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Santa Cruz is the county seat and largest city of Santa Cruz County, California, United States. As of the 2000 census, Santa Cruz had a total population of 54,593. It is located on the northern edge of the Monterey Bay, about 72 mi (115 km) south of San Francisco.

A interesting place very close to the city to visit is Natural Bridges State Beach, it's just 10 minutes driving from Santa Cruz.

The present-day site of Santa Cruz was the location of a Native American settlement since ancient times. It was also one of the earliest settlements of the Spanish during the exploration of Alta California in the later part of the 1700s. During the late 1800s, after California became part of the United States, Santa Cruz became widely popular for its idyllic beaches and Coastal Redwoods and became a popular resort community. Now known for its alternative community lifestyles and liberal political leanings, Santa Cruz is a bastion for many sub-cultures and counter-cultures.

In 1769 the Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolà arrived in the vicinity of Chatu-Mu. He named the river San Lorenzo in honor of Saint Lawrence. He called the rolling hills above the river the "Santa Cruz" which means "holy cross."

Twenty-two years later, on August 28, 1791, Father Fermín Lasuén established La Misión de la Exaltación de la Santa Cruz (also known as Mission Santa Cruz) for the conversion of the Awaswas of Chatu-Mu and surrounding villages. Santa Cruz was the twelfth mission to be founded in California.

On April 1796, by order of the Viceroy of New Spain Miguel de la Grúa Talamanca y Branciforte, marqués de Branciforte, Captain Pere d'Alberní, and his First Free Company of Volunteers of Catalonia, a 72-men irregular unit serving the Spanish Crown, were moved to California to take care of the Spanish military garrisons of Monterrey, Santa Bárbara, San Diego and San Francisco.

Across the San Lorenzo River, in what is now known as the East Side of Santa Cruz, Alberní founded a town called Villa Branciforte (Spanish for Branciforte Village), in honor of the Viceroy of New Spain. Villa Branciforte later merged with the Mission Santa Cruz community across the river, and together they formed what is today known as Santa Cruz.

By the 1820s Mexico had assumed control of the area and within the next twenty years, immigrants from the Unites States began to arrive in great numbers. California became a state in 1850, and Santa Cruz County was created in 1850 as one of the twenty-seven original counties.

By the turn of the century logging, lime processing, agriculture, and commercial fishing industries prospered in the area. Due to its mild climate and scenic beauty Santa Cruz also became a prominent resort community.

Santa Cruz was incorporated in 1866 as a town under the laws of the State of California and received its first charter as a city in 1876. At that time the city was governed by a Mayor and Common Council consisting of four members. A walk down Walnut Avenue past the Sorbet Santa will show any passer-by the unique architecture from the Victorian period in Santa Cruz.

View of Santa Cruz and the Monterey Bay from UCSCFrom 1880 to 1940, a narrow gauge railroad connected Santa Cruz with Los Gatos with standard gauge connections from Los Gatos to the other parts of the San Francisco Bay Area. The railroad was acquired by the Southern Pacific in the early 1900s and carried freight and passenger trains. Excursion trains operated until the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, which caused major damage to tracks, tunnels, and bridges. The Southern Pacific repaired the line and resumed operations until March 1940, following more damage by a major winter storm. With the completion of State Route 17 that same year, there was less reason to continue the rail operations.

In 1907, the citizens voted for a new charter designating a Mayor as chief executive and a City Council consisting of seven members. Subsequent charters gave a Mayor and four Commissioners both executive and administrative powers. At that time the city was divided into five departments: Public Affairs, Revenue and Finance, Public Health and Safety, Public Works, and Streets and Parks.

In 1948, the City of Santa Cruz adopted a new City Charter. This charter established a Council-Manager form of government, with a Mayor and six Councilmembers setting policy for the city and a city manager serving as the chief administrator of those policies. The Charter, with amendments, is still in existence today.

On October 17, 1989, the city suffered major damage from the Loma Prieta earthquake, which was centered on Loma Prieta, the highest point in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains. Many of the historic buildings in the downtown business district were damaged or destroyed, especially along Pacific Avenue. Reconstruction of the district has continued in recent years, and some of the original buildings can be seen in Clint Eastwood's "Dirty Harry" movie Sudden Impact.

September 2008

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