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Walnut Creek is a city in Contra Costa County, California, United States, located in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, about 16 miles (26 kilometres) east of the city of Oakland. With a total estimated population of 67,673, Walnut Creek serves as a hub for its neighboring cities because of its location at the junction of the highways from Sacramento and San Jose (I-680) and San Francisco/Oakland (SR-24) and its accessibility by BART. Its active downtown neighborhood features hundred-year-old buildings and extensive high-end retail establishments, restaurants and entertainment venues.
There are three bands of Bay Miwok Indians associated with early Walnut Creek: the Saclan, whose territory extended through the hills east of present-day Oakland, Rossmoor, Lafayette, Moraga and Walnut Creek; the Volvon (also spelled Bolbon, Wolwon and Zuicun) near Mt. Diablo; and the Tactan located on the San Ramon Creek in Danville and Walnut Creek.
Today's Walnut Creek is located within the earlier site of four Mexican land grants. One of these land grants – measuring 18,000 acres (73 km2) – belonged to Juana Sanchez de Pacheco, who eventually passed the land down to her two grandsons. Ygnacio Sibrian, one of the grandsons, created the first roofed home in the valley in about 1850. The grant was called Rancho Arroyo de Las Nueces y Bolbones, named after the principal waterway, Arroyo de las Nueces (Walnut Creek), as well as for the local group of indigenous Americans (Bolbones). The Arroyo de las Nueces was named for the evidence of the native species of walnut tree, the California Walnut.
With the coming of American settlers following the Mexican-American War, a small settlement called "The Corners" emerged, named because it was the place where roads from Pacheco and Lafayette met. The site of this first American settlement is found today at the intersection of Mt. Diablo Boulevard and North Main Street. The first town settler was William Slusher, who built a dwelling on the bank of Walnut Creek, which was called "Nuts Creek" by the Americans in 1849. In the year 1855, Milo Hough of Lafayette built the hotel named "Walnut Creek House" in the corners. A blacksmith shop and a store soon joined the hotel, and a year later, Hiram Penniman (who built Shadelands Ranch) laid out the town site and realigned the Main Street of today. Two decades later, the community changed its name from The Corners to Walnut Creek.
In December 1862 a United States Post Office was established, and the community was named "Walnut Creek". The downtown street patterns laid out in 1871–1872 by pioneer Homer Shuey on a portion of one of his family's large cattle ranches are still present today.
Walnut Creek began to grow with the arrival of Southern Pacific Railroad service in 1891. On October 21, 1914, the town and the surrounding area of 500 acres (2.0 square kilometres)), were incorporated as the 8th city in Contra Costa County. A branch line of the Southern Pacific railroad ran through Walnut Creek until the late 1970s. The East Bay Regional Park District's Iron Horse Trail, used by walkers, runners and bikers, runs over what were portions of that branch line. The mainline of the Sacramento Northern Railway passed through Walnut Creek. Both railroads had stations here. Today, the Pittsburg/Bay Point – SFO Line line of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) serves Walnut Creek with a station adjacent to Highway 680.
With the 1951 opening of the downtown Broadway Shopping Center (now Broadway Plaza), Contra Costa County's first major retail center, the city took off in a new direction, and its population more than quadrupled – from 2,460 in 1950 to 9,903 in 1960.
Walnut Creek is located at 37°54′23″N 122°03′54″W. Portions lie in both the San Ramon Valley and the Ygnacio Valley below the western slopes of Mount Diablo. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 19.8 sq mi (51.2 km2), 0.06 percent of which is water. Walnut Creek – the actual waterway that runs through town – has been routed underneath downtown through a series of tunnels starting at the southwest end of Macy's and ending just southwest of Maria Maria Restaurant.
Walnut Creek owns more open space per capita than any other community in the state of California. In 1974, Walnut Creek voters approved a $6.7 million bond measure that allowed the city to purchase 1,800 acres (730 ha) of undeveloped hillsides, ridge lines, and park sites. Walnut Creek owns parts of Lime Ridge Open Space, Shell Ridge Open Space, Acalanes Ridge Open Space, and Sugarloaf Open Space.
The East Bay Regional Park District operates Diablo Foothills Regional Park and Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area, both in Walnut Creek.
Walnut Creek's warm summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification Csb) is typical of California's interior valleys. In summer, high pressure is in control of the region, leading to almost unbroken sunshine and virtually no precipitation. Days start out cool but quickly warm up, with high temperatures normally in the 80s Fahrenheit (27 to 32 °C). Temperatures of 100 °F (38 °C) or hotter occur numerous times during heatwaves, however. In the winter, the jet stream moves far enough south so that Pacific storms can reach Walnut Creek, bringing much-needed rain – average annual rainfall approximates 20 inches (510 mm), with slight variations occurring in microclimates based on elevation and topography. During particularly cold storms, snow falls on the peak of nearby Mount Diablo, but snow in the valley floor is very rare. There are also plenty of clear, mild days in winter, often with morning frost. The climate allows for the successful cultivation of many plants and crops, being warm enough for citrus yet cold enough for apples. The Ruth Bancroft Garden is a renowned botanical garden that showcases the diversity of plants that can be successfully grown.
The city hosts two BART stations, Walnut Creek station and Pleasant Hill station (in the unincorporated area known as Contra Costa Centre Transit Village). BART provides direct service from Walnut Creek to San Francisco, heading west, and Pittsburg, heading east. Other cities such as Berkeley and Fremont can be accessed via transfers.
Central Contra Costa Transit Authority (County Connection/CCCTA) provides bus service throughout Walnut Creek and Contra Costa County at a modest cost. County Connection also operates three free weekday shuttles within city limits: the Downtown Trolley/Route 4 loops from Walnut Creek BART to Broadway Plaza; Route 5 runs from Walnut Creek BART to Creekside; and Route 7, which runs from Pleasant Hill BART to Shadelands Business Park.
Walnut Creek is transected by the Iron Horse Trail (running north/south) through its downtown, as well as the Contra Costa Canal Trail (running east/west) at the north end of the city. Both these trails, in addition to city bike lanes, make bicycle transportation feasible for both recreation and an alternative commute.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Walnut Creek had a population of 64,173. The population density was 3,246.2 people per square mile (1,253.4/km²). The racial makeup of Walnut Creek was 50,487 (78.7 percent) White, 1,035 (1.6 percent) African American, 155 (0.2 percent) Native American, 8,027 (12.5 percent) Asian, 125 (0.2 percent) Pacific Islander, 1,624 (2.5 percent) from other races, and 2,720 (4.2 percent) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5,540 persons (8.6 percent).
The Census reported that 63,171 people (98.4 percent of the population) lived in households, 176 (0.3 percent) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 826 (1.3 percent) were institutionalized.
There were 30,443 households, out of which 6,363 (20.9 percent) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 13,305 (43.7 percent) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 2,071 (6.8 percent) had a female householder with no husband present, 844 (2.8 percent) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 1,286 (4.2 percent) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 298 (1.0 percent) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 11,884 households (39.0 percent) were made up of individuals and 6,424 (21.1 percent) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.08. There were 16,220 families (53.3 percent of all households); the average family size was 2.79.
The population was spread out with 10,719 people (16.7 percent) under the age of 18, 3,599 people (5.6 percent) aged 18 to 24, 15,137 people (23.6 percent) aged 25 to 44, 17,653 people (27.5 percent) aged 45 to 64, and 17,065 people (26.6 percent) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 47.9 years. For every 100 females there were 86.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.0 males.
There were 32,681 housing units at an average density of 1,653.2 per square mile (638.3/km²), of which 20,262 (66.6 percent) were owner-occupied, and 10,181 (33.4 percent) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 2.4 percent; the rental vacancy rate was 6.7 percent. 43,079 people (67.1 percent of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 20,092 people (31.3 percent) lived in rental housing units.
As of the census of 2000, there were 64,296 people, 30,301 households, and 16,544 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,246.9/km² (3,229.6/mi²). There were 31,425 housing units at an average density of 609.4/km² (1,578.5/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 83.89 percent White, 1.07 percent African American, 0.33 percent Native American, 9.36 percent Asian, 0.15 percent Pacific Islander, 1.96 percent from other races, and 3.25 percent from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.99 percent of the population.
There were 30,301 households out of which 20.9 percent had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.7 percent were married couples living together, 6.7 percent had a female householder with no husband present, and 45.4 percent were non-families. 38.0 percent of all households were made up of individuals and 19.7 percent had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.09 and the average family size was 2.78.
In the city, the population was spread out with 17.6 percent under the age of 18, 5.2 percent from 18 to 24, 27.1 percent from 25 to 44, 24.8 percent from 45 to 64, and 25.3 percent who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females there were 85.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.5 males.
Walnut Creek residents attend schools in five public-school districts. The Walnut Creek School District (K–8) has 5 elementary schools, one magnet school(K-8), and one middle school in the city. Some residents are served by schools from the Mount Diablo Unified School District (K–12), the Acalanes Union High School District (9–12), the San Ramon Valley Unified School District (K–12), and the Lafayette School District (K–8). The following public schools are within the city limits of Walnut Creek:
Walnut Creek is home to several private schools, including
The Walnut Creek Library and the Ygnacio Valley Library of the Contra Costa County Library are located in Walnut Creek. The Ygnacio Valley Branch, which opened in 1975, is also known as the Thurman G. Casey Memorial Library. Fundraising and other support is provided by the Walnut Creek Library Foundation.
On February 26, 2008, the city demolished the Walnut Creek Library, that was built in 1961 at the southern end of Civic Park. Mayor Gwen Regalia hosted a groundbreaking on the same site for the new library on May 19, 2008. The new library, designed by Group 4 Architecture, Research + Planning, Inc., has 42,000 square feet (3,900 m2) and an underground parking garage. Construction was completed in 2010 and the library was officially opened on July 17, 2010.
Companies based in Walnut Creek include Carollo Engineers, Central Garden & Pet (makers of AvoDerm, Amdro, Kaytee, among others), American Reprographics Company, CSE Insurance Group, Maximum Games, and the PMI Group.
According to Walnut Creek's 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
In 2012, the city was listed among the 10 best places to retire in the U.S. by CBS Money Watch and U.S. News.
This 3,500-square-foot exhibition space hosts several exhibitions annually, featuring historic and modern art from contemporary artists. The gallery is a community-based facility that provides art workshops, lectures, and educational programs to the public throughout the year.
The California Symphony, notable for its commitment to the performance of music by American composers, has been based in Walnut Creek since its inception in 1986.
The Center Repertory Company is the in-house theater company for the Lesher Center for the Arts. It stages six productions a year, including its annual production of A Christmas Carol.
A community arts education program offering classes to children and adults since 1964. Classes include beginning, intermediate and expert levels in ceramics, sculpture, dance, fiber arts, digital media, photography, drama, drawing, painting, printmaking, glass, jewelry and music. The Clay Arts Guild (CAG) is a non-profit volunteer organization, established in 1964, supporting ceramics arts education under the Civic Arts Education program. An arts-based preschool and youth arts center are popular year-round programs, all part of the City of Walnut Creek's Arts Recreation & Community Services Department.
Established in 1993, Diablo Ballet is Contra Costa's only professional dance company that also tours nationally and internationally. The company presents renowned classics in addition to premiering new contemporary works. Diablo Ballet has also been recognized by the California state government for their PEEK Youth Outreach Program, which brings in-school arts education to under-served elementary school students in the East Bay and also those incarcerated by the Juvenile Justice system.
The Festival Opera Association was founded in Walnut Creek in 1991 to preserve and advance the operatic art form. The company produces a free Opera in the Park in Civic Park in addition to main stage performances at the Lesher Center for the Arts.
Three performance spaces (The Knight Stage 3, The Hoffman, and The Margaret Lesher theatres) and the Bedford Gallery are included in this modern building. The Center is named for Dean Lesher, newspaper publisher and founder of the Contra Costa Times.
Walnut Creek is served by the daily newspaper, The East Bay Times (formerly The Contra Costa Times). The paper was originally run and owned by the Lesher family. Since the death of Dean Lesher in 1993, the paper has had several owners. The Times, as it is known, has a section called "The Walnut Creek Journal."
Walnut Creek TV (WCTV) is the city's government-access television channel, covering local government and community events. WCTV is available in Walnut Creek on Comcast channel 28 (channel 26 in Rossmoor), Astound channel 29, AT&T U-verse channel 99 under the menu option "Walnut Creek Television," and on YouTube. Claycord.com is the widely read independent news and talk blog serving the greater Walnut Creek metropolitan area.
Walnut Creek has an active Sister Cities International program with two sister cities. Schools in the city have a yearly student-exchange with these cities.
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