King City (variant: Kings City) is a city in Monterey County, California, United States. King City is located on the Salinas River 21 miles (34 km) southeast of Salinas, at an elevation of 335 feet (102 m). It lies along U.S. Route 101 in the Salinas Valley of the Central Coast of California. King City is a member of the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments.
King City was originally known as King's City for the founder, Charles King. In 1884 Charles King acquired 13,000 acres (53 km2) of the San Lorenzo Rancho, a Spanish land grant, and began growing 6,000 acres (24 km2) of wheat. The town began as a train stop in 1886 for the Southern Pacific Railroad to service the farms and ranches in the south Salinas Valley and to transport the goods to San Francisco and Los Angeles. It was originally called "Hog Town" since swine were one of the major agricultural products of the area in the 1880s. The King City post office first opened in 1887. King City incorporated under the name "City of King" in 1911.
J. Ernst Steinbeck, father of the novelist John Steinbeck, claimed to have been the first permanent resident of King City. Steinbeck was certainly among the first settlers. He was the first agent for the S.P. Milling Company, which built an early warehouse and flour mill alongside the railroad tracks running through town. The mill was built by R. M. Shackelford, an early California settler and businessman who owned sheep pasturage next to that of Charles King.
As of the census of 2000, there were 11,094 people, 2,736 households, and 2,251 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,030.0 people per square mile (1,170.3/km²). There were 2,822 housing units at an average density of 770.8/sq mi (297.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 42.09% White, 0.59% Black or African American, 1.05% Native American, 1.23% Asian, 0.14% Pacific Islander, 50.46% from other races, and 4.46% from two or more races. 80.42% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 2,736 households out of which 54.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 62.2% were married couples living together, 12.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 17.7% were non-families. 13.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 4.03 and the average family size was 4.28.
In the city the population was spread out with 35.7% under the age of 18, 13.7% from 18 to 24, 31.2% from 25 to 44, 13.3% from 45 to 64, and 6.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 25 years. For every 100 females there were 115.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 119.6 males.
The median annual income for a household in the city was $34,398 and the median annual income for a family was $33,750. Males had a median annual income of $27,377 versus $25,286 for females. The per capita annual income for the city was $11,685. About 16.9% of families and 20.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.5% of those under age 18 and 17.1% of those age 65 or over.
Local radio stations include KEXA-FM - 93.9 and KRKC-AM - 1490. Television service for the community comes from the Monterey-Salinas-Santa Cruz designated market area (DMA). Local newspapers include the Gannett-owned Salinas Californian and the town's own weekly, The King City Rustler.
The Rustler was founded in 1901 by Fred Vivian, who reportedly went into a local barber shop, sold subcriptions to all the customers and then passed around a hat for them to suggest names for the newspaper. "The Rustler" was the one he drew out.
Vivian was later succeeded as publisher by his grandson Harry Casey, who was called home to King City in 1952 to take over management of the newspaper by his aunt Ruth Steglich after the death of her husband, then-publisher Bill Steglich. He served as co-publisher until Ruth Steglich's death and publisher until declining health forced him to sell The Rustler and three other regional weeklies to News Media, Inc. in 1995.
Casey, whose sons Rich and Bill still operate Casey Printing in King City, died in 1998. Both he and Vivian are members of the California Newspaper Hall of Fame.
The town's name is one of many mentioned in the 2007 motion picture, There Will Be Blood, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson and starring Daniel Day-Lewis. In the film, a gentleman named Henry Brands (Kevin J. O'Connor) attempts to pass himself off as being a relative of the film's central figure, Daniel Plainview (Lewis). As Plainview comes to recognize that Brands is, in fact, an impostor likely bent on obtaining money from him, he confronts Brands in the middle of the night with a pistol. Brands explains that he is, in fact, not of the same bloodline as Plainview but that he met someone in King City who was, and who had mentioned a 'brother' that had recently come into a substantial amount of money. Shortly thereafter the brother died, leaving a diary with numerous insights into his personal life. Brands takes this and memorizes it so as to inhabit the role of the brother, and swindle Plainview out of his newfound wealth. Plainview, in a demonic rage, shoots Brands and scans through the diary, where a brief description of King City and the surrounding areas can be glimpsed.
The town features prominently in the song "Queen of King City," on the Red Meat album We Never Close.
Notable current and former residents of King City include: