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Ojai, California
City of Ojai
Ojai Valley Museum 2014 02.JPG
Post office in Ojai, California (cropped).jpg
Bars and cafés in Ojai, California (2) (cropped).jpg
Ojai, California (20960249094) (cropped).jpg
Top to bottom, left to right: Ojai Valley Museum; U.S. Post Office; Ojai Arcade; aerial view of Ojai
Location in Ventura County and the state of California
Location in Ventura County and the state of California
Ojai, California is located in southern California
Ojai, California
Ojai, California
Location in southern California
Ojai, California is located in California
Ojai, California
Ojai, California
Location in California
Ojai, California is located in the United States
Ojai, California
Ojai, California
Location in the United States
Country United States
State California
County Ventura
Incorporated August 5, 1921
Named for Chumash: 'Awha'y ("Moon")
 • Type City Council—City Manager
 • Total 4.37 sq mi (11.32 km2)
 • Land 4.36 sq mi (11.28 km2)
 • Water 0.01 sq mi (0.04 km2)  0.35%
745 ft (227 m)
 • Total 7,637
 • Density 1,747.6/sq mi (674.6/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
ZIP codes
93023 & 93024
Area code 805
FIPS code 06-53476
GNIS feature IDs 1652763, 2411308
Ojai Inn, built in 1876. Photo taken in 1880s.
Ojai, California (12)
Ojai Arcade, built in 1917 in the Spanish Colonial Revival style. Post Office tower at right.

Ojai ( OH-hy; Chumash: ’Awhaỳ) is a city in Ventura County, California. Located in the Ojai Valley, it is northwest of Los Angeles and east of Santa Barbara. The valley is part of the east–west trending Western Transverse Ranges and is about 10 miles (16 km) long by 3 miles (5 km) wide and divided into a lower and an upper valley, each of similar size, surrounded by hills and mountains. The population was 7,637 at the 2020 census, up from 7,461 at the 2010 census.

Ojai is a tourism destination known for its boutique hotels, recreation opportunities, hiking, and farmers' market of local organic agriculture. It has small businesses specializing in local and ecologically friendly art, design, and home improvement. Chain stores are prohibited by city ordinance to encourage local small business development and keep the town unique.

The name Ojai is derived from the Mexican-era Rancho Ojai, which in turn took its name from the Ventureño Chumash word 'Awha'y, meaning "Moon". The city's self-styled nickname is "Shangri-La" referencing the natural environment of this health and spirituality-focused region as well as the mystical sanctuary of the 1937 film adaptation of James Hilton's novel Lost Horizon.



Chumash Indians were the early inhabitants of the valley. They called it Ojai, which derives from the Ventureño Chumash word ʼawhaý meaning "moon". The area became part of the Rancho Ojai Mexican land grant made to Fernando Tico in 1837, and he established a cattle ranch. Tico sold it in 1853 without much success to prospectors searching for oil. By 1864, the area was settled.


The town was laid out in 1874 by real estate developer R.G. Surdam and named Nordhoff, California, in honor of the writer Charles Nordhoff. Leading up to and during World War I, American sentiment became increasingly anti-German. Across the United States, German and German-sounding place names were changed. As part of this trend, Nordhoff was renamed Ojai in 1917.

The public high school in Ojai is still named Nordhoff High School. The public junior high school, named "Matilija", formerly served as Nordhoff Union High School and still features large tiles with the initials "NUHS" on the steps of the athletic field.


The main turning point in the development of the city was the coming of Edward Libbey, early owner of the Libbey Glass Company. He saw the valley and fell in love, thinking up many plans for expansion and beautification of the existing rustic town. A fire destroyed much of the original western-style downtown Nordhoff—Ojai in 1917. Afterwards Libbey helped design, finance, and build a new downtown more in line with the then contemporary taste for Spanish Colonial Revival style architecture. The projects included a Spanish-style arcade along the main street, a bell-tower reminiscent of the famous campanile of the Basilica Menor de San Francisco de Asis in Havana, and a pergola opposite the arcade.

To thank Libbey for his gifts to the town, the citizens proposed a celebration to take place on March 2 of each year. Libbey declined their offer to call it "Libbey Day", and instead suggested "Ojai Day". The celebration still takes place each year in October. The arcade and bell tower still stand, and have come to serve as symbols of the city and the surrounding valley. Libbey's pergola was destroyed in 1971, after being damaged in an explosion. It was rebuilt in the early 2000s to complete the architectural continuity of the downtown area.

The Taormina neighborhood was established as the first historic district in the city in 2016. The housing development was built in the style of French architecture of Normandy in the 1960s and 1970s by members of the Theosophy movement adjacent to the Krotona Institute of Theosophy. Taormina’s founder, theosophist Ruth Wilson, envisioned the development as a retirement community for fellow theosophists but in the early 1980s a court ruling required the community to be open to residents of all faiths and backgrounds.


Ojai located in the eponymous valley, and is nestled in the Topatopa Mountains of central Ventura County. Ojai is situated at 34°26′57″N 119°14′48″W / 34.44917°N 119.24667°W / 34.44917; -119.24667 (34.449079, -119.246654). The city is approximately 745 feet (227 m) above sea level and is bordering the Los Padres National Forest to the north.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.4 square miles (11 km2), of which only 0.35% is water, and the rest is land.

Ojai is situated in a small east-west valley, north of Ventura and east of Santa Barbara. It is approximately 15 miles (24 km) inland from the Pacific Ocean coast. Nordhoff Ridge, the western extension of the Topatopa Mountains, towers over the north side of the town and valley at more than 5,000 feet (1,500 m). Sulphur Mountain creates the southern ranges bounding the Ojai Valley, a little under 3,000 feet (910 m) in elevation. The Sulphur and Topatopa Mountains are part of the Transverse Ranges system. The Ojai Valley and the surrounding mountains are heavily wooded with oak trees.

The Ventura River flows through the Ventura River Valley, draining the mountains surrounding Ojai to the north and east and emptying into the Pacific Ocean at the city of Ventura. The Ventura River was once known for its steelhead fishing before Matilija Dam and Lake Casitas were constructed, eliminating habitat for this trout species.

The climate of Ojai is Mediterranean, characterized by hot, dry summers, sometimes exceeding 100 °F (38 °C), and mild winters, with lows at night sometimes below freezing. As is typical for much of coastal southern California, most precipitation falls in the form of rain between the months of October and April, with intervening dry summers.

Climate data for Ojai, California (1905-2012)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 90
Average high °F (°C) 67
Average low °F (°C) 36
Record low °F (°C) 19
Precipitation inches (mm) 5.0


Historical population
Census Pop.
1930 1,468
1940 1,622 10.5%
1950 2,519 55.3%
1960 4,495 78.4%
1970 5,591 24.4%
1980 6,816 21.9%
1990 7,613 11.7%
2000 7,862 3.3%
2010 7,461 −5.1%
2020 7,637 2.4%
U.S. Decennial Census


The 2010 United States Census reported that Ojai had a population of 7,461. The population density was 1,695.3 people per square mile (654.6/km2). The racial makeup of Ojai was 6,555 (87.9%) White, 42 (0.6%) African American, 47 (0.6%) Native American, 158 (2.1%) Asian, 1 (0.0%) Pacific Islander, 440 (5.9%) from other races, and 218 (2.9%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1,339 persons (17.9%).

The Census reported that 7,281 people (97.6% of the population) lived in households, 48 (0.6%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 132 (1.8%) were institutionalized.

There were 3,111 households, out of which 876 (28.2%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 1,396 (44.9%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 366 (11.8%) had a female householder with no husband present, 128 (4.1%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 151 (4.9%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 25 (0.8%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 992 households (31.9%) were made up of individuals, and 496 (15.9%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34. There were 1,890 families (60.8% of all households); the average family size was 2.95.

The population distribution was spread out, with 1,520 people (20.4%) under the age of 18, 515 people (6.9%) aged 18 to 24, 1,446 people (19.4%) aged 25 to 44, 2,547 people (34.1%) aged 45 to 64, and 1,433 people (19.2%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 47.1 years. For every 100 females, there were 84.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 79.9 males.

There were 3,382 housing units at an average density of 768.5 per square mile (296.7/km2), of which 1,717 (55.2%) were owner-occupied, and 1,394 (44.8%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.7%; the rental vacancy rate was 5.4%. 4,243 people (56.9% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 3,038 people (40.7%) lived in rental housing units.


As of the census of 2000, there were 7,862 people, 3,088 households, and 1,985 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,773.0 people per square mile (685.2/km2). There were 3,229 housing units at an average density of 728.2 per square mile (281.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 88.01% White, 0.60% African American, 0.50% Native American, 1.58% Asian, 0.17% Pacific Islander, 6.26% from other races, and 2.90% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 15.84% of the population.

There were 3,088 households, out of which 31.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.0% were married couples living together, 11.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.7% were non-families. 29.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 3.06.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 24.9% under the age of 18, 6.5% from 18 to 24, 23.9% from 25 to 44, 26.8% from 45 to 64, and 17.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females, there were 88.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.2 males.

The median income for households in the city was $44,593, and the median income for a family was $52,917. Males had a median income of $40,919 versus $30,821 for females. The per capita income for the city was $25,670. About 7.9% of families and 10.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.9% of those under age 18 and 9.3% of those age 65 or over.


Bart's books detail
Bart's bookstore, Ojai
Meher mount
Meher Mount, a place of Spiritual Retreat

Ojai's culture is heavily focused on ecology, health and organic agriculture, walking/hiking, spirituality, music and local art. It is often seen as a hippie-friendly city, and many New Age shops exist. The benign climate has also fostered subcultures devoted to driving and exhibiting classic cars and there are several motorcycle clubs that regularly tour through Ojai as well. On July 8, 1999, former Apollo astronaut Pete Conrad, one of the twelve men who walked on the moon, died of injuries suffered from a motorcycle accident in Ojai.

The Ojai Music Festival (founded in 1947) is an annual festival of performances by some of the world's top musicians and composers, and occurs on the first weekend after Memorial Day. Notable appearances include Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, Esa-Pekka Salonen and Pierre Boulez, who was festival director in 2003. The outdoor bookshop Bart's Books, subject of news programs and documentaries, has been in Ojai since 1964. Ojai is home to the annual Ojai Playwrights Conference, a two-week playwrights festival that brings professional writers and actors from across the country to Ojai. The community is served by The Ojai and Ventura VIEW, Ojai Valley News and The Ojai Post.

The script for the movie Head was written in Ojai by The Monkees, Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson.

In fiction

Ojai is the setting for the 2010 comedy film Easy A (much of which was shot on location), and for part of Michael Scott's book The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel. Ojai is the location of the fruit orchards of the fictional Ojai Foods, central to the conflict and drama of the Walker family in the ABC series Brothers & Sisters.

The title characters of TV series The Bionic Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man (Jaime Sommers and Col. Steve Austin) are described in the series as having been childhood sweethearts in Ojai, and a number of episodes from both series take place in Ojai and its vicinity.


Ojai Valley News


Ojai Valley Museum
Ojai Valley Museum, 2009

The town of Ojai and its surrounding area is home to many recreational activities. Los Padres National Forest borders the town on the north, and many back country areas within the forest are accessible from Highway 33, the major north–south highway through town. Matilija Creek is a spot to enjoy splashing under waterfalls, backpacking, and soaking in a hot spring. To the west, the Lake Casitas Recreation Area offers camping, picnicking, and hiking as well.

The valley has several public courts in downtown Libbey Park. There are also two major golf courses: the Soule Park Golf Course, and the noted Ojai Valley Inn Golf Course. The town completed a new park, Cluff Vista Park, in 2002, which contains several small themed regions of California native plants.

Annually, in early April, the town hosts a bicycle race that draws professional and amateur teams from around the country. The "Garrett Lemire Memorial Grand Prix" began in 2004 as a tribute to a 22-year-old cyclist from Ojai who died racing his bicycle in Arizona the previous year. The race is held on a 1 mile (1.6 km) circuit that circumnavigates Libbey Bowl in the heart of downtown Ojai. Proceeds from event promote cycling safety and education in local schools. Also in April, "The Ojai" tennis tournament is held. It is the oldest tennis tournament west of the Mississippi River (founded in the 1887) and has been an early competition for many players who went on to earn one or more Grand Slam titles.

In early June, often coinciding with the Music Festival, the Ojai Wine Festival is held at Lake Casitas. Over 3,000 wine lovers sample the products of over 30 wineries. Proceeds go to charity.


Chain stores are prohibited by city ordinance to encourage local small business development and keep the town unique.


Besant Hill School Eos Dorm
Dormitory at Besant Hill School
Old Main The Thacher School
Old Main at the Thacher School

Public schools

  • Ojai Unified School District
    • Chaparral High School
    • Nordhoff High School
      • Matilija Junior High School
        • Meiners Oaks Elementary School
        • Mira Monte Elementary School
        • San Antonio School
        • Summit Elementary School
        • Topa Topa Elementary School

Other schools

The Ojai Valley is home to several private boarding schools:

  • Besant Hill School of Happy Valley (formerly Happy Valley School)
  • The Thacher School
  • Ojai Valley School
  • Villanova Preparatory School
  • Oak Grove School
  • Weil Tennis Academy
  • Monica Ros School (preschool through 3rd grade)
  • The Ojai Valley is also home to: the Montessori School of Ojai, a private day school, Laurel Springs School, which specializes in distance education and home-schooling, Rock Tree Sky, a self-directed learning community in upper Ojai, Global Village School, a progressive K–12 homeschooling program, and Valley Oak Charter School, founded in 2003, is a K-12 WASC accredited, public charter, homeschooling hybrid
  • Camp Ramah in California is in the hills of Ojai.
  • The Summer Science Program was formerly hosted at the Besant Hill School (2000–2009) and at The Thacher School (1959–1999).



In 2013, a plan to take over the private water system was approved by voters. Up to $60 million in bonds would be issued and a special tax district would be formed. This was approved by almost 90 percent of voters but it was tied up in court by the private water purveyor, Golden State Water Company. Casitas Municipal Water District took over management of the Ojai water system by purchase of the franchise from Golden State Water Company in April 2017. The Ojai Valley Sanitary District treats the sewage from the city and surrounding areas. In 2020, the city banned new hook-ups to natural gas except for restaurants and pools.


Public libraries: Ventura County Library—14 county locations, with three branches in the Ojai Valley:

  • Ojai Library
  • Oak View Library
  • Meiners Oaks Library

Notable people

Tom Neff and Beatrice Wood in Ojai, 1993
  • Bud Abbott, actor, producer, and comedian
  • Beth Allen, professional golfer
  • David Allen, author, Getting Things Done
  • June Allyson, actress
  • Colman Andrews, writer and editor
  • Ethel Percy Andrus, founder of AARP
  • Sergio Aragonés, cartoonist
  • Daniel Ash, musician
  • Alan Ball, film and television writer and producer
  • Irene Bedard, actor, musician
  • Ed Begley Jr., actor
  • Max Bemis, comic book writer and lead singer of the band Say Anything
  • Paul Bergmann, football player
  • Elmer Bernstein, film and television composer
  • Jon Bernthal, actor
  • Bruce Botnick, engineer and producer for The Doors
  • Ingrid Boulting, artist, actress
  • Pierre Bouvier, singer of Simple Plan
  • Eileen Brennan, actress
  • Eric Burdon, singer-songwriter and actor
  • Tim Burton, film director
  • Rory Calhoun, actor
  • Mario Calire, Grammy Award-winning drummer
  • Julie Christensen, singer
  • Julie Christie, Oscar-winning actress
  • Cory Coffey, BMX rider
  • Glenn Corbett, actor
  • Michael Crooke, professor of strategy, consultant, former CEO Patagonia, Inc., former Navy SEAL
  • Ted Danson, actor
  • Anthony de Mello, spiritual leader
  • John Diehl, director, actor in Stargate and The Shield
  • Vernon Dvorak, meteorologist, Dvorak Technique for tropical cyclone analysis
  • Dave England, Jackass star
  • Peter Farrelly, film director, writer, and producer
  • Maynard Ferguson, jazz musician, composer
  • Joe Flanigan, actor
  • Robben Ford, blues/jazz guitarist and vocalist
  • Mark Frost, screenwriter and television writer
  • Sharon Gabet, actress
  • Lindy Goetz, music manager (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
  • Larry Hagman, actor in I Dream of Jeannie and Dallas
  • Anne Heche, actress, director, and screenwriter
  • Otto and Vivika Heino, ceramic artists, "The Pottery"
  • Toby Hemingway, actor in The Covenant and Feast of Love; moved to Ojai with his mother when he was 13
  • Richard Jefferson, Australia-based molecular biologist, open source science advocate, founder of CAMBIA
  • Mikael Jorgensen, keyboardist for Wilco
  • Cody Kasch, actor and SAG award winner for Desperate Housewives
  • Byron Katie, founder of The Work
  • Roger Kellaway, jazz pianist and composer
  • Linda Kelsey, actress in Lou Grant
  • Ed Kowalczyk, lead singer for Live
  • John Krasinski, actor
  • Jiddu Krishnamurti, philosopher
  • James Kyson Lee, Korean-American film actor, educated at Villanova Preparatory School
  • Diane Ladd, actress, writer, director nominated three times each for Emmys and Oscars
  • John Langley, creator of COPS
  • Harry Lauter, character actor in film and television
  • Zachary Levi, actor in Chuck and Less Than Perfect
  • Ted Levine, actor in The Silence of the Lambs and TV's Monk
  • Larry Linville, actor in M*A*S*H
  • Jackie Lomax, musician, first artist signed to Apple Records, a label started by The Beatles
  • Noah Lowry, former pitcher for the San Francisco Giants
  • Johnny Mandel, composer and arranger of popular songs, film music and jazz
  • S.A. Martinez, singer/rapper of the group 311
  • Stacy Margolin (born 1959), tennis player
  • Dave Mason, English musician, singer and songwriter
  • Elisabeth Maurus (aka Lissie), folk-rock musician
  • Orpheo McCord, drummer/percussionist for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
  • Malcolm McDowell, actor
  • Charles Millard Pratt, oil industrialist and philanthropist
  • Rodney Mullen, skateboarder
  • Bill Paxton, actor in Aliens and Apollo 13
  • Paula Jean Myers-Pope, Olympic diver
  • Caspar Poyck, actor, producer, chef, speaker and psychodigestive therapist
  • Anthony Quinn, actor, painter, and writer
  • Betsy Randle, actress, Boy Meets World
  • Rick Rossovich, actor in Top Gun and Roxanne
  • Louise Sandhaus, graphic designer
  • Peter Scolari, actor in Newhart and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show
  • Alex Sheshunoff, author
  • Jan Smithers, actress in WKRP in Cincinnati
  • Mary Steenburgen, actress
  • Donna Steichen, Roman Catholic journalist and critic of feminism
  • Izzy Stradlin, guitarist, formerly in rock group "Guns N' Roses"
  • Peter Strauss, actor in The Jericho Mile and Rich Man, Poor Man
  • George S. Stuart, sculptor
  • Chuck Testa, taxidermist and subject of an internet meme
  • Caroline Thompson, screenwriter and director
  • Christopher Trumbo, screenwriter
  • Rodney Walker, mid-century modern architect
  • Beau Weaver, voice actor, narrator
  • Reese Witherspoon, Oscar-winning actress and producer
  • Beatrice Wood, artist, teacher at the Happy Valley School
  • Dana Wynter, actress,"Invasion of the Body Snatchers"
  • James Wysong, author
  • Loretta Young, actress and TV hostess
  • Chloé Zhao, filmmaker and Oscar winning director,
  • Eugene Cole "Gene" Zubrinsky, Master Genealogist and Fellow of the American Society of Genealogists (FASG)

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