Sebastopol (pronounced /səˈbæstəpoʊl/) is a town in Sonoma County, California, United States, approximately 52 mi (80 km) north of San Francisco. The population was 7,774 at the 2000 census, but its businesses also serve surrounding rural portions of Sonoma County, totaling about 50,000 people. It is about a 20-minute drive from the Pacific Ocean, between Santa Rosa and Bodega Bay, and is known for its liberal politics and small-town charm. It was once primarily a plum and apple growing region, however wine grapes are now predominant, and nearly all lands once used for orchards are now vineyards. World-famous horticulturist Luther Burbank had gardens in this fertile region. The city hosts an annual Apple Blossom Festival and Gravenstein Apple Fair.
Sebastopol is the home of publisher O'Reilly Media, which publishes books on open-source software and other topics, and international camera bag manufacturer Lowepro Inc. Primus lead singer/bassist Les Claypool, singer/songwriter Tom Waits, singer/songwriter Nick Gravenites, and actor Peter Krause currently reside in the area. Sebastopol is home to Analy High School, Laguna High School, Brook Haven Middle School, Gravenstein Elementary School, Hillcrest Middle School, Twin Hills Middle School, Pine Crest Elementary, Apple Blossom Elementary, along with many other private and charter schools.
The area's first known inhabitants were the native Coast Miwok and Pomo peoples. The town of Sebastopol formed in the 1850s with a U.S. Post Office and as a small trade center for the farmers of the surrounding agricultural region. As California's population swelled after the westward migration and the Gold rush of the 1850s, more and more settlers drifted into the fertile California valleys north of San Francisco to try their hand at farming.
The name of Sebastopol first came into use in the late 1850s as a result of a prolonged and lively fist fight in the newly formed town, which was likened to the long British siege of the then-Russian seaport of Sevastopol (now part of Ukraine) during the Crimean War. At one time, four other California towns were also named Sebastopol (specifically, one in Napa County renamed Yountville, and others in Tulare, Sacramento and Nevada counties). There is some debate about how the name "Sebastopol" came into being. The town was originally called Pinegrove, and how the name change occurred is rumored to have something to do with a bar fight. The original name can be seen in the names of two of the longer standing downtown businesses, Pinegrove consignment store, and the Pinecone restaurant.
Sebastopol became known as the "Gravenstein Apple Capital of the World". The apple industry brought a steady rural prosperity to the town. In 1890 the Northwestern Pacific Railroad opened a branch to Sebastopol. The town was incorporated in 1902 with schools, churches, hotels, canneries, mills, wineries, and an opera house to its credit. The 1906 earthquake reduced most of these early buildings to rubble, (Sebastopol is only seven miles from the city of Santa Rosa, the worst hit town in the 1906 earthquake) but as elsewhere in the county, the town was rebuilt.
In the second half of the 20th century, the apple industry struggled to compete with other apple producing regions and has gradually declined in economic significance. With greater personal mobility and the rise of larger shopping centers in other Sonoma County communities, many residents now often commute to work and shop in the neighboring towns of Rohnert Park or Santa Rosa, while Sebastopol maintains its small town charm.
It is often incorrectly stated that until the 1990s, Sebastopol was the last remaining town in Northern California that still had working railroad trains going down Main Street. The tracks were actually removed in the late 1980s. Passenger service had ceased in the 1930s, and regular freight service ended in the late 1970s, which Analy High School students documented in the 1979 video, Our Train Down Main: a History of the Petaluma and Santa Rosa Railroad. The canneries have disappeared from downtown, and the apple processing plant as well, while vineyards and new housing developments have replaced some of the apple orchards eliminating the need for a train service to town.
It is often also incorrectly stated that the tracks were removed in the 1990s when the downtown area was redesigned with two one-way streets to enhance traffic along Gravenstein Highway (Route 116). Main Street and Petaluma Avenue were actually designated one-way streets in 1985 in a perhaps misguided attempt to deal with the town's perennial traffic problem.
Some famous residents of Sebastopol include: the horticulturist Luther Burbank who established an 18 acre Gold Ridge Environmental Farm in the township in the late 1800s; Willard Libby, inventor of carbon dating went to Analy High School; the cartoonist Charles Schulz; actress Karen Valentine of the television show Room 222; actress Schuyler Grant of the 1985 adaptation of Anne of Green Gables; and the musicians Les Claypool of Primus and both Jerry Garcia and Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead.
Sebastopol is located at . Its elevation is 65 to 250 feet (20 to 75 meters) above sea level. Its downtown is at the intersection of State Route 12 and State Route 116 (aka Gravenstein Highway), approximately 9 mi (14 km) west of U.S. Route 101.(38.399163, -122.827034)
Sebastopol is situated on the edge of the Laguna de Santa Rosa, which is fed by Santa Rosa Creek and other tributaries. The Laguna is a wetland area that is home to many species of wildlife and vegetation, and divides the town from the neighboring Santa Rosa. Nearly every winter the Laguna floods, cutting off State Route 12, and often flooding the low lying businesses and homes on the eastern side of Sebastopol. The Pitkin Marsh lily and White sedge are two rare species of plants that are found in the vicinity of Sebastopol.
As of the census of 2000, there were 7,774 people, 3,250 households, and 1,953 families residing in the city. The population density was 4,139/sq mi (1,597/km²). There were 3,321 housing units at an average density of 1,768/sq mi (682/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 89.85% White, 0.66% African American, 0.78% Native American, 1.52% Asian, 0.10% Pacific Islander, 3.86% from other races, and 3.23% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 9.26% of the population.
There were 3,250 households out of which 31.8% included children under the age of 18 in the house, 41.5% were married couples living together, 14.2% were led by a female householder with no husband present, and 39.9% were other living arrangements. 31.8% of all households were made up of a single individual and 14.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.33 and the average family size was 2.95.
For the most part the population is spread out across the age groups, although the young adult population is drastically lower than the other groups, indicating that most young people leave, at least temporarily. The reasons for this are probably a combination of the high cost of living and the lack of other young adults. The percent distribution on the 2000 census by age was as follows: 23.6% under the age of 18, 7.4% from 18 to 24, 25.0% from 25 to 44, 27.6% from 45 to 64, and 16.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years.
For every 100 females there were 81.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 75.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $46,436, and the median income for a family was $55,792. Males had a median income of $40,538 versus $32,399 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,881. About 4.7% of families and 6.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 6.7% of those under age 18 and 6.0% of those age 65 or over.
The city council consists of five members, each serving four year terms. City council races are not partisan, so each member does not officially represent any party, however since 2000 there has been a decent amount of attention given to the individual party membership of city council members in Sebastopol. This happened because in 2000, with the election of Craig Litwin and Sam Spooner to the city council, the town had a Green Party majority—or would have, if city council races were partisan. This was only the second time this had ever happened, the first being the town of Arcata, California in 1996.
As this indicates, Sebastopol tends to support environmental policies. In 1986, the citizens approved an initiative declaring Sebastopol a "Nuclear Free Zone", The town does not use pesticides in city landscaping, and several years back, when the police needed a new vehicle, the city council voted to purchase a hybrid instead of a standard police car.
Current issues facing the city include a high cost of living and ongoing difficulties with traffic (the town has two highways going through downtown).
In the state legislature Sebastopool is located in the 2nd Senate District, represented by Democrat Pat Wiggins, and in the 1st Assembly District, represented by Democrat Patty Berg. Federally, Sebastopol is located in California's 6th congressional district.