Lafayette (formerly, La Fayette) is a city in Contra Costa County, California, United States. As of the 2000 census, the city's population was 23,908. It is named (in 1857) after the Marquis de Lafayette, a French military hero of the American Revolutionary War. Today Lafayette is known for its pastoral rolling hills and upscale lifestyle.
Before the colonization of the region by Spain, Lafayette and its vicinity were inhabited by the Saclan tribe of the indigenous Bay Miwok. Ohlone also populated some of the areas along Lafayette Creek. The indigenous inhabitants' first contact with Europeans was in the late 1700s with the founding of Catholic missions in the region. These initial contacts developed into conflict, with years of armed struggle, including a battle on what is currently Lafayette soil in 1797 between the Saclan and the Spanish, and eventually resulting in the subjugation of the native population.
Most of what is currently Lafayette was given as a Mexican land grant, Rancho Acalanes to Candelario Valencia in 1834. The name Acalanes seems to have come from the name of a native village in the area, Ahala-n.
American settlement started with the arrival of Elam Brown in 1846. He purchased Rancho Acalanes in 1848. The settlement continued to steadily grow due to its proximity to San Francisco. Brown founded a mill in 1853.
On March 2, 1857 the LaFayette post office was established by the U.S. Postal Service. (The official document giving this exact date was supplied to the Lafayette Historical Society in 1993 by the Historical Division of the U.S. Postal Service.) Prior to 1857 the community that we have been calling "Lafayette" actually had no known name - though there are undocumented rumors that it was called Dog Town, Brown's Corner, Brown's Mill, Acalanus, and perhaps Centerville.
The name "LaFayette" came together with the community's first post office. In 1857 Benjamin Shreve, owner and manager of a roadside hotel-general store (which faced today's Lafayette Plaza), applied for a post office for the community, first requesting the name Centerville. When informed that a post office with that name already existed in California, Shreve suggested La Fayette, after the French general who became a hero of the American Revolution (probably not because his wife was a native of La Fayette, Indiana). The first LaFayette post office was established at 3535 Plaza Way and Shreve became the town's first permanent postmaster, holding the job for 30 years.
Spelling: On the original document from the U.S. Postal Service, dated 2 March 1857, the name “LaFayette” is unmistakably written as one word with a capital “F” in the middle. Yet research by Ruth Dyer, Lafayette historian, shows that the name of the post office and of the new town itself soon began to be written as two words, “La Fayette.” By 1890 it had changed to one word, "Lafayette," and so appeared in an official communication from the U.S. "Post Office Department" in Feb. 1899. Then by 1905 it was back to two words. Finally on 31 March 1932 the name of the post office was officially changed to Lafayette, which has remained unchanged to this day. Lafayette was the second oldest post office in Contra Costa County, after Martinez, the county seat.
In the early 1860s, Lafayette was briefly the site of a station for the Pony Express.
In 1864 the place name "Lafayette" first appeared on a map of the area, titled "Bancroft's Map of California, Nevada, Utah and Arizona (copyrighted 1863. Scale: 24 miles to 1 inch). The post office changed to this spelling in 1932.
Lafayette is located at According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 39.9 km² (15.4 mi²). 39.4 km² (15.2 mi²) of it is land and 0.5 km² (0.2 mi²) of it (1.36%) is water..
The city is part of the greater San Francisco Bay Area and has its own station on the BART public transit system. Lafayette is situated between Walnut Creek, Moraga, and Orinda, and, together with the latter two towns, is considered locally as part of "Lamorinda."
Lafayette is separated from greater Berkeley and Oakland by the Berkeley Hills (and the Caldecott Tunnel running beneath), a geographical boundary within the East Bay which also represents interesting meteorological, cultural, and political distinctions. The climate differences can be striking: during the summer, temperatures can soar beyond 100 degrees Fahrenheit in Lafayette and its neighboring cities while the areas west of the hills and nearer to the bay remain up to 20 degrees cooler. Temperatures highs are generally from 60-75 from February through May,75-95 June through November, and 55-60 from December through January. Summer days can reach 100, though generally are in 80s and low 90s. Nights can be as low as the low 30s in Dec-March, though most of the year low temps at night are in upper 40s and 50s. The region directly east of the hills is generally known for its more suburban or rural atmosphere, and features rolling, grassy hills which highlight a more peaceful and domestic aura. In the southwestern part of Lafayette, is the Lafayette Reservoir, and Briones Regional Park extends into the northern part of Lafayette.
|Weather data for Lafayette|
|Average high °F (°C)||54 |
|Average low °F (°C)||39 |
|Precipitation inches (mm)||4.25 |
|Source: Weather Channel 2009-03-30|
As of the census of 2000, there were 23,908 people, 9,152 households, and 6,754 families residing in the city. The population density was 607.3/km² (1,572.5/mi²). There were 9,334 housing units at an average density of 237.1/km² (613.9/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 86.81% White, 0.55% Black or African American, 0.22% Native American, 8.23% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 0.81% from other races, and 3.30% from two or more races. 3.95% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 9,152 households out of which 36.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.9% were married couples living together, 6.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.2% were non-families. 20.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.60 and the average family size was 3.02.
In the city the population was spread out with 25.9% under the age of 18, 4.4% from 18 to 24, 24.9% from 25 to 44, 30.4% from 45 to 64, and 14.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 95.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.5 males.
According to a 2007 estimate, the median income for a household in the city was $118,974, and the median income for a family was $147,928. Males had a median income of $90,067 versus $51,855 for females. The per capita income for the city was $54,319. About 2.1% of families and 2.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 2.5% of those under age 18 and 5.1% of those age 65 or over.
The average home price was $1,284,900 in 2005.
In November 2006, area residents began placing crosses on a hill overlooking the Lafayette BART station and Highway 24 "to represent and memorialize the American soldiers who have died in the ongoing Iraqi war." As of May 2008, there are over 4,000 crosses in place, one for each of the troops who have died in Iraq, and there is also a large sign displaying the total number of deaths. The memorial has generated public attention, media coverage and counter-protests due to its visibility from the commuter thoroughfare below. Also, since the creation of the memorial, there have been several incidences of vandalism. While some show support for the protest, other residents complain that it is disrespectful to those in uniform in Iraq and that it is an eyesore to the community.