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A Regional Profile of Sonoma County, California
John D. Breen
University of San Francisco
April 1997
What follows is a des...
extreme heat ejects the granite magma that constitutes the coast ranges in Sonoma and
the Sierra Nevadas 150 miles to the ...
2. Climate and Weather Patterns
The county’s climate is a natural derivative of its topography. The coast range in Sonoma
...
1 above contrasts average annual and selected monthly temperatures and precipitation at
Santa Rosa near the county center ...
was proclaimed in Sonoma, though immediately thereafter, and unbeknownst to Bear-
Flaggers, statehood was declared in San ...
The table reveals a rate of growth that is not only rapid, but in excess of that of
the state and of the combined states. ...
Accommodation of the increased growth described in the foregoing section is provided
by several intracounty and intercount...
Valley 50 miles further would once have been prohibitive now can reside in the county
while ‘telecommuting’ to work. Sever...
Table 5
Largest Manufacturing Employers in Sonoma County
Name of Company Employment Product
Hewlett-Packard Company 3,600 ...
The resultant regional quotient indicates the extent to which an industry’s employment is
adequate or deficient within a s...
That wine constitutes the most significant export from the county should therefore
surprise nobody, and while shipments ar...
consumer demand, and therefore whatever quantity of workers is absorbed by an industry
is that which ‘should’ prevail (whe...
10 Peter F. Drucker, Managing for the Future: The 1990s and Beyond (New York: Truman Talley Books,
1992), pp. 125-6.
11 Sa...
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Sonoma

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Sonoma

  1. 1. A Regional Profile of Sonoma County, California John D. Breen University of San Francisco April 1997 What follows is a description of characteristics and features of Sonoma County, California, to be utilized primarily for economic analysis. As a thorough comprehension and useful application of the traditional economic information cannot be attained without an appreciation for the area to which they apply, I have not confined the study exclusively to that of industries, incomes, and output, but have supplemented those data with others respecting the physical, historical, and demographic nature of the region. 1. A Description of County Boundaries, Geology, and Topography Located in Northern California at approximate latitude 38, longitude 122, Sonoma County comprises 1,604 square miles of mountains, wetland, coastal bluffs and fertile farmland between the northern arc of San Pablo Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and the Mayacamas Range. Elevations within the county range from sea-level to in excess of 2,500 feet in the Mayacamas. The predominant geologic feature of the region is the San Andreas Fault and its tributaries, among them the Hayward Fault which extends southward through Oakland and the East Bay and northward into Healdsburg at which point it assumes the name of that town, and the Rogers Creek Fault in the vicinity of Petaluma. The San Andreas coincides with the coast line, coming ashore at Bodega Head and extending south through Tomales Bay (which is itself an offspring of the fault) in Marin County, from which point it returns to the ocean before again encroaching upon land to the south of San Francisco. Each fault produces temblors of primarily minimal to moderate Richter readings, though structural damage is sometimes accompanies stronger quakes. Though the Loma Prieta quake of 1989 imposed relatively minor effects on the county, the great San Francisco quake of 1906 almost destroyed the town of Santa Rosa which then possessed not a tenth the population it now claims. The San Andreas itself constitutes the point at which the Pacific plate submerges beneath the North American, forcing sea floor basalt under the continental crust till
  2. 2. extreme heat ejects the granite magma that constitutes the coast ranges in Sonoma and the Sierra Nevadas 150 miles to the east. Erosion eventually returns the material to the ocean so the process may begin anew, in a manner similar to that of the atmospheric cycle of precipitation. 1 By this sequence was the state of California formed. Volcanic eruptions within the last 10 million years has produced volcanic ash on and beneath the surface. The effect of surface ash is evident in the petrified forests between Santa Rosa and the Napa County town of Calistoga, while that of subsurface ash is characterized by the hot springs and geysers that are the consequence of groundwater percolating to the surface after intermixing with hot ash. Four rock sequences comprise the coast range: the Franciscan formation, the Great Valley sequence, serpentinite, and a sand and mudstone formation atop the range. The first two sequences are fertile and appear to have derived from sea-floor basalt, while the serpentinite is a soapstone of sundry shades of green which constitutes a band of perhaps a mile width among the Franciscan and great valley sequences. At Bodega Head to the west of the fault is the Salinian Block, a rock formation found to the east of the fault only in the Tehachapi Mountains 350 miles southeast, thereby lending credence to the theory that this land mass once lay near what is now Bakersfield.2 Though possessing 62 miles of Pacific shoreline, Sonoma contains few ports, and those it does contain at Bodega Bay, Petaluma, and Port Sonoma are marinas for fishing or recreational purposes. The principle waterway through the county is the Russian River which descends from the Mayacamas near Cloverdale before meandering through Healdsburg and Guerneville en route to its mouth at Jenner on the Pacific. The Russian is not only navigable, but is the primary source of drinking water for county residence north of Petaluma. Those of that town and south obtain water from the San Pablo and San Francisco Bays. Though a life-sustaining and a recreational commodity, the Russian River is susceptible to severe winter flooding to a degree which has prompted consideration of relocating such towns as Guerneville to eliminate reconstruction to the extent necessary following floods in 1993 and 1995. The other notable river of navigation is the Petaluma, the source of which lies immediately north of its namesake town, from whence it flows approximately 15 miles to the San Pablo Bay.
  3. 3. 2. Climate and Weather Patterns The county’s climate is a natural derivative of its topography. The coast range in Sonoma County subdivides into three separate branches that separate two fertile valleys. The coastal branch separates the cool, moist Pacific air from the often stifling summer heat of the easterly valleys. The Sonoma range bisects the county from north to south, thereby buffering the Santa Rosa Valley from the Sonoma Valley, while the Mayacamas range forms the eastern border at Napa County. From the San Francisco Bay to the south, the Santa Rosa and Sonoma Valleys proceed into the Redwood Empire, far beyond the northern extent of the county. As the valleys distance themselves from the moderating influences of the bay, summer temperatures climb to such an extent that variations of thirty degrees are not uncommon at locations separated by mere miles. Winter temperatures are moderate throughout, with intracounty variations less extreme than during the summer months. Table 1 Average Temperatures and Precipitation at Santa Rosa and Bodega Bay (1986-1996) Period Santa Rosa Max. Temp. Bodega Bay Max. Temp. Santa Rosa Rainfall (in.) Bodega Bay Rainfall (in.) January 58 58 6.45 7.36 April 70 66 1.86 1.83 July 84 69 0.06 0.06 October 77 68 1.98 1.86 Year 72 64 30.3 35.12 Source: Western Regional Climate Center, University of Nevada Research Institute Precipitation confines itself to the winter months and consists of rain almost exclusively, with rare examples of snow being confined to the upper elevations. Though infrequent, precipitation can be intense and accompanied by severe flooding along the banks and tributaries of the Russian River. Much as does the temperature in the summer, rainfall exhibits notable intracounty variations in winter. While coastal and northern regions receive a mean of approximately 45 inches a year, the southern county absorbs approximately half that quantity.3 Such meteorological diversity has induced a corresponding variation with respect to the county’s significant agricultural output. Table
  4. 4. 1 above contrasts average annual and selected monthly temperatures and precipitation at Santa Rosa near the county center with those 21 miles west, on the coast at Bodega Bay. 3. A Brief History of the County The initial inhabitants of Sonoma County were the Coast Miwok Indians who are supposed to have descended from Siberian races and arrived in northern California five to ten thousand years ago. A people of gentle disposition and inconsequential technology who were isolated from outside influence, the Miwok settlement was devoid even of such contemporary raw materials as metals and of such capital equipment as the wheel. Animal labor was not utilized and controlled burns constituted the only noticeable inclination toward agricultural advancement. Hunting, gathering, and fishing constituted the means of subsistence, with the division of labor such that men performed those duties while women cooked and fabricated baskets. Experience with warfare was likewise wanting, thus precipitating the demise of the tribe upon arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century. Although Juan Cabrillo in 1542 inaugurated European exploration of the California coast and Spain would during the ensuing centuries send numerous explorers north from Mexico, Sir Francis Drake under the crown of England was the first European to strike land north of San Francisco Bay. Drake landed at what is now Drake’s Bay in Marin County, several miles south of the Sonoma County line. Russian fur trappers settled along the coast near Fort Ross and inland at Sebastopol. Spanish missionaries proceeded along El Camino Real from Mexico, establishing the northernmost mission at San Francisco de Solano in the town of Sonoma during 1821, the year of Mexican independence. The Mexican authorities soon thereafter parceled lands to Californios - soldiers and government agents - who proceeded to establish ranchos which were essentially large cattle plantations. The most significant of the Californios was General Mariano Vallejo, a man instrumental in the early north and east bay land development. The demise of the ranchos followed the 1848 discovery of gold at Sutter’s Fort on the American River near Sacramento, and the 1850 raising of the Bear Flag at Sonoma. The Bear Flag Rebellion was an uprising of the recent settlers from the states against the Mexicans who till then had dominated the region. The independent California Republic
  5. 5. was proclaimed in Sonoma, though immediately thereafter, and unbeknownst to Bear- Flaggers, statehood was declared in San Francisco. The gold rush affected Sonoma only to the extent that mining processes were developed and initiated to draw from the coastal serpentinite the mercury used for separation in the gold panning process. Vapors elicited from the mercury proved deleterious to the health of those who handled it, however, and the serpentinite mining of the metal was soon abandoned in favor of manganese and jade.4 Agriculture remained the prominent means of subsistence, and during the mid- 19th century the first grape vines were imported from France and Italy.5 The climate and soil rendered the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, and livestock a substantial percentage of the county’s output. To this day, poultry, sheep, and cattle dot the landscape, as do fields of mustard, apple trees, and grape vines. 4. Demographics The 1996 population of Sonoma County was 421,459, of which 7.8% arrived since 1990, a pace approximately a third that of the previous decade. The total is 40% higher than that of 1980 and 106% greater than that of 1970. Eighty-four percent of all residents have lived in the county at least 5 years, and the majority of those that have not are recent arrivals from other counties in the Bay Area. The Association of Bay Area Governments projects the year 2000 population at 476,900, and the year 2010 total at 541,100, corresponding to a growth rate of 39.4% since 1990. Of the total, 49% were male, 83% were white, and 56.9% were between the ages of 18 and 64. Table 2 presents county population trends in comparison to those of the state and the combined United States. Table 2 Relative Population Growth of Sonoma County6 Year Sonoma County California Combined United States 1970 204,885 19,971,069 203,302,031 1980 299,681 23,667,764 226,542,203 1990 388,222 29,760,021 248,709,873 1996 421,459 31,430,697 260,340,990 % change (1990-96) 8.56 5.6 4.7
  6. 6. The table reveals a rate of growth that is not only rapid, but in excess of that of the state and of the combined states. That the net immigration comprises educated and relatively wealthy individuals and families is evinced by the following statistics, and attests to the potential for continued economic development: Married persons represent 60% of the population, home-owners 71%, and those with college degrees or some college education 58%, implying a productive labor pool. Though only 62% of the population is employed, a relatively large population of retirees (21% of the total) rather than a high unemployment rate (3.9%) is the apparent cause. Indeed, a median household income of $61,3927 implies a relatively prosperous population, the high cost of living notwithstanding. The proportion of retirees also explains the fact that 30% of residence earn an annual income in excess of $95,400 and that the mean value of a home for resale is $227,500, relatively inexpensive in contrast to neighboring Marin County at $421,000 and San Francisco at $353,400 (see Appendix C).8 The immigration from nearby counties is therefore caused as much by the cost of housing as it is by the desire to replace a hectic urban lifestyle with a more relaxed rural one. Though still predominantly rural with most of its space undeveloped, Sonoma County has recently experienced urban growth, particularly along Santa Rosa-Rohnert Park-Petaluma corridor. The population of these and other towns is presented in Table 3, which also reveals that since 1980 the majority of growth within the county has accrued to relatively urban regions of the county. Table 3 Population of Selected Sonoma County Cities Location Population - 1980 Population - 1996 Pct. Change Santa Rosa 82,658 122,100 47.7 Petaluma 33,834 49,500 46.3 Rohnert Park 22,965 40,326 75.6 Sebastopol 5,595 9,122 63.0 Bodega Bay, CDP 750 1,127 50.2 Sonoma County 299,681 421,459 40.6 Source: World Almanac and Book of Facts 1997 Note: Bodega Bay is not incorporated, and is therefore a Census Designated Place (CDP) 5. Transportation Systems
  7. 7. Accommodation of the increased growth described in the foregoing section is provided by several intracounty and intercounty transportation systems, most of which utilize U.S. 101, the principle north-south freeway which binds the county with San Francisco to the south and the Redwood Empire and the Pacific Coast logging regions to the north. The only highway that affords easy access to points east is state route 37, which skirts the San Pablo Bay and is therefore accessible only to those in the southern region of the county. The coast range inhibits rapid passage east from points further north, including Santa Rosa, thereby restricting travel to slow, winding mountain roads. Most development within the county has therefore concentrated along the U.S. 101 corridor in the towns of Santa Rosa, Rohnert Park, and Petaluma. To alleviate traffic density which inevitably accompanies growth, numerous transit agencies are established to carry passengers within Sonoma County and to others. Among these are Sonoma County Transit, Mendocino Transit, Santa Rosa Municipal Transit, and Golden Gate Transit which links Sonoma to Marin and San Francisco via bus and ferry service. Approximately 15% of Sonoma County commuters utilize one of these services on a regular basis, particularly those traveling to San Francisco.9 The Northwest Pacific Railroad carries freight through the county on tracks which have been purchased by Golden Gate Transit for the purpose of instituting commuter rail service in the future. Moreover, the county has agreed to widen U.S. 101 from Santa Rosa to the Marin border, though the reluctance of Marin County to do likewise jeopardizes the project. A light rail system has also been proposed within the median of the highway, yet the planning may best be described as preliminary. 6. Economy and Industry While Sonoma County has throughout its history claimed agriculture as its primary source of output, the industrial mix has been altered by the influx of professional persons from the immediate Bay Area. Peter Drucker once noted that ‘the modern big city is a creation of the 19th century ability to move people’, and that as the movement of people is transplanted by the movement of information ‘office work, rather than office workers, will do the traveling’.10 Sonoma County has witnessed firsthand the effects of this transformation as those for whom a commute to San Francisco 50 miles south or Silicon
  8. 8. Valley 50 miles further would once have been prohibitive now can reside in the county while ‘telecommuting’ to work. Several Silicon Valley high technology firms have moved not just the office work, but actual offices to Sonoma County in response to employee preference. Prominent among these is Hewlett-Packard Company, the largest manufacturing employer in the county.11 Santa Rosa and Petaluma constitute a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) distinct from that of San Francisco, though several agencies, among them the Association of Bay Area Governments and most agencies of the state of California, marry Sonoma County to the greater Bay Area. Within the Santa Rosa-Petaluma MSA is a civilian labor force of 205,300, of which 197,300 are employed, yielding a 3.9% unemployment rate.12 The industries into which most employees go are services, retail trade, government, and manufacturing. Approximately 27% of all employees in the county are unionized, a rate that is quite high by comparison with other regions, though not with those in the San Francisco Bay Area. Typical union employees are those engaged in construction, metal works, food checking and processing, and meat cutting.13 Table 4 lists the number of employees within each industry of size in the county, while Tables 5 and 6 document the largest employers within and outside the manufacturing sector. Table 4 Sonoma County Employment by Industry Industry Number of Employees Services 33,400 Retail Trade 30,100 Government: Federal, State, County, City 24,100 Manufacturing 20,800 Construction 9,300 Finance/Real Estate/Insurance 8,400 Wholesale Trade 6,600 Transportation/Communications/Utilities 6,100 Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing 5,600 Mining 500 Source: Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce
  9. 9. Table 5 Largest Manufacturing Employers in Sonoma County Name of Company Employment Product Hewlett-Packard Company 3,600 Electronic Test Instruments Sola Optical 950 Hard Resin RX Lenses Optical Coating Laboratories, Inc 943 Optical Products Press Democrat Publishing 439 Newspaper KOMAG 279 Computer Hard Drives Standard Structures 277 Engineered Wood Products Klein Family Vintners 227 Winery Korbel Champagne Cellars 260 Champagne Tegal Corporation 260 Electronic Equipment and Components Vacu-Dry Corporation 250 Dehydrated Fruit Products Source: Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce Table 6 Non-Manufacturing Employment in Sonoma County Name of Company Employment Product County of Sonoma 4,321 County Government Santa Rosa Junior College 1,931 Community College Santa Rosa School District 1,580 Government Schools Kaiser Permanente 1,400 Medical Care Sonoma State University 1,126 State University City of Santa Rosa 1,105 City Government Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital 1,100 Medical Care Pacific Gas & Electric 720 Gas & Electricity Pacific Bell 450 Communications Utility Source: Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce Agriculture does not comprise the share of total industries one might anticipate, yet the proportion of such work in the county is substantial when compared to that of the United States. This relative proportion is determined by way of a location quotient that compares the percentage of total employment an industry possesses within a region to that industry’s share of national employment: LQ = (industry % of total regional employment) / (industry % of total U.S. employment)
  10. 10. The resultant regional quotient indicates the extent to which an industry’s employment is adequate or deficient within a specific region. A location quotient of 1.0 implies an industry proportion which is just sufficient to supply the county, while quotients less or greater than that indicate deficiencies or quantities available for export. Therefore, while total manufacturing employment is 20,800 and that for agriculture is only 5,600, the location quotient of the latter is almost triple that of the former. Furthermore, the location quotient for manufacturing is but 0.843, implying an insufficient quantity of manufacturing employment despite its impressive growth. Moreover, the production of wines, brandy, and distilled spirits, which many might associate with agriculture, is instead included within the manufacturing industry and claims a location quotient of 111.9, the highest of any industry in the county, as illustrated in Table 7 below. Table 7 Location Quotients and Excess Employment for Selected Industries14 SIC Area Emplymnt U.S. Emplymnt SIC Titles Location Quotient Excess Employment 2084 2,353 15,473 Wines, Brandy and Spirits 111.986 2,332 3827 1,332 16,751 Optical Instruments & Lenses 58.557 1,309 3596 283 5,400 Scales and Balances, except laboratory 38.593 276 2034 373 10,407 Dehydrated Fruits and Vegetables 26.394 359 0762 169 4,915 Farm Management Services 25.321 162 3850 914 29,113 Ophthalmic Goods 23.119 874 3463 159 6,816 Nonferrous Forgings 17.178 150 2386 39 2,150 Leather and Sheep Lined Clothing 13.358 36 3820 4,560 261,839 Measuring and Controlling Devices 12.825 4,204 2080 2,397 144,125 Beverages 12.247 2,201 2092 690 42,616 Fresh or Frozen Prepared Fish 11.923 632 0760 169 11,797 Farm Labor and Mgt. Services 10.550 153
  11. 11. That wine constitutes the most significant export from the county should therefore surprise nobody, and while shipments are adversely affected by restrictions shackled upon them by states such as Kentucky, Georgia, and Florida, export growth elsewhere, particularly within California, nullifies the impact of such prohibitions. The northern wine regions of the warm, fertile Alexander and Sonoma Valleys produce world- renowned varietals, including, but not exclusively, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, while the southern and therefore cooler Carneros region features pinot noir as the predominant yield. The microclimates exemplified by these regions underscore how important topography and climate are to the Sonoma County wine industry. The hills surrounding the valleys support sundry varietals depending upon the direction they face in relation to prevailing sunlight, while the interior of the hills have been utilized as storage caves to protect and enhance aging bottles. Furthermore, the degree of temperature and amount of precipitation a region receives during the growing season determines to a remarkable extent the success a vintage might expect. The intersection of mountain, valley, and coastal fog which exemplifies Sonoma County produces a marvelous location from which to produce and export wine. The industries listed are those with the highest propensity to export. While the presence on this list of the wine industry would surprise few, perhaps that of optical and ophthalmic goods elicits curiosity. These industries are relatively new to Sonoma, having relocated from San Francisco to acquire less expensive land and labor. These industries supply many of the medical care companies such as Kaiser Permanente which have followed clients from San Francisco to Sonoma County. Large new HMOs in Petaluma and Santa Rosa attest to the growth of this industry. The preponderance of those industries remaining in Table 7 are related directly or otherwise to the traditional farming and animal raising industries upon which the county has relied since its initial settlement. By ‘excess employment’ in the last column of Table 7 is meant the number an industry employs in excess of that which would be expected were the proportion of county industry employees to total county employment equal to the national proportion, rather than any evaluation of the number of employees an industry ‘should’ have from the perspective of an outside agency or individual. Indeed, assuming an unhampered market, industries employ workers in correlation with their expectations of future
  12. 12. consumer demand, and therefore whatever quantity of workers is absorbed by an industry is that which ‘should’ prevail (whether the location quotient exceeds, equals, or lags 1.0) according to the opinions of those best able to render judgement. Should time prove employment decisions errant, employees will shift to industries better able to succeed within the circumstances of the region. This quantity can be determined on a free market not by economists or government officials, but only by entrepreneurs. Sonoma County has been relatively successful resisting the urge of governments to ‘promote’ one industry with the coercively acquired tax dollars of another.15 The prospects for industries to develop themselves in Sonoma in accordance with its natural comparative advantages are therefore promising. While the wine industry is of course an obvious example, high technology may be less so. Nevertheless, the proximity of the county to San Francisco and to the research centers of Stanford and Berkeley, a well- educated population, and a quality of life which is not unlike that of Silicon Valley a generation ago render Sonoma a county in which a high technology industry might prosper. That notwithstanding, the county government should refrain from involving itself in the expansion of this or any other industry, for to do so would be to forcibly withdraw resources from those industries that consumers have by their actions determined to be necessary to Sonoma County. The consequent distortions of intervention would benefit the targeted industry to the detriment of everyone else in the county, while an unhampered market would produce industries that by definition benefit all concerned. Should the county allow the free actions of market participants to proceed without constraint, the natural advantages of geography, climate, and demographics the county possesses will provide the environment necessary for optimal industry allocation. 1 David D. Alt and Donald W. Altman, Roadside Geology of Northern California (Missoula: Mountain Press, 1975), pp. 4-7. 2 ibid.,pp. 13-23. 3 Western Regional Climate Center, University of Nevada research Institute. 4 Rand Richards, Historic San Francisco: A Concise History and Guide (San Francisco: Heritage House, 1991), pp. 3-65. 5 Hugh Johnson, Wine (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987), pp. 18-20. 6 Sonoma County data obtained from the Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, County Economic Profile, 1997. California and U.S. statistics obtained from The World Almanac and Book of Facts 1997. 7 David Savageau and Richard Boyer, Places Rated Almanac (New York: Simon and Schuster,1993), p. 44. 8 ibid.,pp. 91-2. 9 United States Census,Commuting Patterns 1996.
  13. 13. 10 Peter F. Drucker, Managing for the Future: The 1990s and Beyond (New York: Truman Talley Books, 1992), pp. 125-6. 11 Santa Rosa Chamber of Commerce, Community Economic Profile, 1997. 12 ibid. 13 ibid. 14 United States Census,County Business Patterns 15 This is not to suggest that the state of California does not lavish subsidies on industries in general, and the wine industry in particular.

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