San Benito County, California

Coordinates: 36°37′N 121°05′W / 36.61°N 121.08°W / 36.61; -121.08
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San Benito County
County of San Benito
Images, from top down, left to right: San Benito County Courthouse, Mission San Juan Bautista, New Idria grounds
Flag of San Benito County
Official seal of San Benito County
Interactive map of San Benito County
Location in the state of California
Location in the state of California
CountryUnited States
RegionCentral Coast
CSASan Jose-San Francisco-Oakland
MetroSan Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara
IncorporatedFebruary 12, 1874
Named forSan Benito River
County seatHollister
Largest cityHollister
 • TypeCouncil–CEO
 • BodyBoard of Supervisors
 • ChairMindy Sotelo
 • Vice ChairAngela Curro
 • Board of Supervisors[1]
  • Dom Zanger
  • Kollin Kosmicki
  • Mindy Sotelo
  • Angela Curro
  • Bea Gonzales
 • County Administrative OfficerRay Espinosa
 • Total1,390 sq mi (3,600 km2)
 • Land1,389 sq mi (3,600 km2)
 • Water1.8 sq mi (5 km2)
Highest elevation5,245 ft (1,599 m)
 • Total64,209
 • Density46/sq mi (18/km2)
Time zoneUTC−8 (Pacific Time Zone)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−7 (Pacific Daylight Time)
Area code831
FIPS code06-069
GNIS feature ID277299
Congressional district18th

San Benito County (/ˌsæn bəˈnt/ ; San Benito, Spanish for "St. Benedict"), officially the County of San Benito, is a county located in the Coast Range Mountains of the U.S. state of California. As of the 2020 census, the population was 64,209.[3] The county seat is Hollister.[4]

San Benito County is included in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland, CA Combined Statistical Area.

El Camino Real passes through the county and includes one mission in San Juan Bautista.


Before the arrival of the first European settlers, the San Benito County area was inhabited by the Mutsun sub-group of the Ohlone Native Americans. In 1772 Father Juan Crespí conducted a brief expedition into the area and named a small river which he found in honor of San Benito de Nursia (Saint Benedict), the patron saint of monasticism. The county was later named after the San Benito Valley, the valley surrounding this river. Thus it was from the Spanish version of the saint's name that the county eventually took its name.

In 1797 Spanish missionaries founded the first European settlement in the county as the San Juan Bautista mission. In 1848 the United States government gained control over what would soon become the state of California, which included the area now known as San Benito county. The town of New Idria was the next town to develop in the area and was founded ca. 1857. New Idria was centered around the New Idria Mercury Mine. When the mine played out fairly recently in 1972, New Idria was abandoned, and the town is now one of California's many ghost-towns.

The town of Hollister was next founded on November 19, 1868, by William Welles Hollister on the grounds of the former Mexican land-grant Rancho San Justo. In 1874 the California legislature formed San Benito county from a section of Monterey County while naming Hollister as the new county seat. Sections of Merced and Fresno Counties were also later reassigned to San Benito county in 1887 as a result of the growth of the New Idria community. Other towns in the county which were founded early in the county's history include Tres Pinos and Paicines.


Tumey Hills BLM recreation area, near Interstate 5

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,390 square miles (3,600 km2), of which 1,388 square miles (3,595 km2) is land and 1.8 square miles (4.7 km2) is water (0.1%).[5]

Sharing a border with Santa Clara County, San Benito County lies adjacent to the San Francisco Bay Area and is sometimes considered a part of that region. Frequently, the county is associated with the Monterey Bay Area through governmental organizations such as the Association of Monterey Bay Area Governments as well as the Pajaro River, which flows from northern San Benito County into the Monterey Bay. The United States Census Bureau includes the county in the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara MSA and the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland CSA, which the Census uses as a statistical definition of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The county also borders Merced County and Fresno County on the east, which extend into California's San Joaquin Valley. It borders Santa Cruz County on the west and Monterey County on the southwest border.

The county is also the location of the Mount Harlan and San Benito American Viticultural Areas. The latter contains the Cienega Valley, Lime Kiln Valley, and Paicines AVAs.


Due to the high degree of topography, diverse geology, and varied climate from near-coastal to inland, San Benito County contains a high diversity of vegetation types. Common vegetation types include annual grasslands, coastal scrub, chaparral, and oak woodland.

In the extreme southeastern portion of San Benito County at Panoche Valley, Panoche Hills, Tumey Hills, and Vallecitos, the climate is arid and part of the recently recognized San Joaquin Desert biome.[6] The flora there includes saltbush scrub, San Joaquin Desert scrub, and California juniper woodland. Panoche Hills navarretia (Navarretia panochensis)[7] is nearly endemic to this small portion of the San Joaquin Desert in San Benito County.

At the highest elevations of San Benito County at Fremont Peak and San Benito Mountain, the average annual precipitation is high enough and the average annual temperature is cool enough to support mixed conifer forest. At San Benito Mountain, the high elevation climate and extreme geology of the New Idria serpentine, supports a unique mixed-conifer forest that includes foothill pine, Coulter pine, Jeffrey pine, and incense cedar. The extreme conditions of the serpentine soils of the New Idria serpentine mass support many rare local endemic plant species including San Benito evening primrose (Camissonia benitensis),[8] rayless layia (Layia discoidea),[9] Guirado's goldenrod (Solidago guiradonis),[10] and San Benito fritillary (Fritillaria viridea).[11]

The plant species Benitoa occidentalis[12] was named for San Benito County.[13] Camissonia benitensis,[8] Monardella antonina subsp. benitensis,[14] and Arctostaphylos benitoensis[15] were named in recognition of their being endemic or near-endemic to San Benito County. The species Hollisteria lanata[16] was named after William Welles Hollister, namesake of the city of Hollister.


Illacme plenipes, a millipede having more legs than any other millipede species, discovered in the county in 1926.[17]

A California condor was found shot to death in the county on 22 July 2022, leading to United States Fish and Wildlife Service posting a $5,000 reward for information on the killer.[18]

National protected area[edit]


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[19]
1790–1960[20] 1900–1990[21]
1990–2000[22] 2010[23] 2020[24]

2020 census[edit]

San Benito County, California - Demographic Profile
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race / Ethnicity Pop 2010[23] Pop 2020[24] % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 21,154 19,785 38.27% 30.81%
Black or African American alone (NH) 355 479 0.64% 0.75%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 231 221 0.42% 0.34%
Asian alone (NH) 1,298 2,189 2.35% 3.41%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 65 127 0.12% 0.20%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 67 332 0.12% 0.52%
Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH) 913 1,835 1.65% 2.86%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 31,186 39,241 56.43% 61.11%
Total 55,269 64,209 100.00% 100.00%

Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.


Places by population, race, and income[edit]


The 2010 United States Census reported that San Benito County had a population of 55,269. The racial makeup of San Benito County was 35,181 (63.7%) White, 483 (0.9%) African American, 895 (1.6%) Native American, 1,443 (2.6%) Asian, 94 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 14,471 (26.2%) from other races, and 2,702 (4.9%) from two or more races. There were 31,186 people of Hispanic or Latino origin, of any race (56.4%).[32]


As of the census[33] of 2000, there were 53,234 people, 15,885 households, and 12,898 families residing in the county. The population density was 38 people per square mile (15 people/km2). There were 16,499 housing units at an average density of 12 units per square mile (4.6 units/km2). The racial makeup of the county in 2010 was 38.3% non-Hispanic White, 0.6% non-Hispanic Black or African American, 0.4% Native American, 2.3% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.1% from other races, and 1.7% from two or more races. 56.4% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 7.6% were of German, 6.3% Irish and 5.4% Italian ancestry according to Census 2000. 62.8% spoke only English at home, while 35.3% spoke Spanish. As of the 2010 census, San Benito County was the only county in the greater San Francisco Bay Area with a Hispanic majority.

There were 15,885 households, out of which 46.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 65.7% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 18.8% were non-families. 14.1% of all households were made up of individuals, and 5.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.32 and the average family size was 3.64.

In the county 32.2% of the population was under the age of 18, 8.8% from 18 to 24, 31.5% from 25 to 44, 19.3% from 45 to 64, and 8.1% was 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 102.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.6 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $57,469, and the median income for a family was $60,665. Males had a median income of $44,158 versus $29,524 for females. The per capita income for the county was $20,932. About 6.7% of families and 10.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.4% of those under age 18 and 8.5% of those age 65 or over.

Government and policing[edit]

San Benito County Administration Building in Hollister, California.

County government is overseen by a five-member elected Board of Supervisors, who serve four-year terms of office. Other elected county leaders include:

  • Assessor
  • Clerk-Auditor-Recorder
  • District Attorney
  • Sheriff-Coroner
  • Treasurer-Tax Collector-Public Administrator

San Benito County had the last elected Marshal in California until 2010 when the office closed. Shasta and Trinity Counties still have appointed Marshals.

State and federal representation[edit]

In the United States House of Representatives, San Benito County is part of California's 18th congressional district, represented by Democrat Zoe Lofgren.[34]

In the California State Legislature, San Benito County is in the 17th Senate District, represented by Democrat John Laird, and in the 29th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Robert Rivas.[35]


The San Benito County Sheriff provides court protection, jail management, and coroner service for the entire county. It provides patrol and detective services for the unincorporated areas of the county. Hollister (the County Seat) has a municipal police department.


San Benito is a Democratic-leaning county in Presidential and congressional elections. The last Republican to win a majority in the county was George H. W. Bush in 1988. San Benito is also considered a bellwether county for California in presidential elections; since 1904 the solitary candidates to carry the state without winning this county has been Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 and Harry S. Truman in 1948.[36] The county's bellwether status goes beyond presidential politics to ballot initiatives and statewide candidates, as its election results mirror those of the state as a whole, as it straddles the major political fault lines of the state.[37] Before 1904, however, it was a solidly Democratic county whilst the state leaned Republican, voting Democratic in every election from its creation in 1876 up to and including 1900, although California only voted Democratic in 1880 and 1892.[36]

United States presidential election results for San Benito County, California[38]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
No.  % No.  % No.  %
2020 10,590 36.73% 17,628 61.14% 612 2.12%
2016 7,841 35.44% 12,521 56.60% 1,760 7.96%
2012 7,343 38.48% 11,276 59.10% 462 2.42%
2008 7,425 37.52% 11,917 60.22% 446 2.25%
2004 8,698 46.45% 9,851 52.61% 176 0.94%
2000 7,015 41.68% 9,131 54.25% 685 4.07%
1996 5,384 38.72% 7,030 50.55% 1,492 10.73%
1992 4,112 32.28% 5,354 42.03% 3,273 25.69%
1988 5,578 54.11% 4,559 44.23% 171 1.66%
1984 5,695 60.71% 3,554 37.89% 131 1.40%
1980 4,054 53.33% 2,749 36.16% 799 10.51%
1976 3,398 50.87% 3,122 46.74% 160 2.40%
1972 3,961 57.56% 2,582 37.52% 338 4.91%
1968 2,961 47.54% 2,809 45.10% 459 7.37%
1964 2,444 39.19% 3,779 60.59% 14 0.22%
1960 3,056 51.40% 2,876 48.38% 13 0.22%
1956 3,252 59.53% 2,201 40.29% 10 0.18%
1952 3,733 65.23% 1,968 34.39% 22 0.38%
1948 2,775 55.64% 2,096 42.03% 116 2.33%
1944 2,253 52.80% 1,998 46.82% 16 0.37%
1940 2,407 49.29% 2,441 49.99% 35 0.72%
1936 1,515 36.58% 2,565 61.93% 62 1.50%
1932 1,269 33.89% 2,283 60.98% 192 5.13%
1928 1,971 58.87% 1,366 40.80% 11 0.33%
1924 1,443 53.54% 361 13.40% 891 33.06%
1920 1,965 65.00% 900 29.77% 158 5.23%
1916 1,440 44.19% 1,688 51.80% 131 4.02%
1912 13 0.51% 1,253 48.70% 1,307 50.80%
1908 937 53.57% 684 39.11% 128 7.32%
1904 888 54.51% 645 39.59% 96 5.89%
1900 724 46.71% 786 50.71% 40 2.58%
1896 729 42.48% 956 55.71% 31 1.81%
1892 616 36.97% 759 45.56% 291 17.47%

As of May, 2010, the California Secretary of State reports that San Benito County has 34,562 eligible voters.[citation needed] Of those 24,736 (71.57%) are registered voters. Of those, 11,959 (48.35%) are registered Democratic, 7,477 (30.23%) are registered Republican, 565 (2.28%)are registered American Independent, and 116 (0.47%) are Green Party. The two incorporated municipalities of Hollister and San Juan Bautista have Democratic majorities on their voter rolls, whereas the unincorporated areas of San Benito County have a small Republican plurality in voter registration.

Voter registration[edit]

Cities by population and voter registration[edit]


The following table includes the number of incidents reported and the rate per 1,000 persons for each type of offense.

Cities by population and crime ratable[edit]


The economy is statistically included in metro San Jose, though the dominant activity is agriculture. Agritourism is growing as the county has destination wineries, organic farms and quaint inns with views of cattle grazing. With concerns about how oil and gas operations could impact this sector of the economy and agriculture in general, the county voters approved a measure in 2014 that bans well stimulation techniques such as fracking, acidizing and steam injection, along with conventional drilling in some areas. In the 1950s, the oil drilling industry had many wells and the county is over the Monterey Shale formation but there is very little activity now.[43]

Top employers[edit]

According to the San Benito County Chamber of Commerce,[44] the top employers in the county are:

# Employer # of Employees
1 Earthbound Farm 1,000+
2 Hazel Hawkins Memorial Hospital 250–499
3 Milgard 250–499
4 Pacific Scientific 250–499
5 San Benito High School 250–499
6 True Leaf Farms 250–499
7 Nob Hill Foods 100–249
8 Target 100–249
9 Trical 100–249
10 Corbin 100–249
11 West Marine 100–249
12 Ridgemark 100–249
13 Casa de Fruta 100–249
14 Cedar Valley Shingle Systems 100–249
15 Tanimura & Antle 100–249
16 El Modeno Gardens[45] 100–249
17 LifeSparc 100–249
18 MC Electronics 100–249
19 San Benito Foods 100–249


San Benito County receives media in Monterey County, including the major Monterey County TV and radio stations.

The county also has several media outlets that serve the local community:


CMAP TV - Community Media Access Partnership, based in Gilroy, operates Channels 17, 18, 19 & 20 on Charter/Spectrum Cable as well as streaming online, offering public access and educational programming to Gilroy and San Benito County as well as offering live civic meetings, including county government.



  • The Hollister Free Lance, founded in 1873, is published weekly on Thursdays. The Freelance is now owned by New SV Media, Inc.and its main office is in Gilroy. New SV Media owns Good Times, Metro Silicon Valley, Pajaroan, Gilroy Dispatch,, King City Rustler and California Wheelin'.
  • Mission Village Voice is a monthly paper based in San Juan Bautista. It is oriented toward arts, culture and community-wide events.


  • BenitoLink is a nonprofit news website covering San Benito County, run by local and regional residents.
  • San Benito Live is a local news website, primarily focused on culture-related media.


Major highways[edit]

Public transportation[edit]

San Benito County Express provides fixed route service in the city of Hollister, and intercity service in the northern portion of the county. Service operates as far north as Gilroy, in Santa Clara County.


Hollister Municipal Airport

Hollister Municipal Airport is a general aviation airport located just north of Hollister.



Census-designated places[edit]

Unincorporated communities[edit]

Ghost town[edit]

Population ranking[edit]

The population ranking of the following table is based on the 2010 census of San Benito County.[46]

county seat

Rank City/Town/etc. Municipal type Population (2010 Census)
1 Hollister City 34,928
2 Ridgemark CDP 3,016
3 Aromas (partially in Monterey County) CDP 2,650
4 San Juan Bautista City 1,862
5 Tres Pinos CDP 476

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Other = Some other race + Two or more races
  2. ^ Native American = Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander + American Indian or Alaska Native
  3. ^ a b Percentage of registered voters with respect to total population. Percentages of party members with respect to registered voters follow.


  1. ^ "County of San Benito Board of Supervisors (BOS) | San Benito County, CA".
  2. ^ "San Benito Mountain". Retrieved April 11, 2015.
  3. ^ "San Benito County, California". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 30, 2022.
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  5. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved October 4, 2015.
  6. ^ Germano, David J.; Rathbun, Galen B.; Saslaw, Lawrence R.; Cypher, Brian L.; Cypher, Ellen A.; Vredenburgh, Larry M. (2011). "The San Joaquin Desert of California: Ecologically Misunderstood and Overlooked". Natural Areas Journal. 31 (2): 138–147. doi:10.3375/043.031.0206. S2CID 85723011.
  7. ^ "Navarretia panochensis Calflora". Retrieved March 16, 2023.
  8. ^ a b "Camissonia benitensis Calflora". Retrieved March 16, 2023.
  9. ^ "Observation Search - Calflora". Retrieved March 16, 2023.
  10. ^ "Solidago guiradonis Calflora". Retrieved March 16, 2023.
  11. ^ "Fritillaria viridea Calflora". Retrieved March 16, 2023.
  12. ^ "Benitoa occidentalis Calflora".
  13. ^ "Benitoa in Flora of North America @". Retrieved March 16, 2023.
  14. ^ "Monardella antonina SSP. Benitensis Calflora".
  15. ^ "Arctostaphylos Xbenitoensis Calflora".
  16. ^ "Hollisteria lanata Calflora".
  17. ^ Sara Goudarzi (June 7, 2006). "666-Legged Creature Rediscovered". LiveScience.
  18. ^ Jess Thomson (9 Sep 2023) Reward Offered to Find Who Killed Endangered California Condor
  19. ^ "Census of Population and Housing from 1790-2000". US Census Bureau. Retrieved January 24, 2022.
  20. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved October 4, 2015.
  21. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 4, 2015.
  22. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved October 4, 2015.
  23. ^ a b "P2 HISPANIC OR LATINO, AND NOT HISPANIC OR LATINO BY RACE - 2010: DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171) - San Benito County, California". United States Census Bureau.
  24. ^ a b "P2 HISPANIC OR LATINO, AND NOT HISPANIC OR LATINO BY RACE - 2020: DEC Redistricting Data (PL 94-171) - San Benito County, California". United States Census Bureau.
  25. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey, 2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table B02001. U.S. Census website. Retrieved 2013-10-26.
  26. ^ a b U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey, 2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table B03003. U.S. Census website. Retrieved 2013-10-26.
  27. ^ a b U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey, 2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table B19301. U.S. Census website. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
  28. ^ a b U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey, 2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table B19013. U.S. Census website. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
  29. ^ a b U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey, 2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table B19113. U.S. Census website. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
  30. ^ a b U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey, 2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates. U.S. Census website. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
  31. ^ U.S. Census Bureau. American Community Survey, 2011 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates, Table B01003. U.S. Census website. Retrieved 2013-10-21.
  32. ^ "2010 Census P.L. 94-171 Summary File Data". United States Census Bureau.
  33. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
  34. ^ "California's 18th Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. Retrieved September 24, 2014.
  35. ^ "Statewide Database". UC Regents. Retrieved September 7, 2023.
  36. ^ a b Menendez, Albert J.; The Geography of Presidential Elections in the United States, 1868-2004, pp. 152-155 ISBN 0786422173
  37. ^ Rosenhall, Laurel (September 7, 2023). "Robert Rivas wants to use small-town charm to wield big political power in California. Will it work?". Los Angeles Times.
  38. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  39. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q California Secretary of State. February 10, 2013 - Report of Registration Archived July 27, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2013-10-31.
  40. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Office of the Attorney General, Department of Justice, State of California. Table 11: Crimes – 2009 Archived December 2, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved 2013-11-14.
  41. ^ Only larceny-theft cases involving property over $400 in value are reported as property crimes.
  42. ^ a b c United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation. Crime in the United States, 2012, Table 8 (California). Retrieved 2013-11-14.
  43. ^ Cart, Julie (November 29, 2014). "Election win puts rural San Benito County on anti-fracking map". Los Angeles Times.
  44. ^ "San Benito County Chamber of Commerce-Economic Development".
  45. ^ Color Spot Buys El Modeno Assets. Greenhouse Grower.
  46. ^ CNMP, US Census Bureau. "This site has been redesigned and relocated. - U.S. Census Bureau".

External links[edit]

36°37′N 121°05′W / 36.61°N 121.08°W / 36.61; -121.08