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Santa Maria City

Santa Maria City Hall is located at 110 East Cook Street, Santa Maria, CA 93454; phone: 805-925-0951.

Beginnings [1]

The Santa Maria Valley first attracted European settlers in the late 1700s after the establishment of Mission San Luis Obispo and Mission La Purisima in Lompoc. Many settlers were the recipients of land for settlement from the government, and the area's rich soil available for various agricultural processes continued to attract settlers to the area through the mid 1800's.

In the late 1870's, four of the valley's well-known settlers (Rudolph Cook, Isaac Fesler, Isaac Miller, and John Thornburg) each donated a section of their land to be used as the location for a new town known as Grangerville. Today's intersection of Broadway and Main Street marks the corners of these four pieces of land. Grangerville eventually took on the name Central City but was renamed Santa Maria in 1885 because mail from this Central City kept going to Central City, Colorado.

The discovery of oil led to a population surge that finally resulted in Santa Maria becoming incorporated as a general law city in 1905. Oil exploration began in the valley in the late 1800s. By 1901, William Orcutt and his company, Union Oil, were leasing more than 70,000 acres of land for oil exploration and processing. At the time of incorporation, the City population was estimated to be 1,000 persons, and presumably, 97% of the population was dependent on agriculture for survival. The first U.S. Census showed that rapid (126%) population growth occurring during the five-years between the incorporation and the 1910 Census.

The near simultaneous construction of U.S. 101, the Twitchell Reservoir, and the Santa Maria River levee were also major historic milestone events for Santa Maria. The design of U.S. 101 bypassed the Downtown with a 4-lane highway ribbon that skirted down the eastern edge of the City's 4-square mile boundary. The road gave travelers four interchanges, but the bypass became detrimental to many Downtown businesses. The Reservoir, on the other hand, stabilized the groundwater basin to a point where the aquifer never felt serious damage from saltwater intrusion. Furthermore, the levee prevented most of the flooding in the City and opened up areas to development that were otherwise ruined regularly by the Santa Maria River flooding. These engineering marvels opened new land areas for development because they removed natural constraints (access and flooding) to the land located north of the City.

In the 1970s, great deliberation and heated discussions led to the Redevelopment of the old Downtown. The U.S. 101 bypass of the City business districts of Main Street and Broadway had started a long decline in the central business districts. As the decline affected local businesses, the Urban Renewal policies of the 1960s enabled the City to form a Redevelopment Agency to stop the decline and transform the "blighted Downtown" into a "state of the art" enclosed shopping mall. Consequently, in 1975, the Santa Maria Town Center Mall (SMTC) opened with three levels of free parking, a Sears, and Gottschalks anchoring about 400,000 square-feet of retail space on 16 acres. Then, in 1989-1991, the Town Center West (TCW) added a 3rd and 4th major tenant space with a second free parking structure, a bridge over Broadway connecting the SMTC to the TCW, and plans for a 5th major department store.

In August 1954, the City began to annex surrounding portions of land, spilling over its original four square-mile boundary. By the year 2005, the Santa Maria City limits had expanded to cover more than 21.4 square miles. Since 1957, the City's population has more than doubled, with the 2000 Census reporting the population as 77,423 persons. As of January 2008, Santa Maria's population is 91,100 (California Department of Finance, January 2008).

  1. Santa Maria Downtown Specific Plan, Historic Resources,, accessed June, 2011.
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