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County Profile

Last modified: 7/15/2013 6:01 PM

Located just to the south of San Francisco Bay, Santa Clara County has a land area of 1,315 square miles.  As of April 1, 2000, the county's population was approximately 1.7 million, making it the largest of the Bay Area counties, and the fifth most populous county in California.




County Image

Demographic Profile
From US Census Bureau

Fact Sheets
From 2003 California County Fact Book

Natural Environment

The major topographical features of the county are the Santa Clara Valley, the Diablo Range to the east, the Santa Cruz Mountains to the west, and the Baylands in the northwest.

The fertile Santa Clara Valley is ringed by rolling hills.  The Diablo Range covers the entire eastern half of the county. It consists mainly of grasslands, chaparral and oak savannah.  The Santa Cruz Mountains contain rolling grasslands and oak-studded foothills, along with mixed hardwoods and dense evergreen forests.  Higher elevations of the Santa Cruz Mountains are home to redwoods forests, steep slopes, and active earthquake faults. Areas of geologic instability are prevalent in both mountain ranges.

The Baylands in the northwestern corner of the county, adjacent to the southern San Francisco Bay waters consist mostly of vast salt evaporation ponds and remnant areas of salt marsh and wetlands.

The regional climate is Mediterranean and remains temperate due to the area's geography and proximity to the Pacific Ocean.  During fall and winter months, the daily high temperatures range from 55 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit while the summer months see warm dry weather with high temperatures typically between 65 and 82 degrees.  The county's average rainfall is 15 inches in San Jose to more than 40 inches in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Built Environment

The North Valley is extensively urbanized.  Thirteen of the county's fifteen cities, with over 88% of the county's residents (excluding unincorporated urban pockets) are located in the North Valley, while Gilroy and Morgan Hill, with approximately 5% of the county's population, are located in the South Valley.  The South Valley differs in that it remains predominantly rural, with the exception of Gilroy, Morgan Hill, and the small unincorporated community of San Martin.  Low-density residential developments are also scattered though the valley and foothill areas.  Unincorporated areas contain almost 7% of the county's residents.

Population Growth

Between 1980 and 1990, Santa Clara County grew by 202,506 people.  This growth represents a 16% increase in population. Similarly, between 1990 and 2000, the county grew by an additional 185,008, which accounts for a 12% change in population.  From 2000 to 2010, the county's population increased from 1,682,585 to 1,781,642, an almost 6% increase in population.  According to the Association of Bay Area Governments Projection 2009, by 2020, Santa Clara County's population is projected to increase to 2,063,100.  From 2020 to 2030, Santa Clara County's population is predicted to increase an additional 247,700 people to 2,310,800.

Location of Population Growth

Between 2000 and 2010, most of the population growth in Santa Clara County occurred in San Jose and in the North Valley cities (Campbell, Cupertino, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Jose, Santa Clara, Saratoga, and Sunnyvale).  Although, North Valley cities experienced a larger increase in population numbers, the Southern Valley cities (Morgan Hill and Gilroy) experienced a larger percentage increase in population.

Household and Demographic Characteristics

As of 2010, there were 604,204 households in Santa Clara County.  This is an 6.7% increase in the number of households from 2000.  The number of people living in each household decreased slightly from 2.92 persons per household in 2000, to 2.90 in 2010.  Homeowner vacancy rates have stayed steady at 1.4% since 2000.  Rental vacancy rates have risen from 1.8% in 2000 (at the height of the boom) to 4.3% in 2010.

Race and Ethnicity Characteristics

Santa Clara County is made up of people from diverse cultures, nationalities, and racial groups.  As of 2010, the Hispanic or Latino population (from all races) comprises 26.9% of the total population.  The rest of the population (not ethnically Hispanic) includes 35.2% Whites, 31.7% Asians, 2.4% Black, 0.4% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and 3.2% of the population was of some other race or two or more races.

Many people bring diverse cultures into Santa Clara County from places outside of the United States.  In 2009, approximately 36% of the population in Santa Clara County was born outside of the United States.

Income Characteristics

Santa Clara County has one of the highest personal income levels in the Bay Area and in the State of California.  In 1999, Santa Clara County had the second highest median household (people living together whether related or not) income ($85,215) of all California counties.  Additionally, Santa Clara County had the third highest median family income ($97,669) and fourth highest per capita income ($37,598) of all California counties.