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Santa Paula
Thomas Aquinas Chapel Facade 2.jpg
California Orange Grove2.jpg
Santa Paula, CA, Agriculture Mural, 2012 - panoramio (1) (cropped).jpg
Top: Thomas Aquinas College; Bottom: orange groves (left) and downtown (right)
Official seal of Santa Paula
Citrus Capital of the World
Location in Ventura County and the state of California
Location in Ventura County and the state of California
Santa Paula, California is located in the United States
Santa Paula, California
Santa Paula, California
Location in the United States
Country United States
State California
County Ventura
Founded 1872
Incorporated April 22, 1902
 • City 5.69 sq mi (14.75 km2)
 • Land 5.53 sq mi (14.32 km2)
 • Water 0.16 sq mi (0.42 km2)  2.41%
279 ft (85 m)
 • City 30,657
 • Density 5,543.76/sq mi (2,081.00/km2)
 • Metro
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
ZIP Codes
93060, 93061
Area code 805
FIPS code 06-70042
GNIS feature IDs 1652793, 2411826
03-07-2009-Thomas Aquinas Chapel Exterior
St. Thomas Aquinas Chapel
Santa Paula, California (21399016118)
Santa Paula, California, the Santa Clara River and South Mountain from the air, 2015
SouthMountain1 (cropped)
South Mountain, showing part of the South Mountain Oil Field and radio towers

Santa Paula (Spanish for "St. Paula") is a city in Ventura County, California. Situated amid the orchards of the Santa Clara River Valley, the city advertises itself to tourists as the "Citrus Capital of the World". Santa Paula was one of the early centers of California's petroleum industry. The Union Oil Company Building, the founding headquarters of the Union Oil Company of California in 1890, now houses the California Oil Museum. The population was 30,657 at the 2020 census, up from 29,321 at the 2010 census.


The area of what today is Santa Paula was originally inhabited by the Chumash, a Native American people. In 1769, the Spanish Portola expedition, first Europeans to see inland areas of California, came down the Santa Clara River Valley from the previous night's encampment near Fillmore and camped in the vicinity of Santa Paula on August 12, near one of the creeks coming into the valley from the north (probably Santa Paula Creek). Fray Juan Crespi, a Franciscan missionary travelling with the expedition, had previously named the valley Cañada de Santa Clara. He noted that the party traveled about 9 to 10 miles (14 to 16 km) that day and camped near a large native village, which he named San Pedro Amoliano. The site of the expedition's arrival has been designated California Historical Landmark No. 727.

Franciscan missionaries, led by Father Junipero Serra, became active in the area after the founding of the San Buenaventura Mission and established an Asistencia; the town takes its name from the Catholic Saint Paula. Santa Paula is located on the 1843 Rancho Santa Paula y Saticoy Mexican land grant.

In 1872 Nathan Weston Blanchard purchased 2,700 acres (10.9 km2) and laid out the townsite. Considered the founder of the community, he planted seedling orange trees in 1874. Several small oil companies owned by Wallace Hardison, Lyman Stewart and Thomas R. Bard were combined and became the Union Oil Company in 1890.

In April 1911, Gaston Méliès moved his Star Film Company from San Antonio, Texas to a site just north of Santa Paula.

The large South Mountain Oil Field southeast of town, just across the Santa Clara River, was discovered by the Oak Ridge Oil Company in 1916, and developed methodically through the 1920s, bringing further economic diversification and growth to the area. While the field peaked in production in the 1950s, Occidental Petroleum continues to extract oil through its Vintage Production subsidiary and remains a significant local employer.

A 500-acre (200 ha) master-planned community of 1,500 homes is expected to expand the town significantly when it begins construction in 2016.


The town has been devastated twice by floods and was affected by a nearby truck explosion that resulted in an industrial disaster.


The first, known as the Great Flood of 1862, began on December 24, 1861. It rained for almost four weeks, reaching a total of 35 inches at Los Angeles. The second was caused by the failure and near complete collapse of the St. Francis Dam, which took place in the middle of the night on March 12, 1928. The dam was holding a full reservoir of 12.4 billion gallons (47 billion liters) of water that with the dam collapsed, began surging down San Francisquito Canyon and emptying into the Santa Clara River. The town was first hit by the waters at approximately 3:00 a.m. Though hundreds of homes and structures were destroyed, the loss of life would have been greater if it were not for two motorcycle police officers that noisily warned as many people as possible. A sculpture called "The Watchers" in downtown Santa Paula depicts this act of heroism.

Santa Clara Waste Water plant industrial disaster

A vacuum truck exploded at the Santa Clara Waste Water plant in the early morning hours of November 18, 2014. Two workers were injured in the initial explosion, three responding fire-fighters were injured by the fumes from the spill of a highly volatile chemical mixture, and 50 others were exposed to fumes and required treatment at local hospitals. The driver was transporting waste from a temporary storage drum to a processing center when he stopped to take a meal break. The rear of the truck exploded, spreading a white liquid over a 300-by-400-foot area (91 by 122 m) that spontaneously combusted as it dried and was sensitive to shock, pressure and the application of water or oxygen. The tires of the first fire truck on the scene and the boots of three firefighters sparked small explosions when they drove and walked over the substance as they went to help the injured workers. The incident evolved into a disaster when later in the morning additional materials began to burn and explode, which resulted in a three-mile-long plume of toxic smoke (4.8 km) and the closing of Highway 126. Chemical smoke drifted over the area and nearby residents and businesses were required to evacuate.


What was initially reported as sewage was found to be about 1,000 US gallons (3,800 l; 830 imp gal) of a chemical mixture consisting of some sort of organic peroxide. In the first days of the investigation, officials speculated that two inert chemicals mistakenly mixed in the truck and created an organic peroxide substance with sulfuric acid appearing to be part of the mix. Organic peroxide combines unstably bound oxygen together with hydrogen and carbon in the same molecule and ignites easily and then burns rapidly and intensely. While field testing was performed on the reactive material for initial identification, the county hazardous materials manager found that laboratories would not test the chemicals over concerns that lab personnel could be injured or their equipment damaged. Three weeks after the incident, the substance was still highly susceptible to friction and seemed to react to something as slight as wind. Sodium chlorite was identified in an internal investigation by the firm in the months following the disaster. They claimed that the chemical was being used as a water treatment agent for the first time and was stored in the same type of storage container as wastewater. The worker combined the chemical with wastewater in the vacuum truck where the chemical interacting with organic material caused an explosion that blew off the back of the truck. A former county district attorney, retained by a company attorney, issued a report in March 2015 that provided an explanation of events indicating that the worker may have accidentally combined the chemicals. Later, investigators found that an inspection by a Defense Logistics Agency contractor was scheduled for that morning and officials of the firm had directed the transfer of these hazardous materials to another location.


Although the explosion and resulting fumes caused injuries including the lungs of three fire-fighters who remained off-duty indefinitely, the material scattered around the site was found to be non-hazardous for clean-up purposes. The two fire engines that arrived first remained out of service for months and may ultimately have to be scrapped. The Ventura County Sheriff declared a local emergency so the Ventura County Board of Supervisors could ratify the action and allow the county to seek reimbursement for its costs from state disaster relief funds. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency oversaw the decontamination of the site. The material was neutralized and solidified on site. Tons of material were eventually taken to the Chiquita Canyon Landfill in nearby Castaic. Almost three months later on February 10, 2015, the County Supervisors ended the emergency declaration. With the permit to operate suspended, the firm needed to finish removing the waste materials and provide a plan that would show how another such incident would be prevented before being allowed to start accepting liquid waste again. County regulators and county supervisors also wanted the city of Oxnard to agree to accept the waste water again after an analysis of the safety of the pipeline.

On August 7, 2015, a Ventura County grand jury indicted the Santa Clara Waste Water Co. and 10 other defendants. Following the indictment, the district attorney had the 10 defendants arrested on suspicion of several felonies and misdemeanors, including filing a false or forged instrument, dissuading a witness from reporting a crime, known failure to warn of serious concealed danger, withholding information regarding a substantial danger to public safety, conspiracy to commit a crime, causing impairment of an employee’s body, and disposal of hazardous waste.


The facility at 815 Mission Rock Road, Santa Paula, provided service to over 30,000 waste generators. At the time, it had received and processed over 2,000,000,000 US gallons (7.6×109 l) since it opened in 1959. The company says they treat about 100 different streams of waste. The owner of facility said that they never had a major problem such as this since the plant only takes non-hazardous waste. The capacity of the facility was increased to handle up to 100-US-gallon-per-minute (380 l; 83 imp gal) or 140,000-US-gallon-per-day (530,000 L) by 2014. The facility provides an environmentally safe and legal means of treating, disposing and recycling of contaminated but non-hazardous waste as an alternative to dumping untreated wastes into municipal sewer systems or into the environment. The plant uses centrifuges, electrocoagulation, carbon and micron filtration, ozone injection, dissolved air flotation, and chemical treatments. Treated waste water is sent through a pipeline to the Oxnard municipal treatment plant.

A consortium of six major oil companies (Chevron, Exxon, Mobil, Shell, Texaco and Unocal) established Santa Clara Waste Water to service their internal disposal needs. Eventually the site became a full-service disposal facility for most non-hazardous wastewater and was renamed Southern California Waste Water. The site is located in a 91-acre industrial area (37 ha) that is surrounded by agriculture and located about 2-mile southwest (3.2 km) of the Santa Paula city limits. Green Compass that operates the facility also operates a Class II injection well in Kern County that is tailored toward oilfield production and completion fluids. The only other commercial facility for disposal of oil field waste in the county, operated by Anterra Corp. in Oxnard, temporarily expanded operations after the incident.


The city of Santa Paula, according to the United States Census Bureau, has a total area of 4.7 square miles (12 km2), 4.6 square miles (12 km2) of it land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) of it (2.41%) water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 188
1890 1,047 456.9%
1910 2,216
1920 3,967 79.0%
1930 7,452 87.8%
1940 8,986 20.6%
1950 11,049 23.0%
1960 13,279 20.2%
1970 18,001 35.6%
1980 20,658 14.8%
1990 25,062 21.3%
2000 28,598 14.1%
2010 29,321 2.5%
2020 30,675 4.6%
U.S. Decennial Census


The 2010 United States Census reported that Santa Paula had a population of 29,321. The population density was 6,230.3 people per square mile (2,405.5/km2). The racial makeup of Santa Paula was 18,458 (63.0%) White, 152 (0.5%) African American, 460 (1.6%) Native American, 216 (0.7%) Asian, 24 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 8,924 (30.4%) from other races, and 1,087 (3.7%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 23,299 persons (79.5%).

The Census reported that 29,188 people (99.5% of the population) lived in households, 44 (0.2%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 89 (0.3%) were institutionalized.

There were 8,347 households, out of which 4,087 (49.0%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 4,767 (57.1%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 1,267 (15.2%) had a female householder with no husband present, 650 (7.8%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 540 (6.5%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 45 (0.5%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 1,331 households (15.9%) were made up of individuals, and 678 (8.1%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.50. There were 6,684 families (80.1% of all households); the average family size was 3.85.

The population was spread out, with 8,722 people (29.7%) under the age of 18, 3,295 people (11.2%) aged 18 to 24, 8,012 people (27.3%) aged 25 to 44, 6,193 people (21.1%) aged 45 to 64, and 3,099 people (10.6%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31.1 years. For every 100 females, there were 101.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.5 males.

There were 8,749 housing units at an average density of 1,859.1 per square mile (717.8/km2), of which 4,694 (56.2%) were owner-occupied, and 3,653 (43.8%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 2.0%; the rental vacancy rate was 4.1%. 15,528 people (53.0% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 13,660 people (46.6%) lived in rental housing units.


As of the census of 2000, there were 28,598 people, 8,137 households, and 6,435 families residing in the city. The population density was 6,214.6 inhabitants per square mile (2,400.4/km2). There were 8,341 housing units at an average density of 1,812.6 per square mile (700.1/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 35.2% White, 5.41% African American, 1.02% Native American, 0.70% Asian, 0.19% Pacific Islander, .37% from other races, and 4.68% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 61.2% of the population.

There were 8,136 households, out of which 44.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.1% were married couples living together, 13.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 20.9% were non-families. 17.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.49 and the average family size was 3.86.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 31.4% under the age of 18, 10.9% from 18 to 24, 29.7% from 25 to 44, 17.3% from 45 to 64, and 10.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females, there were 103.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 102.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $41,651, and the median income for a family was $45,419. Males had a median income of $32,165 versus $25,818 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,736. About 12.2% of families and 14.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 18.4% of those under age 18 and 9.1% of those age 65 or over.


California Orange Grove2
Orange grove outside of Santa Paula, California.

While agriculture is the most important industry in Santa Paula today, the city experienced an economic boom after oil was discovered in 1880.

The economy is primarily agriculturally based, originally focusing on the growing of oranges and lemons. Santa Paula's mediterranean climate combined with an estimated 20 feet (6.1 m) of topsoil have made it a prime location for growing citrus. Avocado has also become a major crop and an avocado was added to the city's official seal. Calavo Growers, Inc. is headquartered here.

Santa Paula has very few large retail stores but residents often travel to neighboring cities to purchase hard goods. The Main Street area consists mostly of clothing shops, specialty shops, novelty shops, dollar stores, restaurants, service-oriented businesses and office space. The city also has neighborhood stores and small grocery markets. Many of these small shops and markets have a distinct Latin-American flavor, often selling myriad imported items. In addition some markets also have a meat department which sells a variety of beef, poultry, and seafood.

A 501-acre expansion (203 ha) on the eastern edge of Santa Paula was approved in 2015. This residential and commercial development by Limoneira was known as "East Area One" for the purpose of approval. Officials and residents were hoping this major expansion of the city would create new jobs and increase tax revenue for the cash-strapped city. When the project was first proposed in 1997, concerns were raised that Limoneira was beginning to develop their extensive holdings of prime farmland. Company officials claimed that 83% of the Teague-McKevett parcel was either unsuitable for agriculture or had a low value because of poor soil and drainage.


Union Oil Company Building
Union Oil's original headquarters, now the California Oil Museum.

The Santa Clara Valley represents one of the best preserved examples of a mature Southern California landscape of citrus groves. Tourists find a town with a main street reminiscent of Middle America in an agricultural setting preserved through Ventura County's greenbelt agreements. The California Oil Museum, within the historic Union Oil building, is located downtown, as are the Santa Paula Art Museum and Museum of Ventura County Agriculture Museum. The Santa Paula Mural Project has completed numerous murals depicting the city's history.


Historically, education was provided by the Santa Paula Elementary School District and the Santa Paula Union High School District. In 2013, the two bodies were merged to form the Santa Paula Unified School District. Many schools in Santa Paula, largely serving students from low-income families, are scoring low in state-administered tests, below the 30th percentile in statewide comparisons.

Santa Paula Unified School District

Elementary schools

  • Barbara Webster Elementary
  • Thelma Bedell Elementary
  • Blanchard Elementary
  • Glenn City Elementary
  • McKevett Elementary
  • Grace Thille Elementary

Middle school

  • Isbell Middle School

High schools

  • Renaissance High School
  • Santa Paula High School


Thomas Aquinas College, outside city limits

Briggs School District

  • Olivelands School (elementary)
  • Briggs School (middle)

Mupu School District

  • Mupu School (elementary)

Private schools

  • St. Sebastian School (K-8)


The Santa Paula Earth Station

The Santa Paula Water Recycling Facility was built in 2010 for $63 million to treat the city sewage. Santa Paula Water, a partnership of two corporations, financed, built and operated the facility under the agreement with the city. The city purchased the facility for $70.8 million in 2015 to take control and end a dispute over the failure of the plant to sufficiently remove chlorides. Although the new plant used modern treatment methods, the treated wastewater contained contaminants called chlorides that must be removed under state law before being discharged into the Santa Clara River.

Fire department

The Santa Paula Fire Department provided fire protection and emergency medical services at the basic life support level (BLS) from two fire stations. American Medical Response (AMR) is the paramedic ambulance provider for the city. On July 8, 2018, The Santa Paula Fire Department was disbanded after serving Santa Paula for 115 years. The Ventura County Fire Department now provides fire protection services for the City of Santa Paula. Both fire stations used by Santa Paula Fire were transferred to Ventura County Fire.

Law enforcement

The Santa Paula Police Department provides law enforcement services for the city. The overall crime rate is low.

Notable people

  • Gaston Méliès (b.1852): Brother to Georges Méliès; he set up the American branch of their Star Film Company in Santa Paula, filming many movies in the area.
  • Jim Colborn (b. 1946): former Major League Baseball pitcher and pitching coach; he was a 20-game winner in 1973.
  • Laura Diaz: newscaster, most notably with KABC-TV from 1983 to 2002, KCBS-TV from 2002 to 2011, and KTTV-TV from 2012–Present.
  • Dana Elcar: actor, played Pete Thornton in the MacGyver television series from 1985 to 1992 and was featured in many films including The Sting; spent later years at his home on Laurel Road in Santa Paula.
  • Nola Fairbanks: born Nola Jo Modine, had a notable singing career on Broadway.
  • Eric Fleming: actor, star of Rawhide; born as Edward Heddy, Jr., July 4, 1925.
  • Danny Flores: musician, a.k.a. Chuck Rio, wrote and played sax on the 1958 song “Tequila”, winner of best R&B song at the 1st Annual Grammy Awards; he became known as the "Godfather of Latino Rock ‘n’ Roll"
  • Grupo Bryndis: internationally known Mexican musical group. Formed by their leader and songwriter Mauro Posadas in 1983, they won a Latin Grammy Award for best album in 2007.
  • Joi Lansing: Actress and pin up model is buried there.
  • William Lucking: actor, played Piney on Sons of Anarchy; spent much of his early career as a resident, raising two daughters and serving on the school board.
  • Steve McQueen (1930-1980): actor, spent the last two years of his life (1979–1980) in Santa Paula, often flying his biplane from the Santa Paula Airport; he and his soon-to-be wife Barbara lived in his hangar at the airport until they moved into a home on South Mountain Road just outside town.
  • Richard Pinedo: pleaded guilty to one count of identity fraud in connection to the Russian interference in the 2016 United States elections after allegedly selling stolen bank account information to individuals suspected of interfering in the election through the use of Auction Essistance, an online marketplace.
  • Charles M. Teague (1909-1974): U.S. Representative from California, born in Santa Paula and buried in the local cemetery. He served as director of McKevett Corp. and Teague-McKevett Co.

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