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City of Arcata
—  City  —
Map of California showing the location of Arcata
Coordinates: 40°51′59″N 124°04′58″W / 40.86639°N 124.08278°W / 40.86639; -124.08278Coordinates: 40°51′59″N 124°04′58″W / 40.86639°N 124.08278°W / 40.86639; -124.08278
Country United States
State California
County Humboldt
Settlement 1850
Incorporated 1858
 - Type Mayor-council
 - Mayor Mark Wheetley
 - City manager Randy Mendosa (interim)
 - Total 11.0 sq mi (28.6 km2)
 - Land 9.2 sq mi (23.8 km2)
 - Water 1.9 sq mi (4.8 km2)
Elevation 23 ft (7 m)
Population (2006)
 - Total 17,294
 Density 1,812.1/sq mi (699.7/km2)
  Source: U.S. Census
Time zone PST (UTC-8)
 - Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP codes 95518, 95521
Area code(s) 707
FIPS code 06-02476
GNIS feature ID 0277471

Arcata is a city adjacent to the Arcata Bay (northern) portion of Humboldt Bay in Humboldt County, California, United States. In 2006 Arcata's population was estimated to be 17,294.[1] This college town, located 280 miles (450 km) north of San Francisco, is home to Humboldt State University.



In the past, Arcata has been notably progressive in its political makeup, and was the first city in the United States to elect a majority of its city council members from the Green Party. It is currently made up of a Democratic majority. As a result of the progressive majority, Arcata capped the number of chain restaurants allowed in the city.[2] Arcata was also the first municipality to ban the growth of any type of Genetically Modified Organism within city limits, with exceptions for research and educational purposes.[3]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.0 square miles (28.6 km²), of which 9.2 square miles (23.8 km²) is land and 1.9 square miles (4.8 km²) (16.76%) is water.

There are several neighborhoods, or geophysical areas, that are within Arcata, including Aldergrove, Alliance, Bayside, the "Arcata Bottom", California Heights, Greenview, Northtown, South G Street, Sunny Brae, Valley West, Westwood, and others.


Arcata's climate is dominated by marine influences associated with Humboldt Bay and the Pacific Ocean. On average, Arcata experiences 40 to 50 inches (1,000 to 1,300 mm) of rain per year, mostly falling between October and April. Northerly winds keep the springs feeling very cold, and create a coastal upwelling of deep, cold ocean water. This upwelling in turn results in foggy conditions throughout the summer, with high temperatures commonly in the 50s and low 60s. Yet just a few miles inland the temperatures may be up to 50 degrees warmer in the summer and fall. Winter high temperatures average in the low 40s to mid-50s, with lows in the mid-30s to lower 40s. Temperatures infrequently dip below 30 °F (−1 °C) in the winter, and nearly as infrequently climb above 70 °F (21 °C) in the summer and fall.

Climate data for Arcata, California
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F 53 54 54 55 57 60 60 61 62 60 57 55 57
Average low °F 42 42 42 44 48 51 52 52 51 48 45 43 47
Precipitation inches 8.6 6.3 5.3 2.5 2.3 0.9 0.1 0.2 0.8 3.5 4.9 6.7 41.9
Average high °C 12 12 12 12 13 15 15 16 16 15 13 12 13
Average low °C 5 5 5 6 8 10 11 11 10 8 7 6 8
Precipitation cm 21 15 13 6 5 2 0 0 1 8 12 17 106
Source: Weatherbase[4] May 2007


As of the census[5] of 2000, there were 16,651 people, 7,051 households, and 2,813 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,812.1 people per square mile (699.6/km²). There were 7,272 housing units at an average density of 791.4/sq mi (305.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 84.51% White, 1.56% Black or African American, 2.65% Native American, 2.27% Asian, 0.20% Pacific Islander, 3.49% from other races, and 5.31% from two or more races. 7.22% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

The composition of Arcata's households reflect the large number of unrelated college-age students living together. Of the 7,051 households in Arcata, only 19.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, only 25.9% were married couples living together, 10.4% had a female householder with no husband present, while 60.1% were non-families. 34.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.16 and the average family size was 2.81.

Arcata's age cohorts are also distorted by a large percentage of college-age students. Only 15.3% of Arcata residents are under the age of 18, while nearly a third (32.3%) fall between ages 18 and 24, and 27.8% are 25 to 44 years old. Among older age cohorts, 15.9% are 45 to 64 years old, and 8.7% were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 26 years. For every 100 females there were 99.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.9 males.

As of 2002, there were 8,210 employed persons living in Arcata[6] and an unemployment rate of 7.2%. For many years the timber industry dominated Arcata's economy. Today, the majority of Arcata jobs come from government (including schools and Humboldt State University), the city's many owner-resident small businesses, some lumber and food manufacturing, and a wide variety of service industries (ranging from professional services to restaurant and hospitality). A large but unmeasurable cannabis economy employs many in Arcata and the surrounding area.[citation needed] The area's economy and population are both growing more slowly than the State of California overall.[citation needed]

Median reported household income in Arcata was $22,315, and the median income for a family was $36,716. Males had a median income of $26,577 versus $24,358 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,531, however this figure may be artificially low due to the large student population. About 14.3% of families and 32.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 22.4% of those under age 18 and 6.0% of those age 65 or over.


In the state legislature Arcata is located in the 2nd Senate District, represented by Democrat Pat Wiggins, and in the 1st Assembly District, represented by Democrat Wesley Chesbro. Federally, Arcata is represented by Congressman Mike Thompson and is located in California's 1st congressional district.

Arcata voters are among the most progressive in Humboldt County. For example, in the 2008 US presidential election, Republican candidate John McCain received less than 10 percent of the popular vote in many Arcata precincts, while in those same precincts Democratic candidate Obama received 85 percent or more of the vote.[7] Arcata is a hub of liberal thought typical of a college town, a place where environmentalism and social activism are broadly embraced.[8] Humboldt County fits the statewide trend of increasingly liberal coastal counties and conservative interior counties, but some conservative voters remain.[9] College students have, at times, been mayor or city council members.


Arcata is the site of Humboldt State University, the northernmost campus of the 23-campus California State University system. With a student body equaling nearly half the city's total population, Arcata is a classic example of a traditional "college town".


The heart of Arcata is the Plaza. In the 1850s the Plaza was where goods destined for the Trinity County mines were loaded onto mule trains. The Plaza has a green lawn, extensive flower plantings, and at its center a statue of President McKinley. The Plaza is surrounded by stores, bars, coffee shops, restaurants, and live music venues. The Plaza is also the center of the summer time farmer's market, and serves as a venue for 4th of July festivities, the Arcata Main Street Oyster Festival, the start of the Kinetic Sculpture Race, and the North Country Fair. The Plaza is also a popular rendezvous point for travelers on the great West Coast hippie trail who stop off in Arcata.

Arcata also features a large number of original Victorian structures, many of which have been restored, and is home to the Minor Theater, one of the oldest movies-only theaters in the United States which is still in operation.[10]



Indigenous cultures

The Wiyot People and Yurok People lived in this area prior to Russian and European arrival. "Kori" is the name for the Wiyot settlement that existed on the site of what would become Arcata.[11] The natives of this region are the farthest-southwest people whose language has Algonquian roots. The traditional homeland of the Wiyot ranged from the Little River in the north and continues south through Humboldt Bay (including the present cities of Eureka and Arcata) and then south to the lower Eel River basin. The traditional homeland of the Yurok ranges from Mad River to beyond the Klamath River in the north. Today, Arcata is the headquarters of the Big Lagoon Rancheria tribe, who maintain a 20-acre reservation close by. California does not have any true sovereign nation Indian tribes and all tribal lands and tribal members are subject to state and local regulations with some notable exceptions. The tribes do maintain exclusive civil jurisdiction. The Local Indian tribes operate several casinos in the area.

Euro-American arrival

Arcata was originally founded as Union Town or Union[12] (the permanent name change to "Arcata" occurred in 1860).[13] Union was created as a port, and re-provisioning center for the gold mines in the Klamath, Trinity, and Salmon mountains to the east, and was very briefly the county seat during this period. It was slightly closer to the mines than Eureka, which gave Union an early advantage. What was to become the first significant town on Humboldt Bay began as Union Company employees laid out the plaza and first city streets in the Spring of 1850. By later in the 1850s redwood timber replaced the depleted gold fields as the economic driver for the region, and Eureka became the principal city on the bay, gaining the county seat by the end of the decade.[14]

The Union Town post office opened in 1852 and changed its name to Arcata in 1860.[12]

In 1886, Arcata expelled its Chinese population and enacted the following resolution: "We, the citizens of Arcata and vicinity, wish the total expulsion of the Chinese from our midst. We endorse the efforts of Eureka to exclude all Chinese settlements in the city and environs."[15]

Recent history

In August 1989, the voters of Arcata passed the Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Act, prohibiting work on nuclear weapons, and the storage or transportation of nuclear weapons within the City Limits. The ordinance also minimized the City's contracts for and purchases of the products and services of nuclear weapons contractors.



U.S. Route 101 extends north and south and bisects the city. The downtown has several overcrossings, Arcata is considered a fairly walkable community.[16] State Route 299 connects to U.S. Route 101 at the northern end of Arcata. SR 299 begins at this point and extends easterly towards Weaverville, Redding, Alturas, and Nevada. SR 255 Connects to U.S. Route 101 at the southern end of Arcata on Samoa Blvd. and to the west of US-101 passes through Manila. Bridge access (left at first controlled intersection) leads to Eureka through Woodley island and Indian island (using three bridges) ending on 4th (south 101) and 5th (north 101) streets in Eureka, CA. Used as an alternate route to the US-101, its speed limit is 55 mph thought, unlike the 101 which from the Bayside cutoff to Gallagher lane north 101 and x street south 101 is 50 mph, due to a safety corridor.

The highways connecting Arcata to areas outside Humboldt County contain long segments of winding two-lane road traversing remote mountains and river canyons, portions of which can become closed after extensive rain and wind storms, necessitating sometimes very long detours. While Arcata, Eureka, Fortuna and the Redwood Coast region is part of the most populous state in the US, it is also one of the most remote locations along the continental US west coast.


Redwood Transit System (RTS) is the major provider of public bus transportation in Humboldt County with several stops in Arcata. Arcata and Mad River Transit Service (AMRTS) is the local bus and serves Arcata and unincorporated areas such as the bottom. Dial-A-Ride service is available from Humboldt Senior Resource Center through an application process.

Transit and longhaul bus services including Amtrak and Greyhound use the Arcata Transit Center as their central interchange point for Arcata.


The closest airport is the Arcata-Eureka Airport and is located in McKinleyville. This airport was built by the Army Air Corps in World War II in a particularly foggy location, as a site to test fog dispersal techniques. No successful dispersal method appears to have been found, and after demobilization the airfield was given to the County of Humboldt as a civilian airport. This airport is one of the foggiest in the world, resulting in frequent flight delays or cancellations. Some arriving flights are diverted to Redding, California, a three hour drive to the east, or Crescent city, about 90 miles to the north.


There is a deep water port in nearby Eureka. In 1854, the Union Wharf and Plank Walk Company built redwood plank and rails 2.7 miles (4.3 km) out into the deeper water of Arcata Bay, providing Arcata with a deep-water seaport. This was initially a horse-drawn railroad, though it was later converted to steam. This eventually became the Arcata and Mad River Railroad (now defunct). Arcata's wharf is long gone, and only a few piers can be seen at low tide. Some very small recreational boats can be launched from the foot of I street at the Arcata Marsh at high tide. However, at low tide Arcata Bay becomes a vast mud flat and a challenge to boaters.


The newspaper with the largest circulation produced in the city is the regional weekly publication known as the North Coast Journal. The paper is free and circulates 22,000 papers a week throughout the northcoast region.[17] The Arcata Eye is a newspaper covering Arcata and Blue Lake that is published weekly in Arcata; the paper has some renown outside of the area for its humorously-written police blotter.[18] HSU also has a weekly student-run paper called The Lumberjack, which won California College Newspaper Association awards for General Excellence (third place), Back to School Issue (first place), editorial (third place), and feature photo (first place) in 2008 for Fall 2007 issues.[citation needed] The university also has a student-run, general-interest magazine, the Osprey, which is published once per semester. Osprey has won several awards, including the Society of Professional Journalists' award for "Best Student Magazine Published More than Once a Year" for the Western region (California, Nevada, Arizona) in 2005.[citation needed] The Times-Standard is the only major regional daily publication covering Arcata. Arcata also has a number of small 'zines and blogs that cover a variety of issues important to Arcatans, such as youth culture and homelessness.

The Northcoast Environmental Center, located in Arcata, publishes the Econews, a monthly journal dedicated to "educate, activate, and when necessary litigate on behalf of the Klamath-Siskiyou bioregion."[19]

Environmental innovation

The Arcata Marsh, a constructed network of freshwater and saltwater ponds initially completed in 1979, demonstrates a revolutionary marsh-based wastewater treatment system.[20] The marsh was built on a retired municipal solid waste dump and has received many awards, including the Innovations in Government award from the Ford Foundation and Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. The marsh is a popular destination for cyclists, bird watchers, transients, and joggers, and was recently expanded as a part of the McDaniel Slough restoration project.[21]

The City owns a total of 2,100 acres of forest land, including the Arcata Community Forest, the Sunny Brae Forest, and the Jacoby Creek Forest. Arcata's community forest lands have been the subject of national media attention.[22] The Arcata Community Forest was originally acquired by the City in order to protect the integrity of its municipal water supply. Upon acquisition in 1955, The Arcata Community Forest was dedicated as the first city-owned community forest in the State of California.[23] Since then it has served many functions including recreation, education, sustainable timber harvesting, and wildlife habitat. The forest serves as the headwaters of many of Arcata's urban streams. In 1979, the citizens of Arcata passed the "Forest Management and Parkland Initiative." The intent of the legislation was to develop a responsible and ecologically sensitive long-term forest management program, which would provide timber-harvest revenues for the acquisition and development of City parkland.[24] In 1998 the Arcata Community Forest was the first municipal forest certified in the U.S. under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).[23][25] Since that time additional acreage has been protected, such as the 175 acre Sunny Brae Forest acquisition in 2006, and the 2009 receipt of a donated 185 acre conservation easement adjacent to the Arcata Community Forest's northern boundary in the upper Janes Creek watershed.[26][27]

In August 1989, the voters of Arcata passed the Nuclear Weapons Free Zone Act, prohibiting activities benefiting nuclear weapons contractors within city jurisdictional limits.[28]

Arcata residents are active in regional environmental protection, and played a contributing role in the successful effort to preserve the Headwaters Forest from logging. The north coast region is often divided on environmental issues, with conflicts arising between long time residents and rural land owners who have traditionally made a living harvesting the area's natural resources, and newer residents aiming to preserve the region's natural habitats.


Arcata is home to the Humboldt Crabs, the nation's longest continuously operated semi-pro baseball team, which has played every season since 1945.[29]

Notable people

Sister city

  • Camoapa, Nicaragua


  • Kinetic Sculpture Race
  • North Country Fair
  • Godwit Days
  • Arts! Arcata every second Friday from 6-9pm
  • Arcata Main Street Oyster Festival
  • Fourth of July Jubilee
  • Saturday's Farmer's Market
  • "I" Street Block Party, in the summer to benefit Arcata's sister city

See also


  1. ^ California State Statistical Abstract
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Weatherbase: Historical Weather for Arcata, California, United States of America". Retrieved May 1, 2007. 
  5. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ [1] 2008 Official Humboldt County Elections Canvass
  8. ^ Humboldt State University#Student life HSU Student Life
  9. ^ Jason Kirkpatrick (Spring 1997). "Arcata, California's Green City Council Majority". Synthesis/Regeneration: A Magazine of Green Social Thought (St. Louis, Missouri: Green Parties world wide) 13. Retrieved 2009-09-06. l
  10. ^ "The Story of the Minor Theater". North Coast Journal. January 7, 2000. Retrieved 2008-07-01. 
  11. ^ Gudde, Erwin (August 1998). California Place Names: The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names. University of California Press. pp. 13. ISBN 978-0-520-21316-6. 
  12. ^ a b Durham, David L. (1998). California's Geographic Names: A Gazetteer of Historic and Modern Names of the State. Quill Driver Books. p. 10. ISBN 9781884995149. 
  13. ^ Gudde, Erwin; William Bright (2004). California Place Names (Fourth ed. ed.). University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-24217-3. 
  14. ^ Van Kirk, Susan. (1986).The Plaza. White City Publishing. Arcata, CA.
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "About Us". The North Coast Journal Weekly of Politics, People & Art. Retrieved 2008-07-02. 
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^
  • The Plaza, by Susan Van Kirk, 1986. White City Publishing. Arcata, CA.

External links

City related



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