on foot. A more direct connection came in 1869 with the completion of the first transcontinental railroad. After this rail link was established, hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens came west, where new Californians were discovering that land in the state, if irrigated during the dry summer months, was extremely well suited to fruit cultivation and agriculture in general. Citrus was widely grown (especially in the form of oranges), and the foundation was laid for the state's prodigious agricultural production of today.
During the early 20th century, migration to California accelerated with the completion of major transcontinental highways like the Lincoln Highway and Route 66. In the period from 1900 to 1965 the population grew from fewer than one million to become the most populous state in the Union. From 1965 to the present, the population demographic changed radically and became one of the most diverse in the world. The state is generally liberal-leaning, technologically and culturally savvy, and a world center of engineering businesses, the film and television industry, music industry, and as mentioned above, U.S. agricultural production.
As of 2006, California has an estimated population of 37,172,015. California is the 13th fastest-growing state. This includes a natural increase since the last census of 1,557,112 people (that is 2,781,539 births minus 1,224,427 deaths) and an increase due to net migration of 751,419 people into the state. Immigration from outside the United States resulted in a net increase of 1,415,879 people, and migration within the country produced a net increase of 564,100 people, and a decrease of 21,669.
California is the most populous state—more than 12 percent of U.S. citizens live in the state. California's population is larger than all but 33 countries. About four million more people live in California than in all of Canada.
California has eight of the top 50 US cities in terms of population. Los Angeles is the nation's second largest city with a population of 3,845,541 people, followed by San Diego (8th), San Jose (10th), San Francisco (14th), Long Beach (34th), Fresno (37th), Sacramento (38th) and Oakland (44th).
Racial and ancestral makeup
California lacks a majority ethnic group. It is one of four majority-minority states. In the 2000 Census, less than half of Californians are White American or Anglo, the first recorded statistic (except for Hawaii) of a "white minority" in any US state. A third are Hispanic or Latino of all races or at 9.9 million, followed by 12 percent Asian American and Pacific Islander, 5 percent African American or non-Hispanic "black", and another 5 percent claim biracial or multiracial origins. Only New Mexico and Texas has higher percentages of Latinos, but California has the highest number of any U.S. state, and Hawaii has a higher Asian American percentage than California.
Template:US Demographics The largest named ancestries in California are Mexican (25%), Filipino, German (9%), Irish (7.7%), English (7.4%) and Asian Template:Citation needed, but includes 65 other ethnicities from to Hawaiian to Somali, a demographic profile to a high diverse state. Mexican Americans and Chicanos predominate in Southern California such as the Imperial Valley, the Central Valley, Salinas, and parts of the San Francisco Bay Area as well the largest ethnic group in Los Angeles County, California. Spanish and German ancestries are dominant in the eastern Sierra Nevada, the far north, and the North Coast. San Francisco has the greatest concentration of Asian Americans in the continental United States, with Chinese Americans numerous in San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, and Santa Clara counties. The San Francisco Bay Area has a greater concentration of Cantonese-speaking Chinese. Southern California has perhaps the largest Taiwanese American community in the United States particularly in San Gabriel Valley, and communities such as Cerritos, Irvine (in Orange County), and some in the South Bay, Los Angeles Area. Filipino Americans are particularly numerous in San Mateo and Solano counties, and in communities such as Baldwin Park, Covina, West Covina, and the community of Eagle Rock in Los Angeles. There are large Korean American communities in Koreatown of Los Angeles as well as East San Gabriel Valley, Cerritos, South Bay, Los Angeles, and in North Orange County. South Bay, Los Angeles also has a large Japanese American community too. The City of Long Beach has one of the largest Cambodian American communities in the United States. Westminster has one of the largest Vietnamese American communities and is often dubbed "Little Saigon". The community of Artesia and nearby Cerritos, as well as Fremont in the Bay Area have a large Asian Indian/South Asian American community. In 2000, California also had the largest number of Bulgarian Americans than any other U.S. state, according to the 2000 Census, and also the most Hungarian Americans of any US state. California also has one of the largest numbers of Armenian Americans at 600,000 alone, and Persian Americans, with estimates of up to 500,000 persons in Southern California, and 20% of Beverly Hills being of Persian descent. California has the largest population of African Americans in the western U.S. Large African American communities are in Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Sacramento, San Bernardino and San Diego, but African Americans are 6 percent of the state population and millions more live in suburban communities. Template:Citation needed. California has the most Native American tribes either indigenous to the state and other U.S. regions, notably Cherokees are the highest number, and its' Native American population at 350,000 is the most of any state. Template:Citation needed. .
As of 2000, 60.5% of California residents age 5 and older speak English at home and 25.8% speak Spanish. Chinese is the third most spoken language at 2.6%, followed by Tagalog at 2.5% and Vietnamese at 1.3%. Over 200 languages are known to be spoken and read in California, with Spanish used as the state's "second" language.
The indigenous languages of California number more than one hundred and show great diversity making California one of the most linguistically diverse areas in the world. All of California's indigenous languages are endangered, although there are now efforts toward language revitalization.
Since 1986, the California Constitution has specified that English is the common and official language of the state. The politics of language is a major political issue in the state, especially in regard to language policy controlling the teaching and official use of immigrant languages. In actual practice, however, California's official-English law is not strictly enforced; many state, city, and local government agencies continue to print official public documents in numerous languages.
Every faith and denomination in the world is represented in California. The state has the most Roman Catholics, a large American Jewish community and rapid-growing Islamic population. There's a thriving number of new age, cult movements, and eastern religions that symbolized California as a progressive place for theological innovation since the 1960's. The religious affiliations of the people of California:
- Muslim – 2%
- Jewish – 2%
- other Religions – 3%
- non-Religious – 19%
As with many other western states, the percentage of California's population identifying themselves as "non-religious" is comparatively high in relation to the rest of the U.S. 
As of 2005, California's economy is larger than all but seven national economies in the world.  California is responsible for 13% of the United States gross domestic product (GDP), while the state population constitute only 12% of the United States population. The gross state product (GSP) is about $1.55 trillion ($1,550,000,000,000, as of 2004), making it greater than that of every other U.S. state, and most countries in the world (by Purchasing Power Parity).
California is also the home of several significant economic regions such as Hollywood (entertainment), the California Central Valley (agriculture), Silicon Valley (computers and high tech), and wine producing regions such as Santa Barbara and Northern California's Wine Country.
The predominant industry, more than twice as large as the next, is agriculture, (including fruit, vegetables, dairy, and wine). This is followed by aerospace; entertainment, primarily television by dollar volume, although many movies are still made in California; light manufacturing, including computer hardware and software; and the mining of borax.
Per capita personal income was $33,403 as of 2003, ranking 12th in the nation. Per capita income varies widely by geographic region and profession. The Central Valley has the most extreme contrasts of income, with migrant farm workers making less than minimum wage. Recently, the San Joaquin Valley was characterized  as one of the most economically depressed regions in the U.S., on par with the region of Appalachia.
Many coastal cities include some of the wealthiest per-capita areas in the U.S., notably San Francisco and Marin County. The high-technology sectors in Northern California, specifically Silicon Valley, in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, are currently emerging from economic downturn caused by the dot.com bust, which caused the loss of over 250,000 jobs in Northern California alone. Recent (Spring 2005) economic data indicate that economic growth has resumed in California, although still slightly below the national annualized forecast of 3.9%. The international boom in housing prices has been most pronounced in California, with the median property price in the state rising to about the half-million dollar mark in April 2005.
California levies a 9.3% maximum variable rate income tax, with 6 tax brackets. It collects about $40 billion in income taxes. California's minimum combined state, county and local sales and use tax is 7.25%. It collects about $28 billion in sales taxes. The rate is higher in cities and counties with special taxing districts. All real property are taxable and are assessed at fair market value. California collects $33 billion in property taxes.
TransportationCalifornia's vast terrain is connected by an extensive system of freeways, expressways, and highways, all maintained by Caltrans and patrolled by the California Highway Patrol, except for the numbered expressways in Santa Clara County which were built and maintained by the county itself. The main north-south arteries are U.S. Route 101, which runs close to the coast from the state's border with Oregon to downtown Los Angeles, and Interstate 5, which runs inland from the Oregon to Mexico borders, bisecting the entire state. California is known for its car culture, and its residents typically take to the roads for their commutes, errands, and vacations, giving California's cities a reputation for severe traffic congestion. Almost all California highways are non-toll roads; however, there are a few toll roads, and most major bridges have toll plazas.
The state's most famous highway bridge is the Golden Gate Bridge, though there are major bridges elsewhere at Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Diego.
As for air travel, Los Angeles International Airport and San Francisco International Airport are major hubs for trans-Pacific and transcontinental traffic. There are about a dozen important commercial airports and many more general aviation airports throughout the state's 58 counties.
California also has several important seaports. The giant seaport complex formed by the Port of Los Angeles and the Port of Long Beach in Southern California is the largest in the country and responsible for handling about a fourth of all container cargo traffic in the United States. The Port of Oakland handles most of the ocean containers passing through Northern California.
Intercity rail travel is provided by Amtrak. Los Angeles and San Francisco both have subway networks, in addition to light rail. San Jose, San Diego and Sacramento have only light rail, though portions of San Jose light rail serve as EL Trains. Metrolink commuter rail serves much of Southern California, and Caltrain commuter rail connects San Jose and Gilroy (commute hour only) to San Francisco. Altamont Commuter Express (ACE) connects Tracy, Livermore and other edge cities with San Jose. BART, an express rail service, connects San Francisco and Oakland to Millbrae in the southwest, Fremont in the southeast, Dublin and Pleasanton in the east, Richmond in the north, and Pittsburg in the northeast. Despite its name, it does not encompass the entire Bay Area; the North Bay and South Bay regions are not currently included in the system. San Diego has Trolley light rail and Coaster commuter rail services. Nearly all counties operate bus lines, and many cities operate their own bus lines as well.
Both Greyhound and Amtrak provide intercity travel services.
The rapidly growing population of the state is straining all of its transportation networks. A regularly recurring issue in California politics is whether the state should continue to aggressively expand its freeway network or concentrate on improving mass transit networks in urban areas.
The California High Speed Rail Authority was created in 1996 by the state to implement an extensive 700 mile (1127 km) rail system. Construction is pending approval of the voters during next November's general election, in which a $9 billion state bond would have to be approved. If built, the system would provide a TGV-style high-speed link between the state's four major cities, and would allow travel between Los Angeles' Union Station and San Francisco's Transbay Terminal in two and one half hours.
Law and government
California is governed as a republic, with three branches of government: the executive branch consisting of the Governor of California and the other independently elected constitutional officers; the legislative branch consisting of the Assembly and Senate; and the judicial branch consisting of the Supreme Court of California and lower courts. The state also allows direct participation of the electorate by initiative, referendum, recall, and ratification. California follows a closed primary system.
The Governor of California and the other state constitutional officers serve four-year terms and may be re-elected only once. The California State Legislature consists of a 40 member Senate and 80 member Assembly. Senators serve four year terms and Assembly members two. The terms of the Senators are staggered so that half the membership is elected every two years. The Senators representing the odd-numbered districts are elected in years evenly divisible by four, which corresponds to presidential election years. The Senators from the even-numbered districts are elected in the intervening even-numbered years, in the gubernatorial election cycle. California's legislature is organized in such that the party caucus leaders wield great power and can usually speak on behalf of their caucuses. Many important legislative decisions are thus not made on the floor of the legislature but in back-room deals by the "Big Five," which comprises the governor and the Democratic and Republican leaders of each chamber. Members of the Assembly are subject to term limits of 3 terms, and members of the Senate are subject to term limits of 2 terms.
For the 2005–2006 session, there are 48 Democrats and 32 Republicans in the Assembly. In the Senate, there are 25 Democrats and 15 Republicans. The current governor is action film star Arnold Schwarzenegger, whose current term lasts through January 2007. Most government elected offices are not considered competitive due to extensive gerrymandering. Schwarzenegger was only the second governor in the history of the United States to be put into office by a recall of a sitting governor (the first was the 1921 recall of North Dakota Governor Lynn J. Frazier). Schwarzenegger replaced Governor Gray Davis (1999–2003), who was removed from office by the October 2003 California recall election.
The state's capital is Sacramento. During California's early history under European control, the capital was successively located in Monterey (1775–1849), San Jose (1849–1851), Vallejo (1852–1853), Benicia (1853–1854), and San Francisco (1862). The capital moved to Sacramento temporarily in 1852 when construction on a State House could not be completed in time in Vallejo. The capital's final move to Sacramento was on February 25, 1854 where it has been located since, except for a four-month temporary move in 1862 to San Francisco, which was due to severe flooding in Sacramento.
California's judiciary is the largest in the United States (with a total of 1,600 judges, while the state's federal system has only about 840). It is supervised by the seven Justices of the Supreme Court of California. Justices of the Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal are appointed by the Governor, but are subject to retention by the electorate every 12 years. Judges of the trial courts, the Superior Courts in each county, may be appointed by the Governor or elected directly by the voters, depending on when the vacancy occurs. Superior Court judges serve six-year terms, after which they may run for re-election. Unlike the retention elections for Supreme Court and Court of Appeal justices, Superior Court judges run for re-election in open races, in which other qualified candidates may run as challengers.
|2004||44.36% 5,509,826||54.31% 6,745,485|
|2000||41.65% 4,567,429||53.45% 5,861,203|
|1996||38.21% 3,828,380||51.10% 5,119,835|
|1992||32.61% 3,630,574||46.01% 5,121,325|
|1988||51.13% 5,054,917||47.56% 4,702,233|
|1984||57.51% 5,467,009||41.27% 3,922,519|
|1980||52.69% 4,524,858||35.91% 3,083,661|
|1976||49.35% 3,882,244||47.57% 3,742,284|
|1972||55.00% 4,602,096||41.54% 3,475,847|
|1968||47.82% 3,467,664||44.74% 3,244,318|
|1964||40.79% 2,879,108||59.11% 4,171,877|
|1960||50.10% 3,259,722||49.55% 3,224,099|
California's legal system, like all other states (except Louisiana), is explicitly based on English common law but carries a few features from Spanish civil law, such as community property. Capital punishment is a legal form of punishment and the state has the largest "Death Row" population in the country (though Texas is far more active in carrying out executions).
At the national level, California is represented by two senators and 53 representatives, as of 2005. It has 55 electoral votes in the U.S. Electoral College. (Since California is the most populous state in the Union, its counts of Congressmen and Presidential Electors are also the largest.) The two U.S. Senators from California are Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. 33 Democrats and 20 Republicans represent the state in the U.S. House of Representatives.
California is considered a reliably Democratic state. Once very conservative, having elected conservatives such as Ronald Reagan as governor and William Knowland as senator, California has flipped sides in recent decades (notably in the 1960s and 1970s) and became a Democrat voting state, having elected statewide liberals such as Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to the Senate. The latter is known for being one of the most liberal members of the U.S. Senate and has been vibrant in left-leaning operations and progressive campaigns. California had a Democratic governor and held a majority in the state government from 1998 to 2003, when Gray Davis was recalled in a special state election.
Even some recent Republican politicians elected statewide, such as Governors Pete Wilson and Arnold Schwarzenegger are considered members of the more moderate wing of the national party, and Republicans briefly dominated the state capital from 1991 to 1999, as analysts said the state was a precursor of the current Republican majority in the US government. California is held as the birthplace of both modern liberal and conservative movements in US politics, despite the culturally liberal presence is strongly felt in California while the country is in a socially conservative mood in the 2000s.
In general however, Californians tend to be middle of the road politically. Having been the second state to legalize abortion in the 1960s and one of the first states to legalize domestic partnerships for gay couples, California also was the first state where voters said that only marriage between a man and a woman would be recognized. Other recent initiatives passed by voters eliminated racial preferences. The voters of the state approved California Proposition 187 (1994) to prevent illegal aliens from receiving benefits or public services in the State of California (later overturned by a federal court). California's Republican dominance in the mid-20th century with exception of Democrat governor Edmund Brown in the 1960's had to do with strong GOP support outside San Francisco, San Jose and Los Angeles; however, these counties, especially in the Bay Area, now lean strongly Democratic. This is due to a number of factors from more "left leaning" Americans moving to the California coast from the Northeast to immigrants who now have become citizens and vote mostly Democratic.
The state's politics actually mirror the rest of the nation geographically. California is politically conservative inland of the coastal counties, notably the Central Valley, the Inland Empire, suburban Sacramento, and most inland, eastern, and rural areas (although Orange, Ventura and San Diego counties, are coastal urban areas noted for their conservatism). Liberal bastions are mostly located on the coast, including the entire San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Santa Barbara (although Salinas, Napa Valley, Palm Springs and Imperial County are rural inland areas noted for their liberalism). Counties north of Sacramento appears more conservative than the state capital of Sacramento. The state has supported Democrats in the last four presidential elections. In 2004, Republican President George W. Bush received a majority of votes in more than half the state's 58 counties, but still lost California's 55 electoral votes to John Kerry, who won 54.3% of the popular vote, by a margin of 9 percentage points due to Kerry's overwhelming totals in the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
Ballot qualified political parties
- American Independent Party: link
- Democratic Party: link
- Green Party: link
- Libertarian Party: link
- Peace and Freedom Party:link
- Republican Party: link
Important cities and towns
The state of California has 478 cities, the majority of which are within one of the large metropolitan areas. Sixty-eight percent of California's population lives in its two largest metropolitan areas, Greater Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.
For a list of important suburbs within the above areas, see List of urbanized areas in California (by population).
25 wealthiest places in California
Thanks to the state's powerful economy, certain California cities are among the wealthiest on the planet. Please note that this statistical measure can be misleading. The following list is ranked by per capita income:
30 poorest places in California
Many California communities rank among the poorest in the western world according to the measure of per capita income. The following list is ranked by increasing per capita income, first number is state ranking:
1076 Tobin, California - Plumas County - $2,584
California's public educational system is supported by a unique constitutional amendment that requires 40% of state revenues to be spent on education.
The elementary schools are of varying effectiveness. The quality of the local schools depends strongly on the local tax base, and the size of the local administration. In some regions, administrative costs divert a significant amount of educational monies from instructional purposes. In poor regions, literacy rates may fall below 70%. One thing they all have in common is a state mandate to teach fourth grade students about the history of California, including the role of the early missions; most schools implement this by requiring students to complete a multiple medium project.
Public secondary education consists of high schools that teach elective courses in trades, languages and liberal arts with tracks for gifted, college-bound and industrial arts students. They accept students from roughly age 14 to 18, with mandatory education ceasing at age 16. In many districts, junior high schools or middle schools teach electives with a strong skills-based curriculum, for ages from 11 to 13. Elementary schools teach pure skills, history and social studies, with optional half-day kindergartens beginning at age 5. Mandatory full-time instruction begins at age 6.
The preeminent state research university is the University of California (UC), which employs more Nobel Prize winners than any other institution in the world and is considered the world's finest public university system. The nine general UC campuses are in Berkeley, Los Angeles, San Diego, Davis, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara, Irvine, Riverside, and Merced. The University of California, San Francisco, teaches only graduate health-sciences students, and the Hastings College of Law, also in San Francisco, is one of UC's four law schools. The UC system is intended to accept students from the top 12.5% of college-bound students, and provide most graduate studies and research. The University of California also administers federal laboratories for the Federal Department of Energy: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The California State University (CSU) system is also considered one of the better educational systems in the world. With over 400,000 students, the CSU system is the largest university system in the United States. It is intended to accept the top one-third (1/3) of high school students. The universities within CSU are primarily intended for undergraduate education, although many of the larger campuses, such as CSU Long Beach, CSU Fullerton, CSU Fresno, San Diego State, and San José State, are becoming more research oriented, especially in applied sciences. A marked change and a shift from the Kerr Master Plan of 1960 is to begin in 2007 as the CSU will now begin granting doctoral level degrees (Ed.D.) in education. Kevin Starr (the State Librarian) and others have argued that this small change is the beginning of a larger reorganization of higher education in California.
The California Community Colleges system provides lower division "General Education" courses, whose credit units are transferable to the CSU and UC systems, as well as vocational education, remedial education, and continuing education programs. It awards certificates and associate degrees. It is composed of 109 colleges organized into 72 districts, serving a student population of over 2.9 million.
Notable private universities and colleges include Stanford University, the University of Southern California (USC), Santa Clara University, the University of the Pacific, the Claremont Colleges, Occidental College and the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) (which administers the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA).
California has hundreds more private colleges and universities, including many religious and special-purpose institutions. This leads to many unique entertainment and educational opportunities for residents. For example, Southern California, with one of the highest densities of post-secondary institutions in the world, has a very large base of classically trained vocalists that compete in large choir festivals. Near Los Angeles, there are numerous art and film institutes, including the CalArts Institute.
Professional sports teams
California's large population has helped to make it home to many professional sports teams, including fifteen major professional sports league franchises, far more than any other state. Since the re-location of the Los Angeles Raiders and Los Angeles Rams in the 1990s, Greater Los Angeles Area is the largest metropolitan area not to have at least one team in each of the four major sports league. The San Francisco Bay Area has their four major league teams spread in three cities, San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose. California hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics at Squaw Valley, the 1932 and 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles, as well as the 1994 FIFA World Cup and several Super Bowls. Each year, the California State Games take place here.
Major league teams
minor league teams