Merced [mɚ'sɛd], is the county seat of Merced County, California in the San Joaquin Valley of Central California. As of 2007, the city had a total population of 80,608. Incorporated in 1889, Merced is a charter city that operates under a council-manager government. It is named after the Merced River, which flows nearby.
Merced, known as the "Gateway to Yosemite", is less than two hours by car from Yosemite National Park to the east and to the west is Monterey Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and miles of beaches. The community is served by the rail passenger service Amtrak, a major airline through Merced Municipal Airport, and three bus lines. It is aprroximantly 110 miles from Sacramento, 130 miles from San Francisco, and 270 miles from Los Angeles.
Merced can be described as a "sleepy town," though the arrival of California's tenth UC campus, UC Merced, is altering the city's image. Current recreation in the town include Applegate Park and zoo, Bear and Black Rascal Creeks and their bike trails, a skate park located in Applegate, a live stage theater downtown, two first run movie theaters, The Mainzer Theater which is known for its historic and architectural value, County Courthouse Museum circa 1889, the Merced Multicultural Arts Center and the County Library.
Though still growing, Merced has several shopping areas including the Merced Mall, anchored by Target, Sears, JCPenney and Kohl's, a strip mall located on the city's northwest side which includes Best Buy, Barnes & Noble, Lowe's, Wal-Mart, and several restaurants. Merced's Main Street contains several restaurants, movie theaters, and bars.
Also within a short distance from the city limits are the Castle Air Museum, Challenger Learning Center, Castle Science and Technology Museum, Lake Yosemite, and Merced Falls. Merced is also the headquarters of Malibu Boats, a manufacturer of inboard boats.
The city of Merced along with its surrounding cities are serviced by the Merced Sun-Star and the Merced County Times. The Sun-Star daily newspaper has a circulation of over 20,000 in the Merced area and the Times weekly newspaper has a circulation of over 5,000.
Merced is located at According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 19.9 square miles (51.4 km²)..
A major groundwater plume containing the contaminant PCE was discovered in Merced in the year 1987. Subsequently drilling of new water wells was severely restricted.
Merced has wet, cool winters and hot, dry summers. Average January temperatures are a maximum of 55.0°F and a minimum of 36.0°F. Average July temperatures are a maximum of 97.1°F and a minimum of 60.9°F. There are an average of 98.7 days with highs of 90°F (32°C) or higher and an average of 33.6 days with lows of 32°F (0°C) or lower. The record highest temperature of 114°F was recorded on July 24, 1902, and August 8, 1905. The record lowest temperature of 13°F was recorded on January 13, 2007.
Most of the rainfall occurs during the winter and averages 12.21 inches annually. There are an average of 48 days annually with measurable precipitation. The wettest year was 1998 with 21.66 inches and the dryest year was 1947 with 5.50 inches. The most rainfall in one month was 8.00 inches in January 1909. The most rainfall in 24 hours was 2.20 inches, which occurred on January 30, 1911, and March 9, 1911. Although snow is relatively rare in Merced, averaging only 0.6 inch annually, the city's proximity to the Sierra Nevada has resulted in some instances of remarkably heavy snowfall. The record 24 hour snowfall was 13.9 inches on February 16, 1946. The most snowfall in one month was 39.0 inches in December 1906.
The first post office opened in 1870. Merced incorporated in 1889. During World War Two, the Merced County fairgrounds was the site of a temporary civilian assembly center for Japanese internment.
As of the census of 2000, there were 63,893 people, 20,435 households, and 14,631 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,216.7 people per square mile (1,242.2/km²). There were 21,532 housing units at an average density of 1,084.0/sq mi (418.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 52.40% White, 6.33% African American, 1.28% Native American, 12.37% Asian (mostly Hmong), 0.21% Pacific Islander, 23.18% from other races, and 5.22% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 41.36% of the population.
There were 20,435 households out of which 42.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.2% were married couples living together, 18.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.4% were non-families. 22.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.06 and the average family size was 3.62.
In the city the population was spread out with 34.7% under the age of 18, 11.4% from 18 to 24, 27.4% from 25 to 44, 17.1% from 45 to 64, and 9.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 28 years. For every 100 females there were 95.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $30,429, and the median income for a family was $32,470. Males had a median income of $31,725 versus $24,492 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,115. About 22.4% of families and 27.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 36.9% of those under age 18 and 10.1% of those age 65 or over.
Merced is home to one of the largest concentrations of Laotian Hmong immigrants in the United States, which likely make up the "Asian" and "Other" categories in the 2000 census listed above. It has been reported that by the mid-nineties, one in five residents of Merced was Hmong. Despite many struggles with integration and some local xenophobia, because of the exceptionally high concentration, the Hmong community in Merced has managed to retain a great deal of their traditional culture.
In the 2007 version of the book "Cities Ranked & Rated" by authors Bert Sperling and Peter Sander, Merced has been ranked 370th of 373 cities nationwide. The factors that determined the ranking of the cities within the book include the quality of life, cost of living in the area, availability and type of jobs, education, health care, climate, crime, commute times, and leisure activities. However, the entry in the book also states that the town may not stay in this place for long, since the authors stated that "Merced is definitely on an upward path and offers potential not found in other Valley towns. This potential is clearly not shown in today's numbers."
In the state legislature Merced is located in the 12th Senate District, represented by Republican Jeff Denham, and in the 17th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Cathleen Galgiani. Federally, Merced is located in California's 18th congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of D +4 and is represented by Democrat Dennis Cardoza.
Merced is served by two major public high school campuses, Merced High School and Golden Valley High School, as well as a few smaller campuses offering alternative education. Merced has one community college, Merced College, which has an enrollment of more than 10,000 full-time equivalent students (FTES). The University of California, Merced campus opened in late 2005 northeast of the city limits. UC Merced for the 2008-2009 academic year has an enrollment of about 2,500 students. The city is also served by several private religious and technical schools, and the only public Montessori school the Central Valley south of Sacramento.
Two athletes from Merced appeared in the 2004 Olympics in Athens, where they received bronze and silver medals.