Modesto, California: Wikis


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City of Modesto
—  City  —
Nickname(s): Motown
Motto: Water Wealth Contentment Health
Location in Stanislaus County and the state of California
Coordinates: 37°39′41″N 120°59′40″W / 37.66139°N 120.99444°W / 37.66139; -120.99444Coordinates: 37°39′41″N 120°59′40″W / 37.66139°N 120.99444°W / 37.66139; -120.99444
Country United States United States
State California California
County Stanislaus
Incorporated 1884
 - Type Council-Manager
 - City Council Mayor Jim Ridenour
Dave Lopez
Janice Keating
Garrad Marsh
Will O’Bryant
Kristin Olsen
Brad Hawn
 - City Attorney Susan Alcala Wood
 - City Auditor Frank DeMattos
 - City Clerk Stephanie Lopez
 - City Manager
 - City 93.1 km2 (39.0 sq mi)
 - Land 92.7 km2 (35.8 sq mi)
 - Water 0.4 km2 (0.2 sq mi)
Elevation 28 m (92 ft)
Population ((January 1, 2009))
 - City 211,156
 Density 2,037.4/km2 (5,277.3/sq mi)
 Metro 516,784
Time zone PST (UTC-8)
 - Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP codes 95350-95358
Area code(s) 209
FIPS code 06-48354
GNIS feature ID 0277609

Modesto is the county seat of Stanislaus County, California. With a population of approximately 211,156 as of April 2009, Modesto ranks as the 17th largest city in the state of California.[1] Modesto is located in Northern California, 92 miles east of San Francisco, 68 miles south of the state capital of Sacramento and 66 miles west of Yosemite National Park. Modesto, a 29-time Tree City USA honoree,[2] is surrounded by some of the richest farmland in the United States, lending to a ranking for the county as 6th among all California counties in farm production.[3] Led by milk, almonds, chickens, cattle, and walnuts, the county grossed nearly $2.5 billion in agricultural production in 2007.

Locally, Modesto is home to the critically acclaimed Gallo Center for the Arts,Prospect Theater Project, the Modesto Nuts (a Colorado Rockies MLB affiliate) and the Amgen Tour of California, which in 2009 saw cycling legend Lance Armstrong cross the finish line. The Xclamation Festival, X-Fest, has become the city’s largest entertainment and cultural gathering, recently celebrating its 10th year. The event in 2009 had an estimated 16,000 attendees enjoy music and food on the streets of downtown Modesto.

In February of 2010, the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which interviewed more than 353,000 participants and asked individuals to assess their jobs, finances, physical health, emotional state of mind and communities, ranked Modesto 161 out of the 162 cities surveyed.[4] In December 2009, Forbes Magazine ranked Modesto 48th out of 100 among "Best Bang-for-the-Buck Cities;" according to Forbes. In this ranking, Modesto ranked 8th in housing affordability and travel time but also ranked 86th in job forecast growth and 99th in foreclosures.[5] In variety of other past rankings, Modesto has scored in the top ten worst places to live due to its high cost of living, high unemployment, long commutes and high crime rate.

The Modesto Symphony Orchestra, which finds its home at the Gallo Center, held their first performance when Modesto had a population of 17,000 in 1931 and continues to be a staple in the community.[6] Not to be outdone by the Symphony, MoBand (Modesto Band of Stanislaus County), established in 1919, is one of the oldest, continuously performing bands in the U.S.[7] The group performs a free 6-week summer concert-in-the-park series with its 130 volunteer musicians.

Summers in Modesto are also marked by the revival of American Graffiti, the 1973 film and cult classic written and directed by Modesto native George Lucas. Lucas’ film paid homage to teenage life in 1962 based on his own experiences growing up in the city of Modesto. The city council refused to let Lucas film Graffiti in Modesto so he was forced to make the film elsewhere. The annual festival, Graffiti Nights, celebrates this event and lasts the entire month of June attracting thousands of visitors and car enthusiasts along with hundreds of classic and antique cars.

Modesto is also the home of E. & J. Gallo Winery, the world’s largest producer and exporter of California wines. Founded in 1933 by brothers Ernest and Julio Gallo, the company continually revolutionizes the wine industry in America. Other major privately owned companies based in Modesto include Foster Farms Dairy, Royal Robbins, international award winner Fiscalini Cheese, Sciabica Olive Oil, Acme Construction, Aderholt Specialty, and 511 Tactical (formerly a part of Royal Robbins).



Modesto, originally a stop on the railroad connecting Sacramento to Los Angeles, was founded in 1870 and was to be named for William C. Ralston, financier of many projects in early California. However, he declined the suggestion and a Spanish-speaking railroad worker at the naming ceremony said that Ralston was "Muy modesto" (very modest). Thus, the town was named Modesto.[citation needed] It is unknown at this time if this story is mere folklore or actual fact.

The city was incorporated in 1884, at which time it had over 1000 people. With fields of grain and the proximity of the river (grain barges during the flood season) and railroad traffic, the town grew. Later, dams were installed in the foothills, irrigation water came, and irrigated fields of vegetables and fruit or nut trees prospered. By 1900, its population was over 4,500. During World War 2, the area provided canned goods, powdered milk, and eggs for the troops and the allies. For the next few decades, Modesto's population boomed at about 2% per year to over 100,000 in 1980 and over 200,000 in 2001.

Modesto's official slogan is "Water Wealth Contentment Health," which is emblazoned on a large downtown arch featured in local photographs and postcards. A contest was run in 1911 to determine the slogan. The original winning slogan was: "Nobody's got Modesto's goat". The second place entry was the final winner.


Modesto is known for the following tourist attractions and historical sites.

The McHenry Mansion.
  • McHenry Mansion Built by hand in the early 1880s by Robert McHenry, a local rancher and banker. The mansion is included on the National Register of Historic Places. Tours are given.
  • McHenry Museum Across the street from the McHenry Mansion. Filled with tidbits from Modesto's history.
  • George Lucas Plaza American Graffiti inspired bronze statue made in the honor of Modesto filmmaker George Lucas, located at Five Points (the intersections of McHenry Avenue, "J" Street, 17th Street, Downey and Needham).
  • Gallo Center for the Arts , Center for performing arts recently opened and is located in downtown Modesto at 1000 "I" Street.
  • Downtown Modesto is known for having a variety of restaurants and night life.
  • The State Theatre Dating back to the 1920s, it was recently renovated and serves as a local performance arts center and as a theater specializing in independent and foreign films.
  • John Thurman Field The stadium renovated several years ago, the home of the Modesto Nuts baseball team (single "A" affiliate of the Colorado Rockies MLB team).
  • Graceada Park Neighborhood an area of representative old homes (circa 1920s and earlier) with streets lined with large city planted shade trees and a series of parks, a bandshell and other amenities. The name Graceada is based on two old local ladies that helped promote the idea of a park, Grace and Ada.

The 1973 movie, "American Graffiti", starring Ron Howard, Richard Dreyfuss and Cindy Williams was set in 1962 Modesto; however, the actual filming location of the scenes of the weekend cruising was actually filmed elsewhere in California.


Modesto is served by one of the busiest rail corridors in the country. The Amtrak San Joaquins make ten daily stops on the route between Oakland and Bakersfield, and two stops daily on the route between Sacramento and Bakersfield.


Modesto is served by the Modesto City-County Airport that lies east of California State Route 99 within the city limits. SkyWest Airlines (operating as United Express) provides air service to San Francisco International Airport. The airport is used for manufacturing and the shipping industries throughout California and the United States.


Interstate 5 and California State Route 99 provide major highway access to Modesto. California State Route 132 links the city to Interstate 580, providing commuter access to highways into the Bay Area. California State Route 108 connects to Oakdale, California and east to the foothills.


Modesto has wet, cool winters and hot, dry summers. Average January temperatures range from 54.0°F in the day to 37.0°F at night. Most of the rainfall occurs during the winter and averages 12.4 inches annually. Since the city does not have full sewer systems, many of the streets flood during the winter rain storms.

Average July temperatures range from 94°F in the day to 58°F at night. During the summer months there can be multiple days in a row with temperatures exceeding 100.0°F


Although the city is located on the Tuolumne River and near the Stanislaus River, it has no operating port for oceangoing ships due to the depth of the rivers, and due to a small dam on the Tuolumne near Highway 99. In Modesto there is also a small creek aptly named Dry Creek, which although badly polluted by agricultural runoff, is adjacent to several Modesto parks. Most of the rivers and creeks are otherwise not accessible to public use or view due to fences and private property rights. There are no public boat ramps or docks within the city limits. Although Summer brings high temperatures, swimming is prohibited by local ordinance in rivers, creeks and the many irrigation canals. Rivers and lakes near Waterford are wide enough to be accessible for a Kayak, or small motorboat, and there are several points of public access. This access was given as part of a government plan when hydroelectric dams were installed upstream for valuable flood control, irrigation, and power generation. The nearest large operating port is the Port of Stockton, used for oceangoing ships that transport goods, particularly cement, fertilizer and agricultural products, overseas.

Future expansion of State Route 132

[citation needed]

The city has had plans for decades to build an expressway that would expand State Route 132's expressway status from Interstate 580 to State Route 99.The land was purchased in the late 60's to build the new Highway 132, but the money was diverted to build the 120 bypass 18 miles north of Modesto on the outskirts of the city of Manteca, California. The planned expressway would parallel Kansas Avenue from the recently built Kansas-Needham Overpass and a planned new Hwy. 99 Interchange. The ramps were put in place decades ago, but never paved and the bridge for the off/on ramp never built. It is planned to later go out of Modesto and to Interstate 580. The city is also planning to add more ramps on the Central Modesto exit in SR 99 for less traffic coming in and out of downtown.



Modesto has a large agricultural industry which is based on the fertile farmland surrounding the city. Despite this the city has traditionally had above average unemployment rates. In October of 2009, MSN Money reported Modesto's unemployment rate at 16.6% while the rest of the U.S. was reporting an unemployment rate of around 10%. Blue Diamond Growers, a nearby almond factory in Salida, is a major nut supplier. Modesto is also home to the largest winery in the world: E & J Gallo Winery. The Gallo Glass Company, a company of Gallo Winery, is the largest wine bottle manufacturing company in the world. The company provides thousands of office and manufacturing jobs to Stanislaus County residents. A cannery downtown produces food which is usually shipped to Sacramento and Fresno for transfer to rail or ship. Ceres has a few cereal and snack factories in the area. Downtown there are several small steelworking companies. In mid-2008, a number of road projects were being constructed, repaved or repaired, with an estimated total cost of nearly $120,000,000. In November of 2009, the Modesto Bee reported that almost 25% of Modesto City students live in poverty

Principal employers

According to the City's 2008 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[8] the top employers in the city are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Stanislaus County 4,747
2 E & J Gallo Winery 3,345
3 Modesto City Schools 3,200
4 Signature Fruit Company 2,900
5 Memorial Medical Center 2,682
6 Del Monte Foods 2,600
7 Stanislaus Food Products 2,259
8 Doctors Medical Center 2,066
9 Foster Farms 1,813
10 City of Modesto 1,614


According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau,[9] Modesto had a higher rate of auto thefts than any other metropolitan area in America.

Planning and environmental

In the late 1980s Modesto embarked on an update to the city's General Plan pursuant to requirements of the State of California. The result was a comprehensive evaluation of alternative population and land use projections along with associated environmental impact analysis. Some of the environmental factors technically assessed were air quality, water quality, environmental noise, soil contamination and visual impacts.

Much of the soils in Modesto are classified as part of the Hanford series: (HbpA) fine sandy loam, moderately deep over silt. These soils are well-drained, moderately coarse textured soils derived from alluvium from granitic rock. The Hanford soils are important for the production of a wide variety of irrigated orchard, field, and truck crops.

Vicinity watercourses include the Stanislaus River, the Tuolumne River and Dry Creek empties into the Tuolumne River. Area groundwater, which is the principal source of water supply in the city (Stanislaus,1987), has been historically impaired in a fashion that is spatially variable. Water from the nearby Modesto Resovoir is now used to augment city water. In various parts of the city and its perimeter the following water pollutants have occurred from time to time: nitrates, dibromochloroethane, volatile organics, salinity, total dissolved solids and other pesticides.(Torrey, 1989) Each of these contaminants is not present citywide.

The E.P.A. rates air quality in Modesto, CA as a 23 on a scale to 100 (higher is better). This is based on ozone alert days and number of pollutants in the air.

Downtown revitalization

As of the 2000s, Downtown Modesto has been thoroughly modernized, including new attractions such as Gallo Center for the Arts and the new Downtown Plaza adjacent to Modesto Centre Plaza. Downtown Modesto has lost some of its old-time flavor with the loss of the Hotel Covell, The incredible art deco Strand Theatre, and the Sears building but it has improved traffic flow considerably. The projects under feasibility planning stages are:

  • 7-story condo/commercial tower at 10th and H Streets
  • 8-story condo tower at 14th and J Streets

Entertainment and culture

The Modesto Nuts Minor League Baseball Club is the main attraction for locals between Easter and Labor Day. The Nuts are the Single A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies and play 70 home games each season.

In the past 10 years, Modesto has hosted many music festivals such as SummerFest, the Downtown Summer Concert Series featuring Chris Isaak, Hootie and the Blowfish, The Doobie Brothers and Styx, and the most notable of all X-Fest.

X-Fest, deriving from its real name Xclamation Festival, is a 21 and over music festival in downtown Modesto. Starting in 1999, X-Fest has evolved into a large outdoor event stretching 15 blocks and featuring the Worlds Largest Disco which covers four blocks on its own. In 2008 X-Fest featured 50 bands and a crowd of 15,000 people. Although some business owners and citizens of Modesto complain of its rowdy and often drunk Mardi Gras atmosphere, much of the profits end up in local non-profit charities. Events like these may have helped propel Modesto to be ranked, in Feb. of 2010 by Men's Health Magazine, as the 12th drunkest city in America. Men's Health Magazine compiled its rating based on alcohol related deaths, DUI and other arrests.

Located in downtown Modesto is the locally iconic State Theater, one of the many hot spots for music acts and independent films.

Music and performing arts

Prospect Theater Project, located at 520 Scenic Drive, is a wonderful non-profit organization. Started in 2001 by Jack Souza and Kathleen Ennis, the local theater thrives. The theater puts on performances that are not well known, but still leave you feeling like you know the characters. Prospect is famous for its wonderful actors and sets. Brian Swander, a local artist, helps out Jack Souza by building some of the sets.

Modesto is home to Townsend Opera Players, founded by late performer Buck Townsend, and Modesto Performing Arts, as well as the Gallo Center for the Arts.[10] Modesto is also home to the area's leading pre-professional ballet company, Central West Ballet. The company was founded by Gretchen Vogelzang, and is now run under the direction of Artistic Director Rene Daveluy and Ballet Mistress Leslie Ann Larson.[11]

Modesto was the home of the indie rock band Grandaddy.

Modesto is home to Christian recording artist Worth Dying For who plays at Calvary Temple Worship Center while they are not on tour.

Modesto shopping

Modesto offers more than 200 restaurants, cafes, coffee houses and other nightlife clubs. There is also a weekly farmer's market, located downtown on I & 15th Streets.

Vintage Faire Mall in Modesto is an enclosed 2-level shopping mall with space for 125 stores and five major department stores. Notable retailers include Forever 21, Macy’s (Men & Home), JC Penney, Sears, Apple, Coach, and H&M.

Vintage Commons is a shopping center close to Vintage Faire Mall, and it contains retailers such as Target, Best Buy, Borders, and Bed Bath & Beyond. A Costco location is nearby, as well as Pier One Imports and Cost Plus World Market.

Plaza Parkway is a shopping center that leases to stores including Wal-Mart, Kohl's, and John’s Incredible Pizza.

On McHenry Avenue also known as California State Highway 108 There is a Burlington Coat Factory, a Barnes and Noble Booksellers. On the north portion of McHenry there are a series of car dealerships, and on Kiernan Road off of north McHenry, there is a major regional car auction house.


Historical populations
Census Pop.  %±
1880 1,693
1890 2,024 19.6%
1900 4,034 99.3%
1910 4,500 11.6%
1920 9,241 105.4%
1930 13,842 49.8%
1940 16,830 21.6%
1950 22,592 34.2%
1960 36,585 61.9%
1970 61,712 68.7%
1980 106,963 73.3%
1990 164,730 54.0%
2000 188,856 14.6%

As of the census[12] of 2009, there were 210,294 people, 65,788 households, and 48,767 families residing in the city. The population density was 5,566.3 people per square mile (2,037.4/km²). There were 67,885 housing units at an average density of 1,771.6/sq mi (743.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 36.35% White, 50.75% Hispanic or Latino, 4.02% African American, 1.10% Native American, 7.23% Asian, 0.55% Pacific Islander. Spoken languages of the home were: 54.1 % spoke English, 40.2% Spanish as their first language, 3.02% Filipino, 1.92% Chinese (including Cantonese and Mandarin), 0.8% Persian and 0.7% Armenian as their first language.

As of the census[12] of 2000, there were 188,856 people, 64,959 households, and 46,640 families residing in the city. The population density was 5,277.3 people per square mile (2,037.4/km²). There were 67,179 housing units at an average density of 1,877.2/sq mi (724.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 69.58% White, 25.58% Hispanic or Latino, 3.97% African American, 1.24% Native American, 6.03% Asian, 0.50% Pacific Islander.

There were 64,959 households out of which 38.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.5% were married couples living together, 14.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.2% were non-families. 22.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.86 and the average family size was 3.36.

In the city the population was spread out with 30.1% under the age of 18, 9.6% from 18 to 24, 28.9% from 25 to 44, 20.3% from 45 to 64, and 11.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33 years. For every 100 females there were 94.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $40,394, and the median income for a family was $45,681. Males had a median income of $38,595 versus $26,989 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,797. About 12.2% of families and 15.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.9% of those under age 18 and 7.4% of those age 65 or over.

As of Jan. 1, 2009, estimates place it as having 210,096 residents, a peak of over 210,000 people due to new houses being built for the past year. Projections say it could be at least 212,000-215,000 people from 2010-2015. The metropolitan area could grow to around 517,000-525,000 people. Modesto grows about 100-2000 people per year and 4,000-25,000 residents per decade.


Local government

Modesto is governed via the mayor-council system. The Mayor is elected by the entire City. The six members of the city council are elected from districts by the voters within the respective district.

According to the city’s most recent Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the city’s various funds had $325.7 million in Revenues, $268.0 million in expenditures, $1,126.9 million in total assets, $322.0 million in total liabilities, and $343.0 million in cash and investments.[8]

The structure of the management and coordination of city services is:[8]

City Department Director
City Manager Greg Nyhoff
Director Finance Gloriette Beck
Director of Personnel Dee Williams-Ridley
Director of Information Technology Gary Cook
Director of Public Works Nick Pinhey
Police Chief Michael Harden
Fire Chief/Interim Assistant City Manager Jim Miguel
Director of Parks, Recreation & Neighborhoods Julie Hannon
Director of Community & Economic Development Brent Sinclair


In the state legislature Modesto is located in the 12th and 14th Senate district, represented by Republicans Jeff Denham and Dave Cogdill respectively, and in the 25th and 26th Assembly districts, represented by Republicans Tom Berryhill and Bill Berryhill respectively. Federally, Modesto is located in California's 18th and 19th congressional districts, which have Cook PVIs of D +4 and R +9[13] respectively and are represented by Democrat Dennis Cardoza and Republican George Radanovich respectively.

Public transit

Three public transit systems serve Modesto: Modesto Area Express (MAX), Stanislaus Regional Transit (StaRT), and the San Joaquin Regional Transit District along the northern edge of the city on McHenry Avenue. MAX is the local system with additional connections to the Altamont Commuter Express train station in Lathrop and the Dublin/Pleasanton BART station. MAX also provides a paratransit "dial-a-ride" service which specifically caters to seniors and the disabled. It is open to the general public only during certain times [14]. StaRT connects Modesto to the county's other populated centers.

The large industrial region south and east of the city is served by the Modesto and Empire Traction Railroad, a 5-mile (8-km) short line with a web of industry tracks and many customers.

At one time, the city was the operational center of the Tidewater Southern Railway, which had its mainline down the center of Ninth Street, a major north-south road. A law passed by the city kept electric wire over this section of street running long after the railroad converted to steam power. In 2000, the last trains ran down Ninth Street and now the railroad (owned by the Union Pacific Railroad since 1983) is severed through Modesto.


City schools

The local school district was established for students in the community in 1871.The District is composed of an elementary district (K-8) and a high school district (9-12) with a common Board of Education and administration. The current enrollment is approximately 32,000 students. The district operates 23 elementary schools (K-6), four junior high schools (7-8), six comprehensive high schools (9-12), and an alternative education program which includes an opportunity and continuation school, independent study and adult evening high school. A seventh comprehensive high school, Joseph Gregori High School, is planned. The district has 3,200 employees and an annual budget in excess of $205 million dollars. City schools are often planned such that immediately adjacent to a school, there is a city owned park or room for a future park. There are other elementary school districts within and adjacent to the limits of Modesto City Schools that feed into the high schools. They include Sylvan Unified (serving the Eastern portion of Modesto), Stanislaus Union and Hart-Ransom.

Elementary schools [K-6]

Agnes M Baptist


Middle schools [6-8]

  • Glick
  • Savage
  • Somerset
  • Elizabeth Ustach Middle School

Junior high schools [7-8]

High school [9-12]

Higher education

  • Modesto Junior College is a two year junior college in Modesto and has over 20,000 students enrolled and 21 inter-collegiate sports teams.
  • Institute of Technology technical college in Modesto offering career training in a number of fields, including culinary arts, business, and health care.


  • The Modesto Bee, daily newspaper now published in Sacramento.
  • There are no major television stations in Modesto. The nearest network stations are in Sacramento, which is within range with an antenna. Decades ago, Modesto, like many valley towns, boasted a forest of 40-foot TV antennas atop homes. Now, most homes now have cable or satellite service and the antennas are gone.

Notable residents

Sister cities

Modesto has six sister cities:[17]

See also



  • Stanislaus County General Plan, (1987)
  • John Torrey, Paul Awosika et al., Expanded initial study, Boulder Creek subdivision, Stanislaus County, Earth Metrics, Report 7999: California State Clearinghouse, Sacramento, November, 1989.

External links

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