Sea Ranch, California

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sea Ranch, California
Panoramic view of The Sea Ranch
Panoramic view of The Sea Ranch
The Sea Ranch
Sea Ranch, California is located in California
Sea Ranch, California
Sea Ranch, California
Location within the state of California
Sea Ranch, California is located in the United States
Sea Ranch, California
Sea Ranch, California
Sea Ranch, California (the United States)
Coordinates: 38°42′55″N 123°27′16″W / 38.71528°N 123.45444°W / 38.71528; -123.45444Coordinates: 38°42′55″N 123°27′16″W / 38.71528°N 123.45444°W / 38.71528; -123.45444
CountryUnited States
 • Total16.180 sq mi (41.907 km2)
 • Land16.138 sq mi (41.798 km2)
 • Water0.042 sq mi (0.110 km2)  0.26%
Elevation108 ft (33 m)
 • Total1,305
 • Density81/sq mi (31/km2)
Time zoneUTC-8 (PST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP code
Area code707
FIPS code06-70712
GNIS feature IDs1723333, 2583133

Sea Ranch is an unincorporated community in Sonoma County, California, United States that was developed as planned community beginning in the 1960s. It is known for its distinctive timber-frame structures designed by several noted American architects. The first unit built at Sea Ranch, Condominium 1, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. The community's development played a role in the establishment of the California Coastal Commission. The population was 1,305 at the 2010 census. For statistical purposes, the United States Census Bureau has defined Sea Ranch as a census-designated place (CDP).


The first people known to live in the area were Pomos, who gathered kelp and shellfish from the beaches.

In 1846, Ernest Rufus received the Rancho German Mexican land grant, which extended along the coastline from the Gualala River to Ocean Cove. The land was later divided. In the early 1900s, Walter P. Frick bought up the pieces to create Del Mar Ranch, which was leased out for raising sheep. In 1941, the land was sold to Margaret Ohlson and her family.

Architect and planner Al Boeke envisioned a community that would preserve the area's natural beauty.[3][4] Boeke first surveyed the land in 1962.[3] In 1963, Oceanic California Inc., a division of Castle and Cooke Inc., purchased the land from the Ohlsons and assembled a design team.[5] A progressive residential community was envisioned that would be built in a way that was not only in tune with nature, but driven by nature.[6] Principal designers who were recruited by Boeke included American architects Charles Moore, Joseph Esherick, William Turnbull Jr., Donlyn Lyndon, Richard Whitaker and landscape architect Lawrence Halprin.[3] Halprin created the master plan for Sea Ranch,[3] which encompass 10 miles (16 km) of the Sonoma County coastline.[3] The principal photographer for the project was the architectural photographer Morley Baer, a friend and colleague of both Turnbull and Halprin. Marion Conrad was hired to manage the public relations for The Sea Ranch.[7] The logo for The Sea Ranch was designed by Barbara Stauffacher Solomon along with the Supergraphics.[8]

Beach access dedication[edit]

While the County Board of Supervisors initially regarded the developer's offer to dedicate 140 acres (0.57 km2) for public parkland as sufficient, opponents felt more coastal access was necessary. The site, containing 10 miles (16 km) of shore, had been available to the public but would be reserved for private use under the developer's plan. Areas below high tide were and would remain public property, but the plan provided no access through the development.[9] In addition, California's coast at the time was only open to the public along 100 of its 1,300 miles (2,100 km).[10]

Californians Organized to Acquire Access to State Tidelands (COAST) was formed in response to this issue, and their 1968 county ballot initiative attempted to require the development to include public trails to the tidelands. While the initiative did not pass, the California legislature's Dunlap Act did pass that year and required that new coastal development dedicate trails granting public access to the ocean. This episode led to the establishment of the Coastal Alliance, an organization of 100 groups similar to COAST, that placed Proposition 20[11] on the statewide 1972 ballot. The initiative passed, and it established the California Coastal Commission, which continues to regulate land use on the California coast.[12]


The Sea Ranch is located along the Pacific Coast, about 100 mi (160 km) north of San Francisco and 120 mi (190 km) west of Sacramento. The Sea Ranch is reached by way of State Route 1.

About 4 mi (6 km) northwest of The Sea Ranch, in neighboring Mendocino County, is Gualala, a small town.


According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Sea Ranch has a warm-summer Mediterranean climate, abbreviated "Csb" on climate maps.

Climate data for Sea Ranch (1980-2016)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °F (°C) 56.5
Average low °F (°C) 42.0
Average precipitation inches (mm) 6.5
Average precipitation days 13 10 12 7 4 1 0 1 2 4 10 12 76
Source 1: weatherspark[13]
Source 2:[14]


For statistical purposes, the United States Census Bureau has defined Sea Ranch as a census-designated place (CDP).[15] The census definition of the area may not precisely correspond to the local understanding of the community.


The 2010 United States Census[16] reported that The Sea Ranch had a population of 1,305. The population density was 80.7 inhabitants per square mile (31.2/km2). The racial makeup of The Sea Ranch was 1,220 (93.5%) White, 15 (1.1%) African American, 3 (0.2%) Native American, 10 (0.8%) Asian, 0 (0.0%) Pacific Islander, 37 (2.8%) from other races, and 20 (1.5%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 117 persons (9.0%).

The Census reported that 100% of the population lived in households.

There were 689 households, out of which 58 (8.4%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 407 (59.1%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 19 (2.8%) had a female householder with no husband present, 9 (1.3%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 27 (3.9%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 21 (3.0%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 197 households (28.6%) were made up of individuals, and 113 (16.4%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.89. There were 435 families (63.1% of all households); the average family size was 2.25.

The population was spread out, with 105 people (8.0%) under the age of 18, 18 people (1.4%) aged 18 to 24, 92 people (7.0%) aged 25 to 44, 495 people (37.9%) aged 45 to 64, and 595 people (45.6%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 63.7 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.2 males.

There were 1,818 housing units at an average density of 112.4 per square mile (43.4/km2), of which 85.8% were owner-occupied and 14.2% were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 3.4%; the rental vacancy rate was 38.8%. 81.5% of the population lived in owner-occupied housing units and 18.5% lived in rental housing units.


In 2000, of the residents in the census tabulation, 365 (48.6%) were male and 386 (51.4%) were female. The median age was 61.3 years. Nine residents (1.2%) were aged under five years, 713 residents (94.9%) were aged 18 years or more, and 287 (12.4%) were aged 65 years or more. The census categorized 732 (97.5%) as white, 8 (1.1%) as black or African American, 2 (0.3%) as Asian, and 9 (1.2%) as two or more races. The census counted 13 residents as Hispanic or Latino. The average household size was 1.88, and the average family size was 2.17. The census counted 1,211 housing units, 365 of them owner-occupied, 35 renter-occupied, and 811 (67%) vacant. The median reported household income was $69,327, and the median per capita income was $21,587. There were 25 people (3.3%) living below the poverty line.[17]


Sea Ranch house designed by Joseph Esherick in 1966
The Sea Ranch Chapel, designed by James Hubbell

The Sea Ranch has distinctive architecture consisting of simple timber-frame structures clad in wooden siding or shingles. The building typology of the Sea Ranch draws on the local agricultural buildings for inspiration, in the way that those buildings are designed to deal with prevailing weather and topography. Originally, the Sea Ranch had local lumber mills to draw on for the Douglas Fir and Redwood used in the homes. The majority of the 1800 or so homes are smaller second homes, though there are about 300 full-time residents. Approximately half the homes are rented as weekend rentals. The eventual build-out is expected to comprise approximately 2400 homes; the number varies as some current owners purchase adjacent vacant lots and merge the two, to preserve open space. The buildings could be considered a hybrid of modern and vernacular architecture, also known as the "Third Bay Tradition," and also referred to as "Sea Ranch" style.[18]

The original design guidelines suggest that buildings have a site-specific relationship with the landscape. The Sea Ranch design review requirements specify that the buildings become part of the landscape, not subordinate to it, but do not dominate either.[19] Details such as exteriors of unpainted wood or muted stains, a lack of overhanging eaves, and baffles on exterior lighting subdue the appearance of the buildings in the landscape. The baffles minimize nighttime light pollution; there are no street lights to obscure the night sky. The lack of roof overhangs is also intended to allow the near-constant strong breezes to pass over the buildings without the turbulence the overhangs would create. The Sea Ranch design review process does not affect the building interiors, but all construction is subject to Sonoma County Permit and Resource Management oversight.

Landscaping in The Sea Ranch is regulated by a design manual that prohibits perimeter fences and limits non-indigenous plants to screened courtyards.[20] A herd of sheep is used to keep grass low to the ground to reduce the threat of fire during the summer months.


Over the decades many architects have designed houses at Sea Ranch, including:[21]

Landscape architects[edit]

Points of interest[edit]

Sea Ranch, Abalone Bay, Dog Park,
Pets and their owners gather at Sea Ranch Dog Park.

Condominium One (completed in 1965) was awarded the American Institute of Architects Twenty-five Year Award in 1991, and was added to The National Register of Historic Places in 2005.

The Sonoma County Regional Parks Department provides coastal access from six places along State Route 1 in The Sea Ranch area:[22]

  • Black Point (trail) at 35035 State Route 1
  • Gualala Point Regional Park at 42401 State Route 1
  • Pebble Beach (trail) at 36448 State Route 1
  • Shell Beach (trail) at 39200 State Route 1
  • Stengel Beach (trail) at 37900 State Route 1[23] (closed)[24][25]
  • Walk On Beach (trail) at 40101 State Route 1


  1. ^ "2010 Census U.S. Gazetteer Files – Places – California". United States Census Bureau.
  2. ^ "Sea Ranch". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior.
  3. ^ a b c d e Woo, Elaine (November 20, 2011). "Al Boeke dies at 88; 'father' of Northern California's Sea Ranch". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 3, 2011.
  4. ^ Hevesi, Dennis (November 16, 2011). "Al Boeke, Architect Who Sought Ecological Harmony, Is Dead at 88". New York Times. Retrieved December 3, 2011.
  5. ^ Keith, Kelsey (February 20, 2019). "'Paradise at the end of the world': An oral history of the Sea Ranch (Part I)". Curbed. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
  6. ^ Ketcham, Diana (June 11, 2019). "Sea Ranch, California's Modernist Utopia, Gets an Update". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved February 23, 2023.
  7. ^ Isenberg, Alison (August 29, 2017). Designing San Francisco : art, land, and urban renewal in the City by the Bay. Princeton. p. 184. ISBN 9780691172545. OCLC 954134366.
  8. ^ Poulin, Richard (2012). Graphic Design + Architecture. A 20th-Century History. Rockport Publishers. p. 156.
  9. ^ Keith, Kelsey (February 21, 2019). "'Paradise at the end of the world': An oral history of the Sea Ranch (Part II)". Curbed. Retrieved February 22, 2019.
  10. ^ Lyndon, Donlyn (2004). The Sea Ranch. Donald Canty (contributor). Princeton Architectural Press. p. 29. ISBN 1-56898-386-7. Retrieved December 7, 2007.
  11. ^ "The California Coastal Zone Conservation Act of 1972 ("Proposition 20")" (PDF). California Coastal Commission. November 7, 1972. Retrieved April 9, 2021.
  12. ^ "Bluff Top Trail & Public Access Easements In The Sea Ranch Development" (PDF). Sonoma County Regional Parks. March 5, 2004. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 5, 2007. Retrieved December 7, 2007.
  13. ^ "Sea Ranch". Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  14. ^ "Sea Ranch". Retrieved July 19, 2020.
  15. ^ "Sea Ranch". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey, United States Department of the Interior.
  16. ^ "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA - The Sea Ranch CDP". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  17. ^ "Fact Sheet: Zip Code Tabulation Area 95497". Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved December 2, 2007.
  18. ^ Ketcham, Diana (June 11, 2019). "A Reality Check for Sea Ranch". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  19. ^ Iovenko, Chris (October 19, 2020). "Discover the Utopian Promise of Sea Ranch, a Unique Community on California's Northern Coast". Fodors Travel Guide. Retrieved October 26, 2020.
  20. ^ "The Sea Ranch Design Manual and Rules" (PDF). Retrieved September 19, 2008.[dead link]
  21. ^ Donlyn Lyndon and Jim Alinder (2004). The Sea Ranch. Princeton Architecture Press. ISBN 1-56898-386-7.
  22. ^ "Trails Along the Pacific Coast in The Sea Ranch". Sonoma County. Retrieved November 6, 2020.
  23. ^ Harden, Olivia (February 23, 2023). "Sea Ranch locals demand beach reopening from county officials". SFGATE. Retrieved February 23, 2023.
  24. ^ "Stengel Beach Coastal Access Trail". Retrieved March 26, 2023.
  25. ^ "Shut stairway bars public from beloved stretch of Sonoma Coast. And no fix is in sight". Santa Rosa Press Democrat. February 15, 2023. Retrieved March 26, 2023.

External links[edit]