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Huntington Beach, California

Huntington Beach, sometimes called Surf City, is a seaside city in Orange County, in southern California. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 189,594. It is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the south, by Seal Beach on the north-west, by Newport Beach on the southwest, and by Garden Grove and Fountain Valley on the north.

It is famous for its long beautiful beach, mild climate, and excellent surfing. The waves are a unique natural effect caused by edge-diffraction of ocean swells by the island of Catalina.

Huntington Beach incorporated in 1909 under its first mayor, Ed Manning. It has one of the oldest high schools in Southern California, built in 1926. Its team, the Oilers, are named after the city's original natural resource.

The climate is generally sunny, dry and cool. In the morning and evening, there are often strong breezes, 15MPH (25KPH). Ocean water temperatures average 55F (10C) to 65F (15C). In the summer, temperatures rarely exceed 85F (25C). In the winter, temperatures rarely fall below 55F (10C), even on clear nights. There are about 10 inches (25cm) of rain, almost all in mid-winter. Frost occurs less than once every ten years.

Because the coast curves so strongly eastward at Huntington Beach, the local beach actually faces south, making it one of the most pleasant, sunny beaches of the west coast of the U.S.

Bolsa Chica Harbor is suitable for light craft, and includes a dock, launching ramp, basic services and a restaurant.

The harbor entrance is sometimes restricted by the US Navy, which loads ships with munitions at the Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station to the north of the main channel.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 81.7 km² (31.6 mi²). 68.3 km² (26.4 mi²) of it is land and 13.4 km² (5.2 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 16.38% water.


As of the census of 2000, there are 189,594 people, 73,657 households, and 47,729 families residing in the city. The population density is 2,773.9/km² (7,183.6/mi²). There are 75,662 housing units at an average density of 1,107.0/km² (2,866.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 79.22% White, 0.81% African American, 0.65% Native American, 9.34% Asian, 0.24% Pacific Islander, 5.81% from other races, and 3.94% from two or more races. 14.66% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There are 73,657 households out of which 29.0% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.7% are married couples living together, 9.6% have a female householder with no husband present, and 35.2% are non-families. 24.3% of all households are made up of individuals and 6.7% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.56 and the average family size is 3.08.

In the city the population is spread out with 22.2% under the age of 18, 8.4% from 18 to 24, 34.9% from 25 to 44, 24.0% from 45 to 64, and 10.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 36 years. For every 100 females there are 100.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 98.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $64,824, and the median income for a family is $74,378. Males have a median income of $52,018 versus $38,046 for females. The per capita income for the city is $31,964. 6.6% of the population and 4.3% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total people living in poverty, 8.2% are under the age of 18 and 4.4% are 65 or older.

Culture and Amenities

Huntington Beach is the site of the world surfing championships, held in late summer every year, and usually televised. Because of this, it calls itself "Surf City."

The city also has the oldest 4th-of-July parade in the western United States. This is often televised locally.

The Central Library is located in Central Park in a notable building designed by Mario Pei. It houses almost a half-million volumes, as well as a theatre, gift shop and fountains. The library was founded as a Carnegie Library in 1916, and has been continuously supported by the city and local activists. The library has significant local historical materials. It is independent of the state and county library systems.

Downtown, there is an active art center, a colorful shopping district, free clinic, youth hostel and a museum of surfing.

Downtown, there once was the famous restaurant and music club "The Golden Bear." In the late 60s and 70s it hosted many famous bands and acts. It was closed because of rioting.

Huntington Beach also has Golden West Community College, which offers two-year associates of arts degrees, and transfer programs to the state universities.

The public TV station KOCE TV operates from the Goldenwest College campus, in conjunction with the Goldenwest College Media Arts program.

The northern and southern beaches are state parks. Only the central beach is maintained by the City. The northern beach is actually a sand bar fronting the Bolsa Chica Harbor. Camping and RVs are permitted in the north beach. Camping spaces for the 4th of July and the Surfing Championships must be reserved many months in advance.

Because of its land-use policies, Huntington Beach has the largest ratio of park acreage to person of any city in the United States. Almost all schools have playing fields arranged for public access as parks, with park-like amenities near major streets, and schools near the centers of blocks. Since Huntington Beach contains a power generating station, the high-voltage rights-of-way are numerous, and have also been zoned as parks with walkways. Huntington Beach also has a very large Central Park, vegetated with xeric (low water use) vegetation, and the more pleasant native wildlife and plants, supplemented with Australian trees.

Natural Resources

The northern edge of the harbor is a marsh, Bolsa Chica. A part of the marsh is Bolsa Chica Wildlife Refuge.

Large parts of Bolsa Chica are privately owned, or owned by the city and planned for development. As of 2001, there is an active political dispute between developers and local conservationists, with active local organizations on both sides.

Huntington Beach also sits above a large natural salt dome containing oil. Although the oil is mostly depleted, extraction continues at a slow rate, and stil provides significant local income. There are several off-shore extraction facilities.

Huntington Beach has an off-shore oil terminus for the tankers that support the Alaska Pipeline. The terminus pipes run under Goldenwest Street (Rte 39) to an inland oil storage facility at Gothard and Talbert Streets. This is the largest, or second largest oil storage facility on the West Coast.

A great disadvantage of the oil industry is that the sand fleas and sand dollars have become rare on the beach, which is stained with tar sands. The beach is no longer hunted by birds. It is a "dead" beach.

Because of the proximity of oil, and nearby refineries, the local gas prices tend to be lower than anywhere else in Southern California.

"Nice place, but is it safe?"

Huntington Beach is one of the most emergency-prone settled areas on the West Coast of the United States. It has an active Community Emergency Response Team training program, that trains citizens as FEMA-Certified Disaster Service Workers as a part of a free program run by the fire department's Office of Emergency Services.

Large parts of the developed land have been contaminated by heavy metals from the water separated from oil. Some areas have been approved for development. The worst-polluted areas have been reclaimed as parks.

Since large areas of Huntington Beach lie in the Santa Ana River delta, some recently settled areas lie beneath the 100-year and 50-year flood zone. In 1926, the Santa Ana River dam failed, and flash-flooded its entire delta, which is now a settled area of Huntington Beach. The flood and dam-endangered areas are protected by a levee, but flood insurance is mandatory.

Large fractions of the settled land are in earthquake liquefaction zones above known active faults. Most of the local faults are named after city streets.

Since it is a seaside city, Huntington Beach has also had tsunami warnings, storm surge (its pier has been rebuilt three times), sewage disgorgements, and waterspouts. The cold offshore current prevents hurricanes.

The city's Emergency Operations Coordinator has said that in a nuclear war, the city would probably be severely damaged in a first-strike against military targets. Huntington Beach adjoins the U.S. Navy's Seal Beach Naval Weapons Center. Since the center stores munitions, and these are believed to include nuclear weapons, the Center is likely to be first-strike target for ground-burst thermonuclear weapons. Huntington Beach would almost certainly suffer severe collateral damage. It is within the severe damage zones for any but the smallest nuclear weapons.

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