Walnut Creek is an incorporated city located 16 miles (26 km) east of the city of Oakland. It lies in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area. While not as large as neighboring Concord, Walnut Creek serves as the business and entertainment hub for the neighboring cities within central Contra Costa County, due in part to its location at the junction of the highways from Sacramento and San Jose (I-680) and San Francisco/Oakland (SR-24). As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 65,384 as of January 2008 according to the California Department of Finance.
There are three bands of Bay Miwok Indians associated with early Walnut Creek: the Saclan, whose territory extended through the hills east of present day Oakland, Rossmoor, Lafayette, Moraga, and Walnut Creek; the Volvon (also spelled Bolbon, Wolwon, and Zuicun) at Mt. Diablo; and the Tactan at Danville and Walnut Creek, on San Ramon Creek.
Today's Walnut Creek is located amidst the earlier site of four Mexican land grants. One of these land grants – measuring 18,000 acres (73 km2) – belonged to Juana Sanchez de Pacheco, who deeded it to her two grandsons. Ygnacio Sibrian, one of the grandsons, created the first roofed home in the valley in about 1850. The grant was called Rancho Arroyo de Las Nueces y Bolbones, named after the principal waterway, Arroyo de las Nueces (Walnut Creek) as well as for the local group of indigenous Americans (Bolbones). The Arroyo de los Nueces was named for the occurrence in the valley of the native species of walnut tree, the California Walnut.
With the coming of American settlers following the US-Mexico War, a small settlement called "The Corners" emerged, named because it was the place where roads from Pacheco and Lafayette met. The site of this first American settlement is found today at the intersection of Mt. Diablo Boulevard and North Main Street. The first town settler was William Slusher, who built a dwelling on the bank of Walnut Creek, which was called “Nuts Creek” by the Americans in 1849. In the year 1855, Milo Hough of Lafayette built the hotel named "Walnut Creek House" in the corners. A blacksmith shop and a store soon joined the hotel, and a year later, Hiram Penniman (who built Shadelands Ranch) laid out the town site and realigned the Main Street of today. Two decades later, the community changed its name from The Corners to Walnut Creek.
In December 1862 a U.S. Post Office was established, and the community was named “Walnut Creek.” The downtown street patterns laid out by pioneer Homer Shuey on a portion of one of his family’s large cattle ranches in 1871-72 are still present today.
Walnut Creek began to grow with the arrival of Southern Pacific Railroad service in 1891. On October 21, 1914, the town and the surrounding area of 500 acres (2 km2), were incorporated as the 8th city in Contra Costa County.
A branch line of the Southern Pacific railroad ran through Walnut Creek until the early 1960s. The current East Bay Regional Park Iron Horse Trail, used by walkers, runners and bikers, runs over what was portions of that branch line. The mainline of the Sacramento Northern Railway passed through Walnut Creek. Both railroads had stations here. Today, the Pittsburg/Bay Point – SFO Line line of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) serves Walnut Creek with a station adjacent to Highway 680.
With the opening of the Broadway Shopping Center, Contra Costa County's first major retail center, in 1951, the city took off in a new direction, and its population more than tripled from 2,460 in 1950 to 9,903 in 1960.
Today, Walnut Creek, the actual waterway, has been routed underneath downtown through a series of tunnels starting at the southwest end of Macy’s and ending just southwest of Maria Maria Restaurant and bar. Slusher’s dwelling was built in the area of modern-day Liberty Bell Plaza.
Walnut Creek is located at Portions lie in both the San Ramon Valley and the Ygnacio Valley below the western slopes of Mount Diablo..
The area is characterized by a mediterranean climate with cool, moist winters and warm to hot dry summers. Average annual rainfall approximates 20 inches (510 mm), with slight variations occurring in microclimates based on elevation and topography. Winter daytime temperatures average in the mid 50s with little daily variation, while summer daytime temperatures average in the high 80s. 100 degree weather occurs numerous times during summer heatwaves, while occasional light frosts may occur during clear, calm winter nights. The climate allows for the successful cultivation of many plants and crops, being warm enough for citrus yet cold enough for apples. The Ruth Bancroft Garden is a renowned botanical garden that showcases the diversity of plants that can be successfully grown.
Walnut Creek owns more open space per capita than any other community in the state of California. In 1974, Walnut Creek voters approved a $6.7 million bond measure that allowed the city to purchase 1,800 acres (7 km2) of undeveloped hillsides, ridge lines, and park sites. Walnut Creek owns parts of Lime Ridge Open Space, Shell Ridge Open Space, Acalanes Ridge Open Space, and Sugarloaf Openspace. There is open space in the retirement community, Rossmoor.
As of the census of 2000, there were 64,296 people, 30,301 households, and 16,544 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,246.9/km2 (3,229.6/mi2). There were 31,425 housing units at an average density of 609.4/km2 (1,578.5/mi2). The racial makeup of the city was 83.89% White, 9.36% Asian American, 3.25% were multiracial. 1.96% from other races 1.07% African American, 0.33% Native American and 0.15% Pacific Islander. 5.99% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 30,301 households out of which 20.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.7% were married couples living together, 6.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 45.4% were non-families. 38.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 19.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.09 and the average family size was 2.78.
In the city the population was spread out with 17.6% under the age of 18, 5.2% from 18 to 24, 27.1% from 25 to 44, 24.8% from 45 to 64, and 25.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females there were 85.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.5 males.
According to a 2007 estimate, the median income for a household in the city was $88,522, and the median income for a family was $106,942. Males had a median income of $70,482 versus $49,220 for females. The per capita income for the city was $37,875. About 1.7% of families and 3.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 3.1% of those under age 18 and 3.6% of those age 65 or over.
The California Symphony (notable for its commitment to the performance of music by American composers) has been based in Walnut Creek since its inception in 1986.
Center Repertory Company
The Center Repertory Company is the in-house theater company for the Lesher Center for the Arts. It stages six productions a year, including the annual production of A Christmas Carol.
Civic Arts Program
The city organizes education in graphic arts, sculpture, pottery, and performance arts such as dancing for various age groups is actively supported and encouraged by the Civic Arts Program.
Clay Arts Guild
Clay Arts Guild (CAG) is a non-profit volunteer organization supporting ceramics arts education under the Civic Arts Program of Walnut Creek. The organization is notable for its long history in the region (established in 1964) and the numerous sculptors and potters who have practiced, taught classes, and/or given masters seminars through its offices.
Activities supported by CAG include:
A free shuttle operates between the central district and the Walnut Creek BART station. BART provides regional access in and out of Walnut Creek to most of the Bay Area. Other areas of Walnut Creek may be accessed at modest cost by using the buses of the Central Contra Costa Transit Authority.
In addition, Walnut Creek is transected by the Iron Horse Trail (running north/south) through its downtown, as well as the Contra Costa Canal Trail (running east/west) at the north end of the city. Both these trails, in addition to the many bike lanes in the city make bicycle transportation very feasible for recreation or for an alternative commute.